The Block

Art & Culture — 12 months ago

Creative Living: Naledi Modupi

Artist Naledi Modupi shares her creative life. 


South African artist Naledi Modupi has fast made a name for herself for her distinctive, joyful portraits. Rich in colour, and with a particular attention to form, Modupi’s portraits are celebrations of the dignity and selfhood of her subjects. Her intention as an artist, as she puts it, is to, “Inspire others to see the beauty in themselves.” 


Modupi is drawn predominantly to representing women in her art, but in all her work the unifying themes are grace, poise and the juxtaposition of strength with vulnerability. Of a recent portrait of her brother, for instance: “What drew me to this particular subject was the way he carries himself – so confident and free,” she wrote on Instagram. “In the artwork I wanted to highlight the softness of the man.” 


Here, for our special Creative Living series, Modupi discusses learning to live with deadlines, the value of rest and why life and work is all one for her.


Shop Naledi Modupi’s Not A Gallery Mascot T-shirt here

Everpress Team
Courtesy of Naledi Modupi

When do you feel most creative?

It’s always the evening for me. After experiencing the beauty of my surroundings all day, my mind becomes alive with ideas and inspiration. This is the time when I feel most connected to myself, and also in tune with the world around me. It’s like everything comes together and becomes clear, and I am able to express myself in a way that feels authentic and true. The peacefulness and stillness of the evening allows me to tap into my creativity.

Courtesy of Naledi Modupi

Tell me a little about your relationship to deadlines? Do you meet them easily? And do you need them to motivate you?

In all honesty, meeting deadlines is a struggle for me, it’s probably the thing I dislike most about myself. I’m a creative person, and I love working on my projects when inspiration strikes. But unfortunately, due dates don’t always align with my artistic musings, which has caused me to miss out on a few opportunities and ruin some relationships in the past. However, I’ve realised that prioritising deadlines is very important to achieving my purpose as an artist. So, even though it’s tough, I continue to push myself to meet those deadlines!

Meeting deadlines is a struggle

Do you need routine? 

I think the more I try to establish a routine, the more anxiety I feel about it. For me, it’s all about embracing the unpredictability of life. I absolutely love waking up each day not knowing what kind of experiences are ahead.  This doesn’t mean I’m completely unprepared. I always have my to-do list, just to keep me on track and make sure I don’t get completely swept up in the chaos. I find it kind of liberating to just go with the flow.

Courtesy of Naledi Modupi

How much do you adhere to a ‘conventional’ 9-5 working week?

I’ve found that dedicating a solid eight hours a day to the admin side of things helps me establish a ‘routine’ and stay on top of my deadlines. Of course, those eight hours don’t always fall neatly between 9-5. Some days, I might find myself working from 10-6, or even 12-8, depending on what else is going on in my life. But regardless of the specific hours, I’ve found that setting out this time for the not-so-creative stuff is necessary for keeping my work flowing smoothly. 

Do you work on the weekends? 

I do a lot of creative work on the weekends. Like take photos for inspiration or references, or do some paintings. Simply because I find this fun and quite fitting for the weekend. 

Courtesy of Naledi Modupi

Do you try to draw a clear line between ‘life’ and ‘work’ or does it all blend into one? 

To me, life and work are one and the same. As a creative, I find that my identity and interests are deeply intertwined with what I do on a daily basis. I can’t help but be drawn to projects and activities that allow me to express myself creatively and fulfil my need for self-expression. 

On days when you hit a creative block, what do you do to get past it?

I used to try to force myself to keep going, but I realised that just made the block even worse. Now, I take it as a sign to rest, and to take a break from trying to create and focus on other things. Hanging out with friends and family, binge watching my favourite shows, sometimes even going out for a change of scenery. It’s crazy how, after just a few days of this, my brain starts to gather new info and get excited about creating again. 

Life and work are one and the same

Courtesy of Naledi Modupi

How has your relationship with your practice evolved over the years?

Over the years, my relationship with my art practice has definitely evolved. At first, I saw it as just a hobby, something to do in my free time. I never really had the confidence to see it as work, to put in the hours and really make something of it. But as time went on, I started to see the importance of creating art. I put more respect into what I do and started to invest more time and effort into my art. My newfound effort paid off. I have started to believe more in my art and my abilities. I can now imagine even more for my art and I have a deeper appreciation for it. 

Read More: Creative Living: Bebhinn Eilish