She may be known for her tiny beautiful watercolor sketches, but Cape artist Lorraine Loots recently attracted attention when she was asked by musician Tallulah Willis to make a work of art of her Hollywood actor father, Bruce Willis.
Lorraine and Tallulah, the youngest of Willis’ three daughters with actress Demi Moore, have apparently been following each other on social media for years.
She reached out to Lorraine through Instagram after the artist recently posted a video about her collection A Thousand Lovers’ Eyes which was launched in 2020.
“I didn’t immediately realize that the request came from her, because her name on Instagram is something completely different, but I couldn’t believe it when I realized who she was,” the artist excitedly tells RNews.
She describes A Thousand Lovers’ Eyes as a modern re-imagining of 18th century jewelery where she paints and varnishes a miniature watercolor painting of a loved one, parent or pet’s eye before setting it in nine carat rose, white or yellow gold behind a sapphire crystal dome with a pendant.
Tallulah asked Lorraine to paint her famous action hero father’s eye, who was recently diagnosed with untreatable dementia, for her.
“It was definitely an unreal feeling, because he is such a well-known icon. He’s given so much joy to us as viewers over the years, so it feels like I could give him something back in my own way to say thank you for that.”
Sensitivity and sentimentality have always been two cornerstones of Lorraine’s artwork. Likewise to capture life’s big moments, but at the same time also celebrate the beauty in everyday little things – something that Tallulah recently Vogue said she is doing with her father right now through his illness.
“The project is about love and loss, which I can strongly relate to, especially the challenges of capturing those emotions in a specific way,” shares Lorraine, who herself had to surrender her two brothers to death in her teenage years.
She even had the privilege of delivering the pendant to Tallulah live in Los Angeles when she visited family in the US.
“They are a close family and anyone who follows Tallulah will understand how difficult this journey is for them. Eyes are my favorite thing to paint and to think that I could create something that resonates so deeply with someone has always been the most enjoyable part of my job.”
Full-time art career happens ‘by accident’
Although she has always been artistic and has an honors degree in visual communication at Stellenbosch University and a master’s degree in film and media at the University of Cape Town, according to Lorraine, the plan was never to pursue a full-time career as an artist.
After university, she got a job as a personal assistant at an advertising agency, after which she later helped out as a social media officer. When the company had to close its doors, a “what-now moment”, as she terms it, forced her to reconsider her priorities.
“I realized that money was my only motivation to do that job and knew that this was not how I wanted to live my life. I then decided to say yes to any other opportunity that came my way in the search for what would make me happy – something that naturally challenged my mother’s nerves,” teases Lorraine.
At one stage, she balanced almost 12 different types of work, including proofreader, production assistant on film sets, waitress and interior decorator, to keep her head above water.
In 2012, she heard about a business course at the University of Cape Town that teaches artists about the business side of the industry, including marketing, taxation and financing.
“I came to the realization that I would not want to take up art full-time, but rather as a side hustle doing while I have a regular nine-to-five job. Unfortunately, I still had to submit a business plan and presentation to pass the course,” she laughs.
“I knew that I wouldn’t be able to set aside more than an hour a day for art and so decided on the miniature paintings – something that I know I could finish in one go.”
Her business proposal to make one painting every day for a year and offer people the opportunity to “buy” a day of the year for R500 and make a proposal for that day’s picture, was a hit with the lecturers.
So much so that after her presentation some of them immediately wanted to book and buy sketches of specific dates. With this, she dedicated herself in 2013 to paint a painting every day for a year.
“I quickly realized that there really was no point of return. I even had to kick off the project on 1 January in the Sederberge after a proper New Year’s Eve party,” jokes Lorraine.
Those interested could make suggestions for ideas or objects to be painted that day, as long as they were universal.
Everything from clothes, foods, holiday destinations, animals, movie characters and even Queen Elizabeth II were captured in 15mm to 30mm paintings and exhibited together at a gallery before being supplied to the owners.
This astonishing success of Painting for Ants forced her to embark on a follow-up series in 2014. In 2015 she also 100 Paintings for Ants start – a similar project, but with a more flexible schedule.
The rest, as they say, is history.
To date, Lorraine’s work has been featured in international exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney, London and Paris, as well as in publications such as The Huffington Post and Buzzfeed.
Being a full-time artist, mother and wife naturally requires many sacrifices, says Lorraine, who currently lives with her husband and seven-year-old son in Newland in the Western Cape.
The couple will soon also welcome their second child.
“I often get the question about how one should embark on a full-time art career these days and even though there really isn’t one specific way, I always encourage artists to pay as much attention to their business knowledge as their artwork.”
According to Lorraine, a thorough business plan and sufficient capital are of key importance. Furthermore, artists must swallow their fear and pride in exhibiting their work on social media, as well as realize what it takes to keep the pot boiling for themselves.
“There is no harder job than working for yourself and I also always say that you will be your most difficult boss. In the end, you have to decide for yourself what you are willing to give up to make your dreams come true.”