John Broom - The Accountant who wanted to be an Artist: Part Four

And so we come to the last of the posts on John Broom where we have seen the evidence of the artistic talent burning within this man - working as an accountant with the soul of an artist: sketching scenes at any opportunity.

Eventually in 1984 John Broom was able to fulfil his wish to attend Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa to study Fine Art. Monica, his wife, tells us that he had just retired from working for Deloittes and was 58 years young!

We commenced the series on John Broom with him painting in the studio at Rhodes University in John Broom - The Accountant who wanted to be an Artist: Part One. And below we see a painting John created representing his studio at Rhodes. The composition is so clever as the viewer is drawn from the foreground consisting of an artist's essential tools - a roll of paper and a model of the lower half of a human body - to the middle ground made up of the table of paints and brushes - through the screens to the live models. So perfectly expressed in a palette of soft secondary colours of oranges and greens.

The Art Studio at Rhodes University by John Broom (1)

John studied Art at Rhodes for two years... continuing to work on his sketching skills - notes being added by the tutor (below) to assist in the honing of his artistic skills.

Sketch of a Grahamstown house by John Broom (with tutorial notes)

The student became a lecturer at the request of the University from 1986 to 1988 when he resigned because a prominent company of lawyers asked him to computerise their accounts.

It is important to emphasise at this point that artists seldom can sustain a lifestyle even of the most simplest dimensions and so most, and John was no exception, return to a world where you get paid! Few people realise how expensive art materials are and that an artist is lucky to get half the sale price of a painting after the commission is deducted. It is a tough career path to take at any time in your life.

From my correspondence with his wife, Monica, and from studying John's sketches and paintings, I get the impression that John Broom wasn't that interested in selling and making a living from his art works.

It appears that his interest lay in recording his view of what he could see in his world - and in the best possible way- hence, he continued to try out different artistic ways to express his thoughts into images. Below we see John sitting proudly in front of two paintings which were displayed at a Grahamstown Arts Festival Exhibition.

John Broom in front of two of his paintings at the Grahamstown Art Festival (1)

He is sitting in front of, on the right, a painting of the road to his Mother's house at St. Michael's on Sea (there is a similar painting of his road in Post One, and on the left above is an impressionistic rendering of a bedroom scene with John's teenage son asleep in bed. The bedside lamp had been left on and John was intrigued with the play of light, and made a pastel painting of it.

Fortunately Monica has a photo of the bedroom painting (below) and so we able to appreciate it. We note once more the close focus viewpoint taken by John to immediately engage the viewer in the scene and be captivated by the vibrance of his palette which emphasises the contrasting tones of the blues and oranges.

A teenage son asleep in bed with the light on by John Broom (1)

Also in a semi-impressionist style is a delightfully joyful painting (below) with an unusual subject matter. Who would think to paint a doll standing in a window? The doll was a Barbie doll dressed in the attire of the Air Hostesses that worked on the Singapore Airlines planes which was bought as a memento.

John was apparently always on the lookout to record items of interest and significance. When I look at the painting I am drawn to the foliage which John delighted in painting, especially as it gave him the chance to experiment with his love of colour -note the tones of the greens, blues, orange and yellow. The placement of the doll makes for a much more interesting painting by breaking both the extent and colour of the foliage.

A doll in the window by John Broom (1)

I am, in fact, amazed at the diversity of John's subject matter across his pen and ink sketches and paintings.

Below is a framed pen and ink sketch the Wellington Street intersection, Grahamstown as from what Monica tells is this was the hub of community life at the weekends.

On one corner was the Wellington Cafe which was usually a very busy place at the weekends when the shops were closed. Everybody shopped at Wellingtons as it literally sold everything!

The sketch below belongs to a friend of Monica's who was quick to photograph the work and send to Monica when she heard that John's art was going to be showcased on the internet.2

The Wellington Intersection by John Broom (2)

And in another pen and ink sketch John has captured the activity of the locals trooping across the Wellington St intersection to purchase an essential item. It's interesting to note that john found the movement of the figures of more interest than the Wellington cafe which is not even visible in the sketch below. It would appear that he was interested in the narrative of the intersection rather than the buildings.

Wellingtons by John Broom (1)

A family event is captured by John with humour in this five minute caricature sketch below. Monica describes the scene thus: my daughter, Kate, son in law, Bob, and grandson, Liam, were hurtling towards the departure gate at the airport, to fly to England. Bob had put Liam on his 'trunkie' and Liam was totally unaware of the rush, gaily waving his flag and his noodle. Kate was pulling the hand luggage, and Bob was hauling Liam. The haste and urgency is palpable in the sketch, and he has conveyed the characteristics of the personae wonderfully!

It says more than a thousand words!

Making it by a 'squeak! by John Broom

Monica concludes John's narrative:

In 1991, when John was approaching 65 years young we upped sticks and moved to Cape Town. He ended up back working as an accountant for the Quaker Peace Centre until he finally retired.

Monica has told me that gradually John gave up painting as he aged though occasionally he created a pastel painting of her flower arrangements, and sketches of the musicians (which we saw in an earlier post), while we were at concerts.

And so we will leave our journey and exploration of the art works of John Broom with his sketch of one of Monica's African violets - demonstrating his adroit ability to quickly record those familiar scenes and elements in the immediate world that surrounded him.


Sketch of one of Monica's African violets by John Broom

Below Monica and John are seen joyfully celebrating his 90th birthday in 2013. They were married for thirty years, commemorating their 30th Wedding Anniversary in January 2015, followed by John's 92nd birthday in the March and sadly he died in the April of 2015.

Monica's words sum up the remarkable John Broom:

He was loved by all, and he loved everybody, regardless of shape, colour, creed or persuasion. A gregarious and generous person he worked as Honorary Treasurer for countless NGO's in the evenings. And during the days, he studied with five different Bible Study groups per week because he appreciated all the different stances on worship. I was privileged to be his wife.

Monica and John Broom on John's 90th birthday (1)
  1. Thank you to Monica Broom who provided all the images and biographical notes on John Broom used in this post. A special thank you also to Monica's son in law, Bob Wilkins (Assistant Director, in the film industry) who took the photographs of John's paintings.

  2. And we also thank Monica's dear friend Caro Atwell for providing the image of the framed picture of the Wellington Intersection.

It has been a joy and honour to be trusted to present the oeuvre of John Broom - artist.

Late Mail

As we conclude the series on John Broom we welcome our latest subscriber L.B. in South Africa who has joined the AnArt4Life blog.

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