It is widely quoted that there are ‘different strokes for different folk’ and for the longest time it has been accepted as fact. However, every once in a while a generation witnesses a rare talent who breaks the mould. Our Person of the Week is one such talent whose brushstrokes have brought to life painting masterpieces.
Larry Norton has his gallery at the Victoria Falls Hotel and has held highly successful solo exhibitions in New York and London. His works have been collected around the world making him a promoter of travel and tourism in the process.
A wildlife artist with over 3 decades’ worth of experience, Larry Norton’s artworks and influence has been celebrated worldwide. His visual creations have attracted the attention of National Geographic TV and Yahoo Finance, among other notable coverage and features in films, documentaries, books and articles.
Larry was born in Zimbabwe and grew up on a farm in the northern eastern parts of the country. An alumni of Prince Edward School, he later on studied for an agricultural degree in Australia until his artistic epiphany pushed him to pursue his passion.
“I realised that I wanted to paint full time when I returned from Australia. My parents ensured that we spent a tremendous amount of time in the bush, and so the wild and remote areas of this country have always been very close to my heart. I travelled overseas to get established with galleries and since then have lived in Zimbabwe and a few years in South Africa,’’ he said.
Norton’s grandmother was an amateur painter and inevitably became a major influence of the budding young artist in his childhood. He has since grown to transcend being just a painter into a visual story teller with unique abilities drawing inspiration from his environment.
“I drew well from a young age and later on took up painting as well. Without question the wildlife, landscapes and people of Africa are the inspiration behind my compositions. Art is never an easy journey and often the work that you think is the best may pass unnoticed. I have been fortunate that my paintings have been well received,” said Norton.
“It is a really good feeling when someone likes a piece enough to invest in it, after you have put your heart and soul into it. It is a great compliment when they actually buy it. Art is always a gamble though and it is not an easy career.”
Some of his artworks were recently featured in a Yahoo Finance article titled ‘21 Safari Artworks that will inspire you to visit Africa in 2021’ which showcased 21 of his paintings. Such recognition are further testament to the immense role his safari artwork plays in promoting tourism, travel and wildlife.
“There is definitely a synergy between my artwork and the tourism and travel market. This year ARTE TV did a feature on Victoria Falls Bridge and surrounds and covered the studio and one of my paintings of the bridge as well,’’ he said.
“I was a member of the society of animal artists and received their highest award which is the Catasus medal from one of my exhibitions. I have been lucky enough to have my work included in various books and films, including a National Geographic film on a source to mouth trip on the Zambezi river undertaken in 1995.”
Larry follows a unique approach for each project and has at times undertaken expeditions as across the length and breadth of Africa spurred on by inspiration to tell the first-hand experience.
“My paintings are usually based on a combination of field work, experiences and imagination, as well as memories. I try to do a lot of expeditions on foot, kayak and canoe in order to obtain unique material. In 1992 I flew through 18 African countries with bush pilot Tom Claytor in a light Cessna 180 aircraft. We spent over a year exploring unusual places such as Timbuktu in the Sahara Desert.’’
In his long accomplished career, Norton also counts a few personal favourite paintings among his collection. Among them is an emotive piece named ‘Long Sand of Gonarezhou’ which he painted in a field. A film was made of the process to show how the painting evolved and is available on his YouTube channel.
“One of my favourite paintings is ‘In the Valley of Memories’ which captures the essence of my experiences from childhood of going into the bush with my parents. It is part of the massive 1m by 3m paintings of Zimbabwe that I have been working on. It is a lifetime project. So far I have completed 5 of them as each one takes months to do.’’
As Larry continues to work on his latest collection of massive painting, art enthusiasts wait with bated breath to see the next potential masterpiece from the veteran artist. Amongst the remaining five pieces he is excited at the prospect of painting Great Zimbabwe, Matopos, Nyanga, Hwange National Park and Chiweshe. He looks to the future and expresses a hope that his works will continue to showcase the country and continent and bring in more visitors once the current global crisis subsides.