“The essence of creativity is freedom, in painting I found the freedom to apply a part of my mind not often used in design.” Described by himself as an “analytical, serious person”. But it’s his quirky, fresh sense of humour you notice when you talk to Frans Groenewald and look at his artwork, especially the witty, tongue-in-cheek images of cats that brought his fame.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that Frans Groenewald made a living through illustrations for magazines and children’s books, cartoons for newspapers and graphic design work. Yet, he had another creative passion and talent lurking within, one that needed to be released and exposed. “I had lots of ideas in my mind and I was looking for a new way to express them. The essence of creativity is freedom and in painting I found the freedom to apply a part of my mind not often used in design. I started to experiment with fine art.” Frans explained.

He decided to use cats as a theme for his first series of paintings Cats On Canvas. For example his Picatsso, is a reference to the well known Picasso who shares the name of the feline allusion. Titles are an integral part of his work, often they come to mind first. “I’ll have a list of ideas relevant to cats before I start painting.” He says. His preferred method is acrylic on canvas and sometimes completes up to three paintings per day, his unique ensemble of cat paintings started appearing in art galleries and exhibitions and was soon snatched by the public. When asked what his inspiration for the feline motive was, he says “I had read a book on ‘lateral thinking’ by Edward de Bono and decided to use my imagination to guide my style rather than painting exactly what I see”. One would imagine that he is fond of cats, but it’s not the case, in fact so he is allergic to the feline specie and his images are drawn from memory.

His latest theme Chefs On Canvas is as imaginative and witty as the Cats On Canvas series. This collection is taking the world by storm and has been converted into many forms, including prints on paper and canvas, magnets, greeting cards, kitchen utensils, books and calendars. He was recently commissioned by celebrity chef Brian Turner (BBC’s Ready Steady Cook) to do a series of paintings for Turner’s bistro in Birmingham and is working on two recipe books for the Bread & Wine Restaurant in Franschhoek and La Creuzette in France.

Cooking With Basil is a recipe book that is brimming with unique characters from the Chefs On Canvas series. “Basil” is the valiant chef with the waxed moustache and Gallic charm with his adorable free-range chicken “Benedict”. Groenewald delights the project with fresh and humorous wordplay and draws on a pallet of gorgeous colours in his creative paintings. You can almost taste and breathe the fragrance of basil, the gratifying herb used in all the recipes. Each recipe was devised by The Institute Of Culinary Arts.

Cooking With Basil will add delight to any aspiring cook’s kitchen, the more decorative yet very simplistic (bordering abstract) book was influenced by Mark Rothko’s abstracts, Gary Larson’s (The Far Side) sense of humour and Modigliani’s and Marc Chagall’s use of colour. A generous selection of his work is available at Alice Art Gallery in Ruimsig, Gauteng.