Lifestyle: Authentic expressions

Sibley McAdam has always known that he was an artist – tracing this passion back to his childhood in Zambia. Without any formal training, he designed furniture and houses which has since evolved into a lucrative and successful nationwide business. Block & Chisel has been in existence for 30 years and continues to grow from strength to strength.

As a boy, Sibley was dyslexic and would express himself better with pencil. “It was a comfortable place for me at the time. But the real transition came when we need art for the stores and I decided to pick up my paint brush.”

At the time, he visited the well-known astrologer Rod Suskin who explained that Sibley has always been an artist and a ‘spiritual dreamer’. “It gave me the freedom to let go and truly pursue this and it came at a time that we were growing the business. I was able to hand over to someone who could use my furniture designs and increase production.”

Sibley says he’s not quite sure where his inspiration for his paintings come from. “I am, however, drawn to the work of the post impressionists. They allow me to express myself in a way that feels authentic.”

The message he wishes to evoke from his art is to tell a story of his life’s experiences. “I am also inspired by what I read and it gives me a reason to return to the canvas. I do love the freedom to start the painting simply with an outline of a woman, for example, and then allow it to take me where it needs to go.”

The uptake of his art – both locally and internationally – has been exceptionally good. “My work sells in the UK, US, Canada, Italy, France, Australia and Bermuda. When I started, I had no intention other than to paint. It’s quite mad really – beyond what I could have imagined.”

Sibley had his first solo exhibition at the age of 68. Commenting on why he eventually decided to take the leap, he says: “There comes a time when I just knew I had to do it. I took a deep breath and a leap of faith and I put myself out there. Perhaps it helped a great deal the way my wife Lynne set it up with her friend and great art lover and collector, Penny Dobbie. It was great. I took me a few months to get over it. Success can be as difficult as failure sometimes. For a while I found it difficult to finish a painting as nothing was ever ‘good enough’ and then I started to let go once again.”

So, what’s next for Sibley? “At the moment it’s just about painting for me. I’m driven and I love it. I suppose there will be another exhibition. Oh my word, I can’t face it! (laughs). Right now, it’s been a wonderful process of meeting people approaching me to represent the art, which has been exciting, and seeing it make its way into magnificent homes and hotels. The Silo Hotel has a large number of my paintings and has been enjoying such wonderful reviews.”

Some of Sibley’s portraits