I have often been asked whether I grew up in Africa, or whether I have lived there for any length of time because, at first glance, people say my themes and colours stand out as being “different”. The world of decorative painting, which also encompasses tole painting, folk art and country painting, is very traditional.

Well, yes! I am a thorough bred African. I was born in Mozambique, when Mozambique was still considered Portuguese territory, and lived there until I was 17 years old. As a young teenager, my big reference as an artist was a Mozambican painter – Malagatana – still alive and still producing extraordinary work. He was not alone in the Mozambican art scene but he was the one who remained printed in my DNA. Each time I see his work, it is like coming home.


Then, after the Portuguese revolution in April 1974, my family and I emigrated to neighbouring South Africa where I lived for the following 15 years. During those 15 years in Johannesburg, I studied at the University of the Witwatersrand (where I did a Bachelor of Arts degree in languages and a post graduate University Diploma in Education) I married a South African town planner (thus my English surname), I had my two sons (Peter, who is now 26 years old, and Michael, who is now 24 years old), I became a high school teacher and, later on, a radio news journalist at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). In-between times, I always made sure I could find time to do my arts and crafts activities.

I did Bauernmalerei painting, knitting, sewing, textile painting, upholstery, cooking and baking. I have always loved arts and crafts. In fact, one of my favourite past times is still to visit arts and crafts fairs.


In September 1990, my husband and I decided to move to Portugal for good. The death of my father in the previous year had had a dramatic effect on me and made me realize, for a fact, that life does not go on indefinitely. I very much wanted to live near my mother and to enjoy her company as an adult. I did not want to eventually cry her death and realize how much I had missed out.

So, driven basically by emotions, we moved to Portugal, more precisely to the Algarve, in the south of Portugal.


It was a very difficult move on the professional front as, for the first time in our lives, we could not find jobs. But, fortunately, slowly and surely, we learnt to become entrepreneurs.

Could it be that we were completely destitute of imagination and not able to create our own means of survival?! Looking back now, I certainly regard our move to Portugal as a blessing. Not only do I live close to my loved ones, but we certainly learnt to be as creative as possible. After all, I am doing exactly what I had always dreamt of doing – living off my arts and crafts, more precisely, my painting.


Arriving in Portugal and having far too much free time on my hands, I decided to specialize in my favourite past time which was painting on wood. The discovery of American decorative painting magazines on the market, here, in Portugal, opened up a marvellous new world for me. Through them, I discovered hundreds of American painters who not only produced incredible work but also taught beautifully.


In 1994, I became a member of the American Society of Decorative Painters and I attended my first convention in 1995 in San Diego.
That was such a revelation for me! I had the opportunity to see and learn how so very, many families lived off painting: they produce amazing work, they teach beautifully, they sell the instructions of their incredible projects in decorative painting books and in decorative painting packets, they travel and they teach.

Their goals seem to be to produce great legacies for the up coming generations and to spread the knowledge of Decorative Painting. And that became my goal, too.


For most of the nineties, I only painted and taught American patterns. But the appearance of a new Portuguese arts and crafts magazine in 1998, here, in Portugal, prompted me to start producing my own line of projects. It was actually quite an interesting phenomenon as I had no clue, until then, how the creative process worked and how style was so very independent from your will power. I started to come out with very different projects, with a very bright palette, to which people did not adhere to from the start. But, as time went by, I realized that the general public enjoyed and appreciated my work, and that, in fact, there were many who bought the magazine with the sole intention of collecting the pages with my projects.

I was truly stunned by the popularity of my projects. And I was even more stunned when people talked about my style – I didn’t even know that I had a style! All I know about my work is that I always need to use black (I do not know why) and that I only and exclusively do whatever I feel like.


I am often asked where my ideas come from. My creative process is extremely varied: my ideas can just pop up in my head; or they can start when I notice the most irrelevant detail in some daily routine; or they are often the result of the endless scribbles I do in the dead hours of the fairs that I attend once or twice a year. It is actually quite amazing the number of fun doodles I have piled up throughout the years which are still waiting to be transformed into something more exciting (I suspect I am going to need a few reincarnations for that…).


Many people say that they have no imagination at all. In my humble opinion, and having made the same statement myself in the past, I reached the conclusion that creativity is like a muscle: if you never use it, you don’t even know it is there; but the moment you start using it, it is a never ending flow of ideas.


In my field of activity, the only way to display one’s work publicly is to attend arts and crafts fairs. Fortunately, I really enjoy the contact with the general public. One always makes such great contacts. Meanwhile, if you want to remain in the public eye, you have to publish your work in periodical publications such as magazines. And that is what I have been doing for the past ten years. Apart from that, I have also published two books in Portuguese, each with about 40 different designs.

My work has also appeared twice on the cover of the newsletter of the British Association of Decorative and Folk Artists (BADFA).


As I am always looking for ways to show my work, I was thrilled when my son, Michael, came up with the idea of creating a business site for my work.  I look forward to finding out what kind of acceptance my designs will have in the international arena and what kind of new opportunities might arise.


I often hear people in my age group (in the 50’s) complaining about their professional lives and how they look forward to retirement. Not me! I am constantly excited with every step in my life.


I look forward to hearing from you!


anaDickinson1