Saturday, May 23, 2009

Meet Me at the Mantis Mall

There is something about Darling! If you enter the little town and see the quite drab main road running through, you will realise that all Darling's treasures will have to be hunted down. It will be worth it! In many of the restored Victorian cottages with their olde English gardens a guest house, restaurant or business can be found, and I am going to paint you many little vignettes

Nr 12 Long Street houses an art gallery where my paintings are sold. It is cheekily named The Darling Art Supermarket, although it consists of one large room (and no trolleys). This is part of the spunk I enjoy about Darling. So when a friend said to me:"Meet me at the Mantis Mall", I was surprised for a few seconds, and then of course, I knew what she referred to and played along. So let me introduce you:

The Mantis Trading Store was established in a cottage a few years ago. It sold quilts, pottery and antiques. Then a veranda and a part of the garden was hired out to a nursery with a happy selection of indigenous plants. Last year another tenant found space to run a coffee house, and woe and behold, the town's bookshop also moved over. So, who says it is not a mall? This painting takes the viewer into a roomful of antique furniture, porcelain and mirrored old books in the smallest 'mall' in the country!

Friday, May 15, 2009

At Groote Post

If there is a screw missing, or brakes or whatever, do not fear! This one-horse-cart is going nowhere! The scariest part for an artist, was finding halfway through the painting that the wheels did not match and were not even of the same size!
Groote Post has had so much written about it, for instance that it used to be a central post for mail deliveries from Cape Town to Saldanha. Long before the running of ultra-marathons became an exact science, runners would run the 60 kilometers from Cape Town carrying the mail.

I am still painting scenes along that little dirt road to Darling and have at last reached this farm that is now a producer of the finest wines and a reserve for wild buck. A beautifully maintained Cape Dutch residence houses a restaurant of renown. I think I will be back to do more paintings!
The old cart is for display purposes and to show how wine vats used to be carried. With the horses in the background this little vignette heightens the sense of history. I dedicate this painting to a lovely wine with a nice old-sounding name: Groote Post The Old Man's Blend Red!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wildemalva (Pelargonium cucullatum)

The West Coast had its first winter rains, and 9000 species of flowering plants are gearing up for spring which is almost four months away. Even before Nature breaths the word 'spring', the wild geraniums burst into flower. I made this very fast and impressionistic painting to show the abundant foliage and the loose clusters of flowers bearing toward the light.

We love our little SASOL field guide to fynbos of Southern Africa, and I am going to use their descriptions to add to my own. This flowering plant is one of the parents of the Regal pelargonium hybrids. The leaves contain essential oils that are extracted and used in traditional medicines to treat coughs and chest complaints. About 250 different Pelargonium species are known from Africa, Madagascar, the Middle East and Australia, but mostly from here where we are at the moment. The florist geraniums that are a favourite in many window boxes worldwide are popularly thought to be of European origin, but are actually Pelargonium hybrids.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Chimney and the Tree

I was determined to find everything interesting there is to paint in my immediate vicinity before exploring the rest of the West Coast. On the farm road close by I stumbled upon this window-less cottage with a rusted, moss covered roof. I saw what looked like a firmly locked little door and the field grasses in front of the cottage was short. Can we deduct from these facts that the place is still lived in? No cat, no chickens?

The house is dwarfed by the large tree, ensuring coolness in summer, especially as there are no windows (a few hidden on the other side, perhaps?). I was also very impressed by the proper West Coast chimney. We need our imagination to call up a kitchen alcove with a wood stove inside, hooks for cups, a pleasant table and chairs that form kitchen- dining- living room all in one, and the flavours of hearty food. On the far side of the house, (to effectively balance the chimney in the painting), is a water catchment tank on a built pedestal.
And that is absolutely all I can say about this cottage! Goodnight, little house, if there is a candle burning in there tonight, no-one will know!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Classic Dignity

We always have a soft spot and a warm heart for Cape Dutch homes: the regal imposing facades with the gables, the blindingly white lime-washed walls and the very thickness of the walls! The gables in our architecture also served a practical purpose: if the thatch caught fire, the gable would prevent burning debris from blocking the door!

This is the main section of the Bokbaai homestead, a little worse for the wear, as she is not lived in, yet with dignity intact. We can try to imagine her a few hundred years ago. This was not a weekend hideaway or holiday house like those in Newport, Rhode Island. This was the homestead of a working farm, as the Cape had to play it's role as provider for the ships which would dock in Table Bay for a month to buy produce and livestock, not only for the passage to the East, but also, in the 17th and 18th century to provide food and essentials for the British experimental settlements in Australia.

I like to think that a ship returning from the Antipodes had brought little saplings of the Norfolk Pines and that three of them are towering here over the old homestead today! Do not take this for the truth, but from the imagination of a person who has just read Colleen McCullough's "Morgan's Run" on the early history of Norfolk Island!

A wonderful artist in Geneva has been following this blog and the places I have painted so far, on Google Earth! To Theresa and other studious people, you will find the precious small bay, the thatched homestead with its long extension wing and its small outbuildings on 33degrees 34' 15.70" S and 18degrees 19' 28.39" E. Welcome to the West Coast!

Monday, May 4, 2009

O, Look! There is the Mountain!

Table Mountain is truly visible from almost anywhere in the Cape and its surroundings. On the West Coast, where it is flat, you can be in a friend's house, a restaurant or even my own studio and see a bit of it. You can drive from Malmesbury, Mamre or Melkbosstrand and there will suddenly be a breathtaking view of it. But we never tire of this marvel and will always exclaim: O look! There is the Mountain!

I am painting the main house at Bokbaai, a National Monument, and will post it soon. But I am first taking you around the back to the land end of the property. Climbing the slope behind the house, I saw a West Coast chimney and walked towards it. There I noticed a brave little corrugated iron canopy over the back door, with little chance of protecting the entrance against heavy rain (remember, I live close by and have first-hand experience of the winter rains here). The fields on the incline were greenish and it seemed as if the first rain had already brought forth a few clumps of flowers.

And suddenly the clouds lifted somewhat and there it was: that blue mountain of hope. To give Table Mountain a look of gentle purity in my painting, I spread a blue-grey, almost denim colour thickly. Into that wet colour I dropped layer upon layer of white paint until a soft fuzziness developed. This very plain picture is the result.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Lonely, lonely

As the crow flies, I am only 8 kilometers from Bokbaai. Not by road though! All the soil around here is pure loose damp sand, thus the road becomes a challenge of driving on both left wheels, then sort of jump over the ridge and drive on both right wheels, all at high speed. Did I mention the rain?

When the road comes to an end you start walking over a small hill before getting the first glimpse of the house, over 300 years old and vacant. I hope I can express in my painting the total forlorn-ness of this first impression of a once majestic homestead. It lies a few meters above a little bay, which on this particular day was as grey as the sky, as grey as the open sea, as grey as the mountain and the crushed mussel shells with which the yard is paved. The three enormous almost black Norfolk pines standing sentinel, could not be placed better to strenghen the feeling of desolation.
This is only the small side of a very long house and my next painting will show more and relate some of the history connected to the house.