Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last Painting of the Year: The Outlook!

This alcove was spotted in Piketberg, shaded by a Victorian corrigated iron roof. The large sash windows have frames encrusted with dark "heritage green" paint, which in South Africa usually indicates a National Monument or very old building. The chairs and blackboard menu invite the passersby to rest and eat. Outside is the sunny sky of Piketberg and the road from the mountain sloping by.....

Here are my New Year's wishes to you: there are steps to take, and roads to cross, an uphill climb, a downhill slide, new doors to enter and new windows to open. As we wait with bated breath to enter the New Year, may the choices be many and varied and exciting!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Piketberg Cottage - When Wikepedia cannot help!

Visiting the tranquil town of Piketberg, I soon realised that this place was a well-kept secret, a place to consider if one really wants to "get away from it all". The roads are running perpendicular with that wonderful mountain and many houses are staggered along the sloping ground. A beautiful nest of townhouses from an earlier era attracted my attention, sharing outer walls, each cottage a little lower than the previous. And then, on one of them was a plain tole-decorated ceramic plaque, a blue gate and on the gateposts two very old paint-encrusted artists' palettes! The legend on the plate: The Katzeff family lived here from 1937 to 1999. Who were these artistic people?

I paged through a lot of brochures on Piketberg as well as a book and the website for the town. And all these articles have the same words: Lithuanian Jews settled in Piketberg, ran businesses as salesmen to the farms and some eventually became highly successful entepreneurs who left for larger centra. The synagogue was bought by the municipality and became a normal small-town museum. I combed the Internet... Where are we going to find out more about that artistic family, their pottery and their painting?

My painting is of a cute cottage in the same row, chosen because it was a shorter style house and more suitable for a painting.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wishing you a Wonderful Christmas from the West Coast

Nowadays, when I take a walk through the fynbos, I notice that the West Coast fairies have been very busy decorating their Christmas trees! We normally call this bush the tortoise berry shrub. In spring the strong thorny plants are covered in pretty pink flowers. And then, in December a wonderful berry pops out of each flower. It goes through so many colour changes, starting with light beige, soft green, yellow, followed by the purples until it reaches the final bright red colour. Look at my painting and the photographs and you can see how closely it resembles a beautifully decorated tree in miniature!

I never knew that there were West Coast fairies, but now there is a wonderful book: "Fynbos Fairies" by the poet Antjie Krog and illustrator Fiona Moody, and they have captured our fascinating ethnical community of fairies. The synopsis on reads: "There is a fairy living around each species of Cape Fynbos ----they work and play, they tend the fynbos or make a mess. They laugh, they sleep, they dream - life's busy for your average fynbos fairy in the veld."

The bright red tortoise berries are beloved by fairies, children, tortoises and birds who all love the thirst-quencing astringent tasting little morsels. Mmm, what a neat idea: the baubles on the West Coast fairies' tree are edible! The botanical name of the berry bush: Nylandtia spinosa. The book was published by Umuzi . ISBN 978-1-4152-0022-3

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Piketberg - A Mountain and a Church

I can only present you with a preparatory sketch today! This type of sketch is what usually lies underneath my proper painting.

Like many small towns here and everywhere else, Piketberg started with a church building. Towering above everything else is this very impressive Dutch Reformed Church with splendid gardens all around and the mountain behind. It is already two centuries old and was designed and built in Neo-Gothic style by Carl Otto Hagen and has now been declared a National Monument.

The days are getting busy here...I have almost finished the painting of a West Coast plant that I will post on Christmas day, but for the rest everything is suspended and my personal paints and brushes will be packed away as I "renting" out my studio to my 5-year-old twin granddaughters for their crafting and painting in exchange for lots of hugs!

Before leaving my blog, you might also like to read the 10 Questions I answered for Portfolio Collections, a wonderful domain who had won the South African Blog of the Year Award 2009. Click on my portrait in the right-hand column.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Arriving in Piketberg

What more could a town ask for? Piketberg lies against a wonderful mountain and its streets are lined with enormous jakaranda and other types of trees! The mountain harbours two more towns on its opposite side, but long ago the Gonjemans tribe lived here, and many examples of San art can be found in the caves. Khoikhoi herdsmen also knew the place intimately and would hide russled cattle in the caves and valleys. It was decided in the 1670's to create a small military outpost known as a piquet (French) or picket (English), from there the Afrikaans name Piketberg.

A cannon placed on the mountain was used to warn surrounding farmers of trouble in the vicinity, or of ships arriving in Table Bay harbour to buy their products. It boomed happily when Queen Victoria had a birthday, and even more so when a telephone line was completed that linked the town with Cape Town. The cannon is filled up with concrete now, and kept in the schoolgrounds. You can just see the lovely old school at the end of the street.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Workers in the Vineyard

On a lovely early summer's day I take a drive to admire the farmlands between Malmesbury and Piketberg. The popular crops are wheat, vines, our local herbal Rooibos tea and proteas. It seems on the road that I'm on that most farms have opted for wheat and vines. The result is so pleasing to the eye and one is met by alternating patches of gold and green.

The workers in my painting are pruning the neat rows of vines. We sometimes complain that wine is expensive, but should consider for a moment all the labour and cost that is involved. The cuttings are grafted, cultivated, treated and dusted and then planted in ploughed and fertilised furrows. Take into account the trellising and pruning, protection against pests and diseases, irrigation, picking, sorting, distilling! What a process! The workers are usually part of the large farm "family" and will have homes, salaries, schooling and medical wine really that expensive?