Thursday, February 25, 2010


Say the word "ocean" and my little car goes into motion, you can say it is her homing instinct! So down the mountain we rushed, leaving Piketberg behind. After that the road took us past Aurora and then straight down to Velddrif and the sea. It was not long before we spotted patches of the lovely Berg River that has its mouth at Velddrif. Calm blue water with wading birds, boats and cottages along the river shores lead us into a tranquil fishing village.

So I went for the biggest boat first. The composition was made difficult by my closeness to the scene. I refused to paint a great grey expanse of the foreground concrete jetty, and thus I landed up with a problem of balance. This is how I solved it: a lighter sky over the little town in the background, so that the eye could be drawn in, two silhoettes of seabirds and two ropes.

For the next few posts you can expect more of the things Velddrif is famous for: salt pans, wading birds, bokkoms (a type of dried mullet hanging in rows at Bokkom Lane) and of course more boats.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Piketberg Conebush and other Proteas

Proteas, those hardy plants native to the Western Cape, Southwest Australia, Southeast Asia, Madagascar, New Guinea and New Zealand, have been around since the days of the dinosaurs! Here in the Cape Floral Kingdom 330 species are growing against mountains and in sandy nutrient-poor soils.

Proteas are also cultivated for export around Piketberg, and in my painting I am showing Leacadendron discolor, also known as Piketberg Conebush, a native of the mountain. The leaves protecting the bright pompoms which are the real flowers, are a lovely custard yellow with a reddish tint. This composition has been planned in my studio, so to flank the conebushes I have painted in smaller proteas which are found next to the coast: Leucospernum tomentosum (Saldanha Pincushions) and Protea scolymocephala (witskollie). May I just mention that identification is extremely difficult, so if anybody does not agree with my identification, please join the discussion!

I am showing another painting, a large watercolour which I painted in 1993. Large open flowers of Protea cynaroides, South Africa's national flower are shown with the popular Protea repens which never opens completely.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Seven Books about the West Coast

Here are some books that will give you more info, photos and history of the West Coast.

1. West Coast, Cederberg to the Sea by Karina du Plessis and Vanessa Cowling. This is a coffee table book that takes a long loving look at the West Coast, its scenery, people and food.
2. West Coast Cookbook edited by Ina Paarman. Learn about the food traditions and the appreciation of the sea in the lives of the West Coast people.
3. A West Coast Odyssey. This is a fairly recent book already considered as Africana (valuable books dealing with the history of the African continent).
4. Islands by Dan Sleigh. A very thick small-print historic novel giving the background of the various posts for provisions and the relations between the colonists and the San. There are many historic events featuring the West Coast and I am personally upset that the book has no index in the back as there are many bits one would like to research.
5. Wildflower Guide#7 West Coast by The Botanical Society of South Africa: . Endlessly helpful field guide, the book the people living here cannot go without!
6. The Cape Herders, A History of the Khoikoi in South Africa. I found it recently in an Africana section of a bookstore and will be studying it soon.
7. Sasol Proteas, A Field Guide to the Proteas of Southern Africa by Tony Rebelo. I was fortunate in participating in one of Tony Rebelo's field courses.

Here is my list of 12 constant and positive art bloggers who inspire and give joy to others: Internet readers can click, book readers can Google them!

1. Nancy Medina: The most joyous painter on the Internet! Nancy paints and blogs up a storm. Her pug family gives the blog a very precious and personal added interest!
2. Linda Blondheim: Here is an established, much respected and serious artist who still makes time to inspire and share useful hints as well as dole out honest criticism if need be! I would not like to miss one of her informative articles!
3. Kelley McDonald: A fun and original artist who has always something going. She looks at everyday objects and will paint comfort food, party shoes and nostalgic objects with great vigour!
4. Catherine Jeffrey: An accomplished artist who can tackle difficult subjects and all the images that I shy away from: vehicles, electric lamp light, streets wet with water. ....I keenly follow her posts.
5. Angela Shogrun: We all know the rules of watercolour: more than three layers of paint equals "mud". That is before you have watched Angela producing layer upon layer and of pure transparent glittering colour!
6. Maree Clarkson: It may be "slight of hand" but Maree has more hours in the day than normal people. She paints and blogs daily, making us familiar with the Magaliesberg region, with birds and plants all splendidly researched, besides running other blogs and groups!
7. Gwen Bell: The smile and the subjects does it, Gwen's cheerful style shines through!
I always appreciate the fact that Gwen sends a personal message by e-mail to thank me for a comment.
8. Carol Schiff: Delicious creamy textures which everyone comments about! Carol can make brushwork look flowing and effortless! OK, Carol, you are excused!! Carol has already received this award more than once. I must agree that passing it on IS a lot of work!
9. Manon Doyle: How does Manon get 50 comments at a time? Wouldn't we all love to know! Her colourful Expressionism and strong line and colourwork gives joy and has many followers always looking forward to more! Those faces are unforgettable!
10. Liz Pearson: A fellow Capetonian although we have never met. Liz has always a surprize on her blog and paints Table Mountain, portraits and pet portraits will equal ease.
11. Kathi Peters: I found Kathi on Facebook and may have followed her even before I had my own blog. Here you can truly relish daily life on a Maine farm, surrounded by horses, and of course, paintings of horses!
12. Kathy Karas: A decorative artist who paints what only can be termed "very valuable heirlooms". Go there and enjoy her heavenly adorable bears lovingly painted onto old furniture!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Piket-bo-Berg Tea Garden

It's a long way to drive...and then: A tiny tea garden high in the mountains! The first pass was built in the nineteenth century, using only picks and shovels, around twenty men and some oxen. It has been inproved in the 1950's by Versveld, a local entrepeneur and eccentric. Today we are thirsty and interested in another local "eccentric", the owner of this very distant tea garden!

You reach it after quite a long drive to reach the summit. Then suddenly the bright yellow welcoming sign is there! A red hand painted arrow points upwards into a treed lane. After turning in, motorists are requested to hoot three times! Once you find the five or so tables under the trees, it is best to reach for your newspaper and wait. Suddenly Henny Visser is there, announcing slightly out of breath that her home sits lower down and she was tending the Sweet Potato Cake baking in the oven. With great care and speed she covers ALL the tables, not just one, with checkered cloths. A moment later three little blackboard menus hang suspended between two bluegum trees.

Soon we are enjoying a light lunch, fresh cakes and coffee, chat like old friends with Henny and admire the hills planted with lavender. We also hear of a beloved Afrikaans author, the late George Weideman who had often spent time there in winter, writing by the small inside fireplace. On this lovely summer's day we can only wonder what winter would be like up here! On leaving, we are loaded with aloe plants, applesauce and lavender oil from the farm, which are sold in the tiny shop on the premises.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Taking the Pass to the top of the Mountain

We drive right through pretty Piketberg to the Northern side where the 3-looped pass begins. One is almost immediately met by an amazing sight of hang-gliders making their slow and very colourful descent from the mountain, landing noiselessly on a soft green grassland.

For weeks over the holidays I have tried to visualise what it would be like up there on the heights of the Piketberg. It is VAST! There are so many farms up there. Some have mansions and formal gardens. Others have small cottages peeking through the vegetation. I saw former homes in ruins left to crumble away. There are protea farms and citrus farms and some tiny lavender groves and neat vineyards! The natural vegetation consists of fynbos and various protea species. On these bushy uneven lands the San reigned long ago. They were quite agile and it was difficult to find stolen cattle back once they were in their hands....thus the cannon had to sound a warning in time when they were spotted about to attack the farms in the valley.

My painting shows the view towards the town from the top where there is a place to stop and gaze back. I painted those dams and farms, (the greenest patches are vineyards), then decided to place a mistyness over all the careful detail in the distance! By now I have often painted thinned white acrylics over my work, then rubbed it off fast, so I had no fear in doing that!

I include a photo of one of the many small citrus farms on top of the Piketberg (Mountain). How absolutely wonderful it must be to live and work far above the crowds! And now on towards the tea garden half an hour's drive into the mountain!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Alone with the Mountain

I was so pleased that everyone loved Aurora! Many people fell in love with the town through my blog! It is romantic in a special way as each house has a solitary aura about it. Look at this cheeky cottage with the turquoise veranda: It looks as if it stands there alone with the mountain behind it, although it is on a street in town! There is a West Coast chimney on the outside which means there will be a cosy inglenook for cooking inside the kitchen!

Here is tiny Aurora's role in history: In 1751 the Abby de la Caille arrived from France to measure the earth's meridian. He did his triangular measurement from a barn near Aurora using Strand Street in Cape Town and the mountains of Riebeek West as his other points of reference. Ooopsy, despite his accuracy the earth was found to be mmm....slightly oval! Two centuries later it was found that the mistake could be blamed on the magnetic pull of the the nearby mountains.

Now I can also feel that magnetic pull! For the next painting you will find me taking the 3 -looped pass to visit the top of Piketberg Mountain!