Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bokkoms at Velddrif (and blog's first anniversary)

The schools of fish near Velddrif have attracted people for ages! Some fish traps and shell middens dating back hundreds of years, having belonged to Khoi-Khoin (early indigenous inhabitants) are protected historical beacons. The quaint little lane next to the Berg River which is aptly named "Bokkom Lane" is considered an informal "national monument". Here, in a never-changing cycle, schools of harders are offloaded from rickety boats onto rickety jetties. First, the fish is thrown into deep salt troughs, then, still wet and glistening they are bunched and hung out to dry. The moment they are salted and stringed onto rafters they are no longer referred to as harders or mullet, but become bokkoms.

In my painting, and in the photographs you can see the first steps in the process. Bokkoms are hung out to dry. They are very beautiful and this subject is a favourite among West Coast artists. My next post I will show them dried to a golden colour. I will then explain the second part of the process and explain how to eat this local delicacy.

I mentioned in the title that this is my blog's first anniversary. When I took those bold steps, I did not know that I would make many friends, sell lots of paintings and really get hooked on blogging! I did not add my flag counter before June last year, but what fun it provides! So now I know that I had 8664 hits and 71 countries visited my blog so far and that my highest number of visitors in a day was 122. (Sport and celebrity blogs cannot compete here, please!) And in true Oscar style I want to thank my 1747 unique South African visitors, 792 very kind Americans, 99 Australians (who ARE you, I want to meet you too???), an equal number of UK people and 77 Canadians. The biggest surprise was the interest in my blog that was shown by travel websites.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Saldanha Bay - Early Morning Rhapsody in Blue

A nick-name for the West Coast is "the cannery coast", for here bedazzling amounts of fish are harvested from hundreds of fishing vessels. The great reserves of plankton-rich water attracts shellfish, harders and maasbankers, the so-called pelagic fish. Soon after the Dutch created their outpost for supplies in the Cape, the large number of seals and seagulls were a sure sign that fish were plentiful here. In later centuries a little coastal road developed which is today the well-known R27. Even today the local economy depends much on fishing the waters around Saldanha and its six islands.

I caught these two boats "dozing" in the bright morning mist in the harbour of Saldanha. The blue colours on many of these vessels are extremely attractive. I noticed in a private part of the harbour that the massive I&J fishing fleet has a uniform royal blue for their boats, but cannot tell for sure why so many others are painted blue. I only know that I hope to paint many more of them!

To paint the ripples on the water I under painted in white, covered with sea-green and then "lifted" the white bits. My art friends will also notice that I have once again defied the rules of composition! In the previous post all the people walk OUT of the picture and here I balance the heavy mass of two boats with nothing but the bright water and a strong thin border of distant land.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

To Lunch, over the water!

There are many beautiful boats and lots of activities to admire in the harbour of Saldanha. Part of a visit along the West Coast is finding a super place to have lunch. While I fidgeted, my husband's "dining experience antennae" discovered The Slipway Restaurant. Inside the restaurant it is light and wide and pleasantly open to the views. Nothing could beat the front corner table we were shown to and soon we had cool wine, and calamari and mussels fresh from the ocean served simply with flavored rice and lots of lemon.

I was fascinated by the small boats arriving from the sailing yachts, which fastened right there on a jetty leading into the restaurant. To break away from the symmetry of two boats and two people, I imagined a little girl showing off her skills in walking off the jetty and over the little plank bridge. Stylistically, of course, she leads the eye in the right direction and shows the way.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Buoy! Oh Buoy!

Saldanha lies on the West Coast Peninsula on what is claimed to be the largest natural bay in Africa. The steelworks, the fishing industry and water sport enthusiasts benefit from this natural deep harbour. Saldanha, of course played a prominent role in history.

During the rule of Napoleon the English feared that the French would befriend the Dutch, and get hold of Table Bay and then own the rich route to the East. Therefore the British Army anchored here at Saldanha and soldiers were dispatched overland to take the Cape. There was a lot of hardship for the British soldiers who had to walk through the thick fynbos wearing down their shoes. Still, the burghers and farmers under Genl Janssens were not fighters and in 1806 England won the Battle of Blouberg and became rulers of the Cape once more! (They had annexed it before, then gave it back to the Dutch)

Every corner of this bay is beautiful and a worthy subject for a painting. Here I have found a colourful bunch of ropes and buoys belonging to a fishing vessel. With the sun shining, it makes a perfect "marine still life"!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Quayside Vignette

Saldanha Bay is beautiful, it floods the senses! Hundreds of fishing vessels and sailing yachts vied for my attention, but I decided not to overlook the small things! For this composition I experimented quite a bit. I chose a large bollard, miles of rope and one of the ever-present seagulls to paint. The canvas is square and was primed with Napels Yellow. Where I usually fall into illustration mode, this time I ignored the intricate ropes and decided not to "count coils" and paint every little detail! And lastly, I have made generous use of black acrylic paint, which I do not normally use.

I am often surprised that so few people in our area make time to visit Saldanha Bay. When I asked around, I received an answer: "Saldanha is much too industrial with all those factories"! Now, nobody will blame the reader if he starts thinking Birmingham or Detroit! But in truth there is a small steelworks and a fish processing factory, both very picturesque. As the seagull and I glance over the shimmering bay towards the misty steelworks on the horison, we both think: Now, that is not bad at all, is it?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Care and Repair at the Berg River mouth

We are looking at a tranquil tree-lined patch at the mouth of the Berg River at Velddrif! Out there on the Atlantic Ocean the sun, strong wind, damp, slimy-seaweed and clingy sea-creatures do a lot of damage to boats. This fishing vessel has been taken out of the water and sits exposed like a duck out of water, on a "cradle" for a thorough cleaning of the sides and keel. Seaweed (fondly referred to as the "beard") and barnacles must be removed as it also slows down the vessel, before it is smoothed down and new layers of anti-fouling painted on. That is the terracotta color that can be seen on the outside hull of boats.

When our children were still at home we had a yacht which we sailed in the Caribbean, Portugal, Cape Town and Durban. Every two or three years our boat needed a good service. What a sound it made when we scraped off the barnacles with paint scrapers! I have placed a photo of a barnacle encrusted hull to give you an idea. Can I say that scraping them down sounds something like 10 dentists doing a drilling competition as workers sweat it out getting the barnacles to release their tenacious hold on the hull.

Soon this blue, yellow and white boat will be shipshape again and we can look forward to ordering our "catch of the day" in the restaurants.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Berg River

The lovely unpolluted Berg River is one of the very important rivers of the Western Cape. It starts in the mountains at Stellenbosch and meets the Atlantic Ocean at Velddrif. Besides being the main water source for many wine farms, it's marshlands are alive with wading birds. Anglers, small fishing boats, yachts and crayfish trawlers are seen on its banks.

During the winter rainy season canoeists from all over the world take part in the Berg River Canoe Marathon. In 2010 the 4-day race will take place from the 14th to the 17th of July. If the day is clear, you may want to join me here at the water's edge in Velddrif? We can have a picnic on the river bank and watch the festive and colourful finish to the race! This rickety ol' jetty may act as a lookout podium to find the front runners. But really, by the looks of it I think we should only allow one spectator on it at a time!

I could not resist painting this tranquil scene. The greenish water near the jetty shows grass almost breaking through the surface, and gave me the opportunity to paint marshy waters as a practice run for the wading birds that I must do for a later post. From here I am adding to this post as Sheila asked me about the colours I have used for the water: I start with a lot of Windsor and Newton Titanium White. Then add Ceruleum, Cobalt and Prussian Blue. That is my basic mix for the water throughout. For the marshy colours I used Prussian Blue, Green Oxide and Flesh. The brush strokes are horisontal because of the very calm river. I hope this helps! Do yourselves a favour and also visit Jill Berry's Ambient Landscape. I also want to remind you that Liz Pearson painted the Berg River at Velddrif a few weeks ago! And while we are Internet hopping, there is the aerial lay-out of the river on Google Earth of course!