Monday, August 30, 2010

Meet the Gannets

You don't like crowds and all those loud holiday entertainments? The answer to avoiding all that is to drive North all along the unspoiled West Coast. As my blog is now stretching to distant places we need to stay overnight at our destinations. So off we went to spend a weekend at my favourite place, Lambert's Bay. As we arrived, the whole area spelt out the theme of quiet restfulness. A leasurely meal of one big crayfish with lovely Cape wine dealt with Friday evening.

With what excitement I crossed the foot bridge to Bird Island the next morning! There is a very modern but tastefully built hide at the end of the pathway. "We have 24,000 gannets here" a friendly lady told us. Apparently these precious birds are counted continuously. I spent hours observing them from the hide and will have much to tell (and paint) over the next few posts.

There is a strange story playing out in this painting! The island is also the home of Cape fur seals, introduced to the area in 1985. These fur seals, as we know, have had a hard time in the past and are now furiously protected. And in Lambert's Bay it is not the cats and dogs fighting but the gannet lovers and the seal lovers. Seals greedily devour gannet eggs and chicks, and this may lead to dwindling numbers of gannets.

But the seals have a right of living space too. The solution at the moment is but a simple plan. The seals are carefully watched and chased away by shouting at them if they go near eggs or chicks, and here you see it: a man keeps watch from a boat rowed by his team-mate, and the gannets can breed in peace. Can you see the seals in my third image? I wonder what one calls this man? Not a "horse whisperer", but a seal shouter maybe?

The painting ended up being bought by a customer in faraway America!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Folksong for the Berg River

As I walk along the Berg River I always wonder why so few people do it really nicer to walk through a busy touristy type of place in preference to experiencing this pure, honest earthy national treasure called Bokkom Lane ? The boats have two-stroke engines nowadays, but I am happy to report that even though some of them really "cowboy" it over the estuary, the birds are totally unperturbed. The pelicans, flamingoes and waders go about their business, while the gulls would optimistically follow...hoping for a morsel of fish.

I want to take you back in time when a little sailing cutter called "Die Alibama" would hitch a ride on a gentle breeze upriver to collect cut reeds which were used for roofing and for matting of beds. In our colourfully expressive Afrikaans language, in which some words are derived from the Malay culture and language, it would be called dekriet and matjiesgoed. The boat would return to Cape Town and feed the busy industry where a new bed was made for every Malay bride to be presented to her all made up, shiny, frilly and lacy, on her wedding day.

And here is where the famous song "Daar kom die Alibama" finds its origin. It refers to the cutter which brought in the bedding material to make the rietkooi (reed bed). This song is the main song on festivals like "Tweede Nuwejaar". (I tell all about the Minstrel Carnival on Tweede Nuwejaar in an earlier blog). No Minstrel Carnival will pass without "Die Alibama" and the beds being remembered in song. I wonder if the thousands of singers pouring down Adderley Street in Cape Town know the role of the Berg River in their favourite song?

There is another boat with a history in the West Coast. That is the American boat "Alabama", linked with Saldanha Bay and I must tell its story some time! How confused the two stories became over time, I cannot tell! Local folklore can be like that!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Delight in the Detail

The words 'informal' and 'relaxed' sum up the style of the West Coast. I am taking you to a restaurant on the beach at Paternoster, so please leave all suits and high heels behind! We can take a long stroll on the beach to watch the colourful fishing boats coming in, photograph the seagulls and then step up to Voorstrandt Restaurant, hardly shaking the sand from our feet, and find ourselves an outside seat with sea views. The restaurant is situated in an antique tin fisherman's cottage more than a hundred years old.

I was so thrilled when I first saw the welcoming wall in the entrance on the street side of the building. Against the 'heritage green' corrugated wall there is a piece of wood from a real shipwreck. The flaked red paint forms the perfect contrast to the building. I also loved the old bottles that was picked up among the flotsam at some stage, and the buoys and ropes! A very large blackboard holds a daily message for visitors. In painting this scene, the old wood got the most attention! In my art box I have a triangularshaped palette knife that got its first job here in scraping on texture, and it worked perfectly!

I almost forgot! What shall we eat? I am in search of the perfectly grilled mullet (harders), my favourite! As you are not from here, I suggest a more 'tame' fish dish, some yellowtail with butternut, creamed spinach and a few chips? Sounds good? Let's order!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

An article about me

An article about me was published in SA ART TIMES AUGUST 2010, and is called MARIE THERON The Real West Coast:

THE WATERCOLOUR YEARS: Her first love was watercolours and she spent most of the eighties and nineties exhibiting and demonstrating the medium, designing stationery and doing book and botanical illustration. Lecturing at Bellville Art Centre, Constantia and the Western Cape countryside, hundreds of students benefitted from her watercolour courses.

MIDDLE PERIOD: Marie retired from teaching and entered a hectic period doing large colourful acrylics. From 2001 to 2004 she held several solo exhibitions, for instance in Budapest with sales to the South African and Canadian embassies and one painting ending up in the collection of President …….of Croatia. It was followed by an exhibition “ The Timeless Charm of Croatia” which opened in The Old Cape Town House, then moved to Sandton Art Gallery and The Croatian Embassy in Pretoria. The exhibition was a sell-out with the artist retaining 4 paintings for her own collection. It also led to commissions from the Croatian first secretary for his new Embassy post in Toronto. In 2005 The Pretoria Art Association commissioned paintings from 20 artist throughout Africa for a world touring exhibition “The Challenge of the Tie” where the role of Croatia as home of the tie was celebrated .Marie’s painting “Sister Power” now hangs in the permanent collection of Galleria Cravatica in Zagreb.

THE REAL WEST COAST: A profound change took place when Marie settled at the seaside on the lovely West Coast. So –called “West Coast Art” lacks in sincerity and makes use of stagnant little make-believe scenes of boats and cottages. It is the artist’s most passionate ambition to put this right. She visits and paints throughout the region and posts both paintings and history of the West Coast on her very popular and widely read blog, ARTIST MARIE THERON CHRONICLES THE WEST COAST OF SOUTH AFRICA. All the images used in this profile are from her West Coast blog.

This article gave me a lot of joy. The magazine is unfortunately difficult to get on the normal circuit of book shops and news agencies. A few of my friends could get hold of a copy at art galleries or larger city stores. It can be read online in pdf format for a short period only.

I am often asked about that painting in Zagreb called "Sister Power." As you can read above, it resides in the Acedemia Cravatica. Surely, in Croatia, they are extremely proud of having given birth to the tie. Imagine paying some South African and other artists to give their interpretation of a tie! Go to the gallery's fan page on Facebook and see the fun festivals and mile-long ties, etc!In my painting I used the tie as a token of power and painted ties around the necks of young African girls, symbolizing the future of women in Africa.

Monday, August 9, 2010

All quiet here in the mist!

This is my third post in which I will try to portray the tranquility and quiet simplicity of life on the West Coast. This scene is very close to home now. The plain hedge made of saplings form the only fence between our home and the wilder parts of the reserve.

A little sparrow passed by on a misty morning and rested on the fence for a moment. My guest photographer, Jon Ivins, captured the image on camera and I used several techniques to portray it. This included very wet paint on a thin wet layer of white acrylic paint, wet-on-wet painting, and some scratching out. The woody rails and the sparrow were painted with dry undiluted acrylics.

The other photos were taken close to my home. Aren't they super? Jon is a professional photographer who covers great sporting events, but his food photos may also make your mouth water on the wall of a fast food place! Or else, he aims at nature, in all it's beauty, or even go underwater to show a paddling event from another angle. I think I will disclose that he is also my son-in-law! You can visit the wonderful world of JON IVINS at www.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Simple Life

On the Langebaan Lagoon in the West Coast National Park there lives a man alone. He is 81 and has lived here in solitude since birth. He does not read, neither write, and never got married. When I first saw the photo album which inspired this post, I was in awe of the wonderful neatness and simplicity of such a life, and the obvious character and integrity of the owner. I felt that in reality there was nothing lacking in this existence and I have subsequently returned to the album many times to ponder on "the simple life".

My painting shows a little outhouse, a washing line and some bokkoms drying in the fresh lagoon breeze. I am sure you will also love the comfort and tidyness of everything inside the cottage as shown in the photos.

My thanks for the inspiration goes once again to the lady who can pick out the essential order of everything, photographer Mary Ann Bosch. Her portraits of the Lagoon gentleman and pictures of the rest of his home was and always will be a special treat.