Diary of an Adventure

Thesen Harbour Town Adventures

Kite surfers dance in the wind. The yellow in the studio banner, perfect against the sea of yellow daisies, behind which the water of the lagoon, a silver mirror in the sunlight.

The Lotus Grill had it’s first outing on the patio. Not quite as smokeless as the blurb would have it, and it takes more that ten minutes to reach cooking temperature. I didn’t manage to get it hot enough for seared steak and will need a bit of practice to know here the limits are.
In the studio, paintings are up. I did manage, after careful measuring. To put holes in the incorrect place. Wine time!
Warmer days mean we need to be out earlier for Polly’s walk before the sun turns her black coat into a furnace. The route gentle along the edge of the lagoon, past the yacht club. Green grasses, sandwiched between blue skies and water.
First painting in the studio. The pavement my morning spot, with its view out across the lagoon. Afternoon heat driving me inside. I’m doing as many of the small paintings I can manage in expectation of a high demand during the holiday period.
The view across the lagoon reminds me of the Italian lakes, with the green forests and reflections of the building beyond the railway bridge. Kept the composition low to give room for the sky.
However, this did restrict space of the reflections, which is a bother on a landscape orientation. To counter this, I pushed the railway embankment across to the left of the painting to allow for increased reflections.
Morning shuffle rather than a jog across the railway bridge. Decided that if I was going to paint it, I had better at least visit it!
Foot traffic through the studio this week, a mixture of tourists browsing, local people passing, fellow artists and a group from a painting class. An option taken on one painting, and one sold to a collector in Switzerland. The studio is now also on the courier route of galleries as the painting of the Farmer has gone to its new home.
Latest Paintings
Boat Cluster
Boat Cluster
Oil on Canvas 20cmx20cm
Oil on Canvas 20cmx20cm
A Spot of Blue
A Spot of Blue
Oil on Canvas 20cmx20cm SOLD
 Time Trial
Time Trial
Oil on Canvas 20cmx20cm
Diary of an Adventure

Island Adventures

The tide has turned and our furniture and bits (far too many) have been moved (efficiently and quickly) from Leisure Island to Thesen Island. For now, we straddle both islands as the staircase at the apartment isn’t finished and the rails around the patios still need to be painted and strung with their stainless steel wires.

Rain pouring. One part of the studio turned into a box room. Furniture, either into the apartment (up the staircase, or over the patio railings) or into the garage if we weren’t sure where it would fit in the apartment.

A bit of blood. A bunch of stiff muscles.

Power Van, a railway trip up the Outeniqua Mountain with Dad and Mary. Quaint, interesting and gentle. Fabulous views through the mountains as the line twists and turns through tunnels, cutting and across bridges. The flowering plants along the route, stunning. The picnic stop is too short and we should have planned to eat at the dinning car in the railway museum.

Amongst the general chaos of moving, we managed to finalise the sale of the painting of Ernest to a collector in Johannesburg. The first sale from the studio! The painting was also a winner of an Honourable Mention at the 2015 London International Creative Competition.

The first storms have roared through the apartment. Rattling windows, and finding weaknesses. A few issues to sort. Mostly with what we leave out on the patio, to be ravaged by sun and rain. For now, the wind has gone to rest, the sunset is brilliant, and the lights shine, creating pictures in the reflection of the lake.

Our lives defined, by the the sound of halliards knocking against the masts of the yachts moored in the deep water channel of the lagoon. Changing light in the water and grasses of the estuary. And, surprisingly, given that we have no garden, bird song.


Paul Sawyier (American, 1865-1917)

View of the Singing Bridge, Frankfort, KY 
watercolor on paper 

15 1/8 x 11 1/8in
The Singing Bridge received its peculiar name due to the sound tires made when cars drove across its steel grate deck. In colorful and fluid watercolors, Paul Sawyier captures a glimpse of the bridge as it crosses over the Kentucky River into Frankfurt, KY. From above the canopy of trees, the United States Courthouse and the dome of the Post Office are visible. The highest landmark rising over Frankfort’s modest skyline is the tall, elegant steeple of the Church of the Good Shepherd.

Paul Sawyier was born at Table Rock in Madison County, Ohio on March 23, 1865, on a farm owned by his Grandfather Sawyier, who was an attorney practicing in Cincinnati. When Paul was five years old, his parents, Dr. Nathaniel and Ellen Wingate Sawyier, moved with their four children to Frankfort, Kentucky. They lived with Ellen’s mother, Mrs. Penelope Anderson Wingate on Broadway across from the old L&N Railroad Depot. The entrance to the Wingate-Sawyier home was almost exactly at the entrance to the new Kentucky History Center.

Sawyier’s artistic training was from Thomas S. Noble at the Cincinnati Art Academy, and from two noted portrait painters, John Singer Sargent in New York, and Frank Duveneck in Covington, Kentucky. At the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Sawyier the first Amercian exhibition of work in the French Impressionist style. This led Sawyier’s priority to paint landscapes and rivers capes of Frankfort and the surrounding waterways.

The Sawyier family invested heavily in a hemp factory on the Kentucky River near Lock #4, and Sawyier for a time, traveled and sold hemp. Both his efforts and the factory did not do well. During the remainder of his time in Frankfort, until 1908, Sawyier took on the responsibility of caring for his aging parents and sold his watercolors through local stores to provide for himself and the family.

From 1908 to 1913, Sawyier lived on his houseboat and with friends in the Shakertown-High Bridge-Camp Nelson area. During these years, he produced over 500 originals of the local palisades and waterways.

Seeking new markets for his art, Sawyier moved to Brooklyn, New York and lived with his widowed sister Lillian. During a two year period, he created many fine oil paintings of the local parks and waterways. In 1915, he moved to the Catskill Mountain area where he lived first in High Mount and later, Fleischmanns, New York. Living with the Schaefer family Sawyier painted from photographs Kentucky scenes and local scenes, both of which he often sold to his Kentucky patrons.

Sawyier had a 22 year relationship with Mary “Mayme” Bull that ended after he left Frankfort. However, when he returned for her funeral in 1914, his emotion confirmed that she had been the love of his life.
Sawyier died from heart failure in 1917 in the Schaefer home. They had been both fine hosts and friends during his stay. He was buried in nearby Covesville. His sisters came and collected his paintings and destroyed his correspondence with Mayme Bull.

In 1923, Sawyier’s cousin had his body returned and buried in the Frankfort City Cemetery.

During his artistic career, it is estimated that Sawyier created over 50 portraits, 10 etchings, 2,000 watercolors, and 200 oil paintings. Although his work is concentrated in Kentucky, interest in both his watercolors and oils attract national interest.


Messing About with Paint

London International Creative Competition 2015

Ernest, Honourable Mention Winner at LICC 2015


The composition of my portrait of Ernest wasn’t sitting correctly on the canvas. He felt either overawed by the space around him, or caught in headlight dazzle.

I used the ‘Fibonacci Sequence’ to determine the golden points and cropped the portrait so his eye was centered on one of them. I then tilted the composition by 5 degrees to bring his shoulders onto the diagonal line, and create tension with the space around him.

Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue, mixed for the base grey colour. The ‘Cooler’ colour pushing back the shadow areas. The warmer colours of Magenta and Indian Yellow Deep were used for the shadow area, over painted with Van Dyk Brown and Golden Ocher, to create depth and interest.

Naples Yellow Light and Deep were used for the lighter areas of the face, with pure white for the highlights. A tad risky, and a first for me.

Diary of an Adventure

Bushveld Adventure

Dust filled haze. Spectacular sunsets and sunrises. Long tail shrikes. Music notes on the fence around Jenny and Clive’s house, where game meander to the dam. Pulse settling into rhythm with the cicada beetles. Jackals calling.

Star filled sky. Twilight quiet. Laughter and chatter from the family around the long table. Clive’s (Wayne’s?) secret marinade wafting to the Gods, on clouds of braai smoke.

Mozzies tearing chunks out of me. Calves cramping. Red nose and cheeks. The joys of being in the bush!

Large herds of Eland, Kudu, Impala, Zebra and Wildebeest. Swarms of giraffe making the most of the spring shoots. Mauve flowers on the jacarandas, a reminder of past homesteads that have been absorbed into the game park.

The universe poised for an instant to make it possible for the family to be together. 

A breath. Memories.

Diary of an Adventure

Leisure Island Adventures

One has to question, how it’s possible to have so much blood shed in opening cardboard boxes.

A combination of Project Management build and kindergarten assembly. The new easels for the studio. Slowly coming to life as paintings are moved out of their wrapping. Walls that were dead, insignificant against the brilliant colours. Lighting still complex. All temporary as the front walls need to be removed. Yet. No less thrilling. Incredibly privileged to have such an amazing space, with its captivating views across the lagoon. For now. Simplicity the guide.

David and Heather visiting. Mark here from Perth. Polly has a house (even more jumbled as we move paintings and bits into the studio) full of new playmates.

Birds greeting the sunrise. The heady scent of Syringa blossoms and Jasmine on morning walks.

David did a beer-butt, herbed chicken on the Weber. The extra large, fresh-range chicken from the Stellies market was perfectly cooked. Less sure about the red cauliflower! 

For the Knysna Art Festival, the studio is very much a work-in-progress as its being painted. A pop-up exhibition, Eye Contact, from my various humanitarian missions around the world squeezed into the building schedule. 

Sanding and sealing the poplar wood floors is ongoing. The last of the electrical and plumbing bits sorted, and the garage finished. The new glass in the patio doors is in place. 

Enquiries for my art to be used as book cover illustrations. The studio to be a stop for tourists. Presentation boxes for the small paintings ready and the next collection of greeting cards is in production. Banners sorted for outside the studio. 


A bit of a week


Eliseo d’Angelo Visconti (1866-1944)

An Italian-born Brazilian painter, cartoonist and teacher. He is considered one of the very few impressionist painters of Brazil, and the initiator of the Art Nouveau in Brazil. As the most significant representative of the movement, he received the title of Master of Impressionism. 

Nonconformist from his youth, he devoted himself intensively to the learning of new aesthetic canons and ended by subjugating to them. It was his rebellious spirit, the intense desire for renewal that led to the search of the new technique, which absorbed him completely.

He entered the Liceu de Artes de Ofícios do Rio de Janeiro in 1884, where studied under Victor Meireles. Parallel to his studies in the Liceu, he entered the Academia Imperial de Belas Artes (Brazilian Imperial Academy) studying under professors Henrique Bernardelli, Rodolfo Amoedo and Jose Maria de Medeiros, receiving a gold medal in 1888.

Like many of his contemporaries, including some of his teachers, he was involved in the plight to renew the Academy’s teaching methods, deemed obsolete and was among the creators of the short-lived “Ateliê Livre”, together with professors João Zeferino of Costa, Rodolfo Amoedo, Henrique Bernardelli and Rodolpho Bernardelli.

Thanks to a prize received in 1892, Visconti travelled to Paris, where he attended the École des Beaux Arts. 1897 was really the year Visconti embraced Impressionist painting. His palette lightens. The brushstrokes are shorter and rhythmical. The research of the effects of light appears as a new aspect.

After his return to Brazil, talking about his experience in France, of light and impressionistic colour, Visconti said; ‘more brightness, more transparency, more atmosphere, the result of his research on the equation of Impressionism.’

In July 1944, Visconti suffered a robbery in his studio rendering him unconscious. For two months he remained in agony with a head wound. On his recovery, he was full of ideas and plans, restless and eager for new experiences. Repeating to his family: “I was born again! Now will I start painting, you’ll see! ”

The resurrection, however, was short-lived. After a relapse, the artist passed away on 15 October 1944, at 78 years old