Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Karoo Cottage


A glass of wine watching the lightning over the lagoon. Polly very unhappy. 

Owls calling across the estuary, with the last of the sunset turning the clouds from golds to red. The two juveniles calling for their parents?

The few drops of rain settling the garden that has been planted under the trees in the studio parking area after sorting the paving. A couple of blisters from gardening in an apartment that had no garden.

‘Beyond’, Oil on Canvas 30cmx120cm. Composition constrained by the long thin canvas, inspired by a photo taken by Berand of a yacht going through the Heads. Too many conflicting ideas in my head about how to make the painting work. The narrow canvas to restrictive for the brooding skies I started with and the grey-blue pallet too flat. A bit of blood on my knuckles after the fight. And it’s sold!


The 3 basic Wabi Sabi principles? nothing is permanent; nothing is perfect; nothing is finished. 

Tartiflette (traditional winter comfort food) made with cauliflower and Reblochon, a soft washed-rind cheese from the French Alps, isn’t an immediate summer dinner choice. However, the need to drink aged Crozes-Hermitage was a reasonable excuse as a side dish to a braai. We moved the table out onto the patio to make the most of the fantabulous evening skies.

Overall, a good week in the studio with bunches of people, including my nephew Michael from Perth. Incredible to see these globe-trotting, confident adults. A gallery owner from Paris, equated my work to that of Soutine. Hopefully it’s the colour and thick impasto of my paintings that made him think of Soutine, rather than convulsive compositional rhythms, and the presence of disturbing psychological content!


Cascades of Colour




Messing About with Paint


Oil on Canvas 30cmx120cm.

Sold off the easel. Special

Composition constrained by the long thin canvas, inspired by a photo taken by Berand of a yacht going through the Heads.

Too many conflicting ideas in my head about how to make the painting work. The narrow canvas to restrictive for the brooding skies I started with and the grey-blue pallet too flat.

A bit of blood on my knuckles after the fight.



Joaquim Mir Trinxet (Barcelona, 1873 – 1940)

Riverbank in the Forest 
Oil on Linen 100 x 120 cm 1918

A calm view of the banks of the river from La Mogoda Caldes , the home of his good friend Juan Antonio Guell

He is considered one of the greatest representatives of Spanish impressionist landscape art. 

Colour and light meant everything to Mir, and he used them to build a personal idiom in which he created a surprisingly modern oeuvre, beyond the art movements like Impressionism or Symbolism with which critics have often sought to associate him. Although his artistic development varied between realism and abstraction, two features crop up throughout his entire output: the urge to establish a new vision of nature and an unremitting search for beauty marked by genuine creative tension.

Born in Barcelona in 1873, he studied at the Llotja School and was a disciple of Lluís Graner. He formed the Colla del Safrà group in 1893 with Isidre Nonell, Ramon Pichot, Julio Vallmitjana and Adriá Gual. 

Towards the end of the 19th century he was close to the artistic environment of Els Quatre Gats. In 1901 he travelled to Majorca with Ruisiñol and stayed at La Calobra, where he painted some of his finest works. Of particular note are the murals he painted for his uncle and sponsor Avelino Trinxet Casas. 

In 1903 he moved to Reus for health reasons and painted the landscapes of L’Aleixar and Maspujols starting in 1906. He also drew scenes of Barcelona for the magazines ‘L’Esquella de la Torratxa’ and ‘Hispania’. 

He died in Barcelona in 1940 after a stay in prison, accused by the dictatorship of collusion with the Republic.

“All I want is for my works to lighten the heart and flood the eyes and the soul with light.” Joaquim Mir Trinxet 1928


Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

I’m not the worlds best aubergine fan, however the aubergine rolls that Hirsh made were sensational. Grilled slices of aubergine, filled with ricotta and spiced with za’atar, mint, basil and chili. The flavours in the Gurnard cooked with tomatoes and bacon were amazing. A touch of genius by adding granadilla to the berry and chocolate dessert. I’m glad I wasn’t driving back to the apartment!

Polly spent the morning barking at everything walking past the studio, so after Tim and Sarah had collected their painting, I walked her up to Tapas with Craig, Coreta and Diva to give her an outing and different stimulation. Obviously, two days in the studio with me painting were driving her a tad crazy. She chased boats, and barked with Diva at a couple of dogs walking past while we had a bottle of wine and some sushi.

I’ve had a few people through the studio. An artist from London who paints nudes spent quite a long time looking at my portraits and discussing various techniques and surfaces to paint on. Interestingly she has moved away from rectangular canvases as she says they feel like her paintings are in a coffin!

Three small paintings of seahorses inspired by the Knysna seahorse (Hippocampus capensis). Endangered, it’s an enchanting greenish-brown (can also be yellow, white) creature, a bit larger than the palm of your hand that has survived for 40million years.

They are elusive and masters of disguise. By blending them into the background and using colours of fantasy, the seahorses in the paintings are things of mystery. The challenge to make the three panels work together as a unit, or individually.


The wind has stilled, and the lagoon is a reflecting pool for the lights. Perfect for that last glass from Craig’s superb Sequillo ’04. 

The kitchen is sorted. Polly has had her walk. Cleaned her dishes, and there are minimal leftovers.

Rack of lamb, rubbed with the magic Blue-Sky organic salt, was an excellent foil to the roasted cauliflower with brown butter and Parmesan. The hint of smokiness from the grill, rather than the oven, worked well with the anchovy and chili that was melted into the butter. With a cool wind blowing across the Weber, it took all of 30 minutes to get the lamb done and every bit of the hour and a half for the cauliflower. A fresh caprese salad with avo, from Coreta, worked perfectly to add visual and freshness to the meal. Managed a fair amount of Black Rock ’08.

I certainly had more cauliflower than I would have thought possible!

Thrilled that the painting of ‘I’m William’ is sold.


Roasted Cauliflower with Brown Butter
1 cauliflower

1 tablespoon canola oil

3 ounces/80 grams butter, at room temperature or softened

kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 425˚F/220˚C.

Cut the stem off the cauliflower as close to the base as possible and remove any leaves. Rub oil all over the cauliflower.

Put the cauliflower in an oven-proof skillet. Slide the pan into the oven and roast the cauliflower for 45 minutes. 

Remove it from the oven and smear the soft butter over the surface. Sprinkle with a four-finger pinch of salt. Roast the cauliflower for another 30 to 45 minutes, basting it several times with the butter, which will have browned. 

It’s done when you can insert a paring knife into it and feel no resistence. It should be completely tender.

A delicious thing to do with the browned butter: whisk in lemon juice, minced anchovies, and whatever chopped herb you prefer–serve with the cauliflower

Grilled Aubergine Rolls filled with Ricotta, Balsamico Vinegar and Basil
As a starter for 4 you need
big aubergines, cut into 1/2cm / 1/4″ slices, 2

olive oil to brush the slices of aubergine, around 75ml, maybe more depending on the size of the aubergines

fresh ricotta 140g / 5 ounces

heavy cream 2 tablespoons

Balsamico vinegar 2 tablespoons or more to taste

fresh basil leaves, cut into strips, around 10 or more to taste

salt and black pepper
Set your oven to grill.

Brush the aubergines with olive oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper. Grill in the oven until golden brown and soft on both sides, they will darken partly but that’s fine. Mine needed 7 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the other but that depends on the oven. Set the aubergines aside and stack them, that will keep them moist and soft.

Whisk the ricotta, cream and Balsamico vinegar, season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in the basil. Spread a teaspoon of the ricotta cream on top of each slice of aubergine and roll lengthwise.


Maria Oakey Dewing (1845-1927)

A Bed of Poppies, 1909

Painter, author, and amateur botanist expressed the visual power of flowers with these words in 1915. A leading light of the New York and new England art scenes during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Oakey Dewing painted landscapes, portraits, and figural works – many of which have not been located – but her artistic legacy is flower painting.

In 1875, at age 30, she participated in an exhibition at Cottier and Company, New York, an exhibition scholars argue cemented the formation of the Society of American Artists. As part of her training, Oakey traveled to Europe the following year and studied under Thomas Couture, returning abroad in the 1880s and ‘90s. By 1877 she was showing regularly at the National Academy of Design.

Oakey’s early work primarily focused on portraits and figure paintings, but in the 1880s she shifted her focus to still lifes. In October 1880, at age 35, she was introduced to American Impressionist Thomas Wilmer Dewing, whom she married six months later.

While traveling to Europe in 1885, Oakey Dewing encountered a cadre of young American artists who had established an art colony near Claude Monet and his famous garden. When the Dewings returned to the United States later that year, they went directly to Cornish, New Hampshire, where they would spend every summer for the next eighteen years.

With the arrival of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens in early 1885 and the Dewings shortly afterwards, the small town became one of the earliest American art colonies. The Cornish community was sympathetic to creative endeavors and adhered to the “nature as sanctuary” ideology. Cornish was also known as a progressive art colony for women artists.

During that period in Cornish, Oakey Dewing became an avid gardener and perfected her flower painting. By the 1840s, garden culture had spread to America – gardening books were widely published, botany was a popular pursuit, and cultivated gardens entered mainstream fashion. The Dewing’s house had perhaps the first of the new-style gardens in Cornish, and by far the most extensive.

Iris at Dawn, 1899
With their elaborate and abundant gardens, they are often credited with having inspired the horticulture and gardening fashions that swept through the art colony in the 1890s. Oakey Dewing experimented with and cultivated plants she would later paint, most often depicting combinations of flowers that grew together in these carefully tended spaces.

Many artists of Oakey Dewing’s day strove to capture the soul of a flower by emphasizing its fleeting radiance and fragility. The transience of flowers made them at once appealing and challenging and roses were acknowledged as one of the most difficult flowers to paint.

“It seems almost impossible to render in paint all the characteristics which make up the beauty of our florists’ roses.” – author Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer commenting about the 1893 National Academy of Design exhibition.

Oakey Dewing understood the demands of the genre, maintaining that flower painting required a “long apprenticeship in the garden.” She created her own approach: a middle ground between purely decorative flatness that resembled Japanese art and the illusion of depth found in Western art. Emphasizing a close-up view, she called her paintings “modern,” the term she used to differentiate outdoor paintings from studio still lifes.

Most of her works present a gardener’s-eye view into a thicket of transparent petals and leathery leaves that extend beyond the borders of the canvas, giving the viewer a sensation of being immersed among the flowers. Her technique is so close to perfection even in her staged vase paintings, and represents the peak of Gilded-age Decorative Style.

“Mrs. Dewing’s flowers have made for themselves a place apart in American painting. She gives us their character, their special texture, their special droop. [She] knew how to interpret the soul of a flower.” – contemporary critic Royal Cortissoz.

Messing About with Paint

Sea Monsters

Oil on Canvas 20cmx20cm eachThe seahorses are elusive and masters of disguise. 

By blending them into the background and using colours of fantasy, the seahorses in the paintings are things of mystery. 

The challenge to make the three panels work together as a unit, or individually.


Messing About with Paint

I’m William

Oil on Canvas 76cmx102cm

I used a limited ‘Zorn’ palette of Burnt Sienna (Red earth colour) and Raw Sienne (yellow earth colour), with Ultramarine Blue. Fun to use because you have to focus on the value structure and the warm/cool dimension. You also watch your edges more. This really makes you pin down the structure of what you are representing and the light.

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Family Huddle

Oil on Canvas 60cmx60cm

Polly’s walks getting shorter, and I’m able to head out for a jog after taking her out. Managed the time trial route, and up the hill around to the traffic lights. Furthest I’ve been for a long while. The stairs to the apartment suddenly very steep. Although, that could also be due to the wine consumed.

Terry spending ten days in Cape Town at the medical library for a big job that needs to be completed by the end of February. It means that the studio has been filled with smoke from our laptops working overtime as she prioritises the information overload and I try and get my head back around the sustainable development world. Not sure my general knowledge sufficient for the highly specialized work required.
With the car in Cape Town with Terry, a bicycle is my transport (Polly not one bit impressed). The years since I last cycled telling in the dangerous ‘looking over the shoulder to see what’s coming’ maneuver that also results in the bicycle moving halfway across the road. I probably need L-plates. Although my running shoes and normal shorts, plus always being in the wrong gear are probably enough of a warning. I’m getting used to he ‘passing right’ call from speeding, Lycra-clad cyclists. My bicycle, which isn’t mine at all and has been kindly leant to me by Philip, has attracted admiring glances. Tyron (the cycle shop guy), who sorted the peddles and seat position, tastefully pointed out that I was using the gearing all wrong. Bit like giving a sports car to a tractor driver!
On the easel a painting of William. I used the same sized canvas that I used for the portrait of Sinni and similar proportions for the composition, based on the golden-rule points. I used a limited ‘Zorn’ palette of Burnt Sienna (Red earth colour) and Raw Sienne (yellow earth colour), with Ultramarine Blue. Fun to use because you have to focus on the value structure and the warm/cool dimension. You also watch your edges more. This really makes you pin down the structure of what you  are representing and the light.
A couple more paintings heading to new homes. The wrapping station up and running!
Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures



short walk in the forest at the Garden of Eden, before walking around the East Head rocks on a stunning morning. 

Kirsten suggested that I look at the work of Elaine de Kooning. Particularly, her portrait work, which was opportune as I started work on a portrait of Sinni, one of the homeless guys we pass on our way for our morning cappuccino. 


His hat, reminiscent of Van Gogh’s 1887 self portrait. However, it’s his piercing eyes that set him apart from his fellow homeless. William (not Prince William, he insists), Trompie, Chris and Tanya. All happy to have their photos taken.

I wanted to convey his transparentness. Part of our everyday lives. Yet not there at all. The hat, more attention grabbing than him as a person.

Sinni lives in a small boat and feeds his pigeons each morning. He was saved from drowning a couple of weeks ago, after falling into the lagoon while washing the adventure boats. A kindness shown to him by giving him a job, that could have had fatal consequences. Hands lacerated by the barnacles as he desperately tried to get onto the jetty.

Yet, still transparent. The homeless we don’t see.

“A portrait of myself, almost colourless, in ashen tones against a background of pale veronese green”
Van Gogh, letter to his brother Theo, dated September 16, 1888

‘Patterns’, an abstract work of the sea looking down from the cliffs of East Head. Done as a study for a larger canvas I have. Not sure I will be able to replicate it given that I have no idea what I was doing. Indian yellow, with Turquoise Blue, Phthalo Green and Cobalt Teal rubbed into each other. A spot of Transparent Gold Ochre and Primary Magenta for the patterns. As it was looking a tad bland, I used thick ridges of Phthalo Green and Cobalt Teal. 

First paintings of the New Year sold from the studio. The sales have highlighted how poorly prepared I am for the parceling of sold paintings. I know that a dedicated wrapping station is advocated for a studio, however, my muddling through isn’t good enough. Correct sized protection sheets. Wrapping for air transport. Carry bags. Branding. I also need to get a news letter written and my email list sorted.

The air still. Holding its breath. Cowered by the heat. Gentle lapping of waves on the low tide, estuary beach.