Notes from my travels and life as an artist working in the dynamic world of International Development

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Afternoon run in the sunshine along the red brick road next to the estuary. Passed a bunch of picnics, with holiday makers out reading in between watching the waters of the estuary. Sun perfectly positioned. Wind, holding its breath. Immaculate.

On the easel, a horse powers from the canvas. A strong vertical composition, full of youthful exuberance. Kids at play in Nieu-Bethesda.

I can’t paint horses without a reference to Sir Alfred J Munnings. His paintings filled with free brushstrokes and great blobs of paint. Less technique, than his inability to judge distance between canvas and brush as a result of an eye injury that left him blind in one eye. “What are pictures for?” he asked. “To fill a man’s soul with admiration and sheer joy, not to bewilder and daze him.”

‘God’s little creatures’, the Figtree Blue butterfly in the garden at Ouland Royale, our lunch stop with Mum and Jenny on a glorious day. They were happy to accommodate my diabetic eating quirks, modifying their tzatziki lamb dish and adding extra avo at no additional charge! (The dressing was a tad sweetish for my taste) Chef Wilja orchestrates her dishes at the long table in the kitchen, conjuring magical dishes that have quirky twists.

My throat a scratchy mess. Not impressed. Extra grumpy.

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Streets full of athletes as the Oyster festival gets underway. Days of sunshine between the storms ensuring challenging conditions without mayhem. Magnificent beach run for the Featherbed trail run. My bum a tad unhappy after the hills.

World peace must contain a distillation of good friends, laughter, the aroma of 3-day ox-tail dinner in the apartment, with a healthy jolt of good jazz and a smidgen of fabulous 3-Graces and Radford-Dale, simmered over the fire and tempered by the rain. Terry’s magic.

‘Angel Shadows and Sunbeams’. Oil on canvas 1,5mx1,0m. Nieu-Bethesda. Shadows from the ‘Owl House’ sculpture garden and the sun motive from the windows in the house woven into a typical street scene of a typical small Karoo town.

An underpainting of Naples Yellow. Peach tones, a mixture of Indian yellow and Quinacridone Rose. Permanent Magenta and Ultramarine Blue, the purple shades with the grey, a mix of Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna. Lemon Yellow and Cobalt Blue for the green. Cadmium Yellow medium and Turquoise with a splashes of Raw Sienna and Cerulean Blue.

Hopefully, collectors who receive my paintings from the couriers are as thrilled as I was to get the book I ordered, wrapped in brown paper. ‘84 Charring Cross Road’ special.

Reading the list of Van Gogh’s colour demands from his brother, Theo, a tad intimidating as I wind down my paint supplies. Some of which I have had far too long and I become increasingly concerned that they will become hard and useless. Fabulous Provençal colours that haven’t been used. Scandalous!

‘My dear Theo,

Am obliged to write to you as I’m sending you an order for colours which, if you place it with Tasset & Lhote, rue Fontaine,1 you’ll do well — since they know me — to tell them that I expect a discount at least equivalent to the cost of carriage’


Urgent

10 Silver white large tubes

6 Veronese Green double tubes

3 Lemon chrome yellow

3 No2 chrome yellow double tubes

1 No3 chrome yellow

1 Vermilion double tube

3 Geranium lake, small tube

6 Ordinary lake

3 Prussian Blue

4 Emerald green

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Angel shadows and sunbeams, the Nieu Bethesda scene in my head for the canvas in the studio. An underpainting of Naples yellow. The softer tones indicative of the calmness of this small town, with the sculptural elements, and sunbeam floor polish, of the ‘Owl House’ in the shadows.

Yachts and whales at sea on a sparkling day after a run to East Head Cafe. Renoir? My ‘funky pants’ their own craziness.

Marinated crottin served with a glass of Balia Pinot Noir, followed by a chorizo chicken dish with Le Bonheur Prima and a hint of Ile de Pain campagna. Coreta’s menu to distract us from the rugby.

Shaken, bruised, rattled. A bit of blood and mud. Contours, with a touch of single-track through the Forest, to emphasize how unprepared I would be if I was racing in the Oyster Festival. Fortunately, the studio keeping me away from being too silly.

TripAdvisor Review

Excellent artist

*****

‘Visitors to Knysna should not miss visiting this studio on Thesen Island. Truly a great artist and a master at it.’

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

‘A spot of blue’, Acrylic on linen 40cmx50cm.

A dusting of frost on the wild blue flowers outside the church in Nieu Bethesda. The underpainting inspired by the multicoloured glass of the ‘Owl House’. The linen providing an interesting Owl House ‘glass-bead’ type texture to the painting.

Surprisingly little blood after my tumble on our run through the Forest along the contours. A mass of pink. Erica’s in full bloom. The cycle up Gouna Pass to the small San Ambroso Chapel built in 1891. It sits quietly in the heart of the Forest, beautifully restored and very Italian. The story of the 32 pioneering Italian families that were brought to the forest to start up a silk farming industry, but then suffered unexpected hardships, is told in Dalene Matthee’s ‘Mulberry Forest’ (Moerbeibos).

Beans about coffee, Oudtshoorn.

There are moments when a place, a moment, a pause, define. Replacing the expected with the magical.

Directions given. Unexpected grandeur of the old bank building. Fabulous service. An unusual ‘bobotie quiche’ that didn’t send my sugar levels into orbit. Great coffee, and that special touch of allowing Prince to sit under our table on a cold morning.

Montagu. Baboon patrol. Prince keeping the baboons away from the children playing on the trampoline in the garden. ‘A prince meets his princess’, the comment from Lily in her ballet skirt.

Cosmos flowers coming into Heidelberg. A patch of brilliance. The only place I have seen them here on the Garden Route. Special. My painting, ‘A Touch of Pink’ Oil on canvas 50cmx40cm For the underpainting, different layers of Naples yellow, raw Sienna, gold oxide, and hints of crimson and cadmium yellow. For the wispy leaves of the cosmos plants, an intense green mixed from French lemon yellow and cobalt blue was applied in short dashes. Turquoise and cerulean blue the darker stems.

The apartment full of the smell of rich goodness. Wine, butter, herbs, lemon, garlic and fresh, crusty bread. A French inspired dinner menu with pâté de campagne starter (from Aly in Grenoble), Marita van der Vyver’s Boeuf bourguignon, and a diabetic version of Madeline’s served with a lemon cream sauce.

The Madeline’s a tad ‘heavier’ than expected. However, at least edible after the initial gooey mess!

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

‘Schools Out’

Oil on canvas 20cmx20cm

A small study of the adventures that lie beyond the wall at Kuilfontein Farm in the Karoo.

Afternoon sunshine, a civilised time to be out cycling through the Forest. Particularly civilised as after the ride, it’s possible to stop for a beer. Or rather a glass of white wine. Actually, a glass of chilled red wine. What was I thinking?

Not concentrating.

One of those silly things, not concentrating while out food shopping. A special. Seemed like a good idea. Dinner. Blood sugars sky high. The contents of the sausage an unknown. Despite being from our favourite butcher, no idea what he used.

If there isn’t a nutritional information breakdown, I should know not to buy.

Border Collies turning the apartment upside down. Prince, with his leg in a plaster to sort out a ‘hot-spot’, thrilled to have his friend Ricco visiting.

A touch of rain. Puddles to stomp through.

Looking at where we need to sort gaps in the Vietnam recipe book, I have gone back, and reread parts of Colour: Travels through a Paintbox by Victoria Finlay, intriguing stories on the pigments in Artists colours.

The yellow of Hoi An Old Town, is revered in the culture of Vietnam. It is a symbol of luck, splendor, wealth and respect. A color that is identified with imagination and enlightenment, glowing with the intensity of sunlight itself. Most Vietnamese families have an ancestral altar decorated with flowers and yellow objects.

In all likelihood, the yellow pigment has its origins in Gamboge yellow, also known as Rattan or Wisteria Yellow, Gummi Gutta and Drop Gum, is an organic pigment. Well know for its transparency, the warm golden pigment derives its name from its country of origin: Cambodia, itself named after the Latin word for pigment gambogium.

Made from the resin of the Garcinia evergreen tree, found across South East Asia, trees need to be at least 10 years old before the trunks can be lacerated or the branches broken to collect the tree’s milky yellow resin. The poisonous resin is collected in empty bamboo shoots, and roasted over fire to evaporate moisture, after which the bamboo shoots are broken to reveal dull yellow resin cylinders. Only when this resin is pulverised does it become a brilliant yellow.

Excerpts on Yellow from Colour: Travels through the Paintbox:

Dipping a paintbrush in water and waved it lightly over the unappetizingly brownish rock, he released a miraculous drop of the brightest yellow imaginable, almost fluorescent.

During the horrific Khmer Rouge regime in the 1980s, and then earlier in the Vietnam War, the color was almost impossible to find. This pretty paint can be dangerous in other ways. Winsor & Newton have been receiving small parcels of gamboge from their Southeast Asian suppliers since before anyone can remember, and probably since the company started in the mid-nineteenth century. When it arrives at the factory they grind it up carefully and sell it in tubes or pans as one of their more expensive watercolors. But some of the packages that arrived in the 1970s and 1980s from Cambodia and possibly Vietnam were different: the gamboge contained exploded bullets. The company’s technical director, Ian Garrett has five of them displayed in his office now. A reminder that some of the colours that are taken for granted, come from places where people have lived through unimaginable suffering.

Knysna fires

https://youtu.be/z9vDoPJX7Xg

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

‘Karoo Skies’, oil on canvas 1,0mx1,5m. Kuilfontein farm. Mesmerising. Startling light. Autumn trees. Brilliant yellows. Huge blue skies. Windmills. Clouds, freeing imagination. Carried with the wind. Dreams.

Dark and chilly for my run. The owl also thought it was a daft idea to be out rather than sitting next to the fire with an espresso.

A year ago, our world went mad. The strong wind carrying a hint of smoke an unpleasant reminder of the chaos caused by the fires.

The first draft of the Vietnam recipe book printed. The colour photos of my paintings and illustrations not the best and there are a gazillion glitches that need sorting. Still, something to work from.

Sweet potato gratin, with a rack of lamb on the Weber grill, served with green beans and asparagus the menu for Terry’s welcome home dinner. Cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg filling the kitchen with the scent of decadent goodness.

Sweet Potato Gratin

Makes 8 servings

◦ 2 cups heavy cream

◦ 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

◦ 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

◦ 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

◦ 4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick on a mandoline

◦ Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

PREPARATION

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F

2. Whisk together the cream, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg until smooth.

3. In a 10-inch square baking dish, arrange an even layer of sweet potatoes. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of the cream mixture and season with salt and pepper. Repeat with the remaining potatoes and cream, seasoning with salt and pepper, to form 8 to 10 layers. Press down on the layers to totally submerge the sweet potatoes in the cream mixture.

4. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and continue baking until the cream has been absorbed, the potatoes are cooked through, and the top is browned, 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minut

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventure

My balance isn’t the best. My coordination nonexistent, and I tend to get lost a great deal of the time, yet cycling through the Forest, some thought it a good idea to let me find a path through the mud. The Forest, after the rain, breathtaking.

With the fire keeping the apartment cosy, the weather seemed to dictate a comforting salmon-pasta sort of meal. Pasta, of course, not an option. However, some genius has developed cauli-noodles that are simply fabulous. In a cream and wine sauce, the calorie count was probably off the charts. Scrumptious.

Low tide on a perfect morning for a beach run along Brenton. Prince less sure about why his normal beach play, turned into a 10km run, with minimal stone-chasing play time. The subject of a small painting, while I prepared the new larger canvases for my painting of the Karoo skies.

Diabetic, mohair socks, something special as temperatures head into the winter levels of uncomfortable.

Small elephant painting sold. Always special to have a painting head to its new home.

Creamy pasta (cauli-noodles) with salmon

INGREDIENTS

• 3 packets of cauli-noodles (pasta)

• Half an onion finely chopped

• 2 tablespoons (30 ml) butter

• 1/2 cup (125 ml) white wine

• 2 tubs (500ml) cream

• 1/2 cup (125 ml) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

• 1/2 cup (125 ml) mixed chopped fresh herbs (chives, basil, oregano)

• 2 cups (500 ml) salmon with chili flakes

PREPARATION

1. In the butter, cook the onions, stirring constantly, until transparent. Add the white wine and bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Add the cream and bring to boil.

2. Stir in the cheese, and herbs and add tons of ground pepper, add the salmon and reduce for 5 minutes until it thickens.

3. Switch off the heat, and add the cauli-noodles, to the pot and toss to coat with the sauce. Serve immediately.

Diary of an Adventure

Artists Adventures

The Zeitz MOCAA

See for yourself. All things being equal …

I was expecting the sensational architecture, but not the genius of contrasting raw concrete and polished edges. While the ‘rawness’ of Africa is palatable throughout the museum exhibits, the quality, craftsmanship and creativity of the artists, sensational.

Nothing restful. Death. Mayhem. Despair. Greed. Exploitation. In abundance. Strength, there is. Wisdom? Not sure. Colour, everywhere!

Perhaps, I have spent too long in the Africa where a child soldier holds an automatic weapon in your face, or men are pulled from a vehicle and beaten with rifles, boots and clubs because he is the ‘wrong’ ethnic tribe.

Yet. A woman sits in quiet contemplation in one of the most arresting galleries. Evocative, black and white, photographic portraits by Zanele Muholi – The South African artist and activist.

Loved, the sculpture garden. That spot of magenta inside a rusted pipe. Gazillion reflections in the iconic multifaceted windows. El Loki’s ‘Now and Then’. Nine discs forming the roof of the silos, and floor of the sculpt garden. Covered with his ‘cosmic alphabet’. Amazing.

Lucky enough to stumble across a young performing poet (To the lost??) standing amongst Kendell Greer’s Hanging Piece (consisting of an entire room filled with clay bricks hanging from bright-red ropes, tied noose-style, from the ceiling). Quite brilliant.

Too much for one visit.

See for yourself. All things being equal …

Fleurs de La Motte

Paula van Coller-Louw

Deceptive simplicity that I so admire in Japanese art. Something that in my paintings, I strive to achieve and fail at, miserably.

Compositions crafted by the delicacy of the wild flowers that are the subject of each work. The use of tonal shadow creating sculptural elements from the flowers that resonates with the central sculpture in the gallery.

Captivating.

Clos Malverne

A starter of smoked salmon terrine and orange glazed prawns followed by prawn bisque cream, line fish, salt and pepper calamari, salmon caviar and baby marrow spaghetti.

Dishes that were exquisitely crafted and delicious, with amazing service.

Still, a favorite

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Thermal burn. Not paying attention while putting wood onto the first fire of the winter season and getting my arm in the way of the hot closed combustion stove door. For a diabetic, doubly silly.

Run across the railway bridge over the Brenton hill to the sea. The trail section demanding concentration so as not to trash ankles.

Food illustrations for the Vietnamese food recipe book. Cozy evening with good food and wine. Steenberg Stately, a pairing challenge with Pho Ga, made with cauli-noodles. The Chardonnay still a better match, particularly as the Pho doesn’t have any sugar in it, which the Chardonnay balances.

Another stunning Chef Hirsh evening. His menu (all five courses) worked out to cater for my diabetic restrictions. Salmon and avocado ceviche with micro-greens and a scrumptious 2015 Bellingham Old Vine Chenin. Second course, roasted peppers soup with an unusual 2017 Rustenberg Rousanne. A third course of grilled lamb ribs, served with Newton Johnson Full Stop 2015, followed by grilled pork fillet, wrapped in bacon with a green salad and sweet-potato fries. Raats Cab Franc. Bloc A9, Cabernet from Aarendsig with a delicious cheese platter rounded out a glorious evening. Blood sugars, perfect.

Run with the sunrise. Smoke from the fires burning in the Forest creating a Turner sky. Spectacular.

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

‘He ain’t Heavy’

Oil on canvas 2,0mx1,5m

Crazy dreams. The bunch of antibiotics to sort an abscess from a broken tooth?

‘He ain’t Heavy’, the large (2,0mx1,5m) abstract-impressionist painting of elephants at Addo Elephant Park. Although the large strokes of pure colour, applied in bursts of energy give the painting an abstract-expressionist slant, creating a large, vibrant work.

The ‘wall-easels’ flexible enough to accommodate the large painting while it dries, freeing the studio for creation of new work.

Cool, dark mornings, making that coffee far more attractive than heading out for a jog or ride. Mud fun in the forest. Increased dew, slippery underfoot. Core muscles given a work-over on the Homtini Pass cycle. Shoulders and arms trying to compensate for struggling legs.

Prince a tad ‘stone crazy’ as his latest fixation is chasing stones in the sea or waters of the estuary. While fabulous exercise for him, getting him to agree that play-time is over is a different matter.

Leaking water pipe between the water-meter and the studio a bother. A waste of water and money with the solution somewhere between lifting all the paving to search for the pipe route and not washing! The added complexity of monstrous Coral Tree roots.