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

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Quiet streets of Harbour Town reverberate with pulsing exhausts of vintage Bentley’s. Fabulous looking vehicles passing the studio.

A woman stopped me in the street to thank me for keeping her spirits up with my vibrant paintings and to keep painting.

Straight lines the bother with my fingers, particularly as the large canvas flexes. ’Hold the Open Heart’, a William Kentridge work from his series of ink drawings on found paper. From a photo taken at his Zietz MOCAA exhibition.

In his painting, the images of the irises merge with text sourced from Chinese parables, Tang Dynasty poetry and Maoist slogans. I used text from the Action Ads Coronavirus shutdown notices in Knysna, and iris images from our trip to Japan.

Emergency lighting in the studio to ensure we still have a studio filled with light during load shedding. Not that much load-shedding expected in the next few months.

Terry used a bunch of leftover stock for the slow-cooked lamb shanks, served with sweet potato gratin. The Ottolenghi recipe worked a treat. Foie-gras starter and a spot of cheese with one of the last bottles of 2011 Radford Dale Black Rock.

Lock-down. Needing to manage by diabetes under the no movement ban. Marathon challenge over the 21 days. First jog around the apartment and down through the studio. About 6 loops per km. Prince unimpressed after joining the first loop.

Ottolenghi Sweet Potato Gratin


6 medium sweet potatoes

5 tbsp coarsely chopped sage, plus extra for garnish

6 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 tsp coarse sea salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 cup heavy cream

1) Preheat oven to 400°F. Wash the sweet potatoes (do not peel them) and cut them into disks ¼ inch thick. A mandoline is best for this job but you could use a sharp knife.

2) In a bowl mix together the sweet potatoes, sage, garlic, salt and pepper. Arrange the slices of sweet potato in a deep medium-size oven proof dish by taking tight packs of them and standing them up next to one another. They should fir together quite tightly so you get parallel lines of sweet potato slices (skins showing) along the length or width of the dish. Throw any remaining bits of garlic or sage from the bowl over the potatoes. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, place in the oven, and roast for 45 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and pour the cream evenly over the potatoes. Roast, uncovered for a further 25 minutes. The cream should have thickened by now. Stick a sharp knife in different places in the dish to make sure the potatoes are cooked. They should be totally soft.

3) Serve immediately, garnished with sage.

*Note you can also use thyme in place of the sage, or use both. Serves 4-6.

Total time to prepare: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 65 minutes

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Carefully, the composition takes shape on the canvas. First lines. Dabs. Smears. Paint starting to give the painting form. Composition too far left!

Grateful for the support of clients in the studio. Particularly at this time of turmoil. Studio, quiet. In sharp contrast to the chaos unfolding at supermarkets. And we have free wine! The world has gone crazy.

Yet we have our emergency insulin, dog food, Nespresso and wine.

Mountain bike magic. Fabulous ride through Homtini Pass. Mist banks, cuddling the trees in the early morning. River, gurgling with glee as the sun probes it’s mysterious coloured depths.

Chef Hirsch outdid himself with a dinner that had delicious steak tartare, stuffed aubergine rolls with Labneh and chorizo hummus, followed by a baked sea bass main dish.

All this after slashing his thumb and dealing with an errand recipe book that kept flipping between pages, creating Disneyesque mayhem.

Seems like our Viennese Regulator has the virus. No amount of adjusting will keep its pendulum moving. While its chiming will not be missed by some, the absence of its rhythmical beat feels like the heart of the apartment has stopped.

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

’Palette Leftovers’

Acrylic on canvas 70cmx200cm

Marathon day. Singing and dancing supporters turning it into a street party, which Prince didn’t appreciate. Especially after another night of lightning storms.

The cheese-based crust (using a different recipe) for the Beef Wellington didn’t hold its shape in the Kamado Jan, resulting in a sort of mush. Fortunately, it still tasted great, but I think that had more to do with the foie-gras than anything I did. Terry did an Otto Linghi avo based salad that was simply scrumptious, served with grilled tomatoes that used a gazillion herbs. A burst of colour and flavour.

The Knysna Literary Festival provided it’s mix of weird, thought provoking, and inspiring talks.

Shoulder, doing it’s ’click-and-grind’ after the ride to Buffel’s, on a fabulous morning. Fortunate that my front tyre expired at the top of the hill and not during the decent. Two new tyres needed as both wheels now have punctures where the plugs aren’t holding.

Decided to change the tyres myself as taking it to the bike shop for something so trivial seemed unnecessary. Tyres arrived and I hit the first problem as the tyre tape on the one wheel was damaged and needed to be changed. Thisi also required a new valve, none of which I have. While the wheel was in to have that sorted, I did the other wheel. My shoulder not enjoying the strain of getting the tyre onto the rim, and neither did my hands.

The second wheel was even tougher and despite pumping like a maniac, I couldn’t get the tyre to sit properly on the rim. A visit to the garage provided the necessary oomph, however, the tyre was leaking at the new valve. Enough.

Not the cleverest thing to chose to do when I need my hands to paint with, not bruise them changing bicycle tyres.

Sunrise outer Thesen Island loop 7km run with the high tide next to us. Quite spectacular.

Diary of an Adventure

Jozie Adventures

A few small paintings of Knysna seahorses, with the residue paint being applied to my canvas ’Palette Leftovers’.

Airport eerily quiet. No frantic queues through security, chairs available in the departure lounge and an absence of aircraft on the apron. The shrinking of SAA’s domestic routes culling planes, and the slowdown in international travel as the world deals with coronavirus. This before the first reported case in South Africa.
Sunrise, noticeably later and cooler, making for glorious running and cycling. Conscious of the lingering effects of my cold, as evident from my still whacky blood sugars, ensuring I don’t do anything crazy.

Buonissimo! For an age, Buonissimo was our our restaurant, coffee stop, fun stop, cheese cake and carrot cake stop, when visiting Mum and Dad in Modderfontein.

At some point, the small village centre was destroyed to provide space for another shopping centre, and Buonissimo was relegated to a hole-in-the-wall at the new service station. There were advantages, as you could get great coffee at 7 in the morning!

Fortunately, they have transitioned into the new Flamingo Vlei shopping centre, and while not the intimate village restaurant, there is still that something uniquely Italian. Great food, attentive service an an interesting wine list made for a relaxed, enjoyable evening. The ’Salto’ (beef strips with Parmigiano shavings and rocket) was tasty and the Scaloppini (beef cutlets with provolone cheese and white wine) was delicious. An unusual tasting sangiovese from Koelenhof added that element of mystery.

Knysna Seahorse

Acrylic on canvas 20cmx20cm

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures


Oil on canvas 76cmx104cm

Indian Yellow and Alizarin Crimson, rather than the Madder Red I used in the initial painting of the ’Fisherman’, has given it an unintended ’fiery’ glow. Somewhat poetical, given that the first painting was destroyed in a fire? Mixing the Alizarin Crimson with Burnt Umber changed the tone, creating a much more powerful portrait, and closer to what I was looking for.

The composition fits, roughly, within the Fabonacci Spiral of the hood, the eyes as the focal point, depending on whether the spiral is drawn vertically or horizontally. The calmness of the ocean, within which, the fisherman exists.

Le Marquis by Cathy and Rémy didn’t disappoint. Superb food and incredible value for a fine-dining experience. I could have shared, reluctantly, my terrine that did have a tad too much onion for my liking. Fortunately, salmon tarter and scallops starters ensure I was left alone to enjoy the terrine. Rémy worked his magic with the hunk of côté de bœuf and the seared Norwegian salmon was fabulous. Bits of magic sprinkled between courses, teased taste buds and added to the visual feast.

Sand between my toes. Beach walk at Brenton on a stunning day.

‘Sick-day rules’ for managing my diabetes that stubbornly remain high. Not the most pleasant way to go through the day. An indication of how much stress the body is under in fighting something as silly as a cold?

Recycled Nespresso cardboard for the sculpture of a rhino bust. The glue gun working it’s magic to keep the various bits in place, with only the odd burnt finger. I did find the ’cordless’ option a tad useless as it cooled down too quickly. Perhaps it would have worked better if I had all the bits initially cut, instead of making it up as I went along.

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Sweltering days making painting difficult. My hands sweating in the gloves. Getting them on, a sticky mess.

The studio, busy with tourists, walking around between golf games. One of my favourite paintings from our time in Pringle Bay ’Storm’ sold to an American couple and interest in some of the bigger paintings.

Prince spent two days at a ’play-group’. He passed his behavioural assessment with a glowing report, and spent Wednesday with a different group of dogs. The plan is for him to go on Monday and Wednesday so he isn’t so stressed with all the people, and kids, coming into the studio while both Terry and I are distracted.

Puncture on my front wheel heading up Phantom Pass. With only one bomb in my pouch, and no tools for a plug, and riding alone, I decided to cut the ride short. Amazingly, I actually got the bomb to work and inflate the tyre enough to get back to Caltex. I’m working on the assumption that a bag full of puncture repair bits will mean no more punctures!

Six weeks into the three month trial of lower insulin dosage. Average blood sugars increased to 7.1 mmol/L, with 10% of the tests above the 8.9 mmol/L maximum. A tad concerning, however, while my blood sugar levels may be bouncing off the ceiling, the numbers are skewed by the last week taking medication for my cold, that been particularly problematical.

For the rest, the hyperglycemia incidents have been triggered by fast running and the occasional hard cycle. It’s also corresponded with the heat of summer, dehydration, disturbed nights, mozzies, and dealing with a three-year-old Border Collie freaked out by thunderstorms.

Load shedding. Everything is quiet. Apart from Prince tearing his chew apart! Candles casting their mystical light in a world of darkness.

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

‘Poppies and olives’
Oil on board 220cmx92cm

Painted in 2002, a client resale in the studio

Something magical about a road-trip in the early morning, as the sun begins it’s journey. Even without coffee to start the day, as load-shedding impacts our lives.

Driving three hours for a dinner may seem a tad excessive. However, the dining experience at La Sosta in Swellendam is unbelievable and should be at the top of on any foodies list.

We also had a great dog-friendly farm-stay at Heritage Huisies, a five-minute drive from the restaurant.

Uncomplicated. Clean. Honest flavours. The philosophy of the cooking at La Sosta. With seasonal ingredients, paying homage to their Italian heritage.

The 5 course menu has three eating experiences; Sea, Land and Garden, and as you are allowed to choose dishes from any of the menu’s, the choice is fabulous. Particularly for my diabetic restrictions.
The wine list has recommendations for each menu and offers great value.

Hermitage Huisies cottages are unpretentious, comfortable and everything you could want, with thoughtful touches. Like an Honesty Bar, with Olivedale wines in case you didn’t bring your own. Or simply want to try the superb regional wines. A bag of fresh veg from the garden and a spekboom for you to take home and plant, are part of their drive for organic, sustainability. The swimming pool, fabulous on a hot summer day. Not freezing. Refreshing, and close to the cottage to pop into for a midnight dip under the stars.

A tad disappointed that I’m not one of the 48 BP Award finalists. While still thrilled to be in the top 10% semi-finalists, I had high expectations. Hopefully my painting of the Pudgy Unicorn will do better at the Wildlife Artists of the Year.

Alfresco. Terry’s fabulous ‘Picnic in a jar’. Quirky, practical, delicious and loads of fun.

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Small commissioned painting of a zebra and start made on the portrait of ’The Fisherman’. A painting to replace one of my paintings lost in a house fire.

The zebra still resembling a cart-horse, with none of the ’lightness’ I’m striving to attain. The rich grey, turning everything to a flat mush. Happier with the proportions of the head. Something, at least!

A tad apprehensive about the ride out to Buffels Neck. 70km, and four hours, being at the extreme end of what I can push myself to, while still retaining some control over my blood-sugars. To say nothing of how my shoulder will manage the constant bouncing through the Forest.

The Forest, green and sparkling after the recent rain, with enough overnight to keep the dust down from passing logging trucks. Overcast conditions meant we weren’t fighting the light-dark road surface that makes visibility, already hopeless through sweat-stained glasses, truly frightening when hurtling downhill!

Woolworths, carb-clever, seed-bars at the halfway stop. Not quiet the egg and bacon I had been imagining while out on the ride. Good enough to stop my blood sugars crashing further than the 4,5mmol/L level during the remaining 2 hours of cycling.
Move aside pork-belly. You have been superseded by delicious slow grilled pork shoulder. Simple and a sumptuous.

Two and a half hours at a low heat (140) with the meat, skin side up and rubbed with salt, in a roasting pan with a bottle of white wine (I added a bunch of fresh herbs from the herb pot). It needs to be checked after an hour and a half and add stock/water as needed. Heat the grill to 240 and put the roast, skin side up, under the grill until it’s crisp and golden. (about 35min). Sieve the remaining liquid and serve with the roast.

Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventure

’Morning Mist’

Acrylic on canvas 120cmx40cm
From a photo by Craig Smith, the ethereal beauty of the estuary covered in mist. I used grey’s of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber and Cobalt Blue and Burnt Siena to create warm, cold tension. Permanent Magenta and a hint of Lemon Yellow and Cyan for effect.
World turned upside-down. Thunderstorms driving Prince demented. Sleep deprived. Garage flooded. Fortunately, no damage to the stored paintings.
The wet world, an opportunity for something scrumptious. Lamb shank moussaka. Deliciousness in spades. The sauce, another masterful combination of flavours from Marlene van der Westhuizen. Even on an ultra-thin wafer of week-old rye bread! De Grendel Merlot, perfect. As was the rich Bergsig chardonnay.
Different sort of day, sculpting from a live model. Particularly, as I have a portrait commission to paint. It was a great experience working from the live model, and I focused on ’looking’ at the model to determine volume. Realised that I had the proportions incorrect as the model was seated and I was standing, so looking ’down’ at him. Something that could have been adjusted with time, however, I was happy with the interpretation. I kept the sculpture rough, using only my hands, as I do with my painting. Might look at doing a life-size rhino head as a focal point outside the studio.
Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

’Women in the Waves’

Acrylic on Canvas 200cmx70cm

Too many conflicting ideas messing about with my painting of the ’Women in the Waves’. Decided to stop smearing paint in the canvas. Happy with areas of the painting, while other bits are a tad overworked.
Summer. Visitors fleeing to confront the start of the new job year. Weather  switched to glorious. If a tad stifling. Early Steenbok walk to get Prince wet enough to manage the hot weather.
Super yacht Katherine heading out to its next adventures. It’s stay at Thesen Harbour Town attracting a more of visitors.
Otto Lingi Simple. Nothing about Ottolenghi is ’Simple’! Preparation. Shopping. Chopping. Cooking. Exhausting. Delicious! Terry did a cauli-rice, infused with mint and parsley. Perfect with the slow-cooked lamb ribs. French-inspired slow-roasted tomatoes (with the jalapenos magic ingredient) and spinach dish, with pine nuts and pomegranate seeds. Looked  amazing and packed with flavour.
Homtini Pass ride, with fabulous sightings of Knysna Louries. Even more amazing give the sweat stained glasses, and heavy breathing as I laboured up the pass. Senses overpowered by the ’honey’ scent. Sage wood plant?