Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

It’s been a long time since I was in a kayak and it showed as we fell out almost immediately. However, we managed the paddle around to the yacht club without further mishap, despite the water chop and power boat wakes. Fun ahead.
Curiosity, settling into some form of understanding. Appreciation of incredible amount of work taken to generate the volume, and complexity of the art on show. Frustration. All too traditional. Where was the ‘pokemon’ and computer game world in which this generation exit?
The Boat Shed finally awaking after being damaged in the fire last year. First visit to the Lofts Boutique Hotel, a light space opening through to the water. A relaxing space, eclectically furnished, with the anticipated vibrancy of Ile de Pain nearing readiness. Already we have been able to sample the new kitchens products as the staff bring around baskets of weight gaining scruptiousness.
Eye1.JPGOn the easel, a portrait of a homeless women. Uncomfortable at having her picture taken, doing her best to disappear into the background. I based the portrait on Bertha Morisot’s work that she did on brown paper. Naples yellow, and raw sienna, with a touch of burnt umber, as an underpainting to create the paper background, allowing the Naples yellow to dry before applying the raw sienna.
Waters of the estuary busy with the arrival of the summer yachts. The launch of a new Knysna 500 catamaran bringing the Harbour to a standstill.
Sheets streaked with blood. Somehow I managed to create a hole in my elbow during the night. Dangerous person am I.
Luxembourg.jpgLuxembourg 2016 Art Prize, Selection Committee’s response
“A remarkable artistic approach with great sensitivity. We sense a very strong creative instinct in you and an empirically-oriented approach. Try to intellectualise further what you feel.”
Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

A couple of small paintings to increase stock levels after a spate of sales in the studio. Which has also seen new group visits, personalized tours and interest from those passing. Painting of ‘Narine Vase’, ‘Sunbird’, ‘Sunbird and protea’, and ‘Elephant at play’, sold.
Logistical hassles of getting the painting of the ‘Sunbird’ to Cape Town to be checked in on the flight to Amsterdam. Solved with help from friends and Terry willing to deliver it. 
Pancakes on a day full of rain that didn’t stop a visit to the Hakerville Market. I thought the rain and fewer people might bring the other market, full of pixies and forest fairies, more into the open. However, it only felt damp and forlorn. Even the pancakes felt rushed and sticky, rather than joyful.
Fortunately the sun came out for the ending of the Karoo-Coast cycle event and we could watch the winners in comfort. Even the pancakes were better!
Trail walk through coastal forest and dune fynbos alongside the Goukama River. The ferry, great fun of a tad tiring. The walking easy, if strenuous in the soft beach sand. A floral wonderland. Certainly a challenge for the troublesome Achilles. Pizza and a bit of wine at the River Deck a great way to finish.
My bum feeling the effects of riding Craig’s hardtail mountain bicycle up Phantom Pass. It’s racing pedigree exacerbating my poor handling skills over the bumps and through the twists. Unaccustomed muscles stiff from the abuse.
Adrenaline fueled cappuccino on the deck at ‘View’ overlooking the beach, a gazillion steps below our chairs. Paraglider’s unscrambling lines, before taking those first out-of-control steps out over the void. Heart stopping seconds, before the soaring wonder of flight.
Afternoon Walk

Oil on canvas 20cmx20cm


Oil on canvas 20cmx20cm

Diary of an Adventure

Wilderness Adventures


Roger here from Switzerland and Dad and Mary down from Montagu for a family get together in Wilderness. The house in the nature reserve well appointed and spacious. The covered braai area perfect in the damp weather.
Pharaoh gallery, the paintings humming with energy from the walls. Bold sweeping strokes from the pallet knife on the large canvases, applied with precision, create minimalist portraits full of movement. The use of bright, surreal colours serve to arrest the eye and emphasis the beauty of the women in the paintings.
With rain threatening we stopped at Pomodoro for a light lunch. We could only manage to share the cheese and meat Antipasto, which the knowledgable, and attentive waiter, assured us would be perfect. The relaxed atmosphere ensured that a second glass of their generous house wine became necessary.
Face pink, sunny day exploiting my sunscreen lapse.
An unusual painting commission for the Knysna Antique Wooden Boat Festival poster, with precise guidelines that didn’t easily fit into my impressionistic, finger painting, style. The colours, vibrant. The setting, with the Knysna Yacht Club as a backdrop, special. The painting, challenging.
My painting, ‘Walking with Giants’, selected for the South African Charity Auction in London, crated and ready to be collected. My DIY limitations being tested as I look to keep the crate light but ensure the safety of the painting.
The studio has received 17 excellent reviews on TripAdvisor pushing us closer to the top 10 ranked attraction (ranked 17 out of 77) in Knysna. Currently, we are ranked 3rd out of 17 best shopping destinations, with the number 1 and 2 both in Sedgefield.
Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Kirsten arrived with a suitcase full of mischief for her few days here. The excellent Lismore Chardonnay from Greyton. Restless River Cab from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and the ‘RedBlack’ from Ahrens family vineyard. A distinctive Syrah blend with the focus on the fruit, rather than the oak. 

Slow cooked pork belly (the three chef version) in Viognier with cauli-mash and squash to go with the wines.

Compression socks to help my weary leg muscles. Long black things that seemed to assist but didn’t go high enough for my groin muscle that is still taking strain. Especially trying to keep up with Craig, who is flying. 

Pied Kingfisher raucous at sunset. Thunder rumbling out of perfect sunset skies. That compulsory meaningful glass of wine. 


‘Through the Heads’

Oil on canvas 20cmx20cm 

A couple of small paintings of rowing boats finished, and a portrait of Donavan on the easel. For the portrait I used sepia tones, a break from the colour I normally use. I used the sepia tones to reflect the ‘historical’ aspect of Donavan who is a fixture at East Head Cafe, and his stories about Knysna and the people who have shaped it. 

A mixture of Burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna, toned with white. Burnt stein a and white as a contrast colour. I also used a touch of Ultramarine Blue and Madder Deep to lift the Burnt Umber that felt a bit flat.

Forest run with Hugh tested my legs on the uphills, with the downhills more of a coordination issue. The forest, apart from my breathing, was quiet and the jeep tracks easy underfoot. I was probably a tad ambitious in distance, but Hugh was patient on the long last climbs.

Rowing boats

Oil on Canvas 20cmx20cm 


Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Sunrise, seagulls and bicycles. Polly awake early for the last day of the GR300 MTB race that came past the studio at the start and finish.

With a couple of the small paintings sold, I need to get disciplined about doing a bunch more.

Met a few interesting characters around town for possible portraits. Anton, the pirate, who caretakers a small school that is run from one of the buildings in the middle of town. A radar technician, he has been in the road for five years when his family moved to Australia. The Preacher, who has Indian and Malay parents, is one of nine children and works his way up and down the coast doing painting contract work after a lifetime in the Navy and as a preacher. Bleze, with his table of herbs and scary looking stuff (Knysna’s finest, I’m sure), whose herbal remedies are as frightening as he is welcoming. Dreads, piled under a knitted cap, in rastafari yellow, red and green colours he is weathered and engaging.

Trying time-lapse photo sequence of my latest portrait on the easel ‘The Pirate’. To capture the technique I use. Particularly, for the eyes of the portrait, as I field a zillion questions about them. Worked out how to do the shutter interval bit, with the effective Yongnuo remote release. Not sure how my shadows, and the studio lighting will impact the photos?

Hair gone for the annual cancer challenge.

‘Lomp’ a small painting, from a picture taken at the elephant sanctuary in Nairobi, Kenya. There is something comical about baby elephants trying to understand how their feet work.

‘At Play’

Oil on canvas 20cmx20cm   
Wine attacked my clean, new, going-out shorts! Fab evening at Freshline. The genius who served us, a tad disappointing. Food, excellent, with bunches of laughter.

New meds to try and make Polly comfortable after her restless nights. Lungs a bit of a worry. Her early days of smoking behind the cowshed on the farm, catching up with her?

Edith and Fredy here from Switzerland. Sunset braai on the patio. T-bone steaks cooked Coreta style, with the bone down towards the fire, turning end over end, to render the fat, with a last quick singe of the meat over the coals. Delicious. We cut the meat from the bones, and put the bones back over the fire to crisp. One sort of caught alight, which isn’t quiet what was intended! The sunset from the patio, perfect.

A new morning jog route up towards the school playing fields. The long uphill a good tester, and I was glad that Craig’s stiff legs kept the pace down. For some reason, I managed to chafe badly, making my cycle ride over the red bridge a tad uncomfortable. 

Payment received for the portrait of Sinni, and he will be heading to his new home. He has been a great attraction in the studio and will be missed.


Diary of an Adventure

Harbour Town Adventures

Wind buffeting the studio. Canvases dancing against the walls. Storm tossed seas. Polly hiding. Her agitated state compounded by kids letting off fire crackers under the covered walkway outside the studio.

The view to East Head from the western side of the lagoon dominated by the tunnel of the old railway at Featherbed. I pushed the composition lower on the canvas to give space for the East Head against the sky.

Paddles sorted, and with the sun out we headed down to the Yacht Club to try various surf-ski options. The lifting and carrying boats to and from the water didn’t leave much energy to paddle!

Something magical about a simple meal of green beans, corn on the cob and lamb chops on the braai. A DreamWorks moon over the lagoon. Owl chicks screaming for their mother to feed them.

First light, the waters of the lagoon buzzing with sports boats taking fishermen out to sea. Rails of fishing rods, with their multi-coloured line glinting in the sunlight.

Anniversary dinner at Die Gieter, one of the few serious food restaurants in Knysna. Perched high above the lagoon, the restaurant feels like being inside a conservatory. There is an art to simplicity, which when combined with passion and good ingredients, creates superb food. Particularly, French country cooking.

These aren’t small, delicate meals, artfully arranged on a plate, but massive portions full of flavour that demand serious attention. Scallops slow cooked in Chardonnay with cream and saffron. Hot whole Camembert in filo with honey, pecan nuts and honey. Duck fillet and entrecôte with fries were more than enough for four people. However, we left our plates clean! 

We didn’t look at the wine list, as the generous corkage meant that we could enjoy our own Atarazia Pinot Noir, and Colmont bubbly. 

First Light

Oil on canvas 20cmxcm  

Harbour Town Adventures

Diary of an Adventure

Thesen Harbour Town Adventures

My fingers are full of holes, and there is more blood than paint on the panel I’m making for the laundry cupboard. My skills at carpentry a tad lacking, and I certainly don’t have the correct tools. None of which makes a difference when you can’t get the measurements precise! In my defense, the panel was incorrectly cut at the building supplier, which crated mayhem.

I managed, after careful measuring to install the shutter door for the laundry perfectly, apart from it being upside down! With assistance from a large hammer, the panel is in place, without further bloodshed.
The studio floor, a mirror that embraces the shadows cast by the window branding. A foil for some of the carpets from Afghanistan that have settled, waiting to be flown to new adventures.
Of the many things I expected with having the studio open, I certainly didn’t expect that a strong yard broom would be one of my most used implements. There is an OCD obsession with seeing who keeps their pedestrian walkway the most pristine. In part, practical as having hordes (OK, a few at this moment) of feet carrying dirt into the studio creates another area to be kept clean, and the wind brings with it, all sorts of rubbish.
On the easel, a painting of a catamaran against a glorious sunset. Nothing dramatically challenging, after the energy needed to get the studio established. The view from the studio, breathtaking as the light changes.
Summer exhibition at the Knysna Fine Art Gallery. A stunning portrait on linen, and excellent sculpture work, whose shadows danced in the sunlight. Beautifully cut fabrics, easily mixing with beach slops on the eclectic mix of patrons.
Searching for elephants within the Phantom Forest painting has generated a fair amount of interest, and is certainly engaging people to see beyond the visual representation of the forest.
Oil on canvas 20cmx20cm

Eugene Boudin: The man who inspired Monet

Entrance to the Port of Le Havre

Eugene Boudin (1824-1898)

In Normandy, the small and charming port town of Honfleur has everything: an iconic old bell tower that provides an excited peal for weddings; an ancient wooden church across the street, where the organist does better than “Here Comes the Bride” to mark the occasion; and — along the little cobblestone streets, hurdy-gurdy players providing more secular music for the hordes of camera-toting tourists.

Away from the crowds, Honfleur also has an art museum with some notable samples of impressionism in Normandy. The Boudin Museum was founded by a local boy who made good: Eugene Boudin, a forerunner of impressionism who’s not that well-known, either in the U.S. or France. But his influence is visible in every collection of 19th-century French art.

Boudin didn’t start out to be a painter. His father ran a ferryboat between Honfleur and Le Havre, the big English Channel port, and Boudin worked on the boat as a child.

“And one day he fell overboard and was caught by one seaman,” says Bridget Mueller, who guides visitors around Normandy. “Otherwise he would have drowned — so his mother said, ‘You’re not going on this ship again.’ ”

Instead, young Eugene went to school. A teacher spotted artistic talent, and from then on, Boudin went to sea via the canvases he painted. Mueller says there’s hidden proof of the artist’s seamanship: a notation on the back of every painting, recording the weather and the winds on the day it was made.

That assertion proved impossible to confirm; the Boudin Museum has some extremely serious-looking guards. And some seriously fine Boudins — small, portable canvases painted outdoors, on the nearby beaches of Deauville and Trouville in the 1850s and ’60s.

Museum guide Rosaleen Aussenac says those beaches were becoming all the rage at the time.

“Up to the 19th century, the beach was a place where fishermen used to go to work,” she explains, “not a place to have a nice walk, or to have a nice conversation.”

But Boudin’s pictures — La Conversation, Plage de Trouville, for instance — are full of fancily dressed men and women (long skirts, flowery hats, bowlers, suits, vests) sitting and strolling on the sand, holding parasols against the sun. 

What brought them beachside? In the mid-1800s, fainting — yes, fainting — became nearly epidemic among England’s noble and wealthy women. (Their tight corsets could not have helped.) Doctors prescribed sea-bathing sessions, among other remedies.

Now, in those days going into the sea was not for the faint-hearted. Ladies changed into bathing costumes inside little cabins; then horses pulled the cabin across the sand, and the lady emerged.

“And outside waiting for her was a big, strong, handsome man,” Aussenac says. “And he would take her in his arms and walk into the sea, and put her in the water — once, twice, three times. … Afterward he would bring her back to the cabin, and this was the sea-bathing session — isn’t that nice?”

‘I Want You To See The Light’

Eugene Boudin had a grand time painting all this beach activity. So did others — if the British, then the French upperclasses were going to hit the beaches, artists would go, too, to paint their portraits, do seascapes and make some money under the sunny-cloudy Norman skies. Boudin urged his young friend Claude Monet to join them at seaside. Monet was 15 years younger and making a reputation in Paris, drawing caricatures in charcoal. 

Boudin thought Monet could do more.

“He said, ‘Come on, Claude — your caricatures are fun, but it’s not real art,’ ” says Aussenac. “‘I mean art; I mean painting, Claude, painting!’ ”

Boudin kept nagging his young friend. Monet had grown up in Le Havre, and Boudin wanted to get him back to Normandy. “‘Come over,'” he urged him, by Aussenac’s account. “‘I want to show you Honfleur; I want you to see the light.’ ”

There was that amazing light — the rich blue skies, dotted with scudding, big-bellied clouds that shifted the sunlight, making fields and rocks broody, then brilliant, in a flash. Monet capitulated, came to Honfleur, and he and Boudin painted side by side, outside, using portable easels and paint in tubes.

“And suddenly, suddenly, Claude Monet just understood what his friend had been telling him about,” says Aussenac. “He understood. He said afterward that it was just like a curtain that [had opened] in front of his eyes. He understood what his life was about, and what painting was about.” 

Monet, inspired by Boudin, went on to create the very first impressionist painting — and to make studies of light as it fell on haystacks, a cathedral and — eventually — tangles of water lilies, floating in a pond.