JUST ME :: and a stack of blank pages

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Winter is coming

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm

The first signs of winter are already showing amongst the bluegum trees on our smallholding (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa). Yellow grass, fallen leaves and longer shadows accompany me as I take my (now cold) early morning walks. The lizards and snakes have all but disappeared or only come out much later in the day as it warms up. Even the birds seem to be more quiet, preferring to sit in the top branches of some dead trees, basking in the early morning sun and warming up before taking on the day.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The road to a friend's farm

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm

Two years ago I visited a friend in Tarlton and sketched the road leading to their farm (above). When I visited them again this past weekend, I noticed a few changes along the road and decided to sketch it again (below).

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm


Friday, April 4, 2014

No. 51

Another quick watercolour sketch in one of my Moleskine watercolour sketch-books - 8" x 5" (21cm x 12cm). It seems like I was going through a green and blue period when I did these...


Monday, March 31, 2014

No. 52

The 52nd sketch in one my Moleskine 200gsm sketch-book - 8" x 5" (21cm x 12cm).

I have several Moleskine watercolour sketchbooks in this size and then I have a few that are A4 size (12" x 8") - the 200gsm paper is lovely to work with and doesn't bleed through to the back at all.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

No. 53

The 53rd sketch in my Moleskine 200gsm sketch-book - 8" x 5" (21cm x 12cm).

I just love these small Moleskine watercolour sketch-books. They have lovely 200gsm paper and are so easy to pack and are great for pencil, pen or watercolours.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Walking home

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm

A familiar scene in our area - locals taking a short-cut on their way back from shopping at the local café.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Magalies River

With all the rain we've been having, the Magalies River is in full flow, winding its way down to Hartebeespoort Dam in the NorthWest Province (South Africa), where they have all the sluices open to release some of the water.

W&N watercolour on smooth cardboard, very similar to Yuppo


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Blue gums. The first light of day

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm 

The first light of day sweeps across some blue gums (Eucalyptus) on our smallholding


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Balmy autumn days

"Now Autumn's fire burns slowly along the woods, And day by day the dead leaves fall and melt."
- William Allingham

W&N watercolour in my Moleskine 200gsm Nature Journal

Balmy autumn days and the landscape is softly turning yellow, heralding that winter is close.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

The promise of things to come

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm 

There is a chilly whisper in the breeze reminding us that winter will soon be here. We’ve really had a cold and rainy past two weeks here in Tarlton (South Africa), but today the sun is shining brightly, the temperature is in the middle 20C’s and it’s now turning into that blissful time of year when it’s a joy to be outside in nature before we settle indoors to sit out the winter.

I’ll be somewhere outside,
soaking up those last few rays 
of autumn sun…

what are you up to?


Sunday, March 9, 2014

A familiar South African sight

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm – ©Maree Clarkson 

A few centuries ago, farmers and the people of Southern Africa extensively used thorn trees or branches to safely house their cattle and protect their properties, but since the advent of Barbed wire fencing in the early 20th century, first erected by the English during the first South African Boer War to restrict the Boers to a certain area, it has become a very familiar sight in South Africa.

It is simple and cost effective to construct and quick to erect, even by an unskilled person. Barbed wire fencing requires only fence posts, wire, and fixing devices such as staples or nails. It serves as an effective barrier as any person or animal trying to pass through or over barbed wire will suffer discomfort and possibly injury.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Rain, rain and more rain

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm

It has been raining solidly, every day, for over two weeks now and the landscape is saturated with water, forming large pans of water everywhere. Some days my rain gauge overflows, meaning more than 120mm in just a few hours! My chooks are bedraggled and wet, choosing the safety and dryness of the coop. While all this water is excellent for our ground water tables, it has caused massive flooding and damage in large parts of South Africa. I think we're getting a spin-off from all the ice storms and flooding in the Northern Hemisphere, because this is most unusual weather for us.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Coco on the fencepost

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm 
Black Crow/Cape Crow (Corvus capensis) - Endemic to Africa

Coco, my Black Crow’s favourite vantage point on top of an old abandoned fencepost.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Black-headed Oriole

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm

The Black-headed Oriole (Oriolus larvatus) is a frequent visitor to my garden (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa) and I’m always thrilled to hear his liquid call, upon which I rush out to refill the oranges and apples, which seem to be his favourite fruit.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Plants in Terracotta pots

'We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.'
— Lao Tzu

I just love terracotta pots; love planting in them, love sketching them and just love collecting them!

This Angelwing Begonia seedling standing on my bathroom window sill looked so brave, proudly displaying its three new leaves, I just had to capture it. I started this plant from a cutting, one leaf, from another Begonia plant.

A Geranium I had on my window sill before trans-planting him into the garden. (Why do I think of it as a “him”? Maybe because he’s such a robust fellow…) It was just starting to flower, the tiny buds soon to be the well-known red geranium flowers.

Bunny Ears cacti originated in the wild (North and Central Mexico) and are popular garden and house plants here in South Africa. I bought my Bunny Ears two summers ago and after a nice rest this past winter, it is now showing lots of new ‘ears’. I’m just wondering if I will have any flowers while it is in a pot…


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Parsley in a pot

W&N watercolour on Amedeo 200gsm mixed media paper – no preliminary sketching 

My little bit of Parsley in a small terracotta pot on a shelf in my bathroom garden.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Marigolds and Geraniums

The humble Marigold sharing space with a pot of Geraniums on my patio .....  

Watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm – 12″ × 8″

Marigolds are easy to grow and I used to plant them amongst my vegetables – not only do they add a beautiful splash of colour, the scent is strong and somewhat unpleasant and they help keep the away aphids. The relationship between plants and insects is known as ’companion planting’, it’s by far the safest, natural way to garden organically. And to my consternation I found out that the wild hares that used to frequent my vegetable patch absolutely LOVED Marigolds as well!


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Such Geraniums!

Such geraniums! It does not become us poor mortals to be vain—but, really, my geraniums!
- Mary Mitford, ‘Our Village’

Memory sketch – W & N watercolours on Bockingford 300gsm – 8″ × 12″

Geraniums in a tall Everite pot that I used to have in my previous garden (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa), from the days before Asbestos was banned in South Africa in 2008. These pots were extremely popular in South Africa and had a perfect surface for painting, either with PVA or enamel paints. Painted with PVA, they would weather into a lovely vintage look, getting more beautiful as time passed. I’m just wondering what the company Everite produces now….?

Asbestos once accounted for three percent of the value of South Africa’s minerals. South Africa was previously the fifth largest supplier of chrysotile, produced 97% of the world’s crocidolite and 100% of all amosite.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Another shelf in my garden shed

I savour the treasures around me with camera, pencil, pen and paint.  

W&N Watercolours on Bockingford 300gsm – 12″ × 8″

Tools lined up in satisfying rows, scissors and twine within arm’s reach, a sink just for arranging flowers—the potting area ranks up there with the mudroom and flower room as the ultimate country fantasy. Don’t think you have space for one? You may want to think again.

My potting shed consists of an old carport, walled on two sides, with shelves on the walls and a couple of old tables and benches to make life comfortable. Wheelbarrows, hats, watering cans, terracotta pots and all sorts of paraphernalia to use in the garden is stored here. All you need is a little corner, partially protected from the elements, and Bob’s your uncle!


Saturday, February 8, 2014

To what lengths will you go when you're bored?!

“I’ve got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom!”
Thomas Carlyle, Scottish Historian and Essayist, leading figure in the Victorian era. 1795-1881

Done in my Moleskine 200gsm Watercolour sketch-book

It’s amazing what you’ll do when inspiration fails to materialise. I just couldn’t think of anything to sketch – a landscape? No, boring! Some animals? No, boring! I was at my wit’s end, trying to come up with something, so I decided to really challenge myself and do something I really hate – still life!

I looked around the kitchen and grabbed a couple of things lying around and just started sketching. Before long I was totally immersed in capturing the see-throughness of the plastic wrap and the vibrant colours on hubby’s favourite mug – even my hake lying close-by got roped in!

Moving out of my comfort zone and doing something new made me realise that we so easily become entrenched in the ‘known’, that excitement and passion can easily ebb away and leave us feeling drained.
“Often what we call procrastination, a lack of inspiration or boredom, is really just being trapped in the shell of our own comfort zone. Our comfort zone offers a safe haven, a trusted beaten path for us to follow. However the comfort zone can easily become, over time, our liability zone!”
- Dr. Sharon House – Creativity for Life


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A shelf in my garden shed

Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity. 
 - Lindley Karstens

W & N Watercolours on Bockingford 300gsm – 12″ × 8″ 
A shelf in my garden shed where I keep my collection of Terracotta pots and watering cans, seedling trays, egg shells to plant seedlings, tools, hats and all else a gardener needs to make her life easy! 

I think the true gardener is a lover of her flowers, not a critic of them. I think the true gardener is the reverent servant of Nature, not her truculent, wife-beating master. I think the true gardener, the older she grows, should more and more develop a humble, grateful and uncertain spirit. One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides and my green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant’s point of view! When one of my plants dies, I die a little inside, too. On every stem, on every leaf,… and at the root of everything that grew, was a professional specialist in the shape of grub, caterpillar, aphis, or other expert, whose business it was to devour that particular part. Despite any gardener’s best intentions, Nature will improvise. It takes a while to grasp that not all failures are self-imposed, the result of ignorance, carelessness or inexperience. It takes a while to grasp that a garden isn’t a testing ground for character and to stop asking, what did I do wrong? Maybe nothing.
- Compiled from some of the thousands of quotes I have on my MAC


Friday, January 31, 2014

Pink mums

“Why don’t you get a haircut? You look like a chrysanthemum.” 
- P. G. Wodehouse

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm

I’ve just bought some potted Chrysanthemums from Woolworths, and I don’t know why I do this, because I never have much luck with their potted plants I buy! What I HAVE discovered is that there are Mums and there are HARDY mums, and obviously the potted variety for sale in pots are NOT the hardy variety! So planting them in the garden, like I usually do after they’ve finished flowering, is a useless exercise. This one will therefore just stay in-doors and I’ll enjoy it until it expires!

The chrysanthemum is the November birth flower, which means with love and cheerfulness. The hidden meaning of this beautiful flower is you’re a wonderful friend. Although Chrysanthemums are native to Asia and north-eastern Europe, they are widely grown all over the world.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Cloudy day

W&N watercolour on Aqua acid-free 300gsm
Summer-time in Magaliesburg, Gauteng, South Africa. 

It is windy today. And cloudy. Perfect.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Hydrangeas speak of Summer

W&N watercolour on X-pressit 300gsm
Hydrangeas on my kitchen table

To me Hydrangeas speak of Summer and their fading colours speak of Autumn. In winter they are silent and in Spring they shout, “We’re here! We’re back! And Spring has come with us!”


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Enthroned in his earthenware pot

Watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm – 8″ × 12″
Dried Hydrangeas from my garden (Tarlton, South Africa) standing in my potting shed.
From the bottom of the garden,
enthroned in his earthenware pot,
the hydrangea god surveys his minions—
lavender agapanthuses bowing starburst heads,
red begonia calyxes trumpeting his fame,
oleander leaves whispering of his misdeeds.
The central path leads straight to him. Behind,
a stained mirror and mossy wall back up his power.
Thousands of crinkled, tiny, white ideas occur to him
with frilled and overlapping edges. No one else
deploys such Byzantine metaphysics. No one
can read his mind. Only he remembers
the children’s secret fort by the cypress tree
among fraught weeds, rusted buckets, and dumped ash,
and how lost the grown-ups sounded, calling, as night came.
“Hydrangea” By Rosanna Warren


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Here's to a creative 2014!

2013 has been an amazing year, filled with lots of sketching and painting, love joy and inspiration. A brand new year lies at our feet and here's to putting the past behind us, opening a new door, stepping through and experiencing lots of new pleasures, meeting new people, spending time with our loved ones and, above all, being madly creative!

Happy New Year!


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Guinea Fowl in my garden

Birds are indicators of the environment. If they are in trouble, we know we’ll soon be in trouble.

- Roger Tory Peterson

Watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm
Helmeted guinea fowl (Numida meleagris)

I used to have dozens of guinea fowl pass through our smallholding here in Tarlton (Gauteng, South Africa), but these days it’s like Christmas seeing just a few of them. When we moved to Tarlton in the middle 70’s, we were one of a few owners living on the smallholdings and there were large tracts of open land with hundreds of mammals, birds and reptiles that crossed our paths daily. Snakes were rife and regularly had to be removed to a safer place, now we only see a snake a couple of times in the year. I used to have wild hares entering my garden and eating my Marigolds; I haven’t seen an hare for about 7 years. The same with hedgehogs, monitors, tortoises and jackal.

The area is now totally built up and our smallholding is now flanked by people on all sides, property fenced and surrounded by high walls – there are few, if any, empty tracts of of land anymore and I’m just wondering where all the wildlife has managed to find a safe refuge…


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Season's greetings 2013

What do we love about Christmas;
Does our delight reside in things?
Or are the feelings in our hearts
The real gift that Christmas brings.
It’s seeing those we love,
And sending Christmas cards, too,
Appreciating people who bring us joy
Special people just like you.
- By Joanna Fuchs

The holiday season is upon us and here in South Africa, my 7 Little Robins will be cheerfully chirping and singing to sunny skies and braaivleis (barbeque) over the Christmas period! Our weather will be bright, hot and sunny and half the nation normally spends their Christmas on our beautiful, white beaches.

Wherever you are spending Christmas this year, I wish you and your family a happy, festive season!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I live in a landscape

I live in a landscape, which every single day of my life is enriching.
- Daniel Day-Lewis

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm

A scene in Tarlton (Gauteng, South Africa) after all the beautiful rain we've had.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Fun and practical art - Calendars for 2014

A collection of Daisies in watercolour and acrylics - Front Cover

Looking for a calendar for the new year? Something different? Who says art can't be practical? Keep track of your yesterdays and tomorrows with my fun and functional Redbubble calendars.This one above is from "Daisies in Coulour", a collection of daisies in watercolours and acrylics. I have quite a wide selection, you can choose from 'Crows - A Corvid Collection', 'Wildlife of Africa', 'Chickens', 'Africa | Ethnic', 'Birds', 'Affirmations - Heal your Life' and many more.

RedBubble calendars are printed using marvellous futuristic technologies, so complex I can’t go into them here, but I can tell you they are lovingly printed on a luscious 200gsm satin art paper at the striking size of A3 (that’s 297×420mm, or 11.69×16.54”).

They also have very handy wire binding so you can hang them from things like ‘hooks’ on exciting places like ‘walls’!

You can select your own start month, and order right into the future. Everything about them is brilliant, except you’ll have no excuse for missing your sister’s birthday any more!

The back cover of the calendar showing all 12 months' images



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Artemis and the girls

Ink sketch and W&N watercolours on a coffee back-ground – Nescafé instant, strong! – Bockingford 300gsm

As I sat on the lawn the other morning, enjoying our gorgeous summer weather (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa), I decided to do a quick sketch of Artemis keeping a watchful eye on the girls as they scratch for titbits on the lawn. As long as they are happy, he won’t move, so he makes a perfect subject.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

The year's last, loveliest smile!

 Watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm 12″ × 8″
For me, Autumn holds a special fascination. First of all because my birthday is in Autumn in May, and although May could officially be classified as Winter, here in South Africa some of our most gorgeous days are in May – clear, cloudless skies, temperatures still in the early 20 degrees Celsius and a landscape filled with colour, with Nature unwilling to let go of her summer finery. It is also the month for mid-year tax returns, and I always enjoy getting that out of the way!


Monday, December 2, 2013

Expressing your creativity

Modern image processing has become quite an art form these days. With the advent of the computer age, numerous opportunities have arisen that challenge the way in which we explore the world surrounding us. Engineers use computers to process data and visualise results, while artists found in this new media an attractive way to express their creativity.

I am by no means au fait with the array of image processing programmes available these days, but I do enjoy playing around in PowerPoint and PhotoShop (which I still haven't QUITE got the hang of!), adding my art or photographs to back-ground textures, many available for free on the internet.

Above I have added two of my sketches to a back-ground texture by Kim Klassen, using PowerPoint. Below is an image from Country Roads on Pinterest, where I have added photographs of my chickens using PhotoShop.

'A walk down Memory Lane'

Watercolour forest scene with a wolf (clipart) added in using PhotoShop

Two of my watercolour Arums added to a back-ground texture by Kim Klassen
using PowerPoint

Watercolour daisies added to a back-ground texture by Kim Klassen 
using PowerPoint


Saturday, November 30, 2013

See nature with understanding

Coffee back-ground (Nescafé instant) and colour wash on Bockingford 300gsm

I was actually trying for an abstract here, but it seems nature surfaces every time I put brush to paper...


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Arum Beauty

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm 
Arum lilies in my garden (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa)

What could be more beautiful than a creamy white arum lily – whether in your garden, a pot, or the wild? Arum lilies (Zantedeschia) are native to southern Africa from South Africa north to Malawi and grow well in full sun near water, but prefer a semi-shaded environment when there’s no permanent water nearby.

The faintly scented flowers attract a multitude of crawling insects and bees, which pollinate the flowers in exchange for food, each one in its own way. The white crab spider, for instance, visits the flower to eat the insects. It does not spin webs, but makes good use of its paleness as an effective camouflage in the spathe.

Pocupines are crazy about the large rhizomes and will savagely destroy whole colonies of arum lilies. The good thing is that thanks to this brutal pruning, the plants regenerate fresher than ever with the most amazing flowers. It’s worth the massacre!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Morning cup of coffee

The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce. 
 ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., “Over the Teacups,” 1891

Ink sketch on Visual 200gsm watercolour paper, using a Pilot Calligraphy Lettering pen (Black) and a Pilot black Fineliner for finer work. 

Sketching has always been one of my great passions, but of late I’ve been neglecting it in favour of doing mostly watercolours. I’ve decided to go back to basics and sketch a lot more.

Sketching forces you to look in more detail, and ask yourself what you actually see. You’ll end up seeing a lot more than you would otherwise. There’s something about holding a pen or pencil in your hand that gets your creative juices flowing in a much different way than holding a brush. When you get used to sketching, the movements of your hand become much more fluid and it becomes really easy and natural. The more you practice, the better you will become at sketching.

Here I’ve sketched one of my pet hates – tea or coffee in THICK hospital-like cups! (Sketched at the Krugersdorp Private Hospital, Krugersdorp, Gauteng, South Africa).


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Charred landscape

Coffee and watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm watercolour paper

Another exploration into the world of painting with coffee – I really love the natural, earthy colour it imparts and here I used it for the tree and all of the fore-ground. The very dark parts on the tree and the trunks is achieved by dipping my brush into the very strong residue at the bottom of the glass and it actually dried to a rich, thick sheen, not visible on the scan. For the white areas I used art masking fluid, removing it afterwards (I just love peeling that stuff from the paper and my fingers!) and softening the stark white with a bit of coffee.

This is a depiction of our South African landscapes after the ravages of all the veld fires we have during winter.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Some rain, some heat...

It has been said that art is a tryst, for in the joy of it maker and beholder meet. 
 ~Kojiro Tomita 

 W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm

Some rain, some heat and some cold - that's how our summer has been going. Mornings start off cool, getting hot and humid in the afternoon, ending with thunderstorms which is more noise than rain. But I'm grateful that we're getting our bit, after a cold, dry winter we badly need it.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Kiep, my Bantam

I’m a free range chicken. 
I do what I want. 
I’m a free range chicken. 
I go where I want. 
I peck a little here. 
I peck a little there. 
I’m a free range chicken. 
That’s what I’m doing here! 
- Unknown 

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm 

Kiep, my little pet hen, comes from Bantam stock, though clearly mixed with a variety of other chicken breeds, and she actually looks like a miniature Leghorn.

Bantam chickens have been domesticated for centuries. In fact, they are one of the oldest known domestic animals. Marco Polo wrote about banties in his journal. While all bantams are chickens, not all chickens are banties. 

All bantams are smaller than regular chickens and they share some unique personality traits. I personally think they have more personality than chickens do, are more able to care for themselves, and find more of their own food. They seem to keep the grasshopper population down better than other types of poultry! I haven’t seen a bug in my garden for ages since introducing chickens to my garden again.

Healthy bantams are curious. They will check out anything that seems unusual and loudly announce the arrival of visitors. I do not keep them locked in the pen, they roam as much as possible (a chicken’s raison de etre!) and have access to fresh, green grass, insects, and whatever else they find in addition to the feed I give them. And I'm rewarded with breakfast every morning!


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Keeping a Journal

Ink sketch and watercolour

Journaling is the process of regularly writing your thoughts, your dreams, milestones, events and feelings down on paper and, these days, virtually on blogs. There are many different kinds of journals you can choose to keep but it is a powerful process that provides the opportunity to explore things in a measured way. It can also be fun to look back and discover how far you have come!

"A common symptom of modern life is that there's no time for thought, or for letting the impressions of the day sink in," says Thomas Moore. Setting aside a block of time, however brief, to freely express thoughts and feelings is psychically healthy.

Journals also affirm the value of our lives, preserve our memories and dreams, and help to pin-point emotional patterns. Writing about problems is a great way to work them out, and recording negative emotions is often akin to dropping them altogether.

Keeping a nature journal, for example, is a wonderful way to become spiritually centred. We are rewarded for the attention to detail and patience this practice requires with deepened understanding of what it means to be human and alive and a part of Creation. What you decide to put in your journal is a personal choice. Nature journals can be anything from field notes, which limit themselves to objective descriptions of what the writer has observed, to fully developed poems, stories, or essays in which the landscape is a major character.

You may want to draw or paint in your journal as well as write in it or to fill its pages with photographs or pressed flowers. Experience the natural world through fresh eyes! Keeping a nature journal is your most powerful ally in crafting the kind of life you want.

 One of my Nature Journals - here I used a Feint

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