JUST ME :: and a stack of blank pages

:: Living creatively ::

About me

This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realise it is play. The only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That’s all there ever is. I’m here to tell you that the path to peace is right there, when you want to get away. When you are present, you can allow the mind to be as it is without getting entangled in it. If you miss the present moment, you miss your appointment with life. That is very serious!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Jack of all trades

“There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.”
- Henri Matisse

A daily practice of sketching and painting gives you a chance to exercise the big three P's - practice, practice, practice!


Roses - Watercolour on Ashrad hot-pressed 6" x 8" - Maree©

When I woke up this morning, I thought, "What is my agenda for today?" so I decided that, today, I will just sketch - anything, everything, landscapes, flowers.

I've been wondering about my "style" lately - have I got a "style"? Are people able to look at my art and say "that is a Maree Clarkson"? Isn't that perhaps what art is all about, finding your niche and sticking to a recognisable format and "style"?

It's been a long time now that I've been berating myself for being such a "Jack of all trades" - sketching and painting, making jewelry, can do wood carving, copper work, pewter work, bead work, and the list is longer that what you want to know - thinking that I should be specialising in something special, something unique, or only one thing, even only sticking to one subject in painting, and then I came upon this quote this morning:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, Conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.
Specialization is for insects."
-- Lazarus Long

What a relief! Matter cleared up! How easily aren't we persuaded by the opinions of others...?!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

All roads lead to Rome

“When all's said and done, all roads lead to the same end. So it's not so much which road you take, as how you take it.”
- Charles de Lint

A daily practice of sketching and painting gives you a chance to exercise the big three P's - practice, practice, practice!


"Bend in the Road" - watercolour in Moleskine watercolour sketch-book - 8.5" x 5" - Maree©

Taking the road of exploring a new outlook on watercolours, which I've been doing the same old way for years, is like waking up to a fresh cup of coffee - exhilarating and refreshing! I'm including more tonal values, even in quick sketches like this one. And guess what? Autumn is still in the air!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hiking trail

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.
- Rachel Carlson

A daily practice of sketching and painting gives you a chance to exercise the big three P's - practice, practice, practice!

Hiking Trail - watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm 8" x 6" - Maree©

During my horse riding days, we used to go visit some friends on horse-back up in Hillside, about 10koms from us, taking a short-cut through the brick yard up this little trail, passing the Pelindaba rocks I sketched in a previous post. It is beautiful here, with prickly ferns, indigenous wild flowers and a large variety of wild grasses to sketch and photograph.

It's not really a hiking trail, just a short-cut used by the locals moving between Hillside and Vlakplaas, where we live, which cuts out about 5kms, a lot when you're on foot!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Perfect Imperfection

"... because it is in the tumbling that the stone gets polished!"

A daily practice of sketching and painting gives you a chance to exercise the big three P's - practice, practice, practice!


Practice 6

I've come to the conclusion that not everything has to be perfect. The joy of every brush stroke is perfection in itself, the joy of a unique creation. We are so worried about criticism that the joy of the journey is so often lost, chasing after perfection, completion, the destination.

"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in."
- Leonard Cohen

(These thoughts came to me after I had scanned this sketch and decided I didn't like it and that it wasn't fit for publication - no name even!)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Up-date on Seagulls in Randfontein

What he had once hoped for the Flock, he now gained for himself alone; he learned to fly, and was not sorry for the price that he had paid.
- From Jonathan Livingstone Seagull


Seagull - watercolour in Moleskine Watercolour sketch-book - 8" x 5" - Maree©

Every couple of weeks I have seagulls passing over my garden, and I've been wondering what they're doing so far in-land, 600km from the nearest coast. I decided to do a bit of investigating and contacted the Publicity Association in Randfontein with my query (you can read the previous post HERE).

The Association responded extremely quickly and said they would look into the matter. Here is an extract from the e-mail I received from Joy at the Publicity Association :

"HI Maree,

I have spoken to a few people and they have said that seagulls are scavengers and will basically land and stay in a place where there is food. I was told by BirdLife SA that seagulls are not necessarily associated with the sea - it's just their name that is.

The gulls that decided to stay in Randfontein were probably on their way somewhere when they discovered Uncle Harry's Roadhouse. The owner, Jimmy Pappas, says there used to be hundreds of the birds at the roadhouse and they would always feed them left over hamburgers and chips. At one point the birds would only eat the chips with barbeque sauce!

Jimmy also says they got very fat and never wanted to leave. He noticed fewer birds last year and was worried they may have been poisoned by contaminated water the mines pump out, but he's not sure. He says they normally come around towards and during winter, so we will have to wait and see.

Regards,

Joy"

Thank you for that fantastic information Joy and we just hope that the seagulls will be visiting Uncle Harry's again this winter.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The 4 Seasons - Spring

Awake, thou wintry earth -

Fling off thy sadness!

Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth

Your ancient gladness!

~Thomas Blackburn


A daily practice of sketching and painting gives you a chance to exercise the big three P's - practice, practice, practice!


Spring in Tarlton - watercolour on Ashrad hot pressed paper- 8" x 6" - Maree©

This outcrop of age-old Pelindaba rock is about 3 kilometers from us in a shallow little ravine that we used to often pass by on our outrides with our horses. Last weekend we took the little track as a short-cut to visit some friends in Hillside and I was reminded of the weird formations of these rocks that are like the tip of the iceberg - 99% of it is under-ground.

The presence of these spongy rocks indicates a high level of under-ground water in the area and is extensively found in Tarlton. These rocks also attract lightning and Tarlton is well renowned for the heavy electric storms it suffers.

This is one of a series "The 4 Seasons" - Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The 4 Seasons - Winter

“Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence. Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance. Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence. Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance.”
- Yoko Ono

A daily practice of sketching and painting gives you a chance to exercise the big three P's - practice, practice, practice!


Winter at Harties - watercolour on Ashrad hot pressed paper - 8" x 6" - Maree©

Winter in Gauteng or the North-West Province is always one of stark contrasts - black against green and brown, mixed with bright yellow grass and purple shadows on the mountains. Bright blue or grey skies offers a different take on each day and our bright sunshine on a winter's day can lift the spirits no end!

This is one of a series "The 4 Seasons" - next will be Spring.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The 4 Seasons - Autumn

“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.”
- Emily Bronte

A daily practice of sketching and painting gives you a chance to exercise the big three P's - practice, practice, practice!


Autumn in Hillside - watercolour on Ashrad hot pressed paper - 8" x 6" - Maree©

With Autumn in full swing here in South Africa, the Black Wattle trees in Hillside, Tarlton, are still dressed in their show of brown seedpods and there's still a lot of greenery around, but soon it's going to be stark with lots of veld fires again. We live in a summer rainfall area and winter always brings dry, dusty conditions and the foliage is always covered in dust, wanting me to bring out my cleaning cloth and foliage cleaner to get the landscape sparkling again!

This is one of a series "The 4 Seasons" - next will be Winter.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The 4 Seasons - Summer

“A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.”
- James Dent

A daily practice of sketching and painting gives you a chance to exercise the big three P's - practice, practice, practice!


Summer in Tarlton - watercolour on Ashrad hot pressed paper 8" x 6" - Maree©

The Summer of 2009/2010 has been amazingly green with an extraordinary amount of rain, replenishing our rivers and ground water supply.

This is one of a series "The 4 Seasons" - next will be Autumn.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Autumn setting in

“Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile.”
- William Cullen Bryant

A daily practice of sketching and painting gives you a chance to exercise the big three P's - practice, practice, practice!
Autumn Setting in - watercolour in Moleskine Watercolour Sketchbook - 8" x 5.5" - Maree

Autumn is in full swing and the trees in my garden are slowly starting to change colour - this is actually a friend's garden on their plot here in Tarlton, South Africa, and I just had to capture her Japanese Maple in all its glorious orange splendour amongst her mostly indigenous trees. She commented that she never knew her garden was so beautiful and that she will be looking at it differently now!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tarlton Vlei

“Life is like a rainbow. You need both the sun and the rain to make its colours appear.”
- wolfdyke

A daily practice of sketching and painting gives you a chance to exercise the big three P's - practice, practice, practice!


"Vlei in Tarlton" watercolour in Moleskine Folio 200gsm - 12" x 8" - Maree©

Still on the subject of rain, all the vleis in Tarlton and surrounding areas are full and turning the landscape into a shimmering play of colours... For the past couple of weeks we've had between 15mm and 70ml rain most days, causing trees to fall over and swollen rivers to burst their banks. It's also great seeing huge flocks of water birds enjoying this abundance so late in the season.

This area, just 3km from us, is usually quite dry, with young boys charging around on their off-road bikes.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I'm on a Seagull mission!

“Why is it,” Jonathan puzzled, “that the hardest thing in the world is to convince a bird that he is free, and that he can prove it for himself if he’d just spend a little time practicing? Why should that be so hard?”
- From Jonathan Livingstone Seagull

A daily practice of sketching and painting gives you a chance to exercise the big three P's - practice, practice, practice!


"Seagull in flight" - watercolour in Moleskine Watercolour Sketch-book 8" x 5.5" - Maree©

After just having read "Jonathan Livingstone Seagull" (I know, I'm a late bloomer!), I'm enamoured by seagulls again! It's a passion that has been lying dormant for some time and awakened by this wonderful little book again.

Whenever I go down to the coast, one of the highlights of my visit is feeding the seagulls. They look at one with definite, calculated intention, and they seem to anticipate your next move before you even know what's it's going to be, snatching the food as it leaves your fingers. I also love the way they land right next to you, so close that you can see the pupil in their eye, without any apparent fear, yet poised for instant flight should you make an ominous move.

One time, a seagull landed next to me within touching distance, the plastic ring of some soda can wrapped around its one leg. I reached out slowly to try and catch it, and it lifted into the air, staying just centimeters from my grasping hand, landing again as soon as I retreated. I tried to grab it quickly, and once again it lifted off, staying just inches away from my hand, landing again as soon as it was safe. I fed it some bread and watched with great pain in my heart as it eventually lifted off and took flight over the ocean.

But here's the thing - I travel down to Ballito, on the North Coast of KwaZulu Natal, a few times during the year, but I have to go to Durban or further North up the coast to find the seagulls - there are no seagulls in Ballito! And yet they are up here in Gauteng, 600km from the coast, a mystery I still intend solving!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Seagulls in Randfontein

“To fly as fast as thought, to anywhere that is,” he said, ”you must begin by knowing that you have already arrived…”
- From Jonathan Livingstone Seagull

A daily practice of sketching and painting gives you a chance to exercise the big three P's - practice, practice, practice!


Seagulls in Randfontein - a quick watercolour study in my Moleskine watercolour sketchbook 8" x 5.5"

Not far from us, about 22km, lies the gold mining town of Randfontein, about 45 km west of Johannesburg. With the Witwatersrand gold rush in full swing in 1889, mining financier JB Robinson bought the farm Randfontein and floated the Randfontein Estates Gold Mining Company. The town was established in 1890 to serve the new mine and was administered by Krugersdorp until it became a municipality in 1929.

(If you click on the "Randfontein" link, you will also see the Hartebeespoort Dam area on the left of the map, my favourite sketching spot, and where it is situated from where I live in Krugersdorp.)



We visited Randfontein yesterday, and what amazes me about this town is the fact that you can find flocks of Seagulls there, 600km from the coast! I've tried to track the history of how these birds could have landed up there, but to no avail - I have now contacted the Randfontein Publicity Association to see if they might have some information.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Proud little Black Wattle

“A man doesn't plant a tree for himself. He plants it for posterity.”
- Alexander Smith



This young little Black Wattle tree at the bottom of our smallholding is earmarked for eradication, together with a couple of others that have sprung up again since the last clean-up. It's a constant and on-going battle against this alien, Australian species which spreads like wild fire if left unattended, threatening our indigenous trees and grasses. I decided we'll leave the dead one as it's a favourite look-out point for the Fiscal Shrike.

See the previous post about the ongoing battle against Black Wattles

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Quacking and Squawking overhead

You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.
- Chinese Proverb

A daily practice of sketching and painting gives you a chance to exercise the big three P's - practice, practice, practice!


Duck sketches in Moleskine Watercolour sketchbook 8" x 5.5"

As I was filling the bird feeders yesterday morning, I heard a terrible raucous and as I looked up, six ducks came flying over, quacking and chatting, sounding like a busy freeway in the sky. I managed to identify some South African Shell ducks and some Mallards. Peculiar that they were all flying together, but given the Mallard's tendency to mate with anything and anyone, it's probably not that surprising. But there again, what I thought was the Shell ducks might have been female Mallards.


Duck sketches in Moleskine Watercolour sketchbook 8" x 5.5"

This is done in my Moleskine Watercolour Sketchbook, which, when opened, is too long for the scanner to cover both pages, therefore the two pictures.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Watercolour Workshop 3 - Another Wet-on-wet

“I've learned that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.”
- Unknown


Art Class wet-on-wet 31/03/2010 15" x 11"

For the third workshop I attended with Angela Eidelman last week Wednesday, we had to stretch and prepare our paper at home beforehand and this week's practice was wet-in-wet again. We had to draw the outlines of the scene we were going to paint, from pictures Angela supplied, with Cerulean blue and then, paint it wet-on-wet, keeping in mind our composition, light source, focal point, etc., with Angela constantly peeping over our shoulders, giving encouragement and advice. Thoroughly enjoyed this exercise! This is the painting I completed during the workshop.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Mulder's Drift

But the majestic river floated on, Out of the mist and hum of that low land, Into the frosty starlight.
-Arnold, Matthew


"The Mulder's Drift" - ink sketch and watercolour in Moleskine sketch-book 8" x 5.5"

The area of Tarlton is surrounded by a plethora of streams and little rivers, many originating as storm water flow offs from Randfontein, Krugersdorp and Roodepoort or from springs emerging in various vleis (swamp lands) situated all over the Witwatersrand. This little stream, known as the Mulder's Drift, originates somewhere in Strubensvalley, and flows through the sleepy village of Muldersdrift on its way to join the Crocodile River, eventually ending up at Hartebeespoort Dam, from where the overflow joins South Africa's biggest River, the Orange River, which passes the southern edge of the Kalahari Desert and winds through the Namib Desert before draining into the Atlantic Ocean at Alexander Bay, South Africa.

Below you can see where this humble little stream ends up!


The Orange River mouth and wetland on the coast of Namibia. At the mouth of the river are rich alluvial diamond beds. A sandbar at its mouth limits navigation, but the river is used extensively for irrigation.

Friday, April 2, 2010

When can you call yourself an artist?

The true artist paints for himself.
- A. C. Leighton

A daily practice of sketching and painting gives you a chance to exercise the big three P's - practice, practice, practice!


Wet-on-wet mountain landscape - watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm - 12" x 8" - Maree©

For this wet-on-wet scene, after wetting the paper, I sketched the main outlines of my scene using my Rigger and Cerulean Blue, a "trick" I picked up at my watercolour workshop on Wednesday. I'm sure many of you use this technique (I know West Coast artist Marie Theron does), but I've always been somewhat of a sketchy person, using my pencil, going into great detail with a lot of erasing happening. It's only been the past couple of months since I started practicing painting with no sketching beforehand that I feel confident enough to consider doing this.

The other day I was reading the article "When can you call yourself an Artist?" -
- and yesterday morning I felt like an artist! Standing in front of the easel, arm outstretched with the Rigger, creating a beautiful masterpiece!

I didn't use any reference material either, just my imagination.

By the way, to answer the question above, I think the best reply was as follows :

“You are an artist when you make art. Many artists spend their lives not selling their work … One of the first requirements for an artist is to ignore those who would define whether they are artists. The only real measure is the person making the art or, if need be, posterity.” -- Jon