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!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cape Dutch Homestead

Watercolour on Visual 200gsm 

This was virtually one of my first forays into watercolour painting in the late 80's and done from a photograph I had found in a magazine (I think!)

The Cape Province in South Africa is renowned for the Cape Dutch style of building since Jan van Riebeeck landed on our Southern shores in 1652. Early homes in Cape Town and it’s surrounds were built in the Cape Dutch architectural style, unique to a small area of the world and unquestionably beautiful. The style has sources as widely different as mediaeval Holland and Germany, the France of the Huguenots and the islands of Indonesia.

Houses in this style have a distinctive and recognizable design, with a prominent feature being the grand, ornately rounded gables, reminiscent of the townhouses of Amsterdam. The houses are also usually H-shaped, with the front section of the house usually being flanked by two wings running perpendicular to it. Furthermore, walls are whitewashed, and the roofs are thatched.

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Icons of Africa

W&N watercolour on amedeo 200gsm watercolour paper

Two icons of the African bush - the mysterious and legendary Baobab tree and the powerful, graceful and arguably one of the most beautiful of all the large cats, the elusive Leopard.

Did you know that the Baobab (Andansonia) is the largest succulent plant in the world? It is a tree that can provide, food, water, shelter and relief from sickness.

Solitary, arboreal and nocturnal, the Leopard is a master of stealth and survival. By far the strongest climber, it can haul prey twice its own body weight up into a tree where it can feast without disturbance from other predators.

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Chameleon (Chamaeleonidae)

W&N watercolour on Amedeo 200gsm 

Chameleons are fascinating and amazing creatures, always popular with anyone who sees them. They belong to the lizard family and the word 'Chameleon' means 'Earth Lion'.

I just love Chameleons and there was a time when I used to have them in my garden regularly - no more. I haven't seen a Chameleon for... years. Yes, years... I know they might have difficulty getting into the property because of the high walls, but I at least used to see them on my walks. The over-population in rural areas is really having an effect on these wonderful little creatures...

The main distribution of Chameleons is Africa and Madagascar, and half of the world's chameleon population lives on the island of Madagascar. They are famous for their ability to change colour. This serves as a form of communication, a response to temperature, light, and mood, as well as a defense against predators. Their eyes can rotate and swivel independently, enabling them to see almost a complete 360-degrees or observe two things simultaneously. Their tongues can be as long as their bodies. Chameleons can balance on a branch by gripping it with their claws and wrapping their tail around the branch to hold on. Chameleons can even sleep upside down!

There are thought to be more than 160 different species of chameleon that range from just an inch to more than a couple of feet in size. The tiny pygmy leaf chameleon, found in the jungles of Madagascar, is the smallest species of chameleon with some males measuring less than 3 cm long with the largest growing to almost 70cm long.

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Crow wears a silver band

W&N watercolour on Amedeo 200gsm
Cape or Black Crow (Corvus capensis) – endemic to Africa
With thanks to John from Midmarsh Jottings for the use of his beautiful photograph.

Crow wears a band of silver on his ankle, holds it out to watch it glint in the sun like cool creek water. It is noon. He is the only one out. All others have sought shelter under the canopy of live oak, the leaves beneath the chaparral, Crow, the only one among them unafraid to cast a shadow. He is a black body to absorb the sun’s heat, and yet unheated.

He’s silver studded with stones, turquoise to match the cloudless sky. He stretches out his leg again, watches sky and water glisten on his ankle.

He flexes claws and brings his foot beneath him again, stretches out his other, naked foot for balance. His feet are beautiful, furrowed skin like charcoal scales, sharp and onyx claws. As flexible as hands, good for grasping new-hatched thrushes or pulling gate hooks from eye bolts, and sleek. The humans see crow’s feet in the faces of their most seasoned elders, the scars of a learned life spent laughing.

Crows’ feet, the mark of craft and cunning, crow’s feet a sense of humour made skin and sinew.
He swings down on the branch, holds himself upside down and swinging, the silver falling down around his upper leg as he barks in delight. Sky below his feet and swaying, silver pools above his head. The world so beautifully inverted, he cannot keep from laughing. This is beauty: the world turned upside down. You can keep your lithe ingénues, your florid sunsets and cloying sentiment: beauty is all that cleft in two, a cunning spark suspended by crow’s feet, a fall from a deadly height and then the swoop of wing, the thickening of the air beneath splayed feathers. Seeing air rising within air and climbing on it, sun glinting blue-black as night sky off your feathers? Night colours blazing brilliant from your feathers? Beauty is day turned to night and night to day.

Heart beats furious beneath that dark breast, mind burns in onyx eyes. Beauty a glint of laughter in a bottomless dark eye. He barks again.

Sun above live oak, a thousand suns refracted on the earth below. Grasshoppers leap into the air clicking. Wild oats, tawn in the summer heat, lean eastward with the breeze, and a wall of fog on the ocean twenty miles west. All this beauty: all this.
Story from Coyote Crossing

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Monday, August 19, 2013

The stately Raven

Parker pen and Black Quink ink with watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
‘Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, ‘tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.’

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered – not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.’
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.’
Extract from The Raven – Edgar Allan Poe – [First published in 1845]

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Light and shadow

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm 

... light and shadow reveal a silent presence on a kitchen counter…
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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Leopard on the rocks

The leopard lingered in the sun
Almost at close of day,
With all its hours almost done
And fast to ebb away…
The leopard lets his memories
Remind him now and then,
Because he knew each day must cease
When moonlight shone again...

Black Pilot FineLiner ink sketch and W&N watercolour on Amedeo 200gsm 

An African Leopard sunning himself on some rocks. Powerful, graceful and arguably one of the most beautiful of all the large cats, the elusive leopard is a master of stealth and survival. 

In the Cape Province south of the Orange River (South Africa), they have been largely eradicated by stock farmers except in rugged mountainous areas. The Cape Leopard that lives in the Cape mountain range is much smaller than its big cousins in the Limpopo region. Their diet is probably the contributing factor, consisting mostly of dassies and much smaller prey.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Solly's house

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.” 
― Edith Sitwell 

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm 
Solly’s house (our handiman factotum) on our smallholding (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa) 

No matter the size or location, a true home is one of the most sacred of places. It is a sanctuary into which men flee from the world’s perils and alarms. It is a resting-place to which at close of day the weary retire to gather new strength for the battle and toils of tomorrow. It is the place where love learns its lessons, where life is schooled into discipline and strength, where character is moulded.

 Another sketch of Solly's house that I did a few years ago

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