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, December 30, 2009

Sketching in old books

“For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver.”
- Martin Luther

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

Landscape done in an old soft-cover book I found lying around.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tarlton Stream

“An ant may well destroy a whole dam.”
- Chinese Proverbs

Tarlton Stream - the slow flow through the dam - done in Amedeo 200gsm mixed media pad - Maree©

Sitting on the edge of the Tarlton "dam", I was watching as the little stream feeding it was struggling to find it's way through all the growth in the centre which has sprung up since the dam wall was broken and all the water flowed out. I was sitting in the shade of a big old Blue gum, and even as I sketched the empty dam, the feed was already slowing down to a trickle. Tomorrow it will be dry once more...

Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day!

Monday, December 28, 2009


Another glorious day, the air as delicious to the lungs as nectar to the tongue.
- John Muir (1838 - 1914)

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

A quick sketch of a corner of my garden as we had a heavy down-pour the other day.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Little Stream of Hope...

“To be happy in this world, especially when youth is past, it is necessary to feel oneself not merely an isolated individual whose day will soon be over, but part of the stream of life flowing on from the first germ to the remote and unknown future.”
- Bertrand Russell

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

Tarlton Stream - watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm - Maree©
Size - 12" x 9"

The little stream feeding the Tarlton Dam has been dry for years, but after the recent good rains we have had, it is once again flowing, rushing forward as if looking forward to reaching its destination. Sadly, the dam will not fill up this time, as someone thought it wise to break the dam wall down and allow the water to flow into nowhere, drying up quickly as the feed slows down. It is sad that a part of Tarlton's landscape is forever changed through this action.

I did this sketch yesterday afternoon and finished it off this morning.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sunrise in Tarlton

“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”
- Martin Luther

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

Sunrise in Tarlton - watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm - Maree©
Size 9" x 12"

The sun rising through our Blue gum forest on Sunday morning - the flowers are a wish for the New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas 2009

Watercolour in Amedeo 200gsm mixed media pad - Maree©

My first Christmas of blogging in My Sketch-book here on Blogger and I'd like to wish EVERYBODY a beautiful festive season and, of course, the most stunning 2010!

This year has been a year of meeting fabulous new friends on-line, learning many interesting things and beautiful memories collected over the past year that will stay with me always!

I would like to thank everyone (and yes, that means YOU!) for making my blogging experience such a pleasure and for being so understanding and supportive of my attempts at sketching and all the lovely comments I've received will for ever stay in my heart.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Keeping an Artist's Journal

Weeds in my garden

Well, the on-line art class "Keeping an Artist's Journal", offered by Cathy Johnson, has come to an end after 5 weeks, and this was an exercise in one of the lessons where we had to explore using various techniques in your art journal. Here I used some salt on the wet foreground, making for some interesting texture.

In the above exercise I explored collage - a piece of Hessian glued onto the page and used for the foreground of this watercolour scene, with some threads pulled up to give texture to the grass.

Although I've been journaling for many years, I found Cathy's class extremely informative and organised, beautifully laid out with great in-depth detail, covering every possible aspect of keeping an art journal.

I normally have been keeping various journals for various things - a Daily Journal for my deepest, inner thoughts, in which I often sketch and paint as well; A Gratitude Journal, where I write about what I'm thankful for every day, accompanied by little sketches; a small Moleskine note-book for to-do-lists, reminders, etc; a separate Moleskine Notebook for graphite and ink sketches and a Gardening Journal, where I note progress on my garden, visiting birds, etc. It's mayhem when I want to record something, and cannot find the relevant journal quick enough!

And this habit of having many different journals comes from my love of writing and note-books and sketch-books - I just cannot walk past a Moleskine or a pretty sketch-book without buying it!

Cathy's class helped me decide to integrate virtually everything into ONE journal. My daily gratitudes are now accompanied by little sketches, my To-do-List is at the back, together with my shopping list, also with little sketches. Pencil and ink sketches are done at a whim and my gardening progress, with sketches, dried leaves, flowers and dates is also incorporated as well as all the insects, birds and wild life in my garden - all together in one place, and easy to take anywhere!

My Feint 6-Quire Daily Journal. I mostly use it as my daily thoughts journal, but also do some accompanying sketches.

The only one that I'm keeping separate, is my Daily private journal. I use a large, thick, 6-Quire Feint, much too heavy to carry around and besides which, it is lined, beautiful to write in with my Parker fountain pen and has come a long way with me, helping to clarify thoughts and work through problems.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Rain in Tarlton

I saw in the northwest first rise, in the rose-tinted horizon sky, a dark, narrow, craggy cloud, narrow and projecting as no cloud on earth, seen against the rose-tinted sky - the crest of a thunderstorm, beautiful and grand.
- Henry David Thoreau

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

The Rain in Tarlton - watercolour 16" x 12" (41cm x 30cm)
For sale

We had a lovely down-pour a couple of weeks ago, and as the rain moved on, the sun appeared, shining brightly on the surrounding landscape. The contrast was beautiful and luckily I could capture it before it disappeared.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Magaliesburg Hotel

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.
- John Muir (1838 - 1914)

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

Water feature at Magaliesburg Hotel dining area - watercolour in Moleskine Watercolour sketch-book - Maree©

Had supper at the Magaliesburg Hotel 3 weeks ago, sitting outside under the thatch next to this little water feature. Luckily I had my Moleskine sketch-book with me, so I quickly captured this in between sips of my glass of wine.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cosmos on the road

There’s nobody living who couldn't stand all afternoon in front of a waterfall .... Anyone who can sit on a stone in a field awhile can see my painting. Nature is like parting a curtain, you go into it .... as you would cross an empty beach to look at the ocean.
- Agnes Martin

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

Farm in Magaliesburg - watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm - 12" x 8.5" - Maree©
For Sale

Every time we go to Magaliesburg, as we come over one of the hills, the Farm of Maloney's Eye stretches over the horizon, the sun casting golden shadows on the fields. This is also the place where the Magalies River originates, bubbling through the earth, forming a swampy area covered in the most exotic ferns and trees, rising up from the deep depths of the Sterkfontein Caves about 15kms away. As we drove past, the Cosmos was standing fresh and tall after a lovely down-pour.

I did this sketch from memory.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Moon - Waning Gibbous

Moon - Waning Gibbous 5th Dec 2009 - South Africa, Southern Hemisphere - Maree©

The moon was 84% of full tonight, and waning, peeking through the rain clouds after a lovely downpour. I decided to try and sketch it, but substituted half of the black tree-lined foreground with water. This was my first attempt at sketching at night and quite a new experience for me!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Veld fire in Tarlton

"There may be a great fire in our soul, net no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke."
- Vincent van Gogh

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

Veldfire in Tarlton in October 2009 - watercolour in Moleskine Watercolour sketch-book Maree©

This was another veld fire in our area, very late for the season - we stopped on the side of the road and this time I had my watercolour pencils with me! Did some quick preliminary colour and finished it off at home. The sunset was actually stunning behind all the smoke - should have stayed longer and gotten more detail on the clouds ... ah well, next time!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Harrismith landscape

"Harrismith landscape" - Watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm - size 12" x 8.5"
For Sale

I drive down to Ballito on the North Coast of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, about 6 or 7 times a year, and have done this route along the N3 South for so many years, the scenery is etched into my mind. During June/July, our winter months, the Drakensberg mountains in the distance are covered with snow and makes for a beautiful sight.

Passing through the Free State, you come upon the town of Harrismith, close to the border of KwaZulu Natal, which is one of the major stops for fuel on this 670km trip(about 420 miles). Here the landscape changes dramatically from miles and miles of totally flat farming landscape to mountain vistas and an area called "The Valley of a 1000 Hills", and there are thousands of hills as you descend down Van Reenen's Pass for the next 20 kilometers or so into KwaZulu Natal towards the coastal region.

I did this watercolour from memory.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Crested Barbet

If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.
Chinese Proverb

Crested Barbet - pen and watercolour in Agenda Planner Journal - Maree©

I heard the Crested Barbet's warbling song early this morning, so I rushed out with my sketch-book, knowing that they sit still in once place for a long time, stretching their warble for so long one thinks he's going to run out of breath!

Had plenty of time to do a quick outline sketch, filling it in with detail as he warbled on. A few quick stokes of colour and I was done!

The Crested Barbets are regular visitors to my garden and seem to know when the feed tables contain fruit - the love apple and banana and will sometimes swallow grapes whole!

I used only 4 colours on this quick exercise - Payne's Grey, Orange, Alizarin Crimson and Burn Sienna, all from Daler-Rowney. Oh, I almost forgot - and Sap Green for the leaves.

Farm gate in Magaliesburg

"Live out of your imagination instead of out of your memory."
~ Les Brown

Farm gate in Magaliesburg - watercolour in Moleskine - Maree©

The town of Magaliesburg in Western Gauteng, has these lovely little meandering roads leading off the main road, going to the various properties and farms, some on the banks of the Magalies River. This entrance to someone's farm is not far from a little Bistro we frequent and, as we drove past, this gate caught my eye and we stopped so I could do a quick sketch. Wonder what's on the other side of the gate?


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Little Green Patch in Tarlton

This little green patch on a hillock caught my eye as we drove past the other evening on the way to Magaliesburg, the sunset casting a golden glow on the distant fields. I did this sketch from memory once we got home.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Veld fire on the road to Magaliesburg

We were on our way to Magaliesburg the other day and to my amazement! a veld fire sweeping across the hills! Some areas that had not previously burnt were still brown and dry, but it always puzzles me how the fires start in good weather with no lightning. A passerby's cigarette...?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Hills of Magaliesburg

From where we live in Tarlton, South Africa, the small village of Magaliesburg is just a short 13km drive through some wonderful scenery, especially during summer, when the area turns the most amazing green after a brown and dusty winter. Although our first rains have fallen, much of the landscape was still dry and in danger of veld fires in October.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sketching in soft-cover books

Blue gum tree in soft-cover book

I'm feeling a bit distracted these days - I get like that when I've got a lot on my plate - besides sketching daily, doing larger paintings once or twice a week and my Private Daily Journal - I've also started an on-line art class with Cathy (Kate) Johnson on "Keeping an Artists' Journal" and I'm also participating in a sketch-book exchange between South Africa and Australia, which you can read about on Artists' Circle.

To centre my thoughts and ground my energy a bit, I took and old soft-cover book with me to record little sketches of grasses, weeds and indigenous flowers on our property. Before I started on the grasses, I couldn't resist doing a quick sketch of this Blue gum tree - I'll use the sketches that I do in these soft-covers as reference for larger paintings at a later stage.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Painting with Watercolour pencils

'Magalies River' in Moleskine watercolour sketch-book

I bought some Watercolour pencils yesterday morning, for the first time ever, NEVER worked in them before, but thought I'd get them seeing as they're on Kate's list of supplies for the 'Keeping an Artist's Journal' class, which starts today. I got the Derwent AQUAtone set of 12 as well as the Derwent Aquarelle set of 24 because it had some different colours.

We went to Wicker Tea Garden in Magaliesburg for lunch, so I took the small AQUAtone set with me. I did this sketch of the river bank, asked the waiter for a glass of water and voila! instant colour on the spot.

Can't say I'm mad about using watercolour pencils, feels like I'm back at school colouring in! But as far as portability and instant colour with little fuss is concerned - they just fitted into my purse - I'll certainly be using them again. But the colours seem to be fairly muddy - don't know if it's me or if it's the colours. And the colour range is also very limited - tried mixing the colours on the paper, which just made it muddier.

The Derwent sets of watercolour pencils are available in nice tins, easy for carrying around

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sketching in anything available

I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven.

- Emily Dickinson

The Red Bishop on my fence post...

I was cleaning up and came upon some old books, so I carried them to the patio with a cup of tea and was busy going through them to decided which ones to throw out, when the Bishop in all his glory caught my eye. The male's buzzing song alerting the female to the nest he's building for her is always the first to alert me of their return. I was so excited to see them that I grabbed one of the books, opened it and started sketching him sitting on the fence post. I then rushed to get some paints and got his colours while he was flitting around, showing off to the female. So now none of the books are being thrown out - I've found a new use for them!

He only carries these colours during the breeding season and in Winter reverts to brown similar to the female, below.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A lazy art Sunday

My art table yesterday

A lazy Sunday - spent the whole day sketching and journaling yesterday - what bliss! - also scanning previous sketches that I hadn't had time to do yet and filing them on my MAC.

My Feint 6-Quire Daily Journal. I mostly use it as my daily thoughts journal, but also do some accompanying sketches. This is yesterday's post.

The above journal entry reads :

"Sunday - 8th November
The Red Bishop is back, dear Journal, and covered in all his breeding finery! On Friday I thought I caught a glimpse of him, but wasn't sure.

"Red Bishop" - 'Euplectus orix nigrifrons Linnaeus'

He was sitting on the Tiger Grass under the Acacia Karroo eyeing the bird bath. Hoped to catch him bathing, but he decided the feeding table was a better option."

Southern Red Bishop - I edited out the writing lines of the Journal

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sketch in Agenda Art Journal

"Exploring space and colour"

I have this old, leather bound, 1997 Agenda Planner that is now filled with watercolour paper cut to size and some of the old note paper, which I use as an art journal. I did the above sketch on one of the note papers to try out a new green I was mixing using Thalo Blue and Burnt Sienna and was quite pleased with how the green turned out. I also experimented with Indigo and Cadmium Yellow on this, which I used on parts of the tree.

I'll use anything I can lay my hands on for sketching and using old diaries and planners is a great, inexpensive way of building up a collection.

Agenda Planner filled with watercolour paper - I used a 6-hole punch to do the holes for the paper.

If you would like to make your own sketch-book in an easy, quick and fun way, go to 'An Artist's Sketchbook to Make'.

Friday, November 6, 2009

What you have

Many of us spend our time wanting and wishing for things we do not have - a new car, a new house, a bigger studio, a holiday home somewhere exotic, new clothes, furniture, etc. And often we do get these things.

Here's the thing - how often have you stopped to be thankful for the things that have come your way? How often have you noticed that you actually received that which you wanted? If it had been on a list, we could have marked it off and seen just how much we do receive and how much we do have to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Whooping Cranes

No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings.
- William Blake

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

"Whooping Crane" in Moleskine Watercolour sketch-book - Maree©

From the first minute I saw the program on National Geographic about teaching fledgling Whooping Cranes to migrate, I'd lost my heart to the plight of these stunning birds. My heart went out to the youngsters, having to take the lead from their human benefactors, taking on the massive job of imprinting the migration route into their memories, and every
set-back or loss in the program had my stomach lurching.

The Whooping Crane was once at the brink of extinction. It is making a steady recovery thanks to intensive management efforts in Canada and the United States, and as of December 2004, 468 Whooping Cranes existed in the wild and in captivity. All birds for the reintroduction come from captive flocks.

Whoopers are the tallest of all birds in North America. An adult male stands 1.5 m tall, weighs as much as 7.5 kg, and has a wingspan up to 2.5 m wide. Despite their size, cranes average a flight speed of about 45 kmh.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Mushroom on my lawn

“I am... a mushroom;

On whom the dew of heaven drops now and then."

- John Ford

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

Field mushroom (Agaricus campestris) 3cm diameter and 4cm tall - in Moleskine Watercolour sketch-book - Maree©

This mushroom popped through my lawn yesterday and is white with the most gorgeous pink underside and small indented warts on the cap. At the moment it is 1½" in diameter and about 1½" tall - still a baby I think.

After Googling mushrooms, I found that it is an edible field mushroom, (Agaricus campestris) which is related to the edible button mushrooms often used in cooking and salads. But I wouldn't even think of trying to eat it, just in case! There are many similar mushrooms which are deadly.

The cap is white, may have fine scales, and is 5 to 10 centimetres (2.0 to 3.9 in) in diameter; it is first hemispherical in shape before flattening out with maturity. The gills are initially pink, then red-brown and finally a dark brown, as is the spore print. The 3 to 10cm (1.2 to 3.9 in) tall stipe is predominately white and bears a single thin ring. The taste is mild. The white flesh bruises slightly reddish, as opposed to yellow in the inedible (and somewhat toxic) Agaricus xanthodermus and similar, toxic species. The spores are 7–8 by 4–5 µm (micrometre), and ovate. Cheilocystidia are absent.

Field Mushroom (Agaricus campestris)
This common mushroom is edible.
It is related to the edible button mushrooms often used in cooking and salads.
Do not eat any mushrooms you're not sure of!
This info from Hilton College

At Gardening Eden, a nursery in South Africa, one can even buy mushrooms to plant in your garden!

Mushrooms belong neither to the animal nor plant kingdom, but form a phylum all on their own. This is due to the fact that unlike plants, fungi are unable to produce their own food through photosynthesis, as they lack chlorophyll, but resemble animals in their ability to draw their sustenance from animal and plant matter which is dissolved by enzymes and ingested.

Current estimates put the number of species in the fungal kingdom at approximately 1.5 million, in comparison with, for example, flowering plants at 250,000 species.

The role of fungi in the ecosystem is vital. Fungi are one of the largest contributors of the decomposition of organic matter, returning nutrients to the soil, which in turn is utilised to sustain other species of flora and fauna. The majority of the fungi kingdom cannot be seen with the naked eye, and needs to be viewed with a lens or microscope.

The reproduction unit of all fungi is known as the "spore". When this spore lands on a suitable substrate or base, and growth conditions are ideal, it will germinate by sending out a germ tube which becomes attached to the base or substrate.

This tube develops in to the "hyphae", which in turn will expand and develop into a network of hyphal threads, known as "mycelium". This mycelium, hardly ever seen, is the vegetative body of the fungus responsible for its nutrition and formation.

The mycelium will continue to grow and branch throughout the substrate for as long as it can obtain nutrients from it, and conditions of temperature and moisture remain favourable. This mycelium may continue to grow for a long time without forming any sex organs, but once two sexually differentiated mycelia meet, and plasmas of conjugating cells unite, if external conditions are ideal, a "fruit-body" will appear. A mushroom or toadstool etc. pops out of the ground!

(This info from Eco Travel Africa)

(Photo by Pamela Kaminski)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Moleskine - Snail

“The year's at the spring / And day's at the morn; / Morning's at seven; / The hillside's dew-pearled; / The lark's on the wing; / The snail's on the thorn; / God's in his heaven - / All's right with the world!”
- Robert Browning

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

"Snail" pencil sketch and watercolour in Moleskine Watercolour sketch-book - Maree©

Oh my! I found some snails in my garden! They're all over the Agapanthus. One consolation is that there is now plenty to eat for the Thrushes and any passing hedgehogs.

The snails are related to the oyster, the clam, the mussel, the squid and the octopus. All of these animals are called molluscs. More than 30,000 kinds of snails have been described, of which about two-thirds still exist -- about half of them in salt water and the other half in fresh water or on land. The remainder are known only as fossils and, in the limestone quarries around Chicago, we find several kinds-- some as big as your fist-- which have lain buried there since this region was on the floor of the ocean, 150 million years ago.

There are even Graffiti snails roaming London!

Shell shock: One snail has shell graffiti

Most people have to shell out to give their homes a makeover – not so for these multi-coloured molluscs.

The flashy snails have had their drab shells given a paint job for nothing – and they didn't even have to move a muscle.

A London artist, known only as Slinkachu, has used the molluscs' shells for a series of designs dubbed 'Inner City Snail – a slow-moving street art project'.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bapedi Woman

“For tribal man space was the uncontrollable mystery. For technological man it is time that occupies the same role.”
- Marshall McLuhan

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

"Bapedi Woman" watercolour on Ashrad 200gsm - Maree©

Chrissie, my gardener, above, is from mixed Pedi and Coloured stock.

Pedi, (also known as Bapedi, Bamaroteng, Marota, Basotho, Northern Sotho - in its broadest sense, has been a cultural/linguistic term. It was previously used to describe the entire set of people speaking various dialects of the Sotho language who live in the northern Transvaal of South Africa. More recently, the term "Northern Sotho" has replaced "Pedi" to characterize this loose collectivity of groups.

Estimated at 7 million, these Sotho speakers are the second largest African language group in South Africa. Three million Sotho and other closely related groups live outside of South Africa, the majority of who are in Lesotho.

Although the Pedi originated from the Bakgatla and were of Sotho origin, their inter-marriage with other tribes by defeating them, ended up in the application of many other words in the Pedi language and customs which are not of Sotho origin, but which are akin to the Venda and Lovedu and the Karanga from Zimbabwe.

The Sotho can be subdivided into three groups. The first group is the Northern Sotho also called Pedi and Bapedi.

The Pedi society arose out of a confederation of small chiefdoms that had been established sometime before the 17th century in what later became the Northern Transvaal (Northern Province). Defeated early in the 19th century by the armies of Mzilikazi, they revived under the leadership of Sekwati. Thereafter, they repeatedly clashed with the Voortrekkers during the later half of the 19th century.

It appears that the Sotho people migrated southward from the Great Lakes in Central Africa about 5 centuries ago in successive waves and the last group, namely, the Hurutse, settled in the Western Transvaal towards the beginning of the 16th century.

It is from this group that the Pedi eventually originated through the Bakgatla offshoot that takes its name from the chief Mokgatla. Very little is known of the history of the Bakgatla people for the first few generations after their founder Mokgatla had withdrawn from the originating group, but it is known that, arising from a further split at a later date, a chief by the name of Tabane left with his followers and settled at what is now known as Schilpadfontein in the vicinity of Pretoria.

Now here's the interesting part - It is not known how long they lived there, but Tabane appears to have been succeeded by his son Motsha, whose son and heir Diale (or Liale) had a number of wives, the youngest of whom was his favourite, Mathobele. The other wives were jealous of her favoured position and when she was expecting her first child they would tease and mock her; saying that her child cried whilst still in her womb.

Mathobele gave birth to a healthy boy, and named him 'Lellelateng' meaning 'it cries inside', but the unusual event was attributed to witchcraft and the Kgatla council, wanted to kill the mother and child. Diale interceded for them and they were both saved.

However, as the baby grew older it became apparent that he would not be accepted by the tribe, and it seems that he and his family, together with a large following, broke away or were driven away and trekked to the east with their flocks and herds to start the Pedi nation.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

South African Grasses 1

Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the Earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know - the Earth does not belong to man - man belongs to the Earth. This we know.
- Chief Seattle

My daily sketch...

South African Grasses
"Restio - Thamnochortus sp" - watercolour in Moleskine Watercolour Notebook

One of the Restios or Cape Reeds, Thamnochortus lucens, is very common in the Western Cape mountains. It grows well in dry, gravelly slopes and is often in small populations or locally dominant. The plants grow tufted on a short rhizome, often with tangled sterile clusters of culms at the base. Grows to 50 cm. There is quite a difference between the male and female plants - the sketch above is a male.

The beautiful Thamnochortus genus have 13 species and most of its members grow well in coastal areas at the beach. Some species are very large and are commonly used to thatch houses. T. insignis is commonly used for this purpose because of its very long culms. One species, T. nutans is the exception and is only found 600m above sea level. It is endemic to Table Mountain and the Constantia berg.

Female Thamnochortus lucens.

Restio stems


Monday, October 26, 2009

Painting Wildlife in a Game Park

Gathering your own reference materials, sketches and using your own imagination is going to help you grow as an artist far more than stealing someone else's work.
- Bonnie Hamline

"Impala" watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm - Maree©

It was last during 2004, when I visited the Krugersdorp Game Reserve, that I had painted any wild animals plein air, but in January 2009 I re-visited the Game Lodge, taking my paints with me, and managed to find the Impala herd quite close to the road, which allowed me to capture a group that were standing close together. The rest of the herd on the right-hand side of the picture are not included, as my scanner could not take the large sketch.

Also see Painting Wildlife

Friday, October 23, 2009

Velvet Spider

If you want to live and thrive, let the spider run alive.

~American Quaker Saying

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

Black Velvet Spider - pencil sketch and watercolour in Moleskine Watercolour Sketch-book

This black Velvet Spider has lived in the bark of an old log in my garden for approximately 2 years now and she lets me coax her out for photographic sessions every now and then. These spiders are robust and deliberate in the way that they walk and she even allows me to gently stroke her abdomen and thorax, which is covered in thick, smooth, velvety hairs.

The velvet spiders (family Eresidae) are a small group (about 100 species in 10 genera) of almost totally Old World spiders (exception: a few species are known from Brazil).

Velvet spiders are found under rocks or bark resting in a sheet of dense white silk and are often confused with baboon spiders. They can live up to 5 years. Free living but rarely leave the safety of their webs.

Description: 12mm to 15mm in length. These robust spiders colouration may be from black, grey or a rich red. Body covered with hairs which give them a velvety appearance, hence their name. The abdomen is often lighter in colour than the rest of the spider. Abdomen may have 4 dimples on the top. The eyes are close together and the mouthparts are very robust looking for a spider that size. Legs are short and strong and they are widespread throughout Southern Africa.

Web: These spiders build their webs under rocks, under loose bark. Their retreats consist of flat candy floss like dry sheets of silk. The silk is tough and has interwoven prey remains. Their nest-like webs are attached to the ground using silken anchor lines. Silken lines radiate from the entrance to their shelters. These lines are used to detect prey.

Venom: Even though these spiders can be large in size they very rarely bite. Not much is known about the affects of their venom. It is highly unlikely that this spider’s venom is of importance to humans.

Notes: Females seldom leave their webs in order to hunt. Instead, they prefer to wait for prey to wander into their webs and radiating silken lines. They prey upon tough skinned insects and other large prey items.