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, July 29, 2009

Blogger Award!!

Wow! I received the Kreativ Blogger award!! from Nature As Is and all I can say is, thank you, Crista!

Crista is a fantastic photographer and has some fabulous photographs on her blog covering a wide section of nature. I've been so inspired by her photographs that I have even painted a couple of them. Crista also has an interesting tactic in that she changes the photograph on her header at regular intervals. Makes for a unique surprise every time one visits her blog!

After receiving this award, I'm to nominate 7 other blogs and state 7 things about myself. So here we go :

1. I am blond, 5'4" tall, have blue eyes and live on a smallholding in Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa, together with all the birds, ducks, geese, hedgehogs,2 cockatiels, 1 cockatoo, my husband and Jacko, my Fox terrier-cross.

2. I am mad about nature, especially birds, and I am constantly inundated with sick or injured birds or people who bring me sick or injured birds. I always complain that I haven't got time for this, but somehow make time and nurture them back to health for release in a safe area.

3. I have been drawing, sketching and painting my whole life, getting most of my inspiration from nature, and it has been the one constant in my life, because I easily get bored with something and then move on to another. I'm a jack-of-all-trades (and master of...?) - I make jewelry, have done stained glass, woodwork, copper work, pewter, scrapbooking and every other craft you can think of and can do anything I set my mind to. My tag-line is "There is a fine line between dreams and reality; it's up to you to draw it."

I love walking on the beach and it is my dream to live at the coast, if I can get past the heat and humidity thing.

5. I am an early-to-bed and early-riser, in summer watching the sun rise with a cup of coffee in hand, listening to and watching the birds start their daily routine and writing in my Gratitude Journal. In winter I plonk in front of my MAC at 4.30am, reading my mail and catching up on all my blogger friends via Google Reader, writing in my Gratitude Journal and clearing my To-Do-List, all before having a bath at 7am.

6. I don't like cooking (even though I can) and would rather spend my time in my art studio. I'm actually considering changing the kitchen into a workshop - lots of cupboards for tools!

7. I am a grand-mother of 3 beautiful girls, of whom I don't see nearly enough, as they live at the coast, but I do manage to visit 4 or 5 times a year, the also exercising my passion of walking next to the ocean, climbing rocks and collecting beach finds.

The 7 Blogs I would like to nominate are as follows :

Artist Marie Theron from Chronicles of the West Coast
Cathy Gatland at A Sketch in Time
Liz at Art with Liz
Jennifer Lawson's On-line Painting & Drawing Journal
Vivien from Paintings, Prints & Stuff
Jeanette Jobson at Illustrated Life
Vickie Henderson of Vickie Henderson Art
Vickie does such wonderful work with the endangered Whooping Cranes.

I'm sorry, I'm going to have to do 8 - last but not least -
Ronelle of African Tapestry with her wonderful sketches of life in France.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Rock Challenge - Rocky Outcrop

“We all have 10,000 bad drawings in us. The sooner we get them out the better.” 
― Walt Stanchfield 

"Rocky Outcrop" - watercolour on Visual 140gsm watercolour paper - Maree©

My neighbour has this little rocky outcrop with a couple of lonely trees on his property, and I painted  it a couple of days ago, sitting behind the wooden fence, but yesterday I summoned up the courage and asked him if I could come in to do the painting again. It was a nice warm day, no wind, slight nip in the air, but I got totally engrossed and only packed up when I decided I had fiddled enough. Every time I looked up, there was another little rock I had missed!

This is part of Jeanette's rock challenge which ends on the 4th August 2009. If you are interested, you can visit Jeanette's blog at Illustrated Life to participate, there are still a couple of days left.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mountain Landscape

    snow in the high mountains | around the corner | winter
    A Twitter Poem from WATERMARK

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

    "Mountain Landscape" watercolour on visual 140gsm watercolour paper -Maree© 


Monday, July 20, 2009


You are not quite in control of nature; you are part of nature. It doesn't mean that you are helpless, either. It means that the whole question in art is to be wide awake, to be as attentive as possible, for the artist and for the person who looks at it or listens to it.
- Fairfield Porter

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

"Irises" pencil sketch and watercolour - Maree©


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Moleskine - The World of Jacko

this little dog | when he looks at me | what does he see?
A Twitter poem from WATERMARK

"Jacko" pencil sketch and watercolour in Moleskine watercolour sketch-book

I am Jacko, a Foxie/Jack Russell cross, living at Ga-Sethlong, a beautiful home on a small-holding on the edge of the Cradle of Human Kind in Gauteng, South Africa. I was born on the 1st September 2005, to a healthy litter of 7, with 3 brothers and 3 sisters. This is my story.

When I was about 4 weeks old, I remember catching a glimpse of the world for the first time - a confusing array of brothers and sisters and blankets (up until then, it was my Mother’s smell that guided me to her warmth and that wonderful, warm and satisfying taste of milk). There were strange goings-on, with faces popping in and plenty of oohing and aahing. For a couple of days this carried on, but this was home and was comforting in a strange way.

Then, when I was 5 weeks old, in the dark of one night, a hand grabbed me from my Mother’s side, whipped me into a bag and swiftly I was spirited off to a strange and unknown world. I was beside myself! Where was everybody? Where was my Mother?! I cried all night long, getting a couple of smacks in the process, to my utter horror.

I spent an utterly miserable night, shivering in the strange bag, rough and cold on my skin. I slept fitfully, waking often and calling for my Mother, but to no avail.
The next morning I was unceremoniously hauled out of the bag and carried by the scruff of my neck (I struggled profusely, but just got a smack for my efforts from this unkind stranger) to the street corner, where the stranger was offering me for sale to all the passers-by.

The streets were bustling with activity and strange smells and noises and several people stopped and petted me. Someone prodded me with a sharp object and pulled my ears, to see “if he would make a good watch dog”. They laughed scornfully when I yelped and struggled to free myself from the grip on my neck.

We spent most of the morning standing there and I endured a couple of hours of being passed from one person to another, hoping for a kind hand or word, but was just handed back roughly to my tormentor.

I was starving and a cold wind was howling around the buildings. I tried to snuggle closer to the stranger but was roughly tucked under his arm while he lit a cigarette.

By this time, the stranger was desperate to get rid of me and when a man stopped and enquired if he could hold me, the stranger impatiently handed me over. The man fondled my ears and stroked my back with his warm hands. My heart leapt at this act of kindness and I licked his fingers, eliciting a smile from him. The man haggled with the stranger for a while and they obviously settled upon a price, because the next minute he wrapped me in his coat and carried me to his car.

When we got to the man’s car, he took off his jacket, wrapped me in it so that only my head stuck out (it was SO warm!) and he phoned his wife before we drove off. We drove for quite a while but even though I was starving, I felt warm and somehow at ease.

When we arrived at our destination, the man lifted me out and carried me into his house. There we were met by his wife and he told her about the unkind stranger and how miserable I had looked when he saw me. She cradled me in her arms and immediately gave me some warm milk to drink. I lapped it up! It wasn’t like my Mother’s milk, but I decided it would do for now. The man’s wife (I discovered her name was Maree), made a warm bed of blankets for me on the couch and I immediately fell asleep with Maree sitting next to me - warm and content, but dreaming of my Mother and making soft little yelps in my sleep. I hadn’t slept since the previous night I had spent in the bag, cold and unhappy.

When I awoke, a new life started for me. I received unconditional love from Maree and Dave and soon the memories of my Mother started to fade. I have a special blanket of my own, which is soft and furry like my mom and sometimes when I’m curled up in it, I still have visions of my mom and get the urge to suck and paw the blanket.

I was also introduced to Maree and Dave’s other dog, Tyson, a HUGE Rottweiler, and at first I was very cautious. But Tyson soon made it clear that he was quite happy to see me and we now have a wonderful time in the garden playing tag
or just being silly. I think he was a bit lonely before I came along.

Now I spend my days in the lovely garden, revelling in playing games with Maree, who buys me lots of toys, my favorite being my red ball.

I also make sure that the Ducks and Geese and Pheasants don’t stray too far away - there are some very unkind people out there! And I’ve discovered that I’m an EXCELLENT watch-dog! I hear every strange sound and warn Maree & Dave immediately of any impending danger.

As I said, there are some real nasties out there!

My favorite is when we all go out together. Maree lets me fetch my harness and leash, which she then puts on me, and we’re ready to go. I normally look out of the window and love the strange smells wafting past - I then also growl at any suspicious looking characters that look like they’re getting a bit too close for comfort. At our destination, I’m then allowed to explore every nook and cranny (still on my leash - Maree is very fussy that I might get lost or something). After some of these outings I’m really exhausted and then have a good sleep.

At night, after supper, we all watch TV with intervals of short games, naps and snacks. When it’s bed-time, Maree fetches my blanket, which goes on top of their bed in between the two of them and we settle in for the night, me with an ever-vigilant ear. Maree says I still have dreams about my Mother because I sometimes cry in my sleep, but I can’t remember anymore - just a faint glimmer of a childhood that was rudely cut short. But Maree says just as well the horrible stranger stole me, otherwise we wouldn’t be together today ...


Friday, July 17, 2009

Mating Season

Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do.
Edgar Degas

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

"Mating Season" watercolour on Bockingford 150gsm watercolour paper - Maree©

Here in South Africa, we are blessed with these lovely little buck called Springbok (Springbuck) and they differ from Impala in that their horns are shorter and they have a slightly different colouration. Spring and summer spawns many fights over females and I caught these two on camera, sparring over the prettiest lady in the herd.

The Springbok, Antidorcas marsupialis, is the Southern African representative of the gazelle group of animals. It is only found in Southern Africa on the central plains, where it flourishes on the grassveld, despite the aridity. Male and female springboks have horns, are handsomely marked and are particularly distinguished by a dorsal fan.

Springbok are known to leap up to 4 m (13 ft) in the air in an activity known as pronking. While in the air, their body is curved, and their legs are stiff, close together and point downwards. Upon landing they immediately leap upwards again and during this period the crest on their back is raised. It is unknown why they pronk, but it is possible they do it to indicate to predators that they have been spotted. It could also be that they are just celebrating life!

Springboks 'pronking' :


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Secretary Bird

"The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change -- until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds."

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

"Secretary Bird" watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm - Maree©

Taking a break from the flowers, back to my favourite subject, birds! I photographed this chap (he clearly was a 'chap', because he kept a beady eye on anybody wanting to get too close to his lovey) at the Umgeni River Bird Park in Durban, South Africa.

Also had a wonderful experience there with a Ground Hornbill. It was feeding time, and they were given some dead day-old chicks. He, or she, picked up his chick and brought it over and offered it to me through the fence. I took it from him, holding onto it for a while, and all the while he was watching me with those wonderful eyes with the most gorgeous eye-lashes every woman can only dream about. I then offered it back to him, he gently took it, walked over to another Hornbill and offered it to 'her'. She duly took it from him and swallowed it. One can only wonder about this action and embrace the tender moment of inter-action.

Ground Hornbill
(Click on image to enlarge to see those eye-lashes!)


Thursday, July 9, 2009


"The only time I feel alive is when I'm painting."
~Vincent Van Gogh

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

"Geranium" pencil sketch and watercolour on Visual 140gsm watercolour paper - Maree©


The legend of Shaka's Rock

"The essence of drawing is the line exploring space."
~ Andy Goldsworthy

"Shaka's Rock" - watercolour on Visual 110gsm watercolour paper - Maree©

Jeanette of Illustrated Life has a rock challenge starting up running until the 4th August 2009. This is one of my entries.

Ballito, which is on the North Coast of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, has stunning white beaches, but also something I like - lots of rocks! This painting depicts Thompsons's Bay Beach, where there is a huge cluster of rocks called Shaka's Rock.

The legend goes that King Shaka, leader of the Zulu nation in South Africa in the 1800's, would punish criminal offenders in his clan by throwing them from the highest rocks into the sea to their death.

Ridiculed as a bastard child, few believed that the young Shaka Zulu would have much of a future. But despite his difficult childhood, Shaka not only became a legendary leader of the Zulu people, but his ingenious military tactics and inventions in weaponry are credited in some ways with preserving Zulu heritage.

Shaka’s childhood can only be described as miserable. He was born to a high-ranking chieftain named Senzangakona, but his mother Nandi was an orphan from a nearby ethnic clan known as the Langeni. Unfortunately, Nandi gave birth to Shaka out of wedlock. The stigmatism of a bastard child might not have persisted if the relationship between Shaka’s parents had not dissolved. Scorned by Senzangakona’s clan, Nandi returned to her family home with young Shaka. The Langeni did not receive their wayward member warmly, and Nandi and Shaka were forced into exile.

While growing up, Shaka was continually the butt of cruel jokes and pranks due to his familial circumstances. This constant badgering over the course of several years had embittered Shaka. So, when Chief Dingiswayo of the Mthelthwa summoned him for military duty, Shaka soon found an outlet for his anger.

Shaka quickly proved himself to be a capable soldier. He excelled in all his military manoeuvres and showed a talent for leading the troops. Shaka’s talent was so distinguished that upon the death of Shaka’s father, Chief Dingiswayo named Shaka to replace his father as chief of the Zulu. Shaka immediately tasked himself with reorganizing the Zulu fighting forces. Shaka instituted new tactical manoeuvres that outsmarted an enemy accustomed to traditional tribal warfare. He also introduced a new short dagger called the assegai. Traditional warfare dictated that opposing clans would throw long spears at each other before running in the opposite direction. The clan with the most men still living declared victory. Shaka found such tactics to be acts of cowardice. His new assegai forced his men to approach the enemy face to face before stabbing him to his death.

To keep his military ranks at optimum levels, Shaka began to absorb and assimilate the enemy after victory. After conquering a village, all living adult males in good health were forced into military service. Shaka demanded absolute obedience of his men and would not tolerate any weakness or cowardice. Any disobedience was immediately punishable by death.

And Shaka never hesitated to kill. The first villages he attacked with his Zulu forces were those of the Langeni. In retaliation for the cruel treatment of him and his mother, Shaka killed every woman and child before burning the villages to the ground. For ten years, Shaka’s Zulu fighters conquered village after village with the same intensity. Shaka’s Zulu tribe became the most powerful kingdom in all of 19th century southern Africa.

The only known drawing of Shaka—standing with the long throwing assegai and the heavy shield in 1824, four years before his death

But the more victories Shaka earned, the more deranged he became. Afraid any offspring would threaten his power, Shaka never took any wives. Given his obsession with his mother, Nandi, scholars believe he never had sexual relations with any woman. When Shaka’s mother was dying, he was in such grief that he ordered several men to be executed. Such chaos ensued that several thousand men eventually died. Upon his mother’s death, Shaka then ordered his Zulu clan into mourning. During this period, Shaka prohibited anyone from working in the fields, resulting in mass starvation among the Zulu.

Shaka’s policies as leader of the Zulu have simultaneously caused both destruction and preservation. His thirst for blood and endless battles resulted in massive migrations of tribes as far north as modern-day Tanzania who sought to avoid confrontation with his Zulu. His post-victory assimilation techniques led to the destruction of the identity of many unique southern African ethnic groups. Consumed with a desire to conquer, Shaka never fostered stability. Upon his death, ethnic warfare ensued as his assimilated Zulus began to splinter.

But Shaka is also credited with protecting southern African heritage from the Europeans. In 1824 the first Europeans visited Shaka. During this meeting, Shaka was maliciously stabbed by one of his own Zulu. The Europeans treated Shaka and instantly earned his devoted respect. Although Shaka did sign over land to the Europeans, he reportedly was unaware that he had agreed to any permanent deal. Ironically, the Europeans agreed to help Shaka continue his wars of dominance, but Shaka’s success only fuelled the European’s fear of him as a brutal warrior.

Today Shaka is revered as the leader who gave birth to the fighting spirit of the Zulu, allowing them to persevere amid European domination of their homeland. The memory of Shaka even lives on in countryside where he waged his battles. Jeff Guy, Head of the Department of History at the University of Natal in Durban, South Africa, notes that many prominent rock outcroppings are associated with Shaka Zulu. The Great Cave Rock on the south side of Durban Bay is one example. According to Guy, a Nongoma magistrate heard a story that Shaka would march his troops down to the Bay and force them to fight against the crashing waves. Shaka would watch the rigorous exercise from his perch on the Great Cave Rock. Apparently Shaka perched on various rocks quite frequently to watch his troops train.

After his mother’s death and the subsequent starvation, it was clear to the Zulu that Shaka had lost touch with reality. In 1828, Shaka’s half-brothers stabbed him to death. Legend has it that they threw his body into a cooking pot and left him for the vultures.

Sources: Afro-American Almanac at www.toptags.com/aama/bio/men/shaka.htm, South Africa Online Travel Guide at www.southafrica-travel.net/history/eh-zulu.htm, http://campus.northpark.edu/history/WebChron/Africa/ShakaZulu.html, “A Propensity for Sitting on Stones” by Jeff Guy at www.harford-hwp.com/archives/37/023.html


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Trees - Pencil Sketch for Tree Challenge

Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything.
Gustave Flaubert

"Old Bluegum Tree" - pencil sketch on Bockingford 300gsm watercolour paper - Maree©

Another entry for the Tree Challenge on Vivien's blog - An old Blue gum tree on our smallholding, ravaged by lightning and fire.