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!

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!

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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…

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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!

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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.

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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

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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.

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

The year's last, loveliest smile!

 Watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm 12″ × 8″
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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!

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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

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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...

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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!

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Inner mystery

Watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm - inspired by Maya Angelou's poem

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman.
Phenomenally.,
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
Extract from 'Phenomenal Woman" Maya Angelou 

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Go ahead! Throw the first stone!

Watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm 

Sin is a very liberating thing. It’s a shame we have forgotten it. Just think what might not have happened in the world if we had had a little more respect for personal sins, a little more knowledge of our own, a little less condemnation of everyone else’s. We may have been spared the shame of the stocks in Boston, the Magdalene laundries in Ireland, the penal colonies in Georgia, the back-alley births of so many children of single mothers, the front-page pictures of professional people found drunk in public and, in our own day, the Web pages of sleazy private information released to justify the impeachment of a president.

We love making sinners “stand in front of us.” In public. How else can their sins take attention away from our own?

It isn’t, of course, that there’s no place for accountability. It’s just that there’s no place for condemnation once we face our own sins. The problem is simply that there’s no place for stoning if we are the ones supposed to be pure enough to do it.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The nameless, the hopeless...

“To name oneself is the first act of both the poet and the revolutionary. When we take away the right to an individual name, we symbolically take away the right to be an individual. Immigration officials did this to refugees; husbands routinely do it to wives.” 
- Erica Jong (American writer and feminist, 1942) 

Coffee and watercolour on tea-stained Bockingford 300gsm – 11″ × 8″ 

For the lost, hopeless and nameless, it might be a good idea to start talking about where you’re going instead of about where you are, and where you’ve been. Because, as you talk about where you are, or about where you’ve been, that’s the signal that you offer—and that’s the signal that everything Universally is responding to. That’s why it feels sometimes like you’re stuck on this spot. You’re not stuck because things are always changing. But if it feels like you’re stuck, it’s because they’re changing to the same thing over and over again.

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Unusual winter in South Africa

W&N watercolours on Arches 300gsm 

A couple of years ago, in August 2006, South Africa was struck by an unusual phenomena, snow! It is something we rarely experience and it therefore always creates great excitement as well as hard-ship. Especially in the farming community, as livestock is always at risk because of the vast sizes of our farms and the large numbers of livestock we farm with – no barns really big enough to house all of them. No protection against the freezing temperatures and also a great problem with feed supplies. Luckily, people like us on smallholdings (8.5ha, which is 10 morgen or 21 acres), have fewer animals, making winter much more manageable, but still not worry-free.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

A written word lives forever

I’ve got a vendetta to destroy the Net, to make everyone go to the library. I love the organic thing of pen and paper, ink on canvas. I love going down to the library, the feel and smell of books. 
- JOSEPH FIENNES 

Black Pilot Calligraphy Lettering Pen and wash in Moleskine 200gsm Sketch-book 

Sketching with my pen gives me great pleasure - very often a few lines and a mere doodle start taking shape and something appears that can be worked into something more substantial.

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Cumulus humilis (Cu hum)

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

W&N watercolour on Aqua 300gsm (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa)

While sketching this landscape, I was fascinated by the colour of the clouds. So as soon as I finished, I decided to research some clouds and came up with some interesting information.

Cumulus humilis (Cu hum) is the smallest non-ragged cloud and usually shows a light-grey shading underneath.

These are small fair-weather cumuliform clouds of limited convection that do not grow vertically and generally do not produce rain showers. Being at or near the beginning of the convective cloud’s daily life cycle, they lack the moderate vertical extent of cumulus mediocris. Consequently they are commonly classified as low clouds. Cumulus mediocris (Cu med) achieves moderate vertical development, has medium-grey shading underneath, and can produce scattered showers of light intensity.

Striking cloud colorations can be seen at many altitudes in the homosphere, which includes the troposphere, stratosphere, and mesophere. The first recorded colored cloud was seen by Nathan Ingleton in 1651, he wrote the event in his diary but the records were destroyed in 1666, in the Great Fire of London. The color of a cloud, as seen from Earth, tells much about what is going on inside the cloud.

Cloud droplets tend to scatter light efficiently, so that the intensity of the solar radiation decreases with depth into the gases. As a result, the cloud base can vary from a very light to very-dark-grey depending on the cloud’s thickness and how much light is being reflected or transmitted back to the observer. Thin clouds may look white or appear to have acquired the color of their environment (cloud iridescence).

Colors occur naturally in tropospheric clouds. Bluish-grey is the result of light scattering within the cloud. The bluish color is evidence that such scattering is being produced by rain-size droplets in the cloud. A cumulonimbus cloud that appears to have a greenish/bluish tint is a sign that it contains extremely high amounts of water; hail or rain.

Yellowish or brownish clouds may occur in the late spring through early fall months during forest fire season. The yellow color is due to the presence of pollutants in the smoke. Yellowish clouds, caused by the presence of nitrogen dioxide, are sometimes seen in urban areas with high air pollution levels. This info from Wiki

So, either our veldfire-season has started already or I’m living in a highly polluted area!


 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Unobstructed view

“The whole essence of good drawing – and of good thinking, perhaps – is to work a subject down to the simplest form possible and still have it believable for what it is meant to be.” 
— Chuck Jones 

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gms

After the winter veld fires and now that we've had our first summer rains, the landscape is once again turning green and we have an unobstructed view towards the Magaliesberg Mountains in the distance.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Tread softly

“Cares melt when you kneel in your garden.” 


Watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm watercolour paper 

A sign in my garden – A powerful message that needs no more words.

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Friday, October 4, 2013

No rain yet...

Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams. 
- Ashley Smith 

 Ink sketch and colour wash of a scene in Magaliesburg in my Moleskine Nature sketchbook

It's the first of October, heading for mid-summer here in South Africa and we've had no rain yet. Normally we have the winds in August clearing up old growth and our first spring rains early in September, but the wind has been blowing right through September, seemingly blowing the clouds back to whence they came from.

I'm having to water my garden every day, we've had some very high temperatures, but nothing seems to give life like even just a couple of millimetres of rain...

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Two daisies

Bright flowers, whose home is everywhere
Bold in maternal nature’s care
And all the long year through the heir
Of joy and sorrow,
Methinks that there abides in thee
Some concord with humanity,
Given to no other flower I see
The forest through.
- William Wordsworth

Acrylic on primed canvas panel – 9″ × 12″

Some left-over blue paint from my palette when I did the lighthouse. I couldn't just waste the paint so  I was off on a new adventure again with my acrylics! 

Two daisies from my garden (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa) in a blue bottle on my kitchen table.

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Light after the storm

There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm. 
- Willa Cather

Acrylic on Giverny 240gsm acrylic paper

One of my few forays into acrylics.

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The duel of the warring clouds
Hath ended with the day
Their scintillant, electric blades
Have ceased their fearful play;
The pent up fury of their hate.
Hath found at last release,
And o’er the tempest-stricken earth
Broods now the hush of peace...
- Unknown

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Winter in Summer

“When you are older, you realise that everything else is just nothing compared to painting and drawing.”
— David Hockney

W&N watercolour in my Moleskine 200gsm nature sketchbook

Just as we thought winter had finally ended, we had freezing weather come up from the Cape with temperatures dropping to 12℃. That was on Saturday. Today it's starting to return to normal with beautiful sunshine and no wind. Nature certainly can be unpredictable...

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

An African moon

Black ink sketch using Pilot Calligraphy Lettering pen and Artline200 black fine-point pen on DaleRowney 220gsm heavy-duty sketching paper

It was full moon last night and when I switched off the garden lights, my garden was bathed in a golden glow… and I could’ve sworn I saw the fairies hiding under the mushrooms... 

One website explains the full moon thus, “The moon and sun are on a line, with Earth in between. It’s as though Earth is the fulcrum of a see-saw, and the moon and sun are sitting on either end of the see-saw. Thus as the sun sets in the west, the full moon rises. When the sun is below our feet at midnight, the full moon is highest in the sky. When the sun rises again at dawn, the full moon is setting.”

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Monday, September 16, 2013

The first rain

“The rain to the wind said,
'You push and I’ll pelt.'
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged—though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.”
― Robert Frost

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm
14th September 2013 

Step outside after the first storm after a dry spell and it invariably hits you: the sweet, fresh, powerfully evocative smell of fresh rain. 

We’ve had our first rain of the season here in Tarlton (Gauteng, South Africa), and the world has suddenly turned from brown and dusty to green and sparkling clean! And nothing on earth smells better than rain on our African soil!

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Tabby superb!

“With their qualities of cleanliness, discretion, affection, patience, dignity, and courage, how many of us, I ask you, would be capable of becoming cats?”
- Fernand Mery

W&N watercolour and Parker Fountain pen, Black Quink ink, on Visual 200gsm

 – In memory of my cat “Smewsy”, whom we were honoured enough to have in our lives for 13 years 

We all know the superstition about a black cat crossing your path. It is said that, to reverse the bad luck curse of a black cat crossing your path, first walk in a circle, then go backward across the spot where it happened and count to 13! Here are some more superstitions about cats.
  • Dreaming of white cat means good luck – American superstition
  • To see a white cat on the road is lucky – American superstition
  • It is bad luck to see a white cat at night – American superstition
  • If a cat washes behind its ears, it will rain – English superstition
  • A strange black cat on your porch brings prosperity – Scottish superstition
  • A cat sneezing is a good omen for everyone who hears it – Italian superstition
  • A cat sleeping with all four paws tucked under means cold weather ahead – English superstition
  • When moving to a new home, always put the cat through the window instead of the door, so that it will not leave – American superstition
  • When you see a one-eyed cat, spit on your thumb, stamp it in the palm of your hand, and make a wish. The wish will come true – American superstition
  • In the Netherlands, cats were not allowed in rooms where private family discussions were going on. The Dutch believed that cats would definitely spread gossips around the town – Netherlands superstition
The pencil sketch before I added colour

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

This Blue Gum


This blue gum tree greets me every morning as I open my studio curtains. She is always there. She has always been there, for the past ten years. She's the one I sit and stare at when I'm pondering or deep in thought. I've watched her swaying in heavy winds, watched as limbs have broken off and watched as veld fires have swept her base.

She stands across the road from our property, probably about 20m tall and offers a safe haven for all the birds in the area. I've watched as baby crows have fledged from her branches and yet, I've never looked at her properly.

Today I decided to look at her, with new eyes, and paint her.

I think she's wonderful. 

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Morning is my favourite time


W&N watercolour on DalerRowney 220gsm heavy-weight sketching paper 

Morning is my favourite time when everything is new; 
flowers drink the morning dew and skies are painted in a golden hue. 
Each tree stands tall and stately – different shades and different face. 
I’m viewing morning’s painting, done with Nature’s brush of Grace. 
The sun peeks slowly in the East, then rises with its smile;
Another morning greeting and we walk another mile.
UNKNOWN

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

The way of the crow

“If men had wings and bore black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows.”
-Rev. Henry Ward Beecher mid 1800’s

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm 
Black Crow (Corvus capensis) 

There is little wonder that crows are very often the subjects of legends, folk-tales, and storytelling traditions around the world, all of which is very deep-seated and arising from myth and folklore thousands of years old. Anyone that has ever spent time with a crow will know how absurd these myths are and that Crows are no more ‘evil’ or ‘dark’ as depicted in these legends than a canary in a cage.

I make those remarks in light of the life I shared with Coco, a Black Crow (Corvus capensis), over the span of twenty years. She was keen of sight and hearing, and her other senses were no less acute. As was her sense of humour! She loved to mimic men laughing, producing the exact deep resonance of the male voice. She would also have a conversation with herself, changing voices as she went along, which she reproduced from the garden staff talking to one another. Another favourite of hers was hooting like a car, getting everyone in the household to go outside to see who has arrived. She would also call someone by their name at the top of her voice, also getting that person rushing outside to see who was calling, then uttering a long, low laugh, as if enjoying the havoc she’s causing.

She loved to play tag, pretending to peck your foot, getting you to chase her around the garden. And of course, one ‘myth’ that is absolutely true, is a Crow’s love for shiny stuff. No tea tray was safe unattended outside, as all the spoons would disappear and any jewellery lying around the house was at great risk!

A valuable lesson we could all learn from a crow is that they never “stuff” themselves with food. She would only eat until she was satisfied and then take the rest and hide it all over the garden, ready to be picked up at a later stage.

It is this kind of sensitivity that makes crows and other corvids legendary birds.

Coco passed away at the age of 27 in my garden (Tarlton, south Africa) after a stroke and I can honestly say no other animal enriched my life like she did.

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Gemsbuck (Oryx gazella) Gemsbok

Watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm 12″ × 8″ 

Nothing belongs to you
of what there is,
of what you take,
you must share. 
- Chief Dan George

The Gemsbok or Gemsbuck (Oryx gazella) is a large African antelope, of the Oryx genus. The name is derived from the Dutch name of the male chamois, gemsbok. Although there are some superficial similarities in appearance (especially in the colour of the face area), the chamois and the oryx are not closely related.

There are two “types” of gemsbok: a northern and southern variety; the only difference being that the northern gemsboks have black-fringed ears while the southern ones have longer horns and more rounded ears. Southern Gemsbok are more numerous and live in the Kalahari Desert of Southern Africa, while the northern variant can be found in Tanzania, Zambia, Kenya and parts of northern Namibia in the Khomas Hochland area.
- Info from Wikipedia

This Gemsbuck is listed as Least Concern as the species is numerous and widespread, and populations are currently stable or even increasing. The Gemsbok’s future is secure as long as it continues to occur in large numbers on private land and in protected areas in Southern Africa. Its high value as a trophy animal should ensure further increases in its numbers on private land.

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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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