Saturday, December 24, 2011

Good food, good wine, and above all, good company

Lost a good friend this year after a protracted illness. She was cared for up to the end by a loving spouse who refused all invitations to go out for several years.

So missing their company, a couple of us decided to form a sort of monthly luncheon club. We discussed ahead of time who would cover which course, which we prepared before arriving at the home with its formal table setting on the terrace or dining room, depending on the season.

Sometimes confronting difficult situations straight on has its rewards. Outsiders who heard about our sorties became a little envious as our culinary efforts progressed and conversation flourished, occasionally spiced up an eminent guest we allowed entry for the day.

(A typical meal starting with a scallop timbal and followed by Bouef Bourgignon.)

Monday, December 05, 2011

Drawing- the foundation of art

My mother, who painted under the sobriquet FAAF, was an excellent draftswoman. She drew the head of the man when she was an art school student. (Note the correctly positioned ear her teacher sketched in on the upper right.)

Feeling a little lost with my current drawing and painting, I tried to sketch tonight's thirteen year old model in the classical tradition, an approach foreign to me as a student. Then I began a painting, which although somewhat rough, succeeds in capturing the ambiguity of this interesting young girl not only poised somewhere between a child and adult, but also between lad and lassie. I spent about an hour each on the drawing and the painting.

I painted Zoë in oils two years ago- picture below.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Clan Destin summer workshop

Last July, I was invited to a two day workshop at the Clan Destin (a play on words of course), a very 60'ish theatre/pub/art center hidden in the countryside not far from where I live.

A lovely gymnast/actress had been hired to pose for us, moving very slowly and sometimes stopping for a few minutes, inspired by different kinds of music. Some of my fast sketches were just smudges and I had to clearly define hands and fingers to explain what was happening in them. Sometimes I took visual/mental snapshots from which I worked for a couple of minutes, refraining from looking back at the model so I could record a more detailed moment in time. Every hour we stopped to look at each others drawings and the model changed her outfit.

I don't think I have ever had such concentrated creativity and came home absolutely exhausted at the end of the day. Reviewing and reflecting on my 100 or so sketches several months later, I find them not too shabby! Here's a slide show of a selection:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Radiant Model

The Monday life drawing group was in for a special treat this month. A beautiful, radiant and very pregnant model posed for us.

We were all aware of an intimate dialogue between the expectant mother and her son.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Quince jelly

Out on a ramble with the dogs a few days ago, I collected some fallen quinces in an abandoned field.

To make quince jelly, just chop them up and throw them in a pot, cover with water and boil. When they are soft, mash them up a bit and strain into another pot through a colander. Add about the same amount of sugar again and heat until boiling, skimming off foam. Then bottle and you're all set for the winter. Absolutely delicious with pain perdu, or French toast, on a cold and foggy morning.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Alice Neel

A fabulous documentary about the painter Alice Neel by her grandson was most inspiring the other evening. She persisted on painting portraits of people often in isolation from the rest of the art world, as it was the time of abstract expressionism in New York. She lived in dire poverty most of her life, even spending her welfare cheques on paints rather than on food for her children.

Yesterday a model from Cambodia posed for the my Monday night drawing class. Alice's influence is palpable, as well perhaps as that of South African painter Irma Stern. I am really enjoying painting in rich colours and patterns at the moment.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Milton Glaser

Just over thirty years ago, I took a class with Milton Glaser called Design and Personality. It was such brilliant class that a friend of mine who wrote for The New Yorker wrote a piece about my experience for The Talk of the Town.

I recently stumbled across a film about Milton on Netflix called Milton Glaser: Inform and Delight. It blew a lot of cobwebs out of my head about art, design, social responsibility and priorities. Try to see it.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

The Big Draw event in La Sirène du Causse Gallery

October 1st turned out to be a beautiful Saturday here in Rignac, so I set up tables outside for the gallery's first Big Draw event.

This part of France was an ancient seabed 135,000,000 years ago and I had collected some fossils, books from the library and an assortment of coloured pencils, papers, magazines, crayons, brushes, scissors, paste and paints. The idea was to recreate a scene of the prehistoric ocean life here.

Enthusiastic artists started arriving soon after 10am to tackle the mural. We broke for a picnic lunch of bread, cheese, grapes, figs and windfall apples and continued into the afternoon. The pictures tell the story.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Life's a beach- back to Soulac-sur-Mer

This year I was a little more together with my packing than last year, but I hadn’t prepared for rain so much of my time in the beginning was spent huddling in my pup tent with the big hairy wet Thabo pup reading, and cooking under an umbrella strung up under some pine trees.

But there is something about living under primitive conditions next to the sea that releases my free spirits and I have really had a great time. Perhaps I exaggerate the conditions. The campsite does have wonderful hot showers for warming up after a swim and on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic about 300 meters away is a restaurant with a terrace where I regularly bid adieu to the sun with a fancy cocktail decorated with little umbrella pierced fruit and whatnot.

The sun and weekend brought the crowds back for a last hurrah which was a bit of a drag because Thabo tends to be such a nuisance on the beach. If I swim out too far he either tries to drag me in using teeth and claws or barks hysterically and relentlessly. For awhile I try to feign innocence but soon everyone catches on that I am responsible for the beast, and reluctantly have to push off.

I recognized a lovely Dutch couple who were my neighbours last summer, and was able to light my stove with their flame throwing gadget. French alumettes were useless in the damp. This evening my corkscrew broke and I was about to go over to borrow theirs when I remembered a trick about banging the bottom of the bottle with the heel of a shoe to dislodge the cork. It works.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A circle of beads

On September 3, 2010, I posted a bitter wail about a necklace of old blue beads I had bought in Nairobi that had disappeared.

Last week while brushing my teeth, I suddenly spied the necklace on the bathroom window sill behind some stuffed animals.

I don't think I will ever know where they were all this time but I am very pleased that they found their way home. Sometimes these little mysteries just need to remain unsolved, especially if they have happy endings.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Workshop with Françoise Utrel

Last week I attended a one day workshop with the artist Françoise Utrel. The idea was to bring in some work and discuss where and how we wanted to progress with it. Having spent my life as professional illustrator, I have struggled to create paintings with personal originality and depth. I always seem to skim along the surface.

The lunch alone that Michel, Françoise's huband, prepared was worth the price of admission. No messing about with stale sandwiches and a flask of coffee in this establishment.

I first showed Françoise some illustrative work, then some life drawings, where I think my strength lies. She suggested that I choose one drawing and repeat it to create a series. Here is the drawing and subsequent explorations. Françoise vigilantly kept watch, stopping me from over-defining any part. I found putting myself into someone else's hand for a day productive and rewarding and intend continuing the series.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Imagining a prehistoric sea

I happened to be in London last year in October, the month of The Big Draw, a national festival to encourage everyone to start drawing launched by The Campaign for Drawing. I determined to participate this year so my gallery is having a painting day for children of all ages on October 1st, between 10 am and 4 pm.

The theme is to paint the sea that covered this area 135 million years ago. I will supply fossils, images and materials.

Please swing by if you can.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Another of my favourite South African painters: François Krige.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Some of my favourite South African painters

They are Eleanor Esmond-White, Frans Claerhout, Alexander Rose Innes, and Irma Stern