Zanzibar. A storm was coming. A fisherman began mooring his boat. I was anticipating the storm with curiosity. The wind began to pick up, tussling his hair and unfurling the boat’s flag. The cloth streaked red; the only colour I could see beside the blues and greys. I liked that the azure water dulled under the dark sky. It was unusual and beautiful.
I painted this impression of two schoolboy rugby players from St Andrew’s College in Grahamstown during the team’s last home match of the 2018 season. This was after the closest player had scored the final try of the game, in the corner of the field. He had just touched town and was retreating with his team mate, both of their heads bowed. Backlighting doesn’t always work, but I liked how these two tired players accompanied each other at the end of the game.
This painting (an impression of an aloe in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa) was purchased as a wedding gift.
I painted an impression of the clock tower at St Andrew’s College in Grahamstown in July 2018. At that time of year, the winter shadows start to lengthen at around 4pm. Then the light starts to show pink, peach and orange colours on the stone buildings. It’s also at around that time that one needs to put on a jersey. As a child, I remember playing touch rugby with friends on the field below the clock tower. Those were carefree days.
On a walk in Grahamstown, I heard mooing in the distance. As I turned a corner I saw this fine fellow also taking an afternoon walk. Anyone who’s been to the Eastern Cape will be familiar with the roaming cattle and donkeys which share the infrastructure. With shadows cast across the road, the light caught the rich tones of his coat. I tried to accentuate the subtle tones on the road to pick out pinks – like bubblegum pressed into the canvas.
I love bee eaters. They have beautiful colours. On a game drive through Hwange in February 2017, this carmine bee eater followed the game vehicle, picking up insects which were disturbed along the road. Every time we would stop, it would land nearby. Then when we would continue, it would follow us again. This painting was gifted to Jan and Lawrence Mallen, a generous couple. They have helped me during numerous transitions in my life.
Like its carmine companion, the white fronted bee eater is attractive. They can be seen nesting the the river beds.
These elephants strode toward us on a June afternoon. At the distance depicted, they stopped and stood still. After a minute or so, we realised we were in their path. We drove forward a few meters and they continued on their way, crossed the road behind us and disappeared into the bush. It was a silent protocol. There was no commotion. We simply yielded – almost politely – to one another. Life need not be conflictual; if we take our time and are mindful of others, we all can coexist. I gifted this piece to the Zimbabwean jeweler Patrick Mavros.
This fine baboon was sitting in the road as we were on a game drive one evening. I’ve depicted him as being alone, but in reality he was surrounded by his troupe. I liked the way the sunlight illuminated his face as he ate a piece of fruit.
We saw these four ostriches on a game drive in Hwange in February 2017. I loved their long necks darting back and forth as they walked, like pliable periscopes.
One morning in May we went for a walk with three lions in Limpopo Province, South Africa. We were part of a group of about ten people, with four guides. We all carried walking sticks and kept closely together. We were told that this practice would make it safe for us to be in the company of lions. So it proved. However, at one point the lions, while playing with one another, split. Suddenly I felt vulnerable. I couldn’t see where two of them were; they had seemingly vanished into the long grass. In reality, they are just perfectly camouflaged. They stalked one another and sprung out playfully. Their huge paws hit one another’s ribs with deep thumps. I was awed by their power and, at that moment, felt my place in the food chain. When I painted this, I tried to remember how well they were camouflaged. Their coats were almost indistinguishable from the grass.
My garden in Harare, Zimbabwe. Late one afternoon in April, I watched the shadows of the syringa tree lengthen across the lawn. Every autumn the peach tree would bloom with pink flowers for a few weeks. The setting sun made their colour especially striking. For some reason I’d left the gate open, leading to the parkland beyond. It seemed free.
Cattle on the grassy hills of the Wild Coast are a common sight. Watching them graze, whilst listening to the waves breaking in the background, is restful. I saw this bull on a walk one morning at Hluleka. He watched me wearily at first but allowed me quite close.
September in the Cape can be a time of changeable weather. The winter rain gives way to spring sunshine, but cold fronts can still cloud the sky. I found that when the sky was cloudy, the light had a different quality on the shallow water near the shore. It seemed especially azure. It almost looked tropical. Though, as anyone knows, the Atlantic around the Cape is quite cold.
I painted this in autumn 2017, whilst walking my dog, Odysseus, in Hydes – just north of Baltimore. Maryland, in general, is beautiful. Every season is distinct. This is especially visible in the woodland. Off Hartley Mill Lane, there is a stream which runs over rocks and under a bridge. Standing on that bridge I observed how the near bright yellow leaves gave way to pastel colours further in. It reminded me that the colours in Maryland are often very rich. It’s a nice contrast to the subtle tones of places like Namibia.
I painted this scene of the bay at Hluleka Nature Reserve in November 2017. I had rented a log cabin overlooking the bay. At that time I was the only person staying at the Reserve. I was surprised by its tranquility. On this particular morning I was painting from my balcony when I saw a whale breach in the bay. It playfully slapped its tail on the water a few times and then disappeared. I stood open mouthed, asking, “Did you see that?” to no one. I couldn’t believe my luck. Sometimes life is actually too good to be true. I painted this view of the bay in acrylic with knives and gifted to my friend Adam. We grew up in the Eastern Cape and we both have fond memories of the coastline there.
I grew up in the former Transkei. My childhood holidays were spent at the Wild Coast. The roads were bad. It often took a long time to travel a short distance. But when you finally saw the sea behind the grassy hills, it was all worth it. I visited Hluleka in November 2017; almost three decades since I was a child playing on those beaches. Shepards still kept cows and goats on those hills. Rural life in the Eastern Cape should not be romanticised; it’s poor. But on a clear day, with a calm ocean, the breeze whistling and the cow bells knocking, it is good.
I painted this in acrylic using knives. I don’t often use acrylic because I find that the paint dries too quickly for my liking. However, that’s not always a bad thing as it allows paint to be layered with clarity. Also, the surface won’t smudge which is especially useful when you’re working in transit.