The striking white thorns on the Acacia Karroo are a striking contrast to the patterns on the Nguni Cattle. This series explores that relationship.read more
John and I decided to try the Christmas Painting Challenge again when he came home for the holidays. It was something we initiated last Christmas (2011). We spent 15 enjoyable days of sketching-sessions, that were mostly chosen from scenes around the farmyard.read more
A recent visit to the nearby Nguni farm, ‘Gelykfontein’, was the inspiration behind this new karoo landscape with Nguni cattle .read more
A little sketching opportunity inspired by our beautiful African Hoopoes.read more
We are sad to see our good friends, Kenny & Margie leave Knapdaar, so I took the opportunity to paint this farm composite as a farewell gift.read more
John came to visit us on the farm, so we did a few plein-air studies, without the pressure of the Challenge at Christmas 2011.read more
How exciting it was to be asked to contribute a backdrop painting to one of the floral displays, on this year’s Chelsea Flower Exhibit from South Africa !read more
This painting has been a long process since the scene first inspired me, one evening exactly 5 years ago, not far from Pofadder.read more
Having grown up in a family of botanists, it is hard to separate myself from the African bush and beautiful flora that was a big part of my youth. Acacia Karroo is a species of thorn tree, that is unique in that it grows naturally around here in the karoo, where we live in South Africa, and is also to be found around Salisbury ( Harare) and many other parts of Rhodesia, (Zimbabwe) where I grew up. I never really pursued a botanical career myself, as did my brother, John Burrows (http://www.bknr.co.za/), who has written several wonderful scientific botanical books. I also don’t have many tree books, except one old treasured copy of, “Trees of Central Africa” by Keith Coates Palgrave. This book plate of Acacia Karroo, is beautifully painted by his mother, Olive H. Coates Palgrave.
I do not aspire to being a botanical artist like my talented sister in law, but this pencil sketch was done in the spirit of this study.
I wanted to explore the visual contrasts between the Acacia Karroo, and the Nguni cattle that are often seen grazing amongst them. The patterned hides of the Nguni cattle, against the network of white thorn-covered trees was an interesting contrast, and the focus of this series of these 3 paintings.
John and I could not resist the temptation to take on another painting-a-day challenge when he came home for the Christmas holidays. It was perhaps even more challenging to find scenery or subjects that we had not done last year. So, even though this Christmas threw in some extra complications, like a new granddaughter, which meant that there was not always time to fit in a painting session each day for me; but John did succeed in his aim to do a painting a day. Here are the sketches from the 15 days of the challenge. All of mine are 400 x 320 mm. which is close to the standard A3 format.
Day 1.—- 21 Dec.2012 Behind the workshop. We painted different scenes while still sitting next to each other. The resident Ground Squirrels were so curious that they came to see if they could find anything to eat in the basket next to my chair ! John’s pen & ink drawing is on the left and mine is on the right.
Day 2. —- 22 Dec.2012. The old fowl run behind the house. This time we did the same scene. John in pen & ink is the top picture. Mine is below.
Day 3.— 23 Dec 2012. Sketching in a small patch of shade near the garage. We chose different subjects: John, the bell and tree that I have painted before, and I chose to sketch the lambs that were also squeezing into the same patch of shade, on the other side of the gate. It was fun to stick to a black & white pencil study, with a grey wash background.
Day 4 & 5. — 24 Dec 2012. Christmas Eve was a particularly busy day for me, so John sketched alone,… the bicycle under the gum tree. His is the top sketch on the left. Whereas, on Day 5, Christmas Day, I was free to sketch the bicycle scene. John then turned his attention beyond the tree to the road that leads to the grid. He painted that scene in oils.
Day 6.—26 Dec.2012. Sketching at Excelsior. While John concentrated on one of the gum trees, I was more fascinated by the cattle under the gums.
As my delightful little granddaugter and her parents were leaving for their seaside holiday on the 29th, I decided to give up sketching and spend more time with Sue and Chloë.
Day 7, 8 & 9. —-27 – 29 Dec 2012. The warthog skull and other scenes. While I spent time with Chloë & Sue, John painted the scenes top left, and the pen & ink of the warthog skull, bottom right. Then on Day 9 when Sue’s family had left, John and I sat together and did the other 2 sketches. I liked the skull but decided to put it onto a chair in the gardern where we sat. John chose the scene of the two store room doors and window.
Day 10. —30 Dec.2012. Old Wildebeeshoek shed. This is on our neighbour’s farm and was great fun to do. Below is a picture of the two of us painting the scene.
Day 11.— 31 Dec 2012. New Year’s Eve. Dairy session. The quest to find a shady spot always dictates the subject of our painting during the HOT, HOT days of summer. We found a little patch of shade between the stable building and the dairy. We could not sit side by side because it is a narrow passageway, so we sat with our backs to each other facing in opposite directions. John did the series of 4 gates, and I did the blue door of the Old Dairy.
Day 12 .— 1 Jan.2013. New Year’s Day. The Front Steps. John’s is the top sketch.
Day 13. — 2 Jan 2013. I put too much detail into the “On the Steps” picture that it got too late and the light was poor, so I had to finish the next day. While I did that, John did a lovely spontaneous sketch of the fountain.
Day 14. —3 Jan 2013. Old tyres and the view North. We sat together again, but did not paint the same scene. We were under the big gum trees near the Pig-sties. John chose to isolate a pile of tyres nearby, in oils ( top picture); and I chose the far scene beyond.
Day 15. — 4 Jan 2013. The Fountain Gate. Our last day of the challenge! Although we chose the same scene, I particularly wanted to concentrate on the cypress tree, so eliminated the tree that was close to the gate. It is called, ‘artistic licence’ I think. That is why our scenes look different. John’s in oil, is at the top.
After receiving another Nguni painting order a few months ago, I was determined to find a new herd to use for this composition. Although I have loads of pictures of Ngunis from various sources, and Nguni stud books going back almost 10 years; the animals in all the various sketches I made, did not relate to each other. This sounds like an insignificant detail. But in order to throw a good measure of life and enthusiasm into the painting, I felt the need to find a fresh new herd. I subsequently heard about a renowned Nguni breeder not far away on the farm ‘Gelykfontein’ between Venterstad and Colesburg.
When John and I paid him a visit, we were totally captivated by all the wonderful Ngunis that we saw and photographed. As a result there were loads of inspiring photos available for this composition.
I then went ahead enthusiastically, and printed up a small batch of photos to start with some new sketches; but as often happens when things go so well, my computer crashed and all my photos were trapped and inaccessible!
The computer went off to Johannesburg for repairs etc, and I was left with only that initial batch of photos that had been printed. How fortunate that I had those at least; and it was enough to get going and build up a satisfactory composition, and at least I had the fresh inspiration in my mind to launch into the project.
I naturally enjoyed using a karoo landscape and background for this painting as it is the countryside we live in, and love ; and the cattle seemed quite at home where they were placed in the scene. Getting the composition right, is always challenging, with considerations like the direction of the light and the way the eye travels in and on towards the distance. There were several times when I wished I had access to all those other lovely photos on my computer (still in Johannesburg). However, it is amazing that it worked out quite adequately in the end, and I have a faithful Lord to thank for that.
Killing time while I wait to start my next big Nguni, I decided to do something different, Hoopoes. We have a pair of African Hoopoes in our garden; so there are several perfect photo opportunities. I do want to do a proper painting again, ( I did one many years ago) but decided to just do some rough sketching for now. This afternoon we are going to photograph an Nguni Stud, at Gelyksfontein, on the road to Colesburg.
Sometimes a painting can be a useful and meaningful gift. So, a week ago I popped in to the farm Fieldmoor to take some photos. The farm has been sold, and Kenny and Margie are now starting a new life in East London, nearer to the rest of their family. As the Philip family of Silvermere, and the Field family, have been good friends for several generations, this seemed an appropriate farewell gesture. Leaving ones family home is always heart wrenching, so now they have a little reminder to bring back the fond memories.