This is one of my favourite Queenstown paintings, so typical of the brittle harsh winters that are experienced in the area where twice in the past years the lowest Southern African temperatures ever have been officially recorded. (Near the Pen Hoek Pass, at the Buffelsfontein weather station ).    This culture of cold winters and scorching summers is still something I miss, in our newer abode in the cushy and much milder ecosystem of the Garden Route!    I always enjoyed the ring of beautiful mountains surrounding the town, Madeira, Longhill and the towering Hangklip, one of the highest peaks in the greater area, seen here in the distance..    I must have painted Hangklip scores of times, and it is a typical example of a beautifully South African mountain - with classic shape, beautiful colouring, compatible foothills and of course the flat-top that is a dead cert at the sales point!

When I paint a picture I usually ask myself three basic questions at the outset.    I shared this tendency with our son Mel, who is also a keen artist, recently, and he says he has gained benefit from applying them as well.   

The first question is: 'Will the scene make good art?'.    Some things, like snarling tigers on jungle logs, or the 'big five' painted on leather, or too much cottage and cosmos, don't usually make good art.    Choose your subject carefully.

The second question : 'Will my efforts be a win-win as far as the subject-matter is concerned. Try to paint what you love to paint, and what the people out there want to buy.    That way everybody goes forward. If you love both warthogs and giraffes, paint the warthog, as they sell better! Many good artists battle, because they just paint the wrong things.

And thirdly, ask yourself : 'How can I make my job easier?'    Assess your task, and, without running away from challenges, make sure you choose a modus operandi that you can handle to give adequate expression to your content.

I mentioned in an earlier crit that we had a thriving family livestock auctioneering business which had its origins in 1882.    I was very involved, and the auctioneering adrenalin and fine camaraderie of close business colleagues and friends gave me some respite from the demands of my legal practice, and 'getting out' into the country to attend the auctions we conducted all over the province kept a spark burning for the outdoor life.   It also gave me a yearning for the aesthetics of the dramatic countryside of the Border and North-Eastern Cape.    We sold sheep and cattle at regular monthly stock fairs in a dozen localities, in an abundance and of a quality seldom equalled before in S.A., and almost definitely not since.    In 1982, after 100 years of trading, I sold the company to a Transvaal conglomerate, and they continued trading as I went out to paint.   

In this picture I tried to capture a timeless Eastern Cape cameo, with a resting silhouette of cattle creating a mood-set for the evening landscape.    I tried to get the strong chiaroscuro to emphasise the dazzling energies of harsh South African sunlight.

Copyright 2003 Dale Elliott