LATE AFTERNOON, QUEENSTOWN.
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
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
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.