Tree-hugging in 2021

My theme for 2021 is going to be trees. I’ve long loved trees. I spent my childhood in the branches of a giant Plane tree in our suburban garden in Pietermaritzburg. I was proud of my climbing abilities and loved that I could hide in the highest branches with a view of the suburb. That tree was a great comfort to me, a place I could escape to when the world felt overwhelming. Up there with my arms around a sturdy branch and my face against the bark was my happy place.

I’m less agile now, but I still find solace in admiring trees from below. This month I enjoyed the rare treat of admiring trees from high-up again when I visited the Treetop Walk at the Serralves Park in Porto. This was an opportunity for lots of photos of trees that will serve as inspiration. I’ve also managed to get pics while walking around Guimarães (strictly for exercise of course – we’re in a hard lockdown here).

My art materials are severely limited, but I do have some water-soluble oil pastels that I am experimenting with. I know, that sounds crazy, doesn’t it? I’d never encountered such things before. They were a Christmas gift. They go on like waxy crayons, but turn into nice creamy colour with a bit of water added. They are messy, giving lots of opportunity for mistakes, which I like. I particularly like the effects I got for the sky in the image below. I’m looking forward to doing more like this.

Winter sun

This is the first winter I’ve spent in Europe and I’m excited by naked winter trees. In Johannesburg, the autumn leaves were still clinging to the branches when the spring growth started, and I never got to see trees in all their naked glory. Here every last leaf drops by January and there is a good month or two to admire their structure in detail. There are also many new trees to learn about, so plenty of new inspiration.


Inktober 2017 days 21 to 25

After all those portraits, I needed something a bit more random, so these pictures were inspired by a range of things; happy feelings, the uncertainly I’ve been living through with my business, and experiences of meditating.

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Day 21: Playing with bubbles

Day 22: Living with uncertainty

Day 23: Breathe freely

Day 24: Purpose

Day 25: Field of flowers

The Inktober exhibition at Assemblage opens on Thursday the 9th November at 6pm at 7th Floor Nedbank Corner Building, 96 Jorrisen Street, Braamfontein. Do come and see all the results of Inktober 2017.


A holiday romance

On my recent holiday in Switzerland I fell in love – with the work of Augusto Giacometti, a Swiss painter  (16 August 1877 – 9 June 1947). One of the prolific Giacometti family, he was a cousin of Giovanni Giacometti, who was father of Alberto, Diego and Bruno Giacometti.

I first found his work in the Bündner Kunstmuseum Chur where the collection includes this striking painting:

Starry Sky 1917

I love the way that he layers paint using small smudges of colour. According to the German Wikipedia entry, his gravestone reads “Meister der Farbe” or “Master of Colour”. In 2014 and 2015 the Kunstmuseum Bern hosted an exhibition of his work, titled “Colour and I”.

Inspired by the flowers of the Swiss countryside, he has been credited with being the first abstract painter as is wonderfully evident in this painting:

Fantasy over a Potato Blossom 1917

I was also rather taken with this painting of a brook, in which he manages to create the foaming water with shades of grey and white and delicate foliage with tiny dots of paint. (Unfortunately I did not take down the title or the date, and have not been able to find them online.)


But I was totally smitten after I encountered Rainbow, in the Kunst Museum Bern. It’s hard to do justice to this painting with an electronic picture. It’s large and the colours of the rainbow are clearer (particularly the orange layer of the rainbow). There are delicate, textured shades of grey to white around and within the rainbow. I was as entranced as the two figures in the foreground of the painting.

Rainbow, 1916

Augusto Giacometti is also well-known for stained-glass work, but there is little information about him available in English, which is a terrible pity. The easiest place to see more of his paintings is at the athenaeum.

I came home with a copy of “Farbe und Ich” which accompanied the Bern exhibition, a collection of essays and prints of his work. I’ve been pouring over it, labouriously translating the German and soaking up the pictures, and its every bit as exhilarating as reading love-letters from a holiday romance.