November 04, 2012

South Africa Workshop - Clarens

I finally arrived in Clarens, about a three and a half hour drive from Johannesburg, for the first of in the series of my three South Africa Plein Air Painting workshosp, to meet a wonderful and enthusiastic group of artist from all over the northern regions of South Africa. We stayed at Sir Henry's guest house in Clarens where Ralph and Janine did a splendid job of looking after us in their beautiful B&B surrounded by lovely gardens. The roses were in full bloom and perfect for our color studies.
Painting the roses in the garden
Out in the Golden Gate National Park

Clarens is set in wonderful scenery with the Golden Gate National Park very close, but the highlight of the week had to be the wonderful experiences we had with the children of the local 'informal' settlement. This was shanty town on the outskirts of Clarens. It was a wealth of artistic material. The brightly colored clothes of the local people contrasted with the grays of the surrounding landscape, and the various dwellings cobbled together from sheets of tin, colorful wooden boards, and the occasional more traditional construction materials of mud and sticks, provided an endless variety of interesting shapes for abstract compositions.

off to work in the village
colorful houses in the village

  "My New Fence, Clarens Informal Settlement"

In the painting above I was interested in capturing the beautiful grays of the landscape with the occasional accent of saturated color from the buildings and the hat of a man who was fixing his fence. The dirt path provided an interesting abstract foreground shape and formed a natural lead in to the composition.

"The Road Home, Clarens Informal Settlement"

This was the path up to the informal settlement. Although the houses were very basic, they all had a wonderful view over the valley and the mountains. 

I gave some of my art instruction books to a young teenager called Tebello who seemed particularly keen to learn. All the other kids gathered around while I was explaining what to do. That's me under the hat!

Explaining to Tebello, one of the teenage kids in the township who was particularly interested in learning how to paint,  how to use the Virtual Art Academy course materials I gave him.

Gathering around to look at the art books

The crowd kept growing and growing! My students were beginning to wonder
what was happening!

My new Virtual Art Academy students

painting one of the grandmothers in the township
locals join in to watch the painting

 Another of the kids was very keen to do some drawing of
 his own and asked if he could use my drawing book and

Saying farewell to the kids
The first portrait of me in Africa.

The kids were all lining up for me to sketch their portraits. When I had finished sketching them, one of them asked me to give him my sketchbook and pen so he could draw my portrait! When I finished painting, they all jostled to help me pack up. Before I could even speak, one of them grabbed my brushes and started to clean them, another started to loosen the screws on my pochade, and a third was collapsing my tripod. Another just painted his face with my left over white paint!

On the way home they grabbed all of our equipment from us and carried it to the car. This was a painting experience I will never forget!


  1. Ha Ha classic african village experience sounds like you had great fun as did the kids.

  2. I love the photos of the children and how they gather around you while you explain art to them. It has always been that way!