The good, bad and ugly of plein air

At the end of August I went away on a plein air painting weekend!  It was a wonderful opportunity to be out in nature painting and learning something new and quite honestly we needed a weekend away and if I had not committed to this I guess we would have just sat around at home…hubby and I have not had a weekend like this in a long time. So as that famous idiom goes – with one stone we kind of hit three or four birds. It was a bonus!

I have been on an art retreat before, and painted outside, but our studio was set up and we spent a couple of hours outside looking for the ‘painting’ in the scenery and started outside but then it was completed in the studio again.

So this weekend was a completely different experience, that’s why I call this the good, bad and ugly. 

I really enjoyed it. It was humbling, and scary.  I felt both overwhelmed and stressed at the same time.  Just as the breeze changed or the sun started feeling warmer I felt uncomfortable and quite happy and excited all at once.

On the first day after the morning session I went to the room happy with my progress and surprised with what I had painted.


It’s lovely to be outside and I imagine myself painting in this peaceful place and creating something really beautiful….but at the same time there were bees and the sun started burning into my back and I was wishing I was back in art class.


The afternoon when we finished I felt just as happy with my painting and equally surprised with what I had accomplished that day.  But I didn’t quite enjoy that experience as much as the morning one. Finding the ‘painting’ in the scenery in front me was a lot harder in the afternoon.


Painting outside sharpens your memory, I learnt more about really seeing what was in front of me, about natural light and shadows and the real colour of things in the scenery. 

Painting in art class from a photo and with controlled light is a bit like painting in 2D, being outside is more like 3D. I was forced to see real life and real colours. Also the photos are as good as the printer or the ink in the machine so the colours are not always exactly the same as what is outside.

I felt like a part of the scenery.  Although you can’t touch the scenery (well I could actually touch everything in mine if I wanted to) being outside made me feel more connected with my art and with nature.  With the breeze and the sunshine its a romantic scene in my artistic mind. 


I wonder about Van Gogh…and I remember a book I bought, I don’t think I ever intended reading this book but bought it because it was about Van Gogh.  I searched for it at home, it’s a book of letters that he wrote to his brother.  Looking through his letters I  wanted to find something where he complains about the wind or the sun or the cold or anything. Maybe he never complains and that was why he just created beautiful masterpieces!

But then I found this, and it had me in hysterics – 

The politeness of the populace of the Hague towards painters is, however, demonstrated by the fact that a fellow behind me, or probably at a window, suddenly spat a wad of tobacco onto my paper – life can be very trying at times. _ Letter 262

Loud laughter from me, there I found something he moaned about.  He sounds very funny and I might not read the whole book but I must really make an effort to go through some of his letters.

And what about Monet, did he perhaps complain about painting outside?

Now that I am home with my two finished paintings I feel I don’t like them as much, like they need to be fixed, like something is missing, maybe it’s the magic of being outside that has faded and gone away.

None of my paintings are a masterpiece but I feel the ones I do in the studio are more a masterpiece than these two that were painted outside.


The actual process of painting outside was too quick due to the changing scene and shadows and time just runs away!  I feel like I should have stayed outside longer and persisted and continued painting, but I know I would not have coped with the heat and longer hours. All those hours painting I tried maybe 3 different brushes but that weekend only one brush worked for me, soft eve series size 1, I’m not even sure how that was possible. 

It was a good learning experience and I really did enjoy it. I will do it again and will paint in oils again or try water-colour, hopefully be more prepared for the challenge next time.  I would like to try this near water, near the ocean it won’t be bees it will be sand flying into the canvas giving it a real 3D effect.  

a huge thank you to Sanchi for teaching me

or rather let me sign off the way Vincent used to, which was usually –

With a handshake, Yours sincerely,


Humpback whale

Ah this was a big one, a serious painting, it was my sons request. He says he has no paintings in his room, I have never painted anything for him, err…really?!

His room has no spare walls!  On one side there is a glass cabinet with formula one cars, a large wood turtle, a small painting of a green frog (a gift his aunt Nat painted), the other wall is all window, the next wall has a large poster a photo of when he was about 10 years old surfing on the Kalahari sand dunes and the last small space has a pastel I did for him of his favorite cat, the lynx!

I have no idea where we are going to hang this rather large whale painting.


152 x 100 Oil Humpback whale

152 x 100 Oil
Humpback whale

I loved painting this whale, I absolutely love the ocean and anything related to the sea, all shades of blue are my favorite colors, painting the humpback whale gave me so much joy.

I have another whale painting in mind, one idea that he loves and so that will be one of my next projects very soon ♥


152 x 100 Oil Humpback whale

hanging in his room

hanging in his room

Mom didn’t really teach me that much

Today is father’s day and my boys gave their dad this card


Notice the very last sentence – mom didn’t really teach me all that much –🙂  yes I know it’s funny, but it did get me thinking….

When I started blogging I always thought I had so much to say or write about. The boys were at a school going age and growing up faster than bamboo shoots on steroids.

But then they left school and it was first day of varsity and I blogged about that and about letting go. And then it felt like parenting was over.

It was an emotional time seeing them in university and trying this new thing called “letting go” and I was actually quiet about the boys for a long time, at least on the blog.

They are adults, one will be 23 in a few months’ time and the other one will be 22 at the end of the year!  So apart from graduation day, what else have I got to look forward to? What else have I got to say about being a mom?  Oh yes, the wedding day….but they both say they are not getting married, so let’s skip that thought for now.

It’s like parenting is really over, done and dusted. We finished our task, or is it really? Parenting grownups, when does it stop and when does the worrying stop?

My almost 23-year-old, is studying in Cape Town so he only comes home for the long holidays of course I worry about him all the time, what he’s eating, how late he eats and how late he goes to bed, how he separates his washing etc.

But it’s the small one, the one that lives at home, that worries me the most.  He gets frustrated with me and my constant messaging, but I just like to know when he arrives somewhere and when he’s leaving so I know he’s safe. I have this need to check up on him all the time.

I think adult children still need that ceaseless looking after.  But I am beginning to see my children in a new way; they are good capable young people. I have to recognise their differences and respect that, they have grown into two very different individuals.

I try to share some of my wisdom, if you can call it that, don’t even know if they see it as wisdom or advice or things I know or just ‘stuff she says’.

Whatever their age I still feel I need to worry, I need to talk and I need to pray. I don’t think this is a mother of sons’ syndrome it’s just normal mother behavior. In learning to let go I have to learn to surrender them to God. It’s not really up to me anymore, and this is so hard for me to say and admit.

“With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Mark 10:27

Spanish girl

Spanish girl was an easy start for the year, after a long break I always feel like I need to start with something not too challenging I need an easy going piece….something that just flows with no stress. It’s a small canvas and I love the background color and the flowers.

Spanish girl reminds me a bit of Frida Kahlo

25 x 35

25 x 35

Pinto flores para que nunca mueran

I paint flowers so they will not die
Frida Kahlo

African Scenery Art

So this year I started my art life with something simple and quite different.

My nephew (from Portugal) was visiting in December and January, he loves to paint, actually he’s a wonderful artist. Rui is deaf and dumb and his disability makes normal life a bit challenging sometimes. One thing he is good at is painting, he likes acrylics and his style is bold, using bright colors, delightful pictures that celebrate life.

He was still here when art classes resumed and I knew that leaving him at home would have been cruel, so he came with me to art class and we did a little bit of stenciling for fun, something he has not tried before.

Inspired by the gorgeous rich colors of the African sunsets…we made these two small pieces for his bedroom.


He painted this one with the windmill. The stencil is filled with plaster


Mine was more complicated as there are no ready-made stencils with baobab trees I had to make my own

Mine was more complicated as there are no ready-made stencils with baobab trees I had to make my own

adding a little bit of fine grass

adding a little bit of fine grass

Completed "African Scenery"

“African Scenery”

…and that was my first little bit of art for 2016 ♥