Painted Paper for Painted Wolves

African Wild Dogs, otherwise known as Painted Wolves are endangered.  They are small sociable canines, native to Sub-Saharan Africa.  Their habitat is being destroyed and there are now fewer than 6000 Painted Wolves living in the wild.

Jeremy Borg, CEO of South African wine brand, Painted Wolf Wines is on a mission. Today he started an epic journey on two wheels from Cornwall to Scotland. Along the way there will be wine tasting events and an art auction. Jeremy’s progress can be followed on the Painted Wolf Facebook page.

The Amphitheatre - printed donated for Painted Wolves

Jeremy’s Top Dog Trek will raise finds for the conservation charity, Tusk in three ways: Donations, Jeremy’s ride sponsorship, and an amazing online Art Auction which opened at noon today and will continue for the duration of Jeremy’s ride. Bidding will close on 30th June. I’m very proud to be one of a group of artists who have donated works to this Art Auction.

The two artworks I have donated were painted this year in the Drakensberg. Each one is a hand-detailed giclée print. The original painting in watercolour is reproduced as a limited edition of 25 prints. Then each one has additional watercolour and ink detail, making it a unique piece of art.

How the Painted Wolves Art Auction Works

Bidding for a piece of artwork is easy. A simple online form must be completed to register. Thereafter, simply place your bid in a comment on the artwork page. Come back from time to time and check the current bid because the highest bidder on 30th June will be the owner of the piece of art.

The AmphitheDrakenberg Dusk donated for Painted WolvesThe Painted Wolves auction art works include original watercolours, acrylics, hand detailed giclee prints, photographs and sculptures. The first 3 bids were received within 5 minutes of the auction opening and artworks will be on display at a number of events along the route.

If you’d like to have a look at all the artwork, you could look at the auction website (where bids can be made), or download the full catalogue pdf.

Painting South Africa – Part 1

For the past three weeks I’ve been painting South Africa.  I’ve managed to get my brushes out a few times on this trip – each time the result has been very different.

Every on of my South African journeys invariably involves Cape Town for work, and Johannesburg to visit my family. Both of those are special times for me: Cape Town because it is a stunningly beautiful city and I get to catch up with people whose company I really enjoy. Johannesburg because it’s where I grew up and there are loved ones there who I will always miss. Every chance I get to see them is special.

Painting South Africa - spray and sea
The crashing waves of the Atlantic ocean inspired my small study of spray and sea

We feel privileged to be able to introduce UK friends to this beautiful country from time to time. This year, Hayley and Simon joined us in a meander through the Drakensberg and the Natal Midlands so the men in the party indulge their fascination with military history and take a Battlefield Tour (Anglo Boer War).

Our Drakensberg time was spent at the wonderful Montusi Mountain Lodge. We had four days of being utterly spoiled with wonderful food, fantastic scenery and staff who could not have been more friendly. Every single person at Montusi went out of their way to make our time there very special. We hiked, we ate, we laughed, we rode and we fell in love with the place. With two photographers in the group, I’ve got more than enough reference photos to ensure there will be more paintings of the Drakensberg from our Montusi days.

Painting South Africa: The Drakensberg

Painting South Africa - grasslands
On our hikes I noticed the wonderful display of colours in the grasses and particularly their seed heads .

Anyone who has seen my mountain paintings will know that I am drawn to the majesty of towering peaks and the scale of big landscapes. The Drakensberg is a place I can just feed my visual senses with images and ideas for painting.

Painting South Africa - The amphitheatre
I was enthralled by the scale, the majesty and the mystery of the section of the Drakensberg known as The Amphitheatre

We’ve moved on to our final stop on this trip: Glen Ormond in the Midlands. On our first evening here it was clear that this week would hold as many great surprises as every leg of this trip has already delivered.

White Light, Blue City

Over the past two weeks I have been on an exhilarating exploration of Morocco in preparation for my submission for the Cox and Kings Morocco Art Competition: White Light, Blue City.

My journey started with selecting the photograph which would be the subject of my paintings. Competition organiser Katie invited participants to interpret their photographs as they wish. The challenge for me was that, while I find the blue city of Chefchaouen fascinating, the reference for my subject was basically almost entirely blue.

Not having visited Morocco before, I spent some time on research. I searched the web and looked at dozens and dozens of photographs of the streets, the doorways and the stairways of the city. I questioned people who have travelled to Morocco about what it feels like to be in the city. I experimented with the spices of Morocco to get the smells, colours and textures of the markets. (And yes, there is Turmeric and Paprika in the final paintings – I’m sure you can work out where)

Blue City

I found the city so enticing that I wanted to share more than just it’s blueness in my painting: to extend an invitation to wander up the stairways and alleyways, through the bustle and the spicy aromas of the marketplace, up towards the bright white Moroccan sunlight, to the cool oases behind the blue doors.

White Light, Blue City (39 x 58 cm. mixed media)
White Light, Blue City (39 x 58 cm. mixed media)

Thank you to Cox and Kings for the opportunity to take part in this fantastic challenge. It has been such fun.

If you want to have a look at the paintings done by the other participants, they’ll be blogging their submissions on their site: Jenny Keal, Concetta Perôt, Kim Dellow and Alan Reed. I hope they have all enjoyed painting Morocco as much as I have.


Morocco – a new challenge

As always, when a new challenge comes along I jump at the opportunity. This time, it came in the form of an invitation from travel agent, Cox and Kings to take part in their Morocco Tours art competition along with four other artists. I’ve never been to Morocco, but my son Chris and his fiance, Helen were there a few years ago and they loved it. This seemed like a great way of stretching myself and at the same time, finding out a bit more about Morocco.

Each artist has been sent a series of photographs of Morocco and has to select one to work from. I’ve always loved travelling. New places are very exciting to explore. I love the process of discovering the food, the atmosphere, the buildings, the people – it’s all fascinating.  Many of my paintings are of places – usually not literal, more an attempt to capture the atmosphere and the space. I’ve chosen this photograph of the blue walls of Chefchaouen (pronounced Shef-sha-wan, just in case you’re wondering). Yes, it’s blue again. I know, I know. I am drawn to blue tones. I love the sense of calm and depth they create.

We’re accustomed to walls being natural tones – white, brown, sand. The fact that the walls in Chefchaouen are blue piqued my curiosity so I set off to find out why they’re all that colour.

Blue walls of Chefchaouen
Blue walls of Chefchaouen

Situated in the Rif mountains in the North West, this ancient fortress town was founded in 1471. The town has had a history of influx of Spanish and Jewish settlers, and it’s from the Jewish residents that the blue walls originate. I discovered that the Jewish refugees started the blue paint tradition in the 1930s. It’s not unusual to paint the lower half of walls with indigo in parts of Spain, as a way of keeping cool and repelling insects.  In Morocco, where the blue tones cover the walls inside and out, it is believed that the tradition has a more spiritual origin. In ancient times, a blue dye made from shellfish was used to colour strands in prayer shawls and mats. This was supposed to aid meditation and spiritual contemplation. In the late 1940s, many of the Jewish residents left the city to live in Israel, but the blue walls have remained as a reminder of their presence and influence. Chefchaouen has a reputation as a place to go for shopping and it’s laid back mood (probably all that glorious blue)

Morocco swatch
Morocco swatch

So now that I’ve become fascinated by Chefchaouen’s charms, I have some decisions to make. Which aspect do I want to convey in my painting? What medium to use? Should I stick with my watercolours, or be brave and add in some other materials?

And finally, which blues should I use? I’ve made a start by painting a colour swatch with all the blues in my palette. Time to look at colour and tone. I’m looking forward to meeting this new challenge. I hope I can do it justice.

Augrabies Flat Lizard (Day 18 of 30)

Flat Lizard (watercolour 6 x 4 inch)
Flat Lizard (watercolour 6 x 4 inch)

The first time I saw a flat lizard in the wild was on the top of Table mountain. Before then, I’d seen photographs of them online and marvelled at the wonderful colours displayed by these little creatures.  The brilliant blue heads and red flashes on their legs made them so tempting to paint.

As so often happens in nature, the males are far more visible than the females of the species. This is one of the chaps we saw on Table Mountain.

Flat lizard Cape Town (photograph by Marc Massey)
Flat lizard Cape Town (photograph by Marc Massey)

He’s one of the less colourful versions of the species. Here’s another photo on Flickr of the Male Augrabies Flat Lizard in all it’s splendour.

Day 16 and 17 paintings of 30 paintings in 30 days were completed but I’ve not posted them because they were more shoes by special requests – and I suspect this blog has had enough shoe images for a while.

But this paintings is a slightly different milestone too. It is the 50th painting I have done for Running With Brushes so far. It’s available on the website here.

Funky Fish (Day 11 of 30)

Funky Fish (watercolour 6 x 4 inch)
Funky Fish (watercolour 6 x 4 inch)

So there’s another great connected world story about this painting.  My friend Karin Panaino Petersen (in South Africa) tagged me in a comment on a photo on Facebook. Her comment said: ” Would make such a nice painting. Vandy Massey?” The photo was taken by her friend Jacques (In the USA).

When I looked at the photo I thought: “Great suggestion.” (Karin has a good eye). And chose that as my subject for the evening’s painting. (This being Day 11 of 30 Paintings in 30 Days).

A couple of hours later I posted this in a comment to Karin: “It was fun Do you know the photographer/Fisherman? I’d love to use this painting on RWB but need to ask permission”

Then Karin posted the photo on Jacques page. In less than a day Jacques and I were Facebook friends and he was asking if he could buy the painting.

It went up on Running With Brushes , he bought it, and he is now the happy owner of Funky Fishes (the photo and the painting) and as soon as it’s mounted it will be in the mail and on it’s way to North Carolina.

I really, really love living in a connected world. 🙂

(And thank you Karin Panaino Petersen for making it all happen).




Riverlea (Day 9 of 30)

Riverlea (watercolour 6 x 4 inches)
Riverlea (watercolour 6 x 4 inches)Paint

Painted for an old family friend from a photograph of a place that is dear to her heart. It’s amazing how the internet makes these things possible.

I played with M and her two sisters when we were in primary school because our extended families were friends. My aunt and her parents were close. By the time we got to high school we had all moved to different parts of the country for our education. In my case, boarding school about 2 hours away from home. In their case, down to the farm in Natal, I think. After that, we would hear news of them all via my aunt.

Fast forward to the social media era:

In what is known as the South African diaspora, we have scattered to the far corners of the world. I now live in the UK (as does one of M’s sisters). Another sister is in New Zealand, and M is in the USA.

When my very modern, global granny aunt signed up on Facebook she connected us all again. It’s been lovely to see photographs of children, some of whom are now almost all grown up, and see what’s going on in their lives.  One of the Running With Brushes mentions caught M’s eye and she sent me an email via the project website asking whether it was possible to have a couple of paintings done. There were specific subjects she fancied. The first one was easy. She liked Early Spring in Green Park. Job done!

The second one was a bit more of a challenge. The image she had in her mind was of a scene on her family’s farm back in South Africa. All she could do to convey it was to point me at a specific photograph in the gallery on the farm’s website. Using a bit of artist’s licence, I decided not to include the clouds in the painting because on the first attempt it made the image seem brooding and quite dark, rather than quiet and serene. Thankfully, she loved the second version. It’s always a slightly nervous moment when you send a painting off and wait for the verdict. Her two paintings are now done and will soon be on their way to the USA.

What I find wonderful is the fact that by using four internet services (Facebook, email, WordPress and Paypal) we have managed to achieve something that would have been well nigh impossible before we lived in this connected world.  We have communicated about something very complex, personal and almost entirely visual.  We have completed the creation of two paintings to a specific order. And we have jointly supported a charity by doing so.

I do so love living in a connected world. The possibilities are almost infinite and very exciting. What’s next?

Upside Down Tree (Day 7 of 30)

Another iconic African image is the Baobab tree, also known as the Upside Down Tree or the Monkey Bread Tree. In fact only one of the eight species of Baobab is African, but it’s shape is so distinctive, that it’s quite often used to represent the continent.

Baobab (watercolour 6 x 4 inches)
Baobab (watercolour 6 x 4 inches)

The reference to it as an upside down tree is fairly easy to understand if you see one in Africa without its leaves. The massive truck gives rise to thick sinewy branches and finally to a multitude of fine gnarly twigs. All leading to making it appear the tree is facing roots up with it’s top buried in the ground. The Bushmen believed that the tree offended God, who then caused it to grow upside down as a punishment. The name Monkey Bread Tree refers to the thick edible pulp of the tree’s fruit.

The other association with Africa is age. Although they are difficult to accurately age, they are long living and grow to enormous proportions. The largest living specimen is thought to be in the northern province of South Africa and have a truck circumference of 47m.

An old friend, renowned South African conservationist Quinton Coetzee, refers to the baobab and it’s richness of resources in his corporate presentations. The tree can provide shelter, life giving water, nutrition and can even be used to make tools and rope substitute. Quinton talk reminds his audience to carefully consider how we use our resources and protect their source. Although he is using the tree as an analogy for a businesses resources, it’s a pretty valuable literal message too,  considering how much deforestation takes place every year.

Sticking with my Africa theme for the moment, this is Day 7 of 30 paintings in 30 days – and yes, this one is going on Running With Brushes too. Only one more to go to reach a total of 100.

Dusty Red Sunset (Day 4/30)

Dusty Red Sunset (watercolour 4 x 6 inches)
Dusty Red Sunset (watercolour 4 x 6 inches)

Amazing how things seem to come together at times. Last week I was working on a few RWB paintings in my lunch break down in London. Having had my family from South Africa around for most if August, I was thinking about Africa quite a lot – and feeling more than a little homesick. There are some memories that never leave you, no matter where you are in the world. For me, one that I miss the most is the sunsets. There’s a quality to the light that I’ve never seen anywhere else. I think it’s the dryness. The red earth seems to make a dust that gives the dying light the most amazing colour.

And with that comes the cooler air after a stiflingly hot day, and the sounds of birds gently setting for the night in the distance. As the daytime sounds quieten down, the insect sounds come to the fore. It’s a most wonderfully peaceful time of the day.

I never fail to feel nostalgic about my Africa evenings when I think about sitting quietly with friends and family enjoying the peaceful end to the day.

Here’s where the wonderful connections bit comes in. A couple of days ago I got an email via Running with Brushes from an old family friend who now lives in America. She asked me if I would do her an African sunset painting – I guess she feels exactly the same way I do.  I can completely relate to her wish for a painting of the image that bring such lovely memories. So today I have finished this and I’m hoping it evokes the wonderful African sunset feelings for her too.

And on top of that, there’s a little glimmer of possibility that I may have a business trip back to South Africa in the next month or so. Fingers crossed, I may get to sit and enjoy a sunset in Africa soon.

This is my Day 4 Painting of 30 Paintings in 30 Days.

Birch Grove in the sunlight

While we wait out the cold and snow, I am determined to keep thinking warm thoughts and reflecting them in my painting and my blog posts

Birch grove in the sunlight (watercolour)
Birch grove in the sunlight (watercolour)

The birch trees in my front garden are still bare. Any day now the little green shoots will start to appear.  This was painted to the rhythms of some great rock music on a summer evening, and I think that shows in the sunny treetops and warm glow in the branches.

It is now with my lovely friend, Jennifer in sunny South Africa. I think it’s in exactly the right place.

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