African sunsets are often stunningly vibrant with orange, pink and red streaks across the sky. In the Drakensberg (Dragon’s Mountains) the sunset could almost be the Dragons breathing fire.
Now that I’m back home I’ve gone back into the studio. The first day was spent doing a major spring clean and sort out. All an absolute pleasure as the studio had been painted while I was away and the walls are now beautiful bright white instead of the pale blue they were before. (Thank you to Marc, Peter and Chris for doing all the clearing out, painting and putting back of the furniture and equipment for me. No small task and I am very grateful to them all.)
So now I can get out my brushes again I’m drawn to capture the atmosphere of some of the glorious places we’ve just visited. One of my favourite places was the Drakensberg. From Montusi Mountain Lodge you get a wonderful view of these Dragon’s peaks. Every evening we sat watching entranced as the sun slid behind the peaks, painting the sky in luminous colours as it went. It was a high point of each day.
The Dragons Mountains
I love the fact that the Drakensberg have more than one name. The commonly known ‘English’ version is in fact taken from the Afrikaans name, Dragons Mountains. The Zulu name for these mountains is just as descriptive: uKhahlamba (Barrier of Spears). The mountain range stretches over 1000 km along the length of South Africa from the Eastern Cape into the northern most province of Limpopo.
This smaller version of the scene was done for Running With Brushes. Both reflect the incredible, almost unbelievable, colours of the Drakensberg evening skies.
The captivating beauty of this part of the world will draw us back, so we will be back.
For many artists there’s something quite seductive about a big, wide sky filled with clouds. Painting atmospheric skies is something that calls us.
We all love a clear blue summer sky, but visually, they’re just not as interesting as one that’s filled with clouds. They lack something special – big moody atmosphere!
Painting atmospheric skies on two continents
The sunsets over Istanbul are spectacular. Its the combination of the sky line and the water seem to work perfectly together to create that atmospheric sky. When in Istanbul, I can recommend a ferry ride across the Bosphorus at the end of the day. If you judge your time just right, you get to see the perfect harmony – and that’s what makes an artist want to get painting atmospheric skies.
And then there’s a sunrise sky in the United States. This painting is derived from a photograph sent to me by an athletic friend who noticed the beauty of the water and sky during his morning run in Wilmington. The first attempt to capture the serenity of the scene was in pure watercolour. This first small Wilmington painting and the view from the Bosphorus image were both done for RunningWithBrushes
The mixed media version of the image took longer – it’s had a number of laters applied to get the right textures. Its darker, and moodier, and it certainly has atmosphere. There’s a sort of ‘noir’ feeling about the final image. And despite being derived from the same photograph, they have very different feelings. Same water. Same sky. Different colours. Different textures. Very different mood.
Day two of thinking about things that make me smile and I’ve got a list filled with scents and tastes:
– Summer garden. My studio doors open out onto a courtyard garden just packed with flowering plants. It a great way place to relax through the summer months. We love it so much, we spend as much time as we can outdoors in the warm months
– France. One of my favourite countries. We try to get there at least once a year. This year it’s looking as if we may make it a couple of times. Can’t wait. (The painting features in this post is of a sunset in Provence where it looked as if the sky was on fire (photograph at the end of this post).
– Wood burning stove. We put one in this winter. It is just a joy when the weather is cold and miserable. Even the cat loves it.
– Roast chicken. A family favourite meal. It became a family favourite because Nicholas just loved it so much we could always make him smile with a roast chicken. It has to have my home made stuffing made from breadcrumbs, parley, onion, bacon and a bit of lemon juice. There’s never a complaint when a chicken is put on the table. That’s what’s on the menu for supper tonight.
– Family holidays. One of the highlights of my year will be our family holiday in August with my sister and two of her children joining us there for a week. I’m already smiling when I think of the fun and laugher we will share.