Wednesday, May 30, 2007

an invitation....

I know you live far away, but anyway, here is an invitation to the opening of my exhibition next week, since you have been party, over the last few months, to all the agonising over whether to go full time or not, and give up the interior design, here are the fruits of all the angst! If, by some miracle, you are in this neck of the woods next week, you are most welcome to attend!

The end of an era.....
after 17 years in the interior design business, my office is finally packed up (Well almost, apart from a few loose ends)....cheers pretty things, cheers gorgeous fabrics, cheers friendly clients and helpful suppliers and wonderful friends I have made over the years, and the fun of cooking with inspiring ideas for a new project, cheers other grumpy unsatisfiable clients, cheers suppliers who let me down, cheers stress......oh yes, that's why I did it! YAY!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The die is cast....

Well, with a lot of help from my highly organised daughter, (I still can't help wondering where she came from and how someone so orderly and self disciplined ended up in our family!!) I have taken the plunge, and moved out of my office. So, no more fence sitting, I am now OFFICIALLY a full time painter and no longer an interior designer trying to squeeze the art into impossibly tiny gaps of free time.

The move went fairly smoothly, and by some sort of unfathomable magic, K has managed to turn the chaotic tip that passed as Max's study and my studio into a room which is now his study, my studio, my study and the remains of the El Gecko office, yet is more spacious than before!! (perhaps I should start a business hiring her out to help people organise their lives and create order out of chaos, she's had some good practice in the last few years! Any takers? Hee hee)

The owner of the gallery where my solo exhibition was due to open this week had a few crises, and has postponed till the 6th June. I must say I am relieved, I have been really stressing to get enough done, while simultaneously wrapping up jobs and closing the office etc. And i have just started on a whole new direction which i am quite excited about, and want to explore further, so the extra time is most welcome...... will post pix later in the week.

In the meantime, to much more important things.......

Calling all you creative types... A project i was talking about earlier this year, here on my blog, has now had its funding approved but, still really needs your help.

What is Urban Cowboy?
The Urban Cowboy concept is simple; a blog ( based in Sudan, will link street boys there with creative professionals, like you, across the world. They will then get ideas, designs and tutorials from you, in various different crafts techniques, allowing the street boys to make unique gift and household products to sell in Sudan. Do you specialise in crafts like woodwork, pottery, metalwork, sewing, paper products and leather decoration? Urban Cowboy needs people like you, who will give the team of boys ideas and designs to make. Your tutorials will then be translated into Arabic, so the boys (16 and up) can learn step by step to not only make unique products but learn valuable trade skills, which they in turn will pass on to other boys.

What is the Bridge of Hope?

The Bridge of Hope Charity ( is a holistic project for the street boys etching a living on the streets of Khartoum. Since its inception in November 2003, Barbara, the director and manager, has, with her local team, launched the pre-school learning centre designed to bring the boys up to school level, a drop in/feeding centre, a residential annex and a sports class for older boys. For 2007, Barbara's hope is to achieve sustainability and self sufficiency within the project.

Who are the street boys of Khartoum?

Tens of thousands of Southern Sudanese young men and boys are unlucky enough to struggle on the streets of Khartoum, navigating the pitfalls of disease, despair and chemical addiction. Isolated and displaced by Sudan's 22 year civil war, little education and racial discrimination, they face little chance of ever finding gainful employment in a city already burgeoning with the unemployed. Although many of the younger boys are now attending the Bridge of Hope learning centre or are financed by the charity to attend local schools, the older boys (16-24) have sadly missed their chance of most education. They need a trade, a skill, something to allow them a small income, training in a skill and most importantly, a future.

The Urban Cowboy Project
Urban Cowboy aims to combat the perils of unemployment through the sale of modern and currently unavailable household goods and gifts for the local market and Ex-pats. Eventually it is hoped that they will even attract interest from international buyers. This will enable the young men of Khartoum to earn a living in Sudan’s increasingly competitive economy. Both Sudan’s thriving economic sector and the international fascination with this richly cultured nation, bode well for the sale of quality products including interior household products, gifts and cards.

With funding for tools and materials now approved, Urban Cowboy is well on in the way with the process of establishing vocational training workshops for woodwork, pottery decoration, leatherwork, sewing, paper goods and graphic design; using where possible, locally sourced and recycled materials. Its not just the street boys who will gain... As Barbara explains, “By using local materials we can, in turn, support other small and valuable local projects in their successes, like the Yous Rittena School for the disabled, which will supply the recycled/handmade paper and the pottery to the project”. The Khartoum Tannery is another locally run and raw product supplier whose skins are all Sudanese and of the highest standards. But sourcing local materials is not just good for the local economy, it also ensures that prices and supply lines will remain much more stable unlike the wildly inflated cost of imported goods.

What we need you to do...

  • Firstly, Urban Cowboy needs a logo, something fresh and funky that will become synonymous with our high quality products, yet still explores the boys' rich African culture and its intrinsic links to the cattle they keep.
  • Why not visit both the Bridge of Hope website ( and the Urban Cowboy blog ( to get a better idea of who we are and what we are doing here in Sudan.
  • Even better, why not link them to your blog/website? Or copy and paste this entry into your blog so Urban Cowboy can start reaching the wider creative world.
  • Do you have some great design ideas for us? Sudan is pretty much closed to all western media, and it's impossible to find design or fashion magazines, the internet is heavily censored and satellite television is only available to a small elite, but people want modern fashionable gifts and household items. Being so effectively isolated from modern design we need your help to bring it to us. Got a great tote bag design that you know will look fab in organic Sudanese cotton? Well we want it! What about great greeting card designs? Or some original artwork we can replicate on our cards? It will all create a livelihood for a young boy who needs it. If you work in leather, wood, metal or pottery we would be very happy to speak to you.

So there you have it, an opportunity to use your blog and your creativity to help a really worthwhile project!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

news........and more arty-farties

Hi, just a quick update on some of this week's events in the Eastern Cape.......

Winter arrived, not with a whimper but a bang.... after roasting our way through 31degree C days last week, we suddenly had our coldest day since 1955 on Monday, and yesterday was only 1 degree warmer. It has been great if, like me, you are one of those freaks who thrive on foul weather!
We went to the Port again this weekend, and met up with Max's sister and her husband there, it was good to be able to spend time with them. On Saturday the weather was glorious, and the sunrise great.
We watched the Super14 rugby final (Max was the only bulls supporter at the pub we watched it in, so I'm sure I do not need to describe the painful crowing that went on when they scored in the final minute, and beat the Sharks by a hair!!!) That evening it was so lovely, so after sunset we went for a walk at the lighthouse.
There were photography fanatics all over the place!!!

By Sunday, we awoke to a very different picture!
Cold, wet, and gale force winds.
We went and returned via the Maitlands River mouth, which is a beautiful unspoilt beach about 20km from PE. On the way there it was sunny and stunning,
on the way back the sand was blowing across the beach in streams, very beautiful but most unpleasant to stand around in!

The wind was so strong that the rain was horizontal and this poor guy had to hold his umbrella in front of him to keep dry!

2 massive cold fronts swept across the country, resulting in nearly all the road passes through the southern and eastern mountains being closed by snow. Sadly quite a few people have died of exposure throughout the Eastern Cape.

There was such a heavy hail storm in Plettenberg Bay that it looked like it had snowed.

Speaking of Plett, there was a cool incident there this week, a helicopter pilot was taking a honeymoon couple for a flip, and they spotted a 3.5metre long great white shark, checking out a pair of surfers. They went low and waved to the surfers to warn them, but the guys thought they were just being friendly, and waved back! By now the shark was getting even closer, so the pilot swooped down and used his roter wash to frighten the shark away. Luckily the honeymooners had the presence of mind to catch a photo of the shark and the surfers, if you look carefully you can see a reflection of the rotor blade too! I lifted this photo from pprune, (the pilots chat forum) where one of the guys kindly posted it. Well done that chopper pilot, there are times when going below authorised height is justified, and I think potentially saving the lives of a couple of surfers qualifies!
We even had a little hail ourselves last night ....This was the stunning view from our dining room window this morning!
And as promised, here are more of the new paintings, as you can see it's been a busy and productive week! :
sailing, 900x1100

baobab3 600x500
kokerboom, namaqualand, 400x500
old shopfronts, central, 300x300
terrace cottages, richmond hill, 300x300
cora terrace, central, 300x300
richmond hill terrace, winter 300x300
wave 400x400 (this is another of my wax experiments)
farm near knysna, 600x500

swellendam farm with sheep 500x400
flowers on windowsill, 400x500
irises on windowsill 300x300
contemplation 300x600
beach outing 300x300
and Portuguese church 700x900 (again thanks to Sheila for the photo inspiration!)
Cheers for now...............

Saturday, May 12, 2007

latest arty farties

Hi, I see Lindsay has asked me to post some of my latest paintings. It is a really mixed bag, I have been going in all sorts of directions lately.

One theme I always enjoy is flowers, and particularly the bright daisies which appear in the bleak landscape of Namaqualand. I have lost track a bit, but i think I posted the backlit daisies recently. Here are 2 others, 800x600mm
I also did a couple of black and white abstracts a while ago, and enjoyed them, so I am still exploring that avenue. This is Grey Areas, 900x600mm
I usually work on large canvasses (900x1100 is the usual size, but lately i have been enjoying working to a smaller scale for some of them:
Baobab forest 700x400mm (I LOVE Baobabs, and they always remind me of childhood holidays, I have painted a few.... this time there is a whole grove of them.
I have been experimenting with wax on the canvas, this is the first result of that, seascape 400x400mm
The smaller size seems to work well with little scenes from around our neighbourhood....
Those of you who visit regularly may recognise this one.... it was taken the morning we went for the first graveyard stroll! Richmond Hill Church 400x400
Richmond Hill 300x300, this was the result of a photo swop with a friend who is an artist.
Velia lives around the corner from us, and her house was one of my very first interior design projects. I was so new to it that I didn't know what to charge, so we agreed we would do a swop, one of her artworks for my consulting time! There were two to choose from, and Max and I loved them both, so we agonised a bit and finally chose one. I think it was working on that house that first made us aware of this area and how cool it is.
Velia and i went through each other's photos looking for fresh inspiration, and I came across one of our Park and the famous church whose stone crosses I always photograph. I mentioned how much I loved the picture she did of that and agonised before choosing the other, and how at the time we had no inkling we would eventually end up living right there. V said she thought she still had the picture. The other day she phoned and said she had found it, and gave it to me, YAY!
Here is is, sorry about all the reflections on the glass. (As usual, I digress!)
I have a passion for architecture. If I had my life over, the one thing i would change is that instead of studying Geology, Chemistry and Maths, I would have gone for Archi instead. And naturally you will have noticed by now that I particularly like old, crumbling or higgeldy piggeldy places! So scenes like the following really appeal to me.

Santorini 900x800 Old Palace, Yemen, 900x800 (an awesome old place, apparently built in pre Roman times and originally 8 stories high)
Let me in, 700x900mm. I am indebted to Sheila for this, she kindly gave me permission to use some of her stunning photos of Portugal as inspiration. (There is another in the pipeline, watch this space!)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

the joys of flying in Africa

With the news of the Peacekeepers plane going down in Egypt and the Kenyan Airlines crash fresh in our minds, the hazards of flying in Africa are once again being highlighted. Here is another of those hazards, taken last week by a pilot, who had to divert and spend the night in another town, as landing where he was headed was clearly impossible!!

This is the notorious hubub, or Desert Sandstorm, taken over the Nile river, and it was said to be the worst one since 1960.

Someone who has lived through them describes it like this:
"if it is day light when it comes it turns the entire environment dark red, the only thing I can liken it to is the purple colour/feeling when a massive snow blizzard comes, its everywhere."

Life on this continent is anything but boring!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Another sunrise stroll.....

On Saturday morning, we woke up before sunrise, and the view from the front door was wonderful and misty....

we realised the sun rising through the mist would probably look cool, so off we toddled to the beachfront, for a rather chilly stroll along the pier.....
Imagine our disbelief when, in a quest for a bit of natural beauty, we were confronted with a giant tv screen at the entrance to the pier!! What next, is there no escape from man-made canned entertainment!?
Mad dogs and englishmen go out in the midday sun, in this case mad dogs and south africans get up before dawn and freeze their buns off on the beach!
Note the sensible people wearing warm jackets.... and then if you take a close look you will see two INSANE people who had just emerged from a swim.... Each to his own I guess!
The boating guys were also there, getting ready to launch, and as the sun rose they took off across the water.
Actually I adore the cool weather, and later in the day it got to 31 degrees C, (Sheesh, talk about global warming, this is supposed to be the beginning of winter!!) so it was bracing and lovely on the pier, waiting for the sun, and it was really worth the wait...

After catching the sunrise it was time to play....
black and white mode....
And water droplets on the railing...

Then yesterday it was clear, and the sunrise was altogether warmer, in colour and temperature!If you can bear to see more sunrise pix, and are not bored to death by now, here they are.

(I have to confess, I took off in my dressing gown again, because I saw this big ship coming in and didn't want to miss it, and before I knew it was down the road and across the park, oh well the neighbours must be used to it by now!)
I might be scarce again for a few days.... my solo art exhibition is coming up on 29th May and I have to paint like MAD to get enough done in time.