Following the bald eagle

The love of nature can take us on unexpected journeys.

We were a group of friends, on our way to a Heart Butte, lost in the narrow dirt roads of rural Montana.

Looking back at some photographs in iPhoto, I noticed a small black mark on one of them, a picture taken from the car. At first I thought it was a speck of dust or a mark on the windscreens, because it was on a series of photographs. Looking closer it was an eagle, “a Bald Eagle” John called it, and the time signature on the pictures showed that it was flying ahead of our car from 5:05 until 6:36 p.m.

We were following the Bald Eagle for fully an hour and a half.

What was awaiting us at Heart Butte was a pow-wow, a meeting of the Blackfoot clan, with dancing and music and foodstalls and good fellowship.

Clare's white shirt

Clare’s White Shirt

The only “white folk” there, we were most graciously welcomed.

“I have a riddle for you white folk out there: forty wolves; forty eight deer. How many went hungry?”

Answer in my next newsletter.

A Saturday Demo

My last demo was particularly relaxed.

The light from the harbour was soft and my model wore a lovely white shirt with a high collar and puffed sleeves. In the two hours available I managed to capture some of the colour in the skin and the surroundings. Then I applied some strong white impastos to the shirt in preparation for glazes and further articulation, which I promised to show on the Internet.

This combined image shows the painting at the end of the demo and after this morning’s work when I articulated the whites of the sleeve.

My next Saturday Demo will be on the 27th June. The venue is the Saveur Restaurant on the middle level of the Simonstown Waterfront, by the jetty.

R60 includes a cup of coffee from Saveur. And you do not have to bring a chair!

My next 5 day workshop, 6 – 10 July will have as its subject the figure in watercolour.

The red cloche hat

Thoughts are things.

I have been working on a screenplay set partly in Paris in 1942. We meet my main character, an old lady, a vagrant, in the alleyways of Montmartre, rummaging among the garbage.

“The old woman rummages among the rubbish. She pulls out a hat, a cloche, muted red, and holds it up, inspecting it from all angles. Removing an old headscarf, her hair is grey and short in a ragged pageboy cut.

“MONIQUE: Oh ahah! Such beauty, such style!”

On the first day of my figure painting workshop, in a lovely synchronicity, Marisa turned up in a red cloche hat, stylish, and exactly what my subconscious had visualized.

These synchronicities happen with remarkable frequency. Some of my favourite models, Ruby, Kitty and Maria had all appeared in paintings of mine long before I met them, Ruby with her long long French plait, Kitty with her pageboy haircut, and Maria with her wild shock of red hair.

When Carl Jung invented the term, he believed that synchronicity had meaning. The problem is that we have no idea what that meaning is.

I have found my own meaning. Synchronicity means simply that synchronicity exists. The synchronous event tells us that things are connected on some spiritual level.

The Peacock Throne

A week ago we were at the memorial service for a young friend. In the living room was a beautiful Japanese wall hanging, the portrait of what I assumed to be a young princess, seated on a big throne. It was the throne that intrigued me. It was decorated with the carved heads of a domesticated bird. The companion piece was decorated with dragon head, which made sense: this would be “the Dragon Throne”.

Surely it cannot be a chicken, I thought, and not a guinea fowl. So what could it be? A peacock? Maybe. The phrase, “the Peacock Throne” made sense. Then my eyes fell upon a book underneath the coffee table with the title “the Peacock Throne.” I was so pleased by this synchronicity that I pointed it out to the young woman next to me, when the plot thickened. Chantal is from Toulouse in France and when I told her my name, she said “Oh, there is a man in Simon’s Town who is called Ryno. He is an artist. Oh, is that you?”

Another synchronicity. Then…

“Where did you hear my name?”

“It was an American girl. She had a young daughter called Clarissa, and she could not stop talking about this artist in South Africa and the way he teaches. That is why I still remember your name after all these years.”

Thea is a remarkable young woman. She set off an a world tour with her young daughter, staying in various places until it was time to move on. Their travels brought them to Simon’s Town where she came into my gallery and decided to stay a while. I invited her to attend one of my workshops as a guest and she was delighted, taking up her painting again. Then we lost touch, until the Peacock Throne created a link once more.

Recently Thea and Clarissa were running a home for stray dogs in Bali, and now they run an Art Studio and Tea Bar in Long Branch, New Jersey.


From Plato to Degas, many serious thinkers about art have preferred the look of unfinished work.

It was Degas who said that conversations are full of half-finished sentences, and that the same could apply to painting. On my first workshop at Devon Valley in Stellenbosch, the artists were rather anxious about finishing their paintings. I had with me a book on Degas with all of his works, and I wanted to show them one of his particularly beautiful and particularly unfinished paintings. As always happens I could not find the painting I was looking for so I just pointed at the page we were on.

“Look at this painting. It too, is unfinished,” and went to the next page… “and so is this one…”

I was shocked to realise that they were all unfinished! Every single painting by Degas, by my estimate the greatest artist in history, is unfinished.

So with the sculpture of Michelangelo. His most powerful works are his “captives”, struggling to break free from the rock.

In painting I favour a similar process, the painting rising from the chaos of a colour beginning as do thoughts and ideas from the subconscious.

Unfinished work shows the work coming into being, like a tree. When is a tree “finished”? When it is a seedling or a sapling or when it is young and lithe and slender; or when it is fully mature, or in its old age, struck by lightning and shattered by storm? At every moment and in every season the tree is perfect, but there is never any point at which it is “finished”.

All of this moves us on the subconscious, emotional level.

Art is the record of its own genesis.

Lose your heart and find your soul.

12 days in Venice. 19 to 31 October 2015.

12 days painting with Ryno Swart. 

Find my art.

View my work at and at my favourite galleries.

I have my model, my pencil, my paints. My mind doesn’t interest me.

Edgar Degas.


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