The riddle from Heart Butte

Forty five wolves, he asked, forty eight deer. How many went hungry?

Answer at the bottom of this newsletter.

Naturalistic art

Of all the insults and abuse thrown at fine art (kitsch, sentimental, reactionary, literal, derivative) the most venom is in the term “naturalistic”.

Ruby. Watercolour. 1991

Ruby. Watercolour. 1991

Each of these epithets is demonstrably untrue.

In the age of modernism, naturalistic art has come to mean art of a photographic level of treatment. This is wrong.

Strangely enough the modernists have embraced photorealism and paintings copied from photographs as “Art” whiie rejecting work done from nature; figure, landscape and still life.

The word “naturalism” simply means, work based on the love of nature.

It is a word we need to accept and celebrate with pride. I am a naturalist. I paint for the love of mist and smoke, of dawn and rain, of shadow and light, of mystery and clarity, of visions half seen through tears of reverence; and I paint for the love of the human form, of dance and of music, and of lace and veils and silk.

We can also be called a realist if we paint social realities and the life of the workers, or a figurative artist if we paint portraits and figures, but before all else we are naturalists.

A Saturday Demo

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

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

In a close harmony

Harmony is the greatest good.

When two people or two communities live in harmony the other virtues follow. There are clever bumper stickers which proclaim “No peace without justice.” That means no peace, ever, because justice is an impossible and even an ugly concept. An eye for an eye is the law of the godless.

Forgive. Love. Live in beauty.

The concept of harmony in music as in painting is a simple one. Notes and colours are in a relationship. When colours are opposed, discord results, and when they are adjacent, harmony. Simply, turquoise, blue and blue-violet are in harmony because they all belong to the blue range of hues. Even more harmonious is blue-green, green and yellow-green because each of them is a variation of green, they are all greens.

Secondary and tertiary colours are inclusive and muted. It is only the three primaries, red, yellow and blue, which are exclusive, each consisting only of itself.

Harmonies are perfectly possible in any one primary, such as a “rhapsody in blue”, but in such a case all the other colours in your painting should also be a variation of blue.

Light is colour. Without eyes no light and therefore no colour exists. Nature creates its own harmonies by the play of light, mist and sunset, underwater scenes, night and candlelight, moonlight and shadow.

If you would like to work in a harmony here is a simple method: Set out all your colours, then in front of each, place a small amount of your harmonic (your harmonising colour). Now mix your colours as normal, but introduce a touch of your harmonising colour into every mixture.

Ruskin says we can only see one thing, colour. Our whole visual experience is based on the perception of colour, including our perception of beauty and harmony. This may be why we find so much joy in paintings which feature beautiful notes and chords of colour, rather than sharp detail.

If we think of the harmonised colours as a fan in the colour wheel, the narrower the fan, the closer the harmony. But this harmony dies the moment we stop individuating every colour note, and we end up with a monochromatic mass.

I had a series of encounters or contemplations involving butterflies. As a child I always pitied butterflies for not being able to see “properly”, no focus, no directing of the attention, no detail. In one intimate encounter a butterfly died on my shoulder while I was teaching a class on colour perception and breaking up our field of vision into little squares (blokkies, Ash!) and I realised that the butterfly sees exactly like that in multiple fragments of pure, subtle and beautiful colour. Only more so, because as the butterfly moves through space the fragments of colour would shimmer and shift in a kaleidoscope or infinite beauty. A meaningful kaleidoscope because it perfectly depicts the environment.

No wonder the butterfly chooses a random, playful flightpath. It is simply getting intoxicated with the beauty and the dance of colour.

Nature speaks to us as long as we will be quiet and listen.

Watercolour workshop: The figure 

In July from the 6th to the 10th, I shall present a watercolour workshop at the Library Hall in Simon’s Town. The subject will be a figure study in costume.

Watercolour is at the same time the easiest and the most difficult technique. It is possible to do four or five watercolour paintings in five days, but there is always that element of luck (the work of the angels and the shoemaker’s elves).

The technique is important and demanding: a set of layers, each one wet in wet painting or else a fresh bold direct approach.

This is the first time in some years that I am teaching figure work in watercolour and I look forward to sharing it with you.

Daily 10 to 12 and 1 to 3. Price R3000.

Lose your heart and find your soul.

12 days in Venice. 19 to 31 October 2015.

Very few places remain now.

19 to 31 October 2015. 12 days painting with Ryno Swart. 

1200 Euro sharing and 1450 Euro for a single room.

Book by emailing Ryno or by phoning 021 786 3975.


Answer to the riddle: Five.

Do none of the tourist things. Be guided by your heart and by the stones under your feet.


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