When 2015 rolled around I hit the ground running. Work was crazy with a lot of time spent on the road. I’d barely caught my breath when March arrived, and with it, an art holiday I’d booked last year with Ajay’s Art. I wasn’t in the mood for spending yet more time away from the office, my home or my comfortable routine, but I’d paid and there really was no way out of it. Reluctantly, I packed my bags and set off for Paternoster.
From the moment I met hosts Andre (Ajay) Jacobs and his partner, Hesther, I started to relax. Their attitude was casual and laid back, yet everything had been organised well in advance – from the accommodation and restaurant bookings, to art supplies and schedules. I soon realised that all that was expected of me for the next seven days was to show up, relax and learn, which is exactly what I did.
Ajay’s first priority is to get you drawing. We warmed up by drawing simple squiggles and straight lines. And just when I thought I was going to ace this course, we progressed to the basics: construction, mapping and tonal values. Ajay knows his stuff and within minutes had sussed out both my abilities and my weaknesses. What followed was a week-long course in individual attention and tuition.
The lovely Stone Fish Studio was our base of operations where we were lucky enough to have owner and resident sculptor, Di Heesom-Green, join us for classes (just for the hell of it). Besides plying us with coffee and biscuits, she also threw in a lesson on slip cast ceramics and provided a lot of laughs.
For two days we drew rocks. First from pictures and then on the beach, alternating between freezing in the mist and baking in the sun, our thermal expansion and contraction interrupted only by Ajay’s mutterings of ‘tonal values’ and ‘don’t be afraid of the dark!’. He hammers home the importance of getting the basics right before moving on; if something is wrong in the early stages, it’ll only get worse as you progress.
Our second day was spent at Tietiesbaai where we drew an entire landscape of rocks and had our first lesson in pastels. Once satisfied that we finally had the basics down, Ajay and Hesther treated us to a crayfish braai right on the beach, prepared by their friend Ursula – a weathered local with a face any artist would dream of painting. Sadly, she wouldn’t even let me take a photo.
On day three we brushed up on oil painting techniques. After a demo and some basics at Stone Fish Studio, we drove to Jacobsbaai for lunch at the quaint Weskusplek. Later, once the tables had been cleared, out came the paints. We sat right there on their verandah overlooking the water, painting, chatting and drinking cold white wine. What better way to get the creative juices flowing?
When we weren’t drawing, shading or painting, we’d clean up and hit the town, dining on the best Paternoster had to offer. And when it comes to good food, Paternoster has it in spades. I feasted on succulent pork belly at The Noisy Oyster, fresh Hottentot at Voorstrand, spicy Portuguese steak at The Square Spoon and the tastiest fillet on the bone with roast veg at Gaatjie (despite the load shedding), and we stuffed our faces at Mondvol (between Paternoster and Vredenburg), a must for fresh, light lunches and a killer breakfast.
Ajay and Hesther aren’t Paternoster natives. They run a well-respected art school in Gauteng where they each give up to four classes a day, six days a week. When they call their Paternoster classes an art holiday, they aren’t kidding. They love what they do but need the break from routine as much as the rest of us, so you’re guaranteed a lot of fun as you hone your artistic skills, take in the sights and eat your way along the West Coast.
The size of the group varies with each holiday, with anything from eight to 16 people attending. I was lucky enough to be one of only two on this particular course with my fellow attendee, Bernadette (Ber), coming all the way from County Kerry in Ireland. She was fantastic company and kept us in constant hysterics with her quirky sense of humour and delightful Irish narrative.
By the end of of the course we were both itching to put into practice what we’d learnt. Ajay is both informative and inspiring, and thanks to the techniques he taught us, I finally get how painting can be fun instead of just hit and miss. He helps you to see things differently, to ignore what you know and to paint only as it appears to you – a visual manifestation of being present in the moment. He also gives you the tools with which to achieve this, and after seven days of art, good food and great company, I came home more relaxed than I thought possible (and with a new painting already taking shape).
This is more than just an art holiday, it’s art therapy and I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Paternoster Art Retreat
011 972 8557
Dates for next course
14-20 October 2015