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Day 16: Thorny subject

Work and painting were taking their toll, so I decided to give water colours another go – they require less effort to clean up, and I can sit for the duration. Also, my oil painting ‘station was a mess – the brushes and the pallet needed a deep cleaning, and I had some easel issues to resolve.

I was running out of inspiration for painting subjects, so my kids suggested I paint one of my succulents/ cacti.

I was so engrossed in the process that I forgot to take any pics of the various stages. I still have tons to learn about water colours, but I no longer feel as intimidated by them (despite the chaotic state of my paint box!). There is a lot to be said for good old practice.

Lesson learnt: Get to know your materials, understand their capabilities and how you can use them to develop your own style.

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Day 15: Strada-selfie

When I walked into my studio after dinner and dishes, I still had no idea what I was going to paint. I was so over the two-by-two fruit ‘n veg setup, so what next?

Mirror, mirror on the wall…

Rough sketch and some tentative darks, done.

Note to self: must moisturise more frequently!

Either I’m a dead ringer for Jo Brand, or I’ve been watching too much QI.

Starting to add opaques to the transparent under-painting.

Throughout theĀ challenge, this has been my favourite painting experience – it may be because the subject matter was so familiar, or maybe its because I’m comfortable painting portraits. Either way, I had fun with it! This is far more stylized than my usual portraits, but I love it. I may just be on to something here…

Lesson learnt: Don’t cover the entire under-painting. Work on achieving a balance of transparent and opaques.

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Day 14: Mushy Pears

Oil on canvas, 20 x 15cm

It was a traumatic day for me – I may be dramatizing it a tad, but seriously, I had to return to work after a full month of total liberty. I was exhausted. But I still had an easel to win…

I was intrigued by the basket weave

Don’t you love my viewfinder? I’d bought a box of cherries at the Oranjezicht City Farm Market on Saturday, and after scoffing the contents, I put the box to good use. I really got the most from my R200 investment, and the cherries were outstanding (locally grown and in peak season!).

At the moment I find this whole under-painting process to be more about familiarising myself with the subject rather than being a considered step in the overall process (what process?!). I’m really just staring at the subject intently and trying to figure out what goes where, and what’s light or dark. Maybe that’s all I’m supposed to be doing at this stage?

This was the end of the under-painting process, and I wish I’d stopped here. But then I went overboard with the opaques. For some reason, painting pears intimidates me.

Lesson for the day: “Stop when it says enough.” Paul Gauguin



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Day 13: Monster foliage

My daughter and I had planned to spend a girly Sunday together, so I needed to get my daily art fix in bright and early! No time to fight with messy oils.

I love this corner of my courtyard. I love the tangle of fronds and the sunlight catching the leaves.

Compared to the watercolour and ink sketch I did on day 8 of the lemon tree, this one feels looser and more natural. This time I started with the washes and added the inkĀ  drawing afterwards.


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Day 12: Polished peppers

Most of Saturday was spent drinking in the sun – it felt good to take a bath, wear a bra and spend time with actual people! On the way home I stopped to buy milk, and saw these bulbous beauties.

I’ve realised that each time I use French Ultramarine for my drawing, I end up liking the painting.

Tentative steps…

I enjoyed painting this; it still felt like I was stumbling in the dark, but there was a feint glimmer of light coming from somewhere. Must go towards the light!

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Day 11: Wise old watermelon

I seem to be less anxious about what I’m going to paint these days. Painting from life changes everything! I settled on the watermelon and chose my favourite scarf as the background.

Under painting

I had a lot more fun painting the owl background than I did the watermelon focal point – less pressure, I guess – but overall this wasn’t too much of a struggle, and I really love the colours.

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Day 10: Penny-gum

I had another busy day, and at 8 pm was still wandering around the house looking for something to paint. I fancied trying my hand at the reflections of the vase, but all I had to put in it were a few sprigs of Pennygum.

I lived to regret that dark purple corner in the top right. NO idea what I was thinking!

This one was fun to paint, and I like the colours.

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Day 9: Things go pear shaped

Oil on board – 20 x 20cm

I’ve been trying to find a way of shielding my subject from the overhead light (that I need to paint), in order to light it more dramatically – if that makes sense?

I rigged up a cardboard box to shield the pear, and had the light shining on it from the right. Unfortunately, it was also shining right across me and reflecting off my canvas. But I only figured that out once it was too late. As it is, I spent half the evening trying to raise my canvas to the height of the subject (MacGyvered with an eggbox, Prestick and a few trusty cable ties).

Check the glare…!

The background was a bitch and I got myself tied up into such knots, before pairing (haha) it down to basics in the finished painting. Although I do kinda like it just like this.

See erroneous lighting setup shining on my canvas!

I was running out of space to store my paintings, so spent the morning installing these planks, and I’m so chuffed with the result!

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Day 8: When life gives you lemons.

After a week of being holed up at home with just my paints for company, I had tons of errands to run. I also had plans to see friends that evening, so not much time to paint.

Love these variegated Nasturtiums!

I opted to spend a few hours in my courtyard, sketching the lemon tree, which I love. It’s right outside the kitchen window and, although the droopy lemon in the pic will be the first ever fruit to reach maturity, the tree fills my house with the scent of spring each year.


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Day 7: Cherry picking

After last night’s success, I was sticking with the fruit theme, and the cabbageware plate had come out really well, so why change that? But deep down inside, the cherries were worrying me, and I think I let that spoil my mojo.

Pet-sitting my neighbour’s goldfish (they survived!)

This little painting put up a fight, which left it looking overworked and chalky. I was trying too hard to replicate the previous night’s experience, and I failed abysmally as a result. Despite this, the painting still contains elements that I like. Plus I learnt a lot about painting cherries, and about how I would approach them differently next time around.