Majestic Mountains of the Cape

Photograph of Cape mountains

Photo of majestic mountains near Worcester in the Cape.

Majestic mountains of the Cape:

These majestic mountains in the photograph, with their heads high in the clouds were seen on our way back from our stay in the small town of McGrgor in the Cape.  I think this range of mountains are somewhere in the Worcester area.

First attraction is the height and seeming power these mountains have. As to the contrast of colour and tone, the subtle patchwork patterns of the cloud shadows over their foothills and surrounding valleys is so beautiful, it makes it a `must to paint’

Timing is crucial when getting photographs from a moving vehicle.

Waiting for just the right time to click the camera, I still captured part of the framework of the car window!  And if you zoom in carefully you will see someone walking into the center trees. The house you see in my painting, surrounded by trees in my painting though, is my addition!

The composition of the majestic mountains scene:

Even with the hazard of taking photographs from a moving car, I was lucky this time to get a fairly good composition format. The trees in the center work as a fulcrum and the two smaller bare trees in the foreground help to lead the eye into the picture. And see how the contour lines of the mountains draw towards the tree fulcrum? You could almost say as well the sky and mountain (blue/grey) area cover two thirds of the compositions and the foreground one third “horizon” space (fresh warm colour) at the bottom of the composition.

Oil painting of mountains near Worcester in the Cape, South Africa

Oil painting of the majestic mountains

I painted the mountains different tones of blue. And then because I didn’t want the grandeur and shadows of the majestic mountains to look patchy, I filled in and blended the colours by interlacing and `scumbling’ the colours.

To get just the right effect I allowed each layer of paint to dry before applying another `scumbled’ coat of paint. This took about two sittings. This technique allows each coat to radiate through, creating a shimmering effect.  It works somewhat like impressionistic interrelationships of more than one colour, shimmering together so as to be seen at last as a `third’ dimension of colour.


Once I allowed my husband to go out canvassing new galleries for me while I was preparing a new stock of paintings. I smiled when he came back to tell me one gallery owner thought my technique of scumbling was a sign of indecision. His remark showed me that the gallery owner didn’t know all that much about painting! If you try to apply one coat, with one contrived colour direct from your palette you can’t achieve convincing blends of different hues.

Technique and style:

I love painting atmospheric conditions. I will do anything it takes to create special effects. That is an artists’ prerogative, to use his or her artistic licence. With the interlacing of techniques, each artist creates his own recognizable style. Just as Vincent van Gogh’s work was considered amateur in his day, his particular technique of applying his paint is now admired and considered masterful!

What do think? Have artists the right to create new ways of doing things? Or should we stagnate in old expectations?

Now you have seen how I painted these majestic mountains, perhaps you would like to see more paintings? Please feel free to check out ‘Photo demos’ page and category.

Cottage Gallery

Cottage gallery photo:

Photograph of country cottage

Photograph of an Artist’s cottage gallery in the town of McGregor in the Cape.

This photo is of an artist’s cottage gallery in the main street of the little town of McGregor in the Cape. She told my daughter and me that during the week she resides on a farm outside the village, but comes into town and opens her cottage gallery over the weekends for public viewing. Wonder what she would have thought of another artist taking their time to paint her cottage? But why not! It is so picturesque, don’t you agree?

Notice the photo doesn’t show the gate or pathway. I remember there was something peculiar about the gate, can’t remember what now, but once in the garden going up the pathway I do remember having the urge to look around me, closer at the flowers because the garden was so fascinating. But I thought perhaps the artist wouldn’t approve of us wondering around her garden, so moved up to the front door.

The artist had a few small paintings which she had called the little big five. They consisted of tiny insects. The larger paintings were of figurines in fine abstract format.

My demo painting of the above photo:

Oil painting

Oil painting of a cottage in the town of McGregor in the cape

First an overall imprimatura wash of raw sienna. An imprimatura wash consists of a mixture: a little amount of pigment and lots of pure turpentine. When applied, it helps to eliminate the possibility of white spots of the canvas showing through later in between and surrounding the objects placed in the composition. Laying in an imprimatura wash ultimately unites the elements with atmospheric conditions within the composition.

When the imprimatura wash was completely dry, I added a light wash of pink to the sky and blocked-in the foliage areas and the thatch roof with brown. Brown is a subdued red and red is the complementary colour to green. In this stage you are composing the composition and establishing light and dark areas.

The photo is rather cool, ie with green and blue colours. To liven it up I added some warmer colours. You will see I also added a gate and I pathway. I wanted folks to feel they could enter and pass through the gate posts and down the path to the house, just as we did.

With artistic licence I didn’t give the gate posts equal dimension. Perfection can be uncomfortable in its exactness. I wanted a more romantic artistic approach.

Interest facts:

You have to take into consideration that the Old Dutch styled houses that were built long ago by the first immigrants to the Cape weren’t perfectly built. I first noticed this when I went to Bishop’s Court to paint Desmond Tutu’s portrait. Door frames weren’t neatly rectangular and the steps were at odd angles to each other.

The charming cottage we stayed at in the town of McGregor had rough plaster and uneven tiled floors. If Cape Dutch styled houses are built neatly, or an artist paints them with perfect straight neat contour lines, been a stark white cottage they look severe and less picturesque.

Check out other Cape Dutch cottages painted by Ada Fagan in the ‘Photo Demo’ page and under category listing.

Over the Treetops

`Over the Treetops’ is a photo demo painting blog.

The photograph is of the treetops and range of mountains, seen from the Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve, near the quaint town of McGregor.

Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve

Photo of Vrollijkheid view of treetops and surrounding mountains


The reserve was so beautiful over the Easter weekend. Even though there are sign-posted descriptions of plants, etc along the pathways, the milieu of the reserve is still kept unscathed by its tourist attraction.

Photograph of an owl

Photo of a spotted eagle owl sitting in a tree.

On the way back from one of the bird hides we came across a most serene friendly spotted-eagle owl. It sat there quietly watching us from a tree above the pathway, only about two meters away can you believe it! Very impressive. Seemly unconcerned about us, maybe more interested in us than we in it. An unforgettable experience.

Because it was the beginning of autumn there was a variety of colours, subtle maybe for the average man to see, but to the artist, a place of pure beauty where your imagination could run wild.

The ‘Over the Treetops watercolor demo:

High over the treetops you can see the surround hills of the Riviersonderend mountains of the Cape.


Watercolor landscape

`Over the Toptops’ is a watercolour of the view from the Vrolijkheid Nature Reserve.

`Over the Treetops’ was painted on A5 textured 200gsm Amegeo mixed media paper. Not the easiest paper to paint watercolours on. But I suppose one can get used to its particular idiosyncrasies if you use it often enough.

A light imprimatura wash of raw sienna was done first. I must say the wash for `Over the Treetops’ was done about 3-4 weeks ago in anticipation of doing a watercolour demo. I often do this in advance, especially if I plan to paint on location. Capturing special effects isn’t easy when working on location. You have to be well prepared because weather, light and atmospheric conditions, change quickly while working on location. Doing as much as you can beforehand, saves a lot of time when the sun seems to speed through the sky!

Of cause the painting isn’t like the photograph. I painted the scene according to my imagination. Zooming in, cutting out most of the foreground, bring out and contrasting colours, makes it feel like you are looking high over the treetops, towards the haze over the mountains. To emphasis this feeling I reserved a few tiny spots to give the scene a leafy ambience. This contrasted with the smooth description of the mountainous background.

Hope you enjoyed `Over the Treetops’ watercolour. If you want to see more photograph demo on this reserve, check out the ‘Heron Nature Trail’ blog. Also `Photo and painting demo’ of a Dutch Cape styled house in the town of McGregor.



Quality of Modern Art?

What type of modern art do you like?

  • Morden abstract art
  • Fine art
  • Authentic realistic art
  • Impressionistic art
  • Cartoon art
  • Naive art
  • Ethic art
  • Surreal art
  • Weird art

    Modern art

    Oil painting of Dutch Cape styled house in the town of McGregor. Late afternoon with mist coming over the Riviersonderend mountains.

Modern art: What is out there today?

Sometimes you walk into a gallery and what do you see, but a bright kitsch rudimentary painting hung in a prominent position. You’re stunned, can’t believe it, how can they pass that as art? Why is the gallery promoting it? Perhaps the artist is a relative they’re trying to help out?

And modern art on the internet: most of the artist’s websites these days seem to lean towards abstract or naive art. What has become of art? What is considered art? It seems art doesn’t have to be a painting or a carved statue. Photographs and anything that is a creative artifact is accepted as art.

Google has a wide selection of images of art, including works of the old masters. Thankfully you can ask for a selection of aesthetic watercolours, oil paintings or pastels, depending on what you would really like to see. And there are some wonderful works of art, showing there are still professional artists out there with exceptional style.

 What is happening to the quality of modern art?

We have to remember there are a lot of artists out there, each with diverse inclinations and aptitude skills. We mustn’t discourage budding artists, we all had to progress through practical experience. And trends come and go according local and global fashions and environment issues.

What I like:

I think art should be something between reality and fantasy.  Aesthetic brushstrokes and detail contrasting with blurred atmospheric conditions. Paintings with emotional impact that stir your senses, every time you look at it you see something new or fascinating about it. And as my husband says, “Paintings which you can spin a story”

It seems this is a somewhat controversial subject! Everyone to their own taste and opinion!

 What do you think of modern art and what you think it should be?

What are your first impressions of modern art? What is so dynamic that grips your attention? What is your personal preference? What appeals to you? Colour combinations, line, mood, what?

What artists’ websites would you seek out and what would keep you going back to see what they are doing on their sites? Is it their talent? Or is it the way their website is set out? What is it they have on their sites? Is it their type of content? Is it entertaining, interesting or factual, what?

If you aren’t an artist, what message would you like to send out to artists?

Love to hear from you…