Sunsets in the Bush

Sunsets in the bush photo:

Photo of Sunsets in the bush

Photo of a sunset in the bush, South Africa.

`Sunsets in the bush’ was inspired by the beauty of the South African bush on the Springbok Flats. Each day about five o’clock I set out to see what sunset photographs I could collect.

Red sunset skies don’t always occur every day. Did you know beautiful sunsets are actually created because of dust, dust that drives housewives crazy! In South Africa we have beautiful sunsets. During winter the velt (grasslands) is usually dry and dusty.

Clouds were gathering when I took this photograph. With my camera, to take sunset photos, I reduce the `contrast’ format on my camera to minus five, and then aim just next to the bright sun.  How much you see of the velt (grass) and the quality of the silhouettes depends on whether your camera is pointing closer to the sky area or just below the horizon.

Watercolour demo:

Watercolour: sunsets in the bush

Watercolour of a sunset in the bush, on the Springbok Flats.

When painting sunsets, contrasts of tone and colour are important to make them dramatic. Before filling in the darker tones the painting looks washed out. Once the dark trees, bush foliage and dead tree trunks are filled in, the sunset starts to come alive. Playing warm colours against cool colours gives the painting emotion.

I didn’t begin with an imprimatura wash. I needed the white of the paper, especially where the sun is setting. Smooth washes and gradating the colours is created by keeping the paper wet as long as possible. Then waiting for the paper and painting to dry, before adding the silhouette formations of the bush. The foreground grass is done last, applied in impressionistic style.

Note the silver-lining of the clouds in this image-file looks orange. In the actual painting the silver-lining is yellow. Computer programs don’t always do justice to your paintings. I find this frustrating when posting images of my paintings in my blogs. Do you have the same problem?

Please leave a comment:

I would like to hear from you. My website is mainly for artists, but I hope art-lovers and non-artists will enjoy the interesting facts about the South African scenes I paint. Posting blogs seems a waste of time unless you feel you are actually helping someone, been informative or fascinating enough for folks out there to get something out of it. Best regards, Ada.

Free expression

Sunset at Meisievlei, near Settlers, Transvaal, South Africa.

Here is another sunset watercolour painting, also of the Springbok Flats. It was done about a year ago.

Bush Demo

Photo of bush demo

Photo of South African bush on the Springbok Flats.

This photo was taken in the bush, on the Springbok Flats, a farming, game reserve district, north east of Pretoria, where we have been spending time with our son. Since he has a website (‘Long Day Safaris’) he wanted to experiment with taking videos for his cycling blogs. Just before leaving the house he said I should also take my painting kit.

That is how this photo demo came about: First he took a video of me painting in the bush and then I took videos of him cycling in the bush. We had a grand time taking videos, something we hadn’t ever done before. We sure had lots to learn!

So why isn’t the video included in this blog? Well … in the past, my voice on tape recorders sounded ghastly, very different from what I normally sound. Apparently things hadn’t changed, my voice still sounds pathetic!

And what about the painting I did for the video? Well that was a disaster from the start. When you paint outdoors your watercolour paper dries quickly, making it hard to spread your washes. The situation is somewhat intensified and challenging when the weather is windy, as it was that day.

Placing a sheet of wet velt or wet material under your watercolour paper and spraying your paper both sides prolongs the drying time.  Since I had forgotten my velt at home, I should have taken a wet dish-clothe instead from our son’s house.

I’m used of doing demos in front of people and doing location fieldwork. That’s no problem, but painting for a video was a new experience. Been action people, we didn’t waste time discussing the possibilities of how to go about it, hoping that we would learn from the experience. Setting up my camping chair and paint paraphernalia was done quickly, but once started I didn’t know if there was sound, if I should talk or not, what angle was best, etc. This made me rather nervous.

Talk about bungling, I started by painting in the blue of the sky. Leaving white areas for the clouds, naturally this created sharp-edges because of the dry paper. So I had to work quickly, rinsing my brush and blurring the sharp-edges, especially the underbellies of the clouds. That wasn’t so bad, but when it came to painting the trees and bush it was another matter. Because I couldn’t spread the paint, it looked like sketching. It was very frustrating not been able to get the effect you want.

The effect of South African bush is unique. I love the profile of the trees with their gesturing umbrella shaped canopies. To get the full picture, the bush also hosts briers, khaki-bos and wild seeds waving in the breeze. The contrast of colour in the winter is beautiful. Well to me as an artist it is anyway. The grass is straw coloured and light compared with the green and russet colours of the trees and bush.

With the paper so dry, it wasn’t easy portraying the tree with their nobly twisted filigree branches and leaves. Oh well, I had to keep going because the video was still rolling. Pressing on was even more embarrassing! Instead, here is a watercolour I did later back at the house.

Watercolour of South African bush

Watercolour painting of South African bush.

Love to know how you coped doing videos for the first time. And what program did you used to put it on your website. Our son had problems converting his video to MP4 format, to be able to put it on his webpage. Well you don’t learn anything unless you try doing it, hey!

Mountain View Photo Demo

Mountain view photo demo:

Photo of mountain view

Photo of Mountain View taken from the parking area.

This mountain view was taken at Bainskloof Pass, in the Cape. The house you see in the photograph is a private cottage. We didn’t walk down to the cottage.

We parked in the shade of the trees, you can see in the photograph. That is to the left of the photograph, in the foreground, and walked back to the lodge where you pay entrance to the nature reserve. The lodge is to the right, out of the vision of the photograph.

If you want something to eat, the lodge only operates as a restaurant over the weekends. The place is very interesting, built higgledy-piggledy braced up over the hillside. And the owner was friendly and helpful. When giving instructions as to how to find your way down into the gorge, he said, “Just follow that path, go through the gate and follow the fence to your left” And went on to say the scene down by the river is beautiful and further down the river there were some pools. He also ask if we were fit enough to do the trail?

But he didn’t mention there wasn’t a path after the gate! And we soon found out why he asked if we were fit enough. If you also wish to do the trail, please be prepared, you need flexible rubber-soled hiking shoes. We had to find our way through and over rocks and huge boulders to climb down into the gorge. But it was worth it. The view was fantastic.

Please note, the previous oil painting photo demo I did (see blog: Bainskloof Pass) originated from one of the pools the owner of the lodge mentioned.

Mountain view oil painting demo:

Oil painting of mountain view

Oil painting demo of artist’s impression.

I found the closeness of the surrounding mountains very impressive. This view of the mountains was too good to miss.

You will notice that the house in the painting isn’t the same as in the photograph though. That was me using artists’ licence. I thought the house in the photo wasn’t dynamic or romantic enough. And felt it needed a cosy looking house. Please forgive me, but wouldn’t a Dutch Cape house just fit the bill, rightfully so?!

If you look carefully, you will also notice some other changes. The gap between the trees was filled in a little and the trestles by the wall on the right, was left out. As to the mountain in the background, I didn’t put in every rock and stone. Nor did I put in every twig or leaf. I just suggested their existence. Even so the painting still looks somewhat busy. Oh what the heck, without some description the painting wouldn’t be so interesting! What do you think?

So what holds the painting together? The formation and difference of tone. The darkest area, ie trees shadow and thatch roof of the cottage, flow through the composition from left to right, contrasting against medium and lighter areas of the painting. Thus giving definition and enhancing perspective.

Thanks for reading this photo demo. Hope you enjoyed it. Will be away again for the month of July. Going to a farm between Settlers and Marble Hall in the Transvaal. The surrounding bush is beautiful. Full of wildlife. Hope to use wi-fi there and post some watercolours while I’m there.