Painting of Beachwood Mangrove

Photograpgh of Beachwood mangrove

Photo of Beachwood Mangrove and its plank walkways.

Beachwood Mangrove Nature Reserve is situated at the mouth of Umgeni River where it meets the sea and behind the sand dunes of the beach. You will find it across the bridge, from Blue Lagoon’s pier and parking area. Blue Lagoon is situated at the end of Durban’s long paved beachfront promenade.

The mangrove area was allotted as a wildlife sanctuary, where you can park your cars and have a group picnic there or explore the fascinating terrain of swamp along the wooden plank walkways provided.

If you are a bird watcher, you will find the area has lots of bird life and also up along the river. Park benches are provided along the Riverside Road embankment for those who would like to rest and enjoy the expanse of the river and its wildlife.

And if you want to see a huge variety of caged birds, there is also a bird sanctuary park along Riverside Road. There are some very beautiful birds and you can attend a discourse where personal introduce you to fascinating birds of prey in a small open arena.

Watercolour of Beachwood Mangrove

Watercolour painting of Beachwood Mangrove swamp.

Watercolour painting demo:

Naturally been a watercolour painting I haven’t put in every tree, leaf or twig. The point in painting is to capture the mood or essence of the scene. And since the photo was cool in ambience, I added some warmth, ie a little more yellow to the composition.

To give the trees a 3D effect, I used liquid masking for the trunks and branches. After the painting dried, I removed the masking and used different shades of raw sienna, burnt umber and French ultramarine blue to make the bark of the trees interesting and knobbly.

Painting plank walkways can make your painting look stiff and contrived, so I implied the walkways had loose uneven boards. And adding shadows helped to soften the neatness of the plank structure.

Thanks for patiently waiting for another photo demo of mine while I was away visiting family in Durban. If you are new to my site, please feel free to check out other photo demo blogs, starting with Introduction to Photo Demo page. Then move on to the Photo Demo category listings. Each has interesting facts about the place and tips on how to paint those types of scenes.

As always, keep painting!

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.

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.

Cape Mountains

Cape mountains:

On our way to the town of McGregor via Worcester, we went through the Du Toit mountain range. You must admit the Cape mountains are so spectacular. And going through the DuToit Pass is very inspiring for any artist. For here the mountains are very close up and majestic, almost over powering in their height above and around you.

To take photographs of mountains it’s best to be close up to them. Because if they are further away the camera is inclined to reduce their height making them look flattened small and insignificant. Zooming-in doesn’t always give you the full magnitude of their enormous majestic glory either. It calls for quick assessment of the situation. What do you need from the scene and how would you compose it as a painting later?

The art of taking photographs from a fast moving car:

You can’t stop the car to take photos on busy roads and highways. It’s too dangerous. And to take a photo in a fast moving car is quite a feat. So as a passenger photographer, it’s all about timing.

From the interval between when you press the shutter button and when the digital camera actually snaps the shot, you’re likely to land up having a bizarre image of a telephone pole, trees or a high bank where the road has sliced through a knoll or hillside.

This means you have to look ahead and gauge an opening between hills and trees, and then press the shutter button slightly before you expect the next opening …only to get a tall fence or signpost in the way of your precious sort-after shot!

And of cause taking shots from a fast moving car you are likely to get blurred foliage in the foreground. That is blurred weeds, grass or even vineyard fields in the case of the Cape, beside the road.

And another thing, if you are pointing the camera forward through the windscreen, most of the time you’ll get tarred roads, tall trucks and cars ahead of you. And if you are quick you may land up with the car licence sticker covering the scene you want so badly! So what can you do? Delete the offending digital image and wait for the next opportunity. And just make do with whatever you can get I suppose and worry about it later. That is how you would convert the image into something worthwhile later.

Photograph of cape mountains

Photo of Du Toit mountain range

Cape mountains 1

Oil painting of Du Toit mountain range in the Cape

Photo and oil painting demo:

This is what happened with this photo. I landed up with an uninteresting tarred highway, cars and a signpost dead centre. To make the scene more dynamic one has to resorts to ‘artists’ licence’ and some inspiring imagination.

So let’s pretend:

How would it have been years ago before tar and signposts infested roads? And perhaps surmise the possibly of a river down in the valley below? I choose to put in a stream and not a quaint tranquil dust road. Streams I feel are a little more appealing than dirt roads.  If I had put both in the scene, on the small 21×15.5cm canvas, it would have been over crowded. Giving the stream dramatic linear perspective gives the scene depth.  I also simplified the scene and made it look more plausible under those conditions.

How would you have used this photo and how would you have painted this scene?

If you haven’t seen previous blog posts and want to see more demos:


Bainskloof Pass

Bainskloof Pass: place and photograph:

During our stay in Cape Town our daughter took us to Bainskloof Pass gorge. We first obtained a nature reserve pass from the lodge and then climbed down into the gorge. There is no real defined path to follow, just the directions the guy who owns the lodge gave us. The hillside is steep, scrambling down in between rocks and boulders. You need flexible rubber shoes for balancing on rocks.

At first there isn’t much water to see in the gorge, just rocks and boulders. But a little further down the river you come across this lovely rock pool you see in the photograph. It is so peaceful down there in the gorge and yet so profound and dynamic with the depth of the gorge and the size of the boulders.

Oil painting of Bainskloof Pass gorge pool

Bainskloof Pass gorge pool

We didn’t go far because we didn’t have much food with us. But according to the lodge owner there are more beautiful and bigger pools further down the river. Bainskloof Pass is a place worth visiting more than once it seems. Check with Google for places where you can go camping, hiking and book cottages for your holidays.

The winding drive up to the top of Bainskloof Pass alone is breathtaking, the panoramic views are spectacular and there are rest viewpoints to look out over the expanse of the Bainskloof valleys below.

Oil painting of Bainskloof Pass gorge

Oil painting of Bainskloof Pass gorge pool

Oil painting of Bainskloof Pass gorge pool:

  • First, a light imprimatura wash of raw sienna on 21×15.5cm canvas.
  • When that was dry, basic shapes of the mountains and boulders, etc were blocked in with undercoats.
  • And when that was dry, the real part of painting begins.
  • The pigments I used were: French ultramarine blue and burnt umber for the boulders.
  • Sap green and blue for the grass, foliage and water. A hint of raw sienna where necessary to bring a little warmth to the otherwise cool painting.

If you want to see more paintings done from photographs, check out “Photo Demos” blog post categories:

Heron Nature Trail

Heron nature trail in the Vrolijkheid reserve:

Vrolijkheid nature reserve is situated between Robertson and  McGregor in the Cape. The reserve is close to the little quaint town of McGregor and has two main trails and dams.

  • We did the Heron Trail. Erected along the trail are placards giving descriptions of plants and wildlife. We saw many wild birds and even a tortoise from one of the bird hides.
  • The Rooikat trail is much longer. At the beginning of the trail there is a stone wall (built between two farms over a hundred years ago).  Along the trail you will come across Klipspringer Gorge and later perhaps you will see baboons in the hills.
Photograph of Heron Trail

Shrub land along the Heron Trail

The Photo: I took many photos and this photo and demo is of the shrubs on the way to the first dam. I thought the dark bush silhouetted against the blue of the surrounding mountains beautiful. This particular scene captures Karoo-like shrub, which I thought quite appealing.

Watercolour of the Heron Trail

Watercolour of the shrub land along the Heron Trail.

The demo:  The photograph looks somewhat dark, so I reduce the amount of shrubs and  lightened the ground area to give the scene some contrast. The photo is rather cool in nature, so I incorporated a little warmth to give it a little more emotional impact. If the painting (A5) is viewed from a distance the undergrowth doesn’t look so spotty because I reduced detail wherever possible.

South Africa is a beautiful country. So many lovely places off the beaten track to visit.