helderberg from the R44 in the fading light

Tonight I did something I have wanted to do for ages.  There is a beautiful valley on the other side of the Helderberg mountain from where I live.  In the morning and evening it is just so beautiful.  This afternoon I had to go up to  the area so I took my camera and watercolour kit.  The sun was just sinking when I pulled over (the R44 is the road from Somerset West to Stellenbosch).

I took a couple of photos then grabbed my stuff and sat on the verge and did a watercolour of the mountain.  I didn’t think I would have much light so I didn’t even sketch the composition.  But the light held so I could finish this.  There was also a North Westerly wind blowing, I think we have some more rain coming, but before the weather arrives we usually get this warm berg .  It was really a beautiful evening.  And the paint on the painting dried enough for me to put in a little detail here and there.   So here it is:


When I had finished there was still some light so I taped another sheet to my little board and did another.

This time I sketched out the mountain and some details.  As I painted the light faded totally.  There is a half-moon which kept a little ambient light but towards the end I had to hold my pallette up in the light of the passing cars to check the colours.  It felt really good sitting there.  The sound of passing cars reminds me of long ago when I used to hitch hike around the country for my holidays.   I find the sound of tyres quite evocative.   Anycase, eventually it was too dark to see and I did a last couple of strokes in and put in some moon-shadows on the peaks and that was it.  I found it quite liberating not seeing the colours.  So…


Lekker hey?

This was such fun.  I have spent the day battling to get on top of an executive summary I have to write for a clients strategy from a workshop I facilitated and in the last hour it all came together – and then I did this.  And I am quite pleased with these.  They are each on Arches 185gm cold pressed 190x280mm.


17 thoughts on “helderberg from the R44 in the fading light

  1. These are nice. I think you’ve mentioned Charles Reid before. These are in your loose and sweeping style and you’ve captured some of his ability to punch some of those darks in these. I like the shapes in these landscapes a lot.

    • Hi Leslie – thanks hey – yes, the darks – there are dark groves of stone-pines in the valley. What he does so well is he leaves edges between the darks and the lights, which he softens when the paint is just dry enough not to make cauliflowers (it seems anyway). Cheers hey S

  2. Hi Stephen. I like the second one, the colours are really nice. I enjoy your sketches so much, because I can allways recognise the place! We studied and stayed a few more years in Stellenbosch. Seems like you’re ready to start sketching in coffee shops, if you can sit next to a busy road. : )

    • Hi Cecily – there are some really beautiful places up below that mountain. I am glad you can recognise the mountain as I had a sense that it was not anatomically correct as I was painting – close enough though.
      Ai – the coffee shop project!!! At least the mountains and the cars don’t look back at me. But the time will come. I am sitting in the gym, where I come to miss the gemors on the R300, and there are is definitely scope for some work here. Cheers hey S

  3. It’s great when you have a day where everything goes well like that – not one triumph, but three!

    I enjoyed scrolling back and forth between the two paintings and can’t choose between them because they’re both so vibrant, loose and not too ‘done’ – yet at the same time they’re also strong and steady because I could quite easily see myself wandering around there.

    To be honest, drawing has always been my thing – I’m ignorant about painting but can’t wait to begin doing landscapes in my class. I’m learning a lot hanging around here.

    • Hey June – I can see what you mean about drawing – your latest work shows this. At the moment I am simply painting with what I know. I don’t really have time to study my work and the books I have. But that is OK – building up for a breakthrough. I am glad you had a breakthrough with your own painting – watercolour is such a beautiful medium.

    • Hey June – This is ‘tight’ technique – like maybe Keith H, but I am enjoying the act of painting – immensly. It is a great joy for me. When I have time to focus I will work on the technique. I can see from your latest work that you are accomplished in drawing. And I am glad you are going to hang in there with watercolours. \it is such a beautiful medium. Etherial comes to mind (even if I can’t spell it). I want to do the scene again (and again) (o: – cheers hey – S

      • You’re too kind Stephen – it’s very obvious that you enjoy your painting – it definitely comes across and I think you would agree that painting has to be teamwork between the eye, the hand and the heart.

        I can’t believe I just abandoned my art to concentrate on ‘life’ for so many years – denied myself so much pleasure – which I’m re-discovering by the bucket load, thank goodness. It’s almost spiritual – we artists are lucky to get so much pleasure from our eyes. Just keep on ‘enjoying’ yourself and giving us joy.

      • I have been through long periods since my lessons with Nicholas Galloway in which I have not lifted a brush. Once it was for five years! I was working in the oil industry and wanted to focus on my career or something equally arbitrary (with the wisdom of hindsight). We should not let this happen. Well you are on a journey. And you have got off to a good start. I think you are right painting has a spiritual dimension. Creativity is such a rich gift. So here we all are – wayfarers all – and here we pause from time to time to look over the view and shoot the breeze. Its cool hey?

  4. I will be so familiar with the Helderberg Mountain after looking at your two paintings that if I ever get to see it in person I’m sure I will know it!

    I like the sound of tires too….when they are not flat. Had a blowout on the highway yesterday. Big spike of metal in my rear right tire. Dog barfing the back seat. Barely any cell service. Two tow trucks arrived and argued over whose job it was to fix the flat.
    Glad SOMEONE had a good day. I am going to google the Helderberg Mountain now. I want to find out more about it. The area looks beautiful.

    • That sounds like a mess – so the tow-trucks are the same there? Here we call them vultures. They are a real tough bunch with zero scruples.

  5. Hey, I googled Helderberg Mountain and guess what, there’s one right here in New York!!!!! Wow1 Who knew. Now I have to google the size sheet you used. It’s in millimeters and we still use inches. We just won’t be convinced the metric system is better!

    • OK – next time I will put in the inches – the sheets are designed in inches which made the cutting easier. I was dividing these arbitrary amounts of mms by two and mental arith is not my forte. I am agnostic about which system is better.

      Interesting that you have a Helderberg there. “Helder” means “clear” athough a “Held” is a “Hero” so there might be that connection too.

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