welbedacht valley from the studio

Here is a watercolour of the view from the parking place in Welbedacht, that I did in my studio.  I am not sure about this and will look at it as I work this week.  I think the mountains could have been darker and perhaps the foreground.  It shows the big Oak trees that grow there, all standing without leaves:


This was done on a half sheet of Arches (22 x 15).  I think it needs some darks in the foreground.

On the way in, the bridge over the Olifants River was under water and I had to detour through Clanwilliam.  So I arrived in the dark.  I stopped under the Oaks and got a stove going with some bolognaise sauce and rice while I put up a tent.  Except – no pegs and no poles.  OK organisation is not my strongest suite.  So I laid out the tent with a gaper (closed cell foam) pad and threw the fly sheet over my sleeping bag and lay looking at the stars through the branches.  The place is far from any lights so the stars were stunning.  I dozed off and woke later feeling cold so I zipped up carefully and pulled the hood over my head.  But I could feel it was chilly.  At about 03:00 I heard a leopard in the valley.  They make a kind of sawing sound.  It grumbled once more then was silent.  Hey this is a free country, even though I was probably in his territory.  At about 04:00 the moon rose over the mountains.  I lay awake and saw some shooting stars.  Just before dawn Orion’s belt rose.  I woke at about six to find the higher peaks around me covered in snow.  There was a thin sheet of ice on my fly sheet and the grass was white with frost.

After painting the watercolour in the previous post I packed my sack and walked up the Welbedacht ravine.  There is a fair cave near the top of the ravine which I had thought of walking up to in the dark but I was glad I had not.

The top of the ravine emerges on the Shale Band that runs through the mountains here.   This band has created a wide grassy band through which the locals have put a jeep track which makes great hiking territory.  I sat at the top of the gorge and painted a watercolour of the view down the shale band.  I was preoccupied with time a little and whether I should continue up to the cave at the Spout of return to the car.  But here it is:


There were two more climbs to the cave and I finished at about half past one and reached the next plateau by about two.  I sat looking up at the Tafelberg and the Spout and did  the following watercolour.


Cedarberg mountains are fold mountains composed of quartzites (of the Table Mountain Group I think)  the rocks are blocky and I need to develop a technique to capture them in watercolour.  There are beautiful facets on the spout some of which caught the sun – definitely food for some practice.  Also, the slopes were covered with snow which I tried to show with dry-brush – must think about this too.  I met a party of three guys who had tried to climb to the top of Tafelberg (Tafel is a table and berg is a mountain) but they said the rocks were covered with frozen melt water so they were on their way down.

I then made my way up to the cave.

The cave is deep and climbers and hikers have built walls inside to section it off and provide shelter.  But the day was calm and the afternoon sun poured into the cave.  Lovely and warm.  I melted a pot of snow with my stove and made a lekker cup of rooibos tea with soya milk and honey – mmmm!  Then I sat on the ledge and painted this watercolour of the valley to the West.


OK not the best ever but there was a lot of detail in all the mountains and I was getting pretty cold sitting out there.   I retreated to the cave and sat in the last sun making some rice and sauce.  I set up my sleeping site at the back of the cave.  One of the things I love about outings like this is I get to climb into bed at sunset.  I lay reading by the light of a gas lamp and listening to the wind picking up outside and the icicles breaking off the cliffs outside and crashing into the rocks.  It was warm and calm inside and I dropped off for a good snuz.

I will put the rest of the paintings in another posting.  I am keen to paint the shale band from the sketches and photos I took.


10 thoughts on “welbedacht valley from the studio

  1. I’m telling you, you need a book! Love the extra time you took to detail those trees in the top painting. The second one is gorgeous. I feel like I’m sitting where you were to paint it. For blocky rocks, have you ever tried using a 1/2 inch flat or stroke brush? I know you only like to carry one brush, but I think there are containers that would enable you to carry one more. I think you do an incredibly good job with the limited amount of supplies you allow yourself.

    • This time I took along a watercolour box with my sushi wrap and all of my brushes. For most of these paintings I used my mop and no 12 round sable – this is all so much nicer than my moulting horse hair brush. I am keen to do a studio painting of the same scene.

      The book sounds interesting.

      • Mmmm – I got that – it is a compelling idea – I am reading Hazel Soan’s book which is just like that – an interesting journey and some beautiful watercolours – this painting on site is bringing up some interesting things – cheers hey
        Your comments are most inspiring. S

  2. I really like the trees. I was looking forward to one of your “detailed” paintings. It looks like the sun is just rising behind the mountains. Very nice. Colours too. Cecily

  3. Hey Cecily – thanks hey – I was battling with the trees – they had all these fine little branches and dry-brushing made it look like leaves. My lines got out of control in all my practices till I read June’s post with the pencil sketches she has done. She is talking about inking them and I realised I need to do map out what I want to paint quite carefully in pencil. Stephen

  4. These are just stunning Stephen – I’m living vicariously through your blog. I sit here in my tiny British terraced house (the price of which would probably buy me a 5 bedroom detached with 5 acres of land in S.A.) and remember what it was like to lie beneath the stars, listening to leopards cough.

    The first picture is particularly lovely because it’s a departure from the beach and, as Leslie says, the detailed trees give it depth. The mountain views are breathtaking – and you’ll be able to refer back to your words on this blog when you eventually get time to produce a book.

    • Hi June – thanks hey – yes we still have much for which to be thankful over here. The Cedarberg area is still quite wild.
      There are still other paintings from the trip that I want to do in studio.

  5. What an adventure!
    Sounds like you are having a lovely time, cut off from Grendel and her minions, and peacefully spending the day with either hiking or painting. I’m really glad to hear it.
    I’m not sure I would like to know that a leopard is roaming around out there while I am hiking or sitting, concentrating on a painting.
    There should be a bit of adrenaline in these pics.
    The trees are beautifully done. Just delicious.
    And I like the strength of colour that you are getting in this series of paintings.
    Life is good.

    • Hi K – yes it was great – One of your first suggestions to me was to saturate my colour and I remember that often when I sit out there. I must say – it is good to be out – it seems to bring balance – thanks for dropping by – S

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