brandberg sunrise

Here is painting I have been wanting to do for ages.

The Brandberg is one of my favourite places.  It is a large granite plug in Namibia, about 200kms North of Swakopmund and 100km East of the Coast at Henties Bay.  The last time I went there I took some photos which I have been wanting paint ever since.

The map referrence of the place where I took the photos is 21°15’46.29″S  14°36’57.28″E – I took this of Google Earth – you can see the stuff I am painting from 4kms up – which I find compelling.   You can see the road I was on and I am sure I will be able to find the outcrop on which I took the photos.  If you look at the massif from higher, say 1700m you can see that it is round, probably an volcanic vent for rock that has long since eroded and washed away.  The top of the mountain is split by rivers and peaks.  Although it is a desert, there is water up there.  Walking on Brandberg is about climbing up or down short river courses between flat sandy plains.  There are some wonderful caves as well, with San or Khoi rock art.


The article in Wikipedia talks about  the Ga’aseb river valley which is here:


This is the route we followed the first time I climbed the mountain lead by my mate Buzzy Kloot.  We walked up slabs of Granite under the peak on the skyline.  There are little miggies (flies) that sit in your eyes when you stop to rest.  Just after the descending row of peaks there is a very important subtle pass into the heart of the massif.  If you miss it you can end up walking down the Messum River in the West, which another friend of mine did with another group on the same weekend.  He and his mates were very fit and strode, up Ga’aseb and down the Messum ravine, up again and around.  The next day they set off for Konigstein, the highest peak, and the highest point in Namibia.  Off they went, stride, stride, stride.  At the end of the day they were not sure where they were.  While they were looking at the map, one of the guys said “hey I recognise this place – that is where we slept last night…”  they had walked in a circle.  The next day we were walking down Ga’aseb.  the ravine split and I took a left fork.  As I went I heard another group moving fast (striding away) down the other side of a low hill.  By the time I got to the bottom of the mountain, they had packed and left.  heh heh – Bill and them, moving like the wind.

There is another version I am very keen to do – lets see what the week holds.    This is 1500 x 1020 mm 600gm cold pressed Arches.   When I work on this size, my whole studio has to be juggled around so I pretty much have to take it from start to finish.


22 thoughts on “brandberg sunrise

  1. This is spectacular. The vast expanse of sky is amazing with the warm yellow in the sunrise (?) The white rocks in the foreground are amazing and the mountain itself (I would call it a mesa) is strong and commanding. Those white rocks look like there is snow on them. Is there?

    • Thanks hey Carol – I wondered about the rocks – although they were white (quartz) they were really orange from the rising sun – however, painting them orange would have lost them in the foreground. I also wondered if I should have made them more distinct in shape but decided not too. The aloes in the foreground may be too distinct and dark. I doubt if it ever snows there, although this has happened in the desert further South. I guess you could call it a mesa, though I thought these were was a flat topped structures. The top of Brandberg is all hills and valleys filled with sand. The San (or Khoi) used to live there. You can still see their art in the caves.

      • Oh, Didn’t realize the the top of Brandberg was all hills and valleys. Interesting. Thanks for explaining that. I’m wondering if you put a very, very light wash of orange or sienna on the rocks so they don’t look so white if it would make a difference. Nevertheless, it’s still beautiful.

      • Mmm there is a thought – the white rocks obviously trouble you – I will take it out after a short break and relook at it. I started putting a wash on but wiped it off. Thanks for the suggestion Carol

    • Can you hear the big DUH!across the ocean? I was just re-looking at this beauty and just noticed it was called “Brandberg SUNRISE”.

      And in my comment I put a question mark because I wasn’t sure it was sunrise. What a stoonad! (Dope)

  2. I agree with Carol, Stephen….This is what I call a big sky painting. The other thing is that there is so much space between the viewer and the mountains and I think you handled the depth really well for an expanse of land that is really barren-like. This is neat.

    • Thanks Leslie – there was quite a bit of scrubby vegetation in the plain – following the water paths. The mountain is right on the edge of the barren desert.

    • Hey Cecily – I have just heard that I have been accepted to hold an exhibition at the Helderberg reserve starting last weekend in November – this piece will be there – all going to plan – I will keep you posted. And I want to do the companion piece which is a blue – midday view. S

    • Hi Smalltown – nice to see you here – thanks hey. There are so many shades of grey red and yellow, and each colour is associated with a particular subtle land feature – I could spend the next year just painting the middle ground – S

  3. This is such a departure from your other paintings – not just in size. Must have been tricky to scan. Stephen you know I’m being honest when I state that this is wonderful – all of it. The still, hazy sky which is almost eerie, the careful details of the mountains and the true feeling of space, distance and, let’s face it, peace and quiet. You’ve outdone yourself. How will you follow this?

    I looked up the terrain to Garies on Google maps and got no hint of these sumptuous landscapes you’ve shared with us – thanks for taking us with you and entertaining us with the tales of your unusual adventures.

    • Thanks hey June – This is definitely a quiet and peaceful place. And eerie! If the painting conveys this then I have achieved what I set out to do. I have been wanting to do this painting for years.

      Thanks also for highlighting a confusion I could clarify in the post. I should have been more explicit in the posting, moving straight from Garies to Brandberg. You can also see it Brandberg at 21deg 08 S 14deg 30 E on Google Earth – or you can do a search on “Brandberg Mountain. There is a article in wikipedia with some photos of the mountain. In the article they talk about the Ga’aseb river valley, which we used a few times to climb the mountain. It is in the painting. Which I think is so cool.

  4. Hi

    This is a beautiful piece of work . There is a great sense of presence from the mountain both which makes it feel peaceful but also powerful. Personally I think that the rocks look good whitish. I think if you were to darken them you’d risk losing some of the tonal contrast. Aside from that there is a lovely golden glow in general against which the rocks are almost a silvery white.

    I find it interesting that they are quartz & assosciated geographically with the San rock paintings. I read a really interesting book called “The Mind in the Cave” by David Lewis Williams. There is one chapter on Southern African rock art. I’m not sure if he mentions quartz in that chapter but in another book i read by him -“Inside the Neolithic Mind” he talks about Newgrange in Ireland (a very important neolithic site)as being built of quartz.

    Since reading this I’ve noticed in certain places near where I live (in the Basque Country/Western end of the Pyrenees )that near various stone circles there was quartz in the rock and yet not in other places away from the site. If you stare at a rock with quartz when the sun shines on it it becomes like a very brilliant white precise point. So i wondered if this shining light was seen by ancient peoples as some kind of entry into the rock given the rock was apparantly seen as an interface between different worlds.

    Anyway I really recommend the book!

    • that is really interesting – quartz is an interesting mineral it forms in stress zones in metamorphic rocks (there I go dredging up thirty years ago Geology) and it can make interesting patterns in the rock AND it is very hard, but I am not sure how workable. It is fairly common but I am sure the kind of sight you speak of would be rare and would contribute to the awe attributed to a place. That sounds like a fascinating book. There is really interesting art on the Brandberg. One cave has a huge python painted across one wall. At the top of Amis Ravine there is a beautiful neat little cave (Luftholle) with some magnificent impala paintings – a whole herd.

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