Watercolour down the lane #3 – my first paintings with Nicholas

My first watercolour class was with Nicholas Galloway in Swakopmund.  I remember the first night when he  sold me paints, brushes and  a sheet of 185g Arches cold press and got me going doing washes and colour mixing.  It was frustrating and exciting.  The world disappeared.  I was enthralled.  Once a week I would cycle over to his house over the road to the brewery and paint a watercolour from one of his Namib picture books.  Here is one of my first of the sun-baked hills common to the area:


Here is another one:


I did this painting on our bread-board.  We would sit around a big table and Nicholas would play this lovely music on a reel to reel tape.  There was one song about Autumn Leaves that sticks in my mind though I don’t know who sung it.   There were two blonde girls who painted opposite me and whispered with each other – one of them did lovely sky washes, though I never saw her work in galleries.  And there was a carpenter called Hans who worked on the same oil painting the whole time I attended the class.  It would get dark and misty outside and the sweet smell of the brewery would waft into the room.   Nicholas was kind of gruff and put me ill at ease.  But I didn’t care – I just loved painting.  He would serve coffee after an hour or so and we would continue workinig.  While I was doing this painting I was feeling very self conscious and as I worked I dipped my brush in my coffee instead of my water-bottle.  Ai – !  Then at 10 or something we would pack up and I would get on my bicycle and cycle home through the misty slippery streets, on an absolute high.

Here is painting of the mountains at Sesriem, at the edge of the sand-sea just East of Sossusvlei:


We once went there with friends for weekend.  We camped under this huge Camel Thorn tree near Sesriem, a ravine  where the early visitors had to tie six wagon-cords (ses – six,  riem is a rawhide cord) to reach the water.  The river goes under ground and when there is enough rain, surfaces in the middle of the dunes.  We drove through the dunes and suddenly saw a sail from a sail-board moving through the sand.  And over the next dune there in the middle of the driest area you can imagine – a lake where we had a mud fight that lasted hours.

Here is a painting I did in the class, of the rocks at Spitskop, from a photo I had taken:


And finally, here is a painting I did of a photo I took in the Swakop river valley.


We worked on a Uranium Mine (Rossing) 70km inland from Swakopmund.  A couple of times we took mountain bikes and a support truck and rode home down the Swakop river valley after work on a Friday, sleeping in the river valley.  I was dissatisfied and splattered it with something but actually it is not a bad little painting.


14 thoughts on “Watercolour down the lane #3 – my first paintings with Nicholas

  1. Reading this got my day off to a good start – your stories made me chuckle – I could picture you dipping your brush into the coffee and it was fun reading your observations about your fellow pupils.

    These paintings are impressive for a beginner, all have wonderful skies and it’s obvious you were a natural from the start.

  2. Hey thanks June – that was a time of magic – although not without trouble – I still had to carve out a place in my life for Stephen the Artist. But the intensity of the experience…it was like falling in love.

  3. Hi Stephen, Loved your story about your first classes and thanks for showing the work from those classes. Just curious, how long ago was this?
    I have dipped my watercolor brush into my coffee more times than I’d like to admit. I guess that means we are really into what we are doing!

    Thanks for sharing!

    • I started the classes in 1985 – the year I started working on the mine – What is of concern to me is that I left watercolours on the backseat for so long. I really wanted to do them full time from the start. When I left Rossing I came to work for BP in Cape Town and for five years did not lift a brush, until I could no longer and started painting again. It was like a dam burst – I would work Friday and Saturday nights till 2 or 3 sitting at our kitchen table covered in a blanket till I was too tired to see what I was doing anymore

    • Thanks Jamie – nice to see you here – it has been ages since I visited Pineappleluv – I am coming to see how you are doing. S
      We have had a beautiful surf Tuesday here at the Strand Pipe – it was almost glassy with lovely clear green and blue water.

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