The Pipe – a Short History in Watercolour

I have been painting the same scene at The Pipe for many years.  It feels strange to say that.  But I posted my first blog postings from the path going to The Pipe in 2008.  An easy decade ago!  When I looked over my work I realised my paintings captured just a tiny slice of the history of this corner of planet Earth.

Sitting down to paint my first ‘on-site’ watercolour took some courage I can tell you.  I had done a few paintings at Kogel Bay and other places.  And I had resolved to get out there to paint. My mantra was “being out there painting is more important than what I create in the process”. Literally “A thing worth doing is worth doing badly” – a saying I hear misquoted often. To begin I sat on the dune above the path looking towards Table Mountain in the far distance. 

Here are some of my first paintings including a surfer coming up from the break.  Back in these days there were the remains of wooden fences, one instance in a history of futile dune management exercises.

Over time the wooden fences dissapeared – I don’t recall when and how. The Son Surf youth club planted a row of driftwood poles.  Here is my painting of this ‘fence’ including a couple who strayed into the frame, to be immortalised in watercolour. 

And then one day I decided to sit on the other side of the path. From this position I could paint the mountains over Gordons Bay and Clarence Drive.

The row of poles persisted for some time.  The poles disappeared one by one. Perhaps I will find time to order the paintings in terms of this dwindling marker. Sometimes as I painted, lone figures would wander into the landscape. 

Eventually the poles also disappeared. Here is a painting with the last remaining poles.   The ones set in concrete I think. 

But the construction saga continued. One day, as I sat painting, a young man dug a trench through the dune leading to the beach.  A team came later and built a wooden boardwalk. 

I thought to explain that, as a geologist, my understanding of geomorphology led me to believe that the townsfolk were unlikely to have ongoing access to the boardwalk. Though as I reflected on my dealings with local government, I thought better of it.  This boardwalk and guard rail had been approved. The project was going to happen.

The boardwalk and rail, while they lasted, provided a foreground interest for my watercolours.

The boardwalk provided a nice perspective challenge. In his family portraits, Ingres once drew a child at a piano – with all the keys in perfect perspective. Or did he? Surely I could do justice to some planks nailed to poles. !!!

Sometimes I have for just a quick Sketch. Often, by the time I get down there the onshore wind is pumping (lots of sand in my eyes). And quite often I sit down to paint in the mist or the rain.

Some of these were done on those wet days in winter when I have to get the whole painting done in one wash. The painting does not dry till I get home.

Other times I have a chance to paint the boardwalk, the beach and the mountains in a little more detail. Ha ha – when you see the perspective shift it is because I am sitting in a different position. At least this is my alibi. As you can see the handrail has been ‘salvaged’. The stainless steel hex-head bolts are still there though, which I think will make a good topic for a watercolour – when we are allowed onto the beach again.

From time to time I would have opportunity to include visitors to the boardwalk at The Pipe.  I suppose this amounts to a ‘watercolour-bomb’. Usually people don’t stick around long. So I ignore them till I think they look like they will hang around long enough to be included in the watercolour. Usually when I sketch them – they leave. /o:

And sometimes the people just really ask to be painted – even if they are not on the boardwalk

Each of these watercolours has a story. I painted the two girls after a good session at the Reef with Ethan and one of his friends. While I painted this, a tik-monster cut my straps and stole my two longboards off the roof of my bakkie. I asked the lounging couple if I could paint them and so gave them the painting. The two guys noticed I was painting them and came over to see the work. They were best-buds – so I gave them the watercolour. And the yellow umbrella couple, well, I just took advantage of them.

I have also painted the people who aren’t there. Here is the painting I did for Henriette who was in my surf-class when I learnt to surf. I could not make it in time for the paddle-out organised by Son Surf when she eventually lost her battle with cancer.

The vegetation at my painting station changes with the seasons. The plants on the dune flourish in wet Winters. Through the summer the greens give way to dry reds and browns. And by the end of a long dry season the dry brush has usually all but blown away. Here are some of the watercolours in which I have focussed on the dune plants.

So there is the story of the path to The Pipe. To conclude, here is my first ever Watercolour-of-the-day.  My first painting as I started this programme on 29 January 2016 featured the boardwalk.  Which I think is quite cool.  Apparently this was the day Homer Simpson chose to visit The Pipe.

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