Landscapes

Survival – A Lesson from the Veld

I have recently been sorting through my aloe paintings, and one in particular stands out, for its universal message has a personal story attached…

When I was a young girl, we lived on a cattle ranch in Inyanga, which is situated in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe, in a magnificent mountain range that borders with Mozambique.

There were seven children in our family and we roamed pretty wild and free, spending our days either helping with the farm or exploring the rivers, kopje’s and bush.

On top of the mountain, looking over our 14,000 acre Nyangui Ranch, 1975.

The hillsides of the farm were littered with mysterious ancient ruins and stone terraces that we loved to scramble over and explore, as we disappeared down tunnels, into unexpected enclosures, picking up shards of pottery, imagining who might have once lived there.

Exploring ancient ruins on our farm. 1975

It was a blissful existence for kids growing up without television and all the mod cons of today. We learned to appreciate Nature on both macro and micro scale and this laid a firm foundation for the creativity that was to follow.

Sisters catching tadpoles in one of the many rivers on the ranch

 

Playing in the stream, siblings Sally, Anthony and Penny, 1967

But then war came to that beautiful area and we were forced to move, leaving our playground behind. We all set off on our respective paths and life taught us some serious lessons.

On a nostalgic return trip to the old farm, many years later, I took my two young sons to visit a ruin that lay embedded in a commanding position at the top of a hill. The countryside was hot and dry, and in the grip of a ten-year drought. The rock hard ground was stripped bare of grass and the termites were eating the trees. A veld fire had recently removed whatever dry grass remained.

Nyangui Ranch in the drought. 1991

As we clambered up over the multiple layers of terraces, sweating and panting in the heat, we finally reached the ruin. Memories of my childhood came flooding back as I surveyed the landscape around and as I sat on a warm granite rock, I felt the earth’s energy seep through my body like a much needed blood transfusion. Oh, it was so good to be home!

In my desire to share my youthful memories, I attempted to ignite some enthusiasm into my sons, who both looked somewhat confused as to what all the excitement was about. I was beginning to wonder myself what the purpose of this visit had been. I mean this was my childhood and these were my memories, so how I was hoping that my boys would get it I really don’t know, when their reality was based in the city and the lush green hills of Natal.

My two young sons visit the ancient ruins for the first time. 1991

Then, as I wandered around with my camera, I came upon two small aloes, side by side, both scorched from the fire, parched from the drought, but doggedly standing their ground. I was riveted by this image of survival, and in that instant, I knew why I had needed to be there.

I took that photo with me into the turmoil of my life and kept it as a clear reminder that no matter how great the heat, the thirst and the flames, when one is well rooted and grounded, one can survive pretty much anything. With a belief in one’s ability to survive, one can emerge stronger from the experience, with spirit and light intact.

‘Nyangui Aloes’ by Sally Scott
Medium: Chalk Pastel

Last year I translated that photograph into a chalk pastel painting and was reminded once again that Nature is the great teacher and Creativity, the therapist. Or is it the other way round?  Whichever way I look at it they seem to work in tandem and I am very grateful for both.

 

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Open Tabs

I recently visited the optometrist, for what I thought was to be a routine check-up that would enable me to renew my drivers license. After flicking through A’s and D’s and upside down E’s, I was relieved to hear that things weren’t as bad as I expected, and engaged the doctor on the ins and outs of ageing and failing eyesight. I had so many questions that every time he started to speak, another question would pop into my mind. Eventually in desperation, he laughed, put his hands up and said I had too many tabs open and that I needed to put a hold on them so that he could attend to one question at a time. I was amused by his analogy, but appreciated him telling me so directly that this is what I do and as I left his consultation rooms, I felt I had just had an awakening.

Back in my studio a short while later, I stopped for a moment and observed the scene before me. Everywhere I looked were half finished projects, enticing piles of creative energy waiting for my attention. In that moment, I knew that my optometrist was right. I do have multiple tabs open, in the form of numerous projects going on at any one time, and I flit from one to the other like a butterfly gathering nectar. I’m sure a good psychologist would tell me the pitfalls of my process, but this is the way I love to work and the way I stay in the flow, I am never without something to do, and even when I am finishing off a project, the next idea is being born.

So since my visit to the good doctor, I have been examining my situation and been actively closing a few of the tabs that have been slowing down my system. I have finished the beading on a bag begun over a year ago,

A funky example of a bohemian bag

given my aloe a flower

One of a series of small ink drawings

 

and completed that winding road that leads me through the Eastern Cape landscape.

A recent work of a road less travelled

I have made the leaves for a sample bag that I will be using when I teach in Port Elizabeth next week

A sample bag for my Bohemian Bag workshop, which will be taught at the National Quilt Festival 2017 on 3rd and 4th July

and rustled up some flowers

Preparation for The Bohemian Bag Workshop, being taught in PE on 3rd and 4th July

I have taken the last of my paintings in for framing…

Country Road. Chalk Pastel. Sally Scott

Another Road, Another View. Chalk pastel. Sally Scott

…and I have also designed a poster for my Festival exhibition.

I will be showing a few of my recent works in a group exhibition at the National Arts Festival 2017. The exhibition opens 29th June and closes 9th July.

 

So that ticks a few things off the list and now that this blog post is written, another tab is about to be closed, but not before I invite you all to visit our exhibition at The Highlander between the 29th June and 9th July 2017.

 

Stay tuned for feedback on both the exhibition and the bag workshop. I suspect that by then a few more tabs will have opened.

 

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Summertide Exhibition

For those of my friends who will be in Grahamstown over the Christmas season, there is an exhibition worth visiting at the Festival Gallery, 38 Somerset St. The exhibition, Summertide, is now open and includes a selection of E.Cape artists work, including two of my Waterlily series.

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Lily #4 Size: 47cm x 35cm. Medium: Chalk Pastel

‘Nymphaea #4’ by Sally Scott. Size: 47cm x 35cm. Medium: Chalk Pastel

Please visit and enjoy!

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Retreat

In May last year I was invited to join a group of ladies from Gauteng for a weekend of art making at Ann’s Villa, a self catering early settler Victorian mansion, that stands alone in the rugged terrain at the foot of the Zuurberg Mountains in the Eastern Cape. Helen Lunn, owner of the villa, had met me over the telephone when I had inquired about renting her space for my big birthday celebration a couple of months earlier. After the party, when she learned of my involvement in the arts, she asked if I would like to join her group of friends on an art retreat at the villa. It was an unexpected invitation and a bit of a risk to accept, given that I had never met her or anyone in the group, but I was curious and the thought of having another weekend in that beautiful environment, was enough to make me take up this opportunity. After all if I didn’t fit in, I could always return home to Grahamstown, a mere 88 kms away. That, as it turned out, wasn’t necessary and it wasn’t long before we had all settled in like old friends. It was a great weekend and so much fun to work alongside people whose experience, interests, talents and skills differed from my own. I learned much and came away from the those few days in the outback of the Karoo, wishing that I could have stayed longer, but feeling enriched, relaxed and inspired.

 

With the limited time available, my output was fairly minimal, but I did manage to produce a few sketches.

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Outside the blacksmith’s shop, Ann’s Villa 2014. Charcoal.

 

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An ink sketch of Ann’s Villa 2014

 

Ink and wash drawing of the rear view of Ann's Villa 2014

Ink and wash drawing of the rear view of Ann’s Villa 2014

So what is it about retreat that is so enticing? The idea of it is filled with possibility. For me it’s being able to legitimately withdraw from the madness of modern living, to step out of the predictable and well defined grooves of daily life, to enter into a space where anything can happen, where I can take time to intimately explore the outer environment and free fall into my inner world to see what’s going on in there. It’s having the time to express myself in an honest, uncompromising manner, knowing that what I produce doesn’t matter because it’s the process of doing it that counts. I love having no responsibilities and minimal expectation, where I can do pretty much anything with my day and take my time in doing it. I love the fact that I can indulge without the slightest whisper of guilt in the pleasures of making art in an environment that offers so many possibilities.

Over the years, I have been on several such retreats, and in my next post I will share another very memorable occasion when my sister, Nicky, brother Anthony and I took ourselves off to a beautiful conservancy in the low veldt of Zimbabwe.

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Creative Art Journaling Workshop

I have a particular affection for the province of Limpopo, an area of South Africa that is steeped in history and bursting at the seams with its rich cultural heritage. It is one of the few places in the country where one can have the privilege of meeting local artists and crafters in their home villages, surrounded by their amazing hand crafts. In a world where the authentic is fast becoming something of the past, this area still has small pockets of authenticity, where mass consumerism hasn’t completely obliterated traditional craft art. My need for authenticity has drawn me back to this area several times over the past few years, and whilst I do see changes, the delight of traveling into rural Limpopo never fades. Without fail, after each of these visits, I have returned to my own home on the other side of the country, inspired, revitalised and ready to get back to my own creativity.

It was with this appreciation for the area in mind, that I decided to embark on a new creative project, one that combines my love of travel with my interest in the arts. I have been teaching drawing and fibre art for many years and last year added creative art journaling to the mix. So when Marcelle Bosch of Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge approached me about the possibility of organising an art journaling workshop in conjunction with the village tours they run, I jumped at the opportunity.

So, it is now with great pleasure that I invite you to join me on a four-day creative art journaling experience from 1st – 4th July 2015, at the Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge, which is situated at the foot of the magnificent Soutpansberg Mountains, near Louis Trichardt (Machado).

Final advert for Madi a Thavha workshop-outline 3

The four star luxury lodge is nestled in a magnificent natural environment with the comforting backdrop of the mountain. The rooms are comfortable and colourfully decorated with the work of Limpopo’s craft artists. Workshop participants will stay at the hotel and have all meals included.

The workshop will begin with a one day field trip out into the villages of the area, where, with the help of an experienced tour guide, we will explore markets, businesses and homesteads, famous for their wall paintings and get a glimpse into daily rural life. We will meet local artists and crafters, surrounded by their pots, sculptures, musical instruments and bead work, as well as travel through some very impressive scenery. The outing will give us a chance to talk to local people, take photographs and generally gather inspiration and material to use over the next three days, when I will take you through the process of visually documenting your experience.

Limpopo is famous for it's beautiful clay African pots

Limpopo is famous for it’s beautiful clay African pots

In the workshop you will spend your time creating a journal that visually expresses your response to our outing into the villages. We will use a variety of techniques and mediums, and for those who are insecure about their talents, I will provide basic instruction in drawing, painting and collage, with ideas to incorporate the written word. With the limited time available, it is unlikely that you will complete your journal, but it will certainly mark the beginning of a process that can keep you busy for many years to come.

Booking for the workshop has now opened, so if you are keen to come or need more information, please contact Marcelle at info@madiathavha.com

Please note that space is limited and booking closes on 31st May 2015.

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Recent Work

One of the best things about going away is coming home.

After a few days exploring the antique shops of Port Elizabeth, and a couple more roaming the hills of the Winterberg, I open the door of my art studio and feel my heart soar.  The break has done me good and now I stand in the doorway looking at the artwork on the wall as if I’m seeing it for the first time.  I am satisfied with the four large aloe paintings that I have been working on for the past six months. Tomorrow I must sign them and take them to the framer and then work must begin on the exhibitions I have planned for 2015.

I reach for my camera in order to record the moment.

Looking across the studio to the four recently completed commissioned artworks

Looking across the studio to the four recently completed commissioned artworks

The desert scenes in my art studio

The desert scenes in my art studio

Scenes of the Okavango Delta and the Eastern Cape

Scenes of the Okavango Delta and the Eastern Cape

Two recetly completed paintings of Asante Sana, a nature conservancy in the Eastern Cape

Two recently completed paintings of Asante Sana, a nature conservancy in the Eastern Cape. Each artwork is 60cm x 98cm

My most recent work, two aloe paintings, scenes from the area around Grahamstown

My most recent work, two aloe paintings, scenes from the area around Grahamstown. Each artwork is 60cm x 98cm

These four aloe artworks will soon be on their way to Cape Town and though I will miss their company, I am happy to know that they have found a good home.

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Festival Exhibition 2014

When I woke this morning and went out into my winter garden, I could feel it in the air. It is the mood of Grahamstown the week before the National Arts Festival. There is a peculiar calm that descends upon our little city the week before the Festival, a sense of anticipation of what is about to come. However, the stillness of this early morning reverie belies the manic activity that is going on behind the scenes in art departments and studios, theatre venues, shops, restaurants and the numerous b&b’s that are all busily preparing for the hordes to arrive. If the university is the lifeblood of this little city, then the Festival is the injection that keep us all alive. We depend upon it for our survival, both financially and culturally. There are already a few new faces in town, the technicians who have come from the big cities to create the settings for the shows. This is when the excitement begins, for a sense of new energy has arrived.

In a few days time, thousands of people will move into the city, and for a little over a week our lives will be temporarily transformed. There will be no parking, roads will be closed, and every available wall space will be plastered with posters that advertise the hundreds of exhibitions and shows. Life for normal Grahamstonians both closes down and comes alive.

Here are a few images from last year’s Festival Parade

The air is chilly, but the sun is shining and I push my feet through piles of fallen oak leaves and sit in the warmth of the sun to drink my tea, watching the birds and listening to the sounds of our sleepy city gradually coming to life. This is the calm before the storm. I’ve been keeping a low profile for the past few months, because I have been working on a large commission. I feel satisfied with the work I have produced, but as a result of this distraction, have not had time to put together a formal exhibition for the Festival. I do however have a fair selection of work available for sale, so will be having a display of these works in my art studio. If anyone should be interested to see the work, please contact me to arrange a time for viewing.

A selection of my work will be on show in my studio. Viewing by appointment only

A selection of work will be on show in my art studio during the National Arts Festival 2014. Viewing by appointment only.

Festival is always a fun time in Grahamstown and this year, it’s 40th anniversary, should really be a good one! I will keep you updated with news and images of the festivities in my next post. So, watch this space…!

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Delta & Desert Exhibition Feedback

The National Arts Festival 2013 has come and gone and the good people of Grahamstown are now in the process of recovery!

It was a great festival and though I am in a complete state of exhaustion, I am very happy that everything went off so well. Hundreds of people came through my exhibition Delta & Desert: Journeys into the Wilderness, and I was overwhelmed by the positive feedback and support for my work, and thrilled to have sold as much as I did, given the tough economic climate.

The rhino have definitely benefited from the enthusiastic response I received and I am about to deposit a healthy sum of money into the Chipembere Rhino Foundation, which was raised from the sale of Harry Owen’s poetry anthology, For Rhino in a Shrinking World, as well as from the sale of numerous cards and prints of the illustrations.

So, thank you to everyone who helped to make the exhibition such a success, especially my family and friends who gave me so much support and helped in so many ways. I could never have done this without you.

For those of you who were not able to be there, here are a few photographs of the exhibition:

A view of the water lily wall

A view of the water lily wall

A view of works that were inspired by my trip to Botswana

A view of works that were inspired by my trip to Botswana

A view across the exhibition towards the Richtersveld section

A view across the exhibition towards the Richtersveld section

This view shows the Eastern Cape works

This view shows the Eastern Cape works

The rhino corner, where the rhino anthology, prints and cards were on display

The rhino corner, where the rhino anthology, prints and cards were on display

Sally in attendance at the Delta & Desert Exhibition 2013

Sally in attendance at the Delta & Desert Exhibition 2013

So that’s the festival done, now time to relax and plan where to from here.

In my next post I will be chatting about  my work In Memoriam and the presentation I gave at the LAWS Conference, that was held at Rhodes University during the National Arts Festival. Stay tuned, there’s lots more to come…!

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Delta & Desert Exhibition 2013

After months of hard work, my exhibition Delta & Desert: Journeys into the Wilderness has finally opened at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, and the response has been amazing!

The exhibition is being held at the Carinus Art Centre until the 6th July 2013 and will be open daily from 9.00am – 5.00pm. For those of you who will not be here during this period, I am bringing you the highlights of my show. Enjoy!

All the colour landscapes seen here are done in chalk pastel and the black and white images are ink. The travel bags are mixed media. All works are mounted and framed.

In addition to what you see here, all the original rhino drawings that I did to illustrate For Rhino in a Shrinking World are also on show and available for sale, as well as a limited edition print run on each of these works. Harry Owen and I will be speaking about the book on Monday 1st July at the Nun’s Chapel, St.Peter’s Campus, Grahamstown at 11am, as a part of the Authors in Conversation Series for Thinkfest!, which takes place during the National Arts Festival. Please join us if you can.

I will bring you more on the exhibition in a short while, but in the meantime I must get back to taking care of the show! Please visit me if you are in the area, or contact me if you are interested in any of the work. Prices are available on request.

Categories: Exhibitions, Fibre Art, Landscapes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Desert Wilderness

In 2002 I went with a group of geologists on an epic trip to Namibia. It was a journey like none other I had ever been on and a landscape like none other I had ever seen. Vast, desolate, and harsh in it’s aridity and isolation, I found it haunting and mesmerizing in it’s beauty. So when I received an invitation in 2011 to join my friend on another adventure to the Richtersveld, the northern most border of which adjoins southern Namibia, the temptation to go was irresistible.

From stories I had heard of the Richtersveld, it sounded like a magnificent place, though in my mind it was shrouded with an element of danger due to it’s isolation and complete lack of amenities. Unlike the previous expedition, this time we traveled alone. After three days of driving from the E.Cape diagonally across South Africa, we finally arrived on the bleak and foggy West coast, turned right at Port Nolloth and drove northwards parallel to the coast, until we reached the Orange River, which we then followed inland for a short while until after cresting a hill, below us lay the dark and ominous mountain ranges of the Richtersveld National Park. As we approached the entry gate, I had the sensation of us entering the legendary Mordor from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I felt a mixture of excitement and trepidation.

The first night was spent camping on the banks of the mighty Orange River.

Entering the Richtersveld National Park

Our first night stop

Heading out into the wilderness

Heading out into the wilderness

Our first sighting of a kokerboom tree

Our first sighting of a Kokerboom (Aloe dichotoma)

A view across the Richtersveld

A view across the Richtersveld

As we traveled deeper and deeper into the maze of arid mountain ranges, the sense of isolation and our vulnerability grew. We had no cell or satellite phone contact and in the four days we were there, saw only one other group of travelers. Clearly we were on our own.

A view of the typical gradations in rock colour

A view of the typical gradations in rock colour

Desert beauty

Desert beauty

After an adventurous day of driving over narrow, rocky tracks, we finally wound our way down to Tatasberg Wilderness rest camp on the banks of the Orange River, where we had the luxury of staying in a comfortable little cabin.

Our second night in the desert was spent on the banks of the Orange River

Our second night in the desert was spent on the banks of the Orange River

After a bit of a slow start, when we found ourselves stuck in the silt, we made our way through magnificent jagged mountain valleys that led us up to the famous Kokerboomkloof, the ultimate in desert isolation eeriness. I felt like we were the only people alive on this planet, and with the nearest water supply being over 40 kms away and no form of communication with the outside world, I shuddered at the thought of us having an emergency. We were completely and utterly alone in the most splendid desert Eden. What a way to go.

Desert flower garden at the Kokerboomkloof camp site

Desert flowers at the Kokerboomkloof camp site

The Kokerboomkloof  camp area is striking in it’s scenic beauty, with magnificent rust coloured, sculptural  rock formations and trees that add to it’s primordial atmosphere.

Being at Kokerboomkloof is like being in a desert sculpture garden

Being at Kokerboomkloof is like being in a desert sculpture garden

With sentries standing watch, as we slept out in the open

With sentries standing watch, as we slept out in the open

A view across the Richtersveld

A typical view of the Richtersveld’s lunar landscape

For me, this journey was a surreal encounter with the unknown. It challenged me on many levels, and left me knowing that there is still so much about myself and this world that I don’t know. As with my trip through Namibia, it reminded me of our human fragility and our relative unimportance in the grand scheme of things, but it left me feeling so much stronger and richer for having had the experience of meeting it, if only for a short time.

The desert requires a full exhibition of it’s own, in fact a lifetime of exhibitions if I really think about it, and still I would only scratch the tiniest surface, so, in my forthcoming exhibition Delta & Desert: Journeys into the Wilderness, I have very humbly attempted to express just a tiny fraction of what I saw. I believe that this is just the beginning, and I plan to continue adding to this body of work.

The world at our feet

The world at our feet

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