Arabian Magic with a Polish touch: The Illustrations of Janusz Grabianski

Did you also have books, as a child, that you read over and over again? The images become so familiar that you cannot imagine the story without them. This is, for me, the ultimate edition of The Arabian Nights. The text reworked by Hedwig Smola, translated into Afrikaans by Andre Brink and above all illustrated by Janusz Grabianski.

As a child I loved Grabianski’s vivid colours and strong brushwork – the storytelling in the pictures is just as lively as that in the text. Here you can see the first meeting of Aladdin with the evil magician, pretending to be his long lost uncle. More

Writer / Illustrator Mervyn Peake: Drawing a vivid darkness

Inevitably I have come to Mervyn Peake. Mervyn Peake! That name casts a shadow. Have you read Titus Groan, or Gormenghast? Did you realise he was well known as an illustrator for such classics as Alice in Wonderland, and Treasure Island?

If you have not read him yet, Mervyn Peake is the master of true, dark goth. His creations live below the page, he sculpts his characters and crosshatches them with words. No one else writes, or draws, like Mervyn Peake.


What my art teacher taught me: Make Mistakes

I was reminded of this bit of wisdom by Jesse Breytenbach.

What my art teacher taught me: Make Mistakes.

When doing creative work – whether in the planning stages or in execution – don’t grip the steering wheel.  Hold on with your fingertips and guide the process, allowing unexpected things to happen. Skill is in recognising happy accidents and making the most of them.   A unexpected line may suggest  the curve of a back, the turning of a head in a way you could never knowingly have contrived.  Paint splatters, unexpected colour combinations – accidents can breathe life into your work.

My art teacher taught me: Make Mistakes

David Kramer: powerful masks

Sometimes you meet a someone who can put your thoughts into words; who can articulate those vague opinions that have been bouncing around your head for years. The great South African musician, composer and songwriter David Kramer came to speak to our students today, and I kept wanting to stand up and shout “listen to him! LISTEN to what he is saying!”.

He is also very difficult to draw!


A Darker Keeping: The Highwayman

Illustrator Charles Keeping had a dark side, always just beneath the surface of his work. Compare the work he did in “Joseph’s Yard” with “The Highwayman”, the famous poem by Alfred Noyes. The Highwayman is a satisfyingly Gothic love story of a highwayman and “Bess the landlords red lipped daughter”. You can read (or listen to) the poem here. The poem has a urgent rhythm that drives it along – its the kind of poem you feel compelled to read out loud:

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.


writer/illustrator Charles Keeping: Joseph’s Yard

Charles Keeping was a powerful force in my childhood. I was scared and fascinated by his books . The drawings burn on the page, and the stories cut into your heart. I was deeply influenced by his drawing style – that muscular scrawl with ink and wash. In this post I want to share one particular book: “Joseph’s Yard” which I grew up knowing as “Josef se plant”, in its Afrikaans version.


What My Art Teacher Taught Me: Don’t be scared

I have learnt so much from so many art teachers. Some ideas that have become part of my personal “positioning system” as an artist. I will share these thoughts in this series of posts. This is my way of re-paying that debt in a small way.

What my art teacher taught me: Dont Be Scared

Whether you are painting, drawing, embroidering – whatever the medium – dont tiptoe around your own creation in fear of “messing it up”. You may feel the parts that work happened by accident, and that you cannot repeat them.

Fact: If you did it once, you can do it again. After all it was you who made it happen in the first place. Forget words such as “overworked”, “busy”, “labored”. You will learn more by pushing through than by hanging back. A space created by erasing what was there is richer than one which was never filled. With this comes the responsibility to be honest. Does it really work? If I re-do it, will it be better?

My art teacher taught me: Dont Be Scared.

P.S.  I have since found this post at Laini Taylor’s blog.  She writes about her creative process and ends off with:

— BE OPEN. Cast your imagination wide. Don’t be afraid to think of new things and go in whole new directions.
— BE BRAVE. New ideas may come to you now that will require a ton of new work. This can be overwhelming, but this is your chance to make the book the best it can be. Do whatever you need to do.
— BE EXCITED. Anything can still happen. This is marvelous. You can still dazzle yourself.
— BE DETERMINED. You can do it, and you will do it.

Woyzeck: The Puppets lived

Last night we saw Woyzeck on the Higveld at the Baxter Theatre. What magic! A combination of the breathtaking puppetry of the Handspring Puppet Company and William Kentridge‘s animated charcoal drawings. The puppets were near life size, each manipulated by two puppeteers, and the animation were projected on the screen behind them.

There are so many layers to this show. The puppets themselves are more intensly alive than actors could be. I would love to have a closer look at them, the brooding Woyzec, the stately Maria and her baby, the creepy doctor – each with their pair of puppeteers moving and living with them.


Work in Progress – Hands, Feet and Fish still hot from the oven

Here is a fresh baked tray of hands, feet, heads and feet. Work in progress! I had to use my webcam to take these so apologies for the poor picture quality.


Jeremy Puren’s Video Journey

Last Friday I went to the Blank Gallery to see the last night of Jeremy Puren’s show. He showed the video he and Daniel Naude made of their road trip to Johannesburg from Cape Town. I’m resistant to loooooong arty videos but this one was DIFFERENT!



Namesakes: “Lisa Frank”

I suppose its not so strange. “Lisa Frank” must be quite a common name. And what is the significance of having the same name as some one else in any case? But I still find it fascinating to find two women with the same name who create such different works:


Eirian Short

Here is another lucky find – from the Layers of Meaning website, the work of Eirian Short, a welsh embroidery artist. It is difficult to find much of her work on-line but I have found these image and articles.


Prison embroidery – Ray Materson

I stumbled across this website : the portfolio of Ray Materson who began embroidering in prison, serving a 15 year sentence. The link goes to a portfolio of his embroideries – each one about 9 x 8 cm. This is quoted from the biography on this site:

“Soon Ray would find redemption in a pair of yellow and blue striped socks. The tedious prison routine and the constant fear for his life led him to spiritual re-awakening, and inspired Ray to try his hand at embroidery. Using the thread unraveled from colored socks and a makeshift sewing hoop, Ray began with simple designs and sports logos on baseball caps. He sold his artwork to inmates for cigarettes and bags of coffee. Ray found that his art gave him a certain status in the prison’s social order, a new found respect among gang members, killers and the social outcasts.”


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