Friday, March 30, 2012

Finally, Life Drawing

Taking a Life Drawing class has been on my list of things to do for a while (read years) and I am finally attending one.  The classes happen a couple of times a month at somewhat random intervals.  As my sketches show, we work with a variety of models.  We have not yet had the same model twice.  We begin with warm up 1 and 5 minutes sketches and generally work up to 15 minute sketches.  Someone usually brings wine and the coordinator plays music on his laptop.  You bring your own drawing materials and cup.  The classes are open to anyone interested in drawing.  Most of us seem to have been trained in art  years ago and are looking for a refresher.
I know I haven't posted an art doll up for a while, and it may be a while yet before I do, but taking this kind of class can only help make them better. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cape Town Travelogoue Part 3 (Final)

March 15               We began the day at the Two Oceans Aquarium.  The aquarium was designed much like one you might see in the US and felt a bit like home.  Especially the playland, of which there are few here (although the tea gardens certainly fill that niche, and there is not much like them at home.)  Aside from the play area, the aquarium is divided into three major areas, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Cape Town area watershed.  The exhibits were well done and all enjoyed it including my middle child, even though there none of his favorite amphibian, axolotls. 
The harbor area is very pretty and well developed.  The harbor is surrounded by upscale housing, large crafts warehouses where you can see the crafters at work, a couple of malls, a very modern ferris wheel and an old fashioned two story Venetian carousel.  We enjoyed strolling around the area and seeing the sites.  It is so funny but on this vacation, the boys couldn't pass up American food when they saw it, so they at at Subway.  The boys also rode the ferris wheel to get the view of the city.  An unexpected highlight of the harbor is the street performers outside the V & A Waterfront Mall.  We heard a talented jazz band playing followed by an energetic group singing some traditional South African songs and dancing, (pictured.)  We finished our time there by collecting polished stones at The Scratch Patch.
We awoke from our afternoon nap to cloudy, cool weather.  Despite this we decided to try to go swimming down at the Fish Hoek beach.  It was a little too cool so we occupied ourselves by beach combing and avoiding the Blue Bottle Jellyfish and snails washed up on the shore.  Then an interesting thing happened, a group of men ran quickly past us and into the water toward a small boat rowing in.  The men grabbed a rope and started pulling.  I then noticed there was a second group of men further down the beach.  The men (and one woman) were pulling in the rope with one man curling the rope into a nice coil for at least a half of an hour.  In between the two groups was the man in charge, a fisherman, with his walkie talkie coordinating the work.  Finally we saw the Trek net arrive with what I estimated to be about 200 fish (18in?).  During this time the crowd on the beach grew to watch the excitement and to purchase fish directly from the fisherman.  You could buy a fresh fish for R50 ($7).  I learned from a local that the beaches have been so overfished in the past that the government only allows three fishing licenses for the entire peninsula.
After dinner we had another family over who was also on vacation to share Joe's birthday cake with us.

March 16         The cloudy and cool weather continued today but that did not deter us from our planned trip to visit the seals on Duiker Island.  Duiker Island is a rocky outcrop in the ocean about a 20 minute boat ride from the harbor.  It was well worth the chilly weather to see the seals lounging on the rocks and frolicking in the ocean like puppies with a new toy.  Back at the dock we were serenaded by a raggedy band of the minstrel troupe style. Sadly, not many of the passengers were giving them coins. 
This afternoon we drove to Stellenboch which is in wine country and easily drivable from Cape Town. It is close enough to Cape Town that the traffic slowed us for a good bit of the drive.  Outside the suburbs the vineyards made a bucolic landscape dotted with old buildings.  It seems that all of the vineyards have wine tasting and many have restaurants as well.  The road into Stellenbosch was congested as well and it was frustrating trying to get to the historic section of the city.
My oldest and the baby were napping and Joe wanted to join them so my younger son and I decided to try to find the Stellenbosch Toy and Miniature Museum.  The layout of the roads in the historic section of Stellenbosch is confusing and we found ourselves at the University of Stellenbosch's Art Museum just as someone opened the door.  That seemed like a good enough invitation and we decided to stroll around.  The main exhibit was on traditional Chinese cut paper art.  My boy was particularly interested in the pictures that were symmetrical since there was no obvious fold lines in the paper.  He also liked a series of oil paintings and poetry on the Butterfly Effect.  We also viewed student art from the permanent collection.  We did manage to make it to the miniatures museum where we were greeted by a man that looked very much like my father.  Along with information on the toys, vast room with a reproduction of a train route and miniature trains and miniature rooms he shared interesting information on the mixing of all the various groups in the Cape peninsula.  His own background was considered 'colored' and that included a mix of descendants of West Africans, the San peoples and the Irish.  I shared with him that America is also a place with much mixed ancestry.
By now it was past time for lunch but strolling around the area we found many of the restaurants to be packed to overflowing.  We needed to eat quickly so we ducked into the Jan Cats Cafe in the Stellenbosch Hotel for a bit to eat since it was not crowded.  This place was really a hidden gem.  The food was great and relatively fast.  On our way back to the car we paused at the Lourens GalleryLouren's drawings are so detail the appear photographic.  His son is also talented and creates unique jewelry of wood, silver and semiprecious stones.
March 17         Our last morning in the area proved to be the most frustrating. We all wanted to visit the penguins one more time after we loaded up the car we thought we would get gas and drive through Simon's Town.  The gas station pump was super slow so we decided after 5 minutes and only a few liters (couple gallons) we would bail and get gas later.  The credit card machine was down, luckily we had enough money to pay.  Once we got to Simon's Town it was unexpectedly congested and there was a detour set up.  We had unknowingly run into the Naval Festival.  The detour ruined our plans  to purchase a quick breakfast at one of the fine bakeries in town and we had to do without until after the beach.  At least the penguins were great and the beach nearly deserted.  The boys went swimming and took a stroll up to the visitor center.  The baby and I stayed behind because she was very fussy and wouldn't let me put her down.  Our drive back was worse than the drive in because of the greater amount of traffic on the route but at least the detour was down.  Oh, wait, no, the officer has left and the roads are still closed.  We just have to do a U turn and waste more time.  Now we are getting worried about getting to the airport in time.  We stopped at a working gas station, filled up and had to make to with cookies for breakfast.
Luckily the road to the airport only had normal traffic and the car rental return only took the 5 minutes it took to get all of us out of the car.  We ran into Woolworths, picked up pre-made sandwiches and drinks (no free snacks are served in the plane) and ran to the check-in.  There we were told we must have IDs for the children.  Really, on an in country flight?  We have no IDs with us and they have to call management to see if we will be allowed to board.  Why wasn't this brought up on the way out?  The flight was fine but the baby caught the virus my oldest had been struggling with all week.  Despite this short frustrating time, it was a great vacation.  My boys say they want to live here now.

And finally a picture of one of the many sunrises I saw with my early rising baby during this trip.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cape Town Travelogue Part 2

March 14th                In the morning we took the picturesque road from Nordhoek along the Atlantic side of the Cape towards Table Mountain.  The views along the narrow road blasted from the rock were dramatic.  We had panoramic vistas of the ocean and various mountain peaks including the Twelve Apostles and Lions Head Mountain.  When we arrived at Table Mountain, we parked along the roadside and walked to the cable car.  It is possible to hike and rock climb to the top but a poor idea if you are taking young children.  The cable car ride up is really smooth and the car slowly rotates so you get a full view of the valley and Cape Town below.  The top of the mountain is covered with rocky paths and small shrubs and plants.  I am uneasy with heights and was wary of the cable ride but the smoothness of the ride really was calming.  The pictures are of me and the baby on Table Mountain with Cape Town as the backdrop, a view of Table Bay and some of the Twelve Apostles and the cable car.
After our mountain visit we took a picnic lunch to The Company's Gardens (the company here being the Dutch East India Trading Company.  The gardens are popular and a nice shady spot for a picnic.  My middle child began throwing breadcrumbs to the friendly pigeons.  They responded with enthusiasm.  When he placed a packet of bread crusts on the ground he was nearly swamped with the "friendly" pigeons.  The baby was so excited to see the feeding frenzy she ran right into the swarm. 
We ended our Cape Town trip on this day by driving the route the Red Tour Bus drives.  By the way, the tour bus brochure has a very good map of the area.  Cape Town proper is a nice smaller city that is clean and has a lot of fun looking shops and restaurants.  Joe and the baby really wanted to take a nap and the boys wanted to watch cable (we don't have it at home and our family rule is they can watch it when we are traveling,) so I suggested he drop me off in Kalk Bay for a little time alone.
I visited a couple of the contemporary art galleries in Kalk Bay, Artvark and Kalk Bay Modern Harbor Gallery.  At the later I purchased some silkscreened canvas with the print based on some Namibian Bush art.  I think I may try to design a backpack with the sturdy material.  There is some really beautiful pottery here.  A lot of the pieces are simple shapes with minimal but decorative glazing.  There is also a ceramic studio in the Cape area that does terrific Raku baked animals, Africa Dreaming.  See the photo of the giraffe.  Again, the animal shapes are simple, almost toy-like, the colors are soft earth tones and pastels.  I saw a lot of beautiful paintings and prints, too numerous to mention but I recommend going to the gallery websites.  Artvark also had some amazing steelwork that I would love to have on my house if I weren't renting and could ship across the ocean.  Kalk Bay Books is independently owned and has so many well chosen selections I wish I could hire the proprietor as my personal book buyer.  Many of the clothing shops have beautiful, feminine, arty clothing for women.  Unfortunately, there are also a lot of cheap (relatively,) imported clothes from Asia.  Why are these shops at a tourist destination?    I really enjoyed my time off and even had a couple of minutes to sketch the dock before Joe came back with the kids.

We walked down to the Kalk Bay tidal pool.  The tidal pool was great for my youngest because of the shallow flat boulders to play on and she could sit and splash around.  She was also incredibly excited by someone's dog hanging out on the low wall surrounding the tidal pool.  I could not drag her away until the dog finally left.  Joe and the oldest boy enjoyed sitting along the tidal pool wall and having the waves splash up against them.  The public bathroom/changing room closes at 5pm and we were caught by surprise when we arrived at the locked door.    We ate dinner at the Tribecca Bakery and Cafe.  The burgers there were gourmet but for that were still the closest thing we have had to a US style cheeseburger, aside from McDonald's since we arrived.  (Cheese on your hamburger seems to mean a cheesy white sauce around here.)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cape Town Travelogue Part 1

Monday 12th March          After getting up at 5:45 am and because the baby's sleep schedule as soon as we arrived in Fish Hoek, on the peninsula outside of Cape Town, at our self catered chalet we all had a nap.  A neighbor stopped by to let us know that it was a bad idea to leave our balcony door open because baboons would climb up, enter the house and raid the refrigerator!  (I found out later that this actually occurred at the rental a couple of months earlier.)  That afternoon we went to the the first town founded by Europeans on the Cape, Simon's Town.  We started off at a little strip of white sand beach outside the train station. Much to my toddlers delight it is a great place to meet dogs since it is one of the few dog friendly beaches.   Much to my oldest boy's chagrin, the waves are just too mellow for body surfing in the bay.  My younger son combed the beach and found some treasures; a sea urchin, a shell and a bivalve.  We found out that there was a sewage pipe draining into the water and we decided to leave. 

It was time to go into town a pick up a few supplies.  The town is filled with old buildings and this photo is just an example of the buildings you find on the Saint Georges St.  It turns out we had to hustle because the shops close between 4 and 5 pm.  After the groceries stop it was time to grab a bite.  We had pizza and pasta at Cafe Pescados.  The music was US alternative pop and the decor was photos of old Hollywood icons. It felt like the US after living a year and a half in South Africa.  The food was tasty too.  We were warned by our waiter that Simon's Town gets pretty rowdy in the evenings with the visiting sailors from the Naval base and would not be child friendly much longer.  That's OK, we were going home anyway.  We have all been sick for the last two weeks and my oldest is still in the middle of it.  We needed our rest.

Tuesday, 13th March                 We began our day at the UNESCO World Heritage site, Boulder Beach, a nesting site for the African Penguin. The sand is fine and white and strewn with immense rounded boulders.  As soon as you pull into the parking lot you see the penguins waddling around.  In fact, you must be wary because they like to hide out under your car.  March is breeding season so the penguins were hanging out in pairs.  There were also Rock Dassies peaking out from the rocks.  I recommend visiting the penguins early while the beach is uncrowded. 
We then drove down to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve.  The clouds stared rolling in and it began to mist so we ducked into the Visitors Center.  That was fun as there are a lot of hands on displays and elements the children could enjoy.  We learned a lot about the flora and fauna of the Fynbos, the rarest of the biomes. 
From there it was a quick drive down to the Cape of Good Hope and one of the tourists snapped our obligatory family photo taken from the the furthest south and western point on the African continent.  Boy, was it windy. We then headed to Cape Point to visit the light house and to grab a quick bite at the Cafe.  That is quite a climb up to the light house.  Too bad we had such poor visibility, I am sure the view of the ocean would have been magnificent. My littlest one needed a nap so we took the scenic route up north along the Atlantic road to Nordhoek for the beaches to get some big wave action for the boys.  Sadly, it was so windy there the boys did not get to body surf because the flying sand was scouring them.
Everyone agreed to go back to Boulder Beach and visit the penguins again after dinner.  The boys climbed all over the rocks and even swam through little crevices they found between the boulders.  My baby and I played Stomp the Wave, a game we invented which is pretty much entirely described by the title.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Poppy ATCs

My newest creations for a Swap-bot exchange, poppies.  I can't say I have a favorite flower.  It is like having a favorite color, too many are beautiful to pick just one.  I do have several flowers that I really love and poppies are one of those.
I used a technique to create the flowers where I layered tissue paper down with gel glue.  When the tissue paper is dry, I cut it into the desired shapes.  The background for the ATC is a commerically available flocked (fuzzy) paper with Gustave Klimt lines and spiral.  I used that to suggest the stems and seed pods of poppies.  I then enchanced the lines with colored pencil.  It was a fun project and I plan on using a similar technique for the Iris ATC swap coming up.  Last day to sign up for that swap is 24th of March.