Celebrating the unique beauty of a South African Spring

Joe Dolby


Born in Cape Town in 1947 Joe Dolby has exhibited at the Kirstenbosch Biennale, Vuleka, Ava, Iziko South African Nationa Gallery and the Brett Kebble Art Awards.

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As an artist for over forty years, I have come to accept that one’s style will alter many times. Where I find myself now is where I should be, using my intuition and instinct in an artwork. Having taught art in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and here in Africa, I know my soul feeds on colour. Born in Scotland, but emigrating after graduating as a teacher, to Australia, I found the beginning of my colour . Spending four years in Papua New Guinea showed me a change of colour, but Africa as my home gives me the extreme!


During junior school I had a teacher who would draw squiggles on the blackboard, five minutes before the bell rang to go home. Those were the most exciting “lessons” of the day, as she asked anyone to come out and draw into the shape what they saw. I never stopped seeing. Thank you, Mrs Abbott, you were such an inspiration.

Africa excites and sets the scene for almost any portrait. Colour and light illuminate the form within a coloured canvas, and the process to find the subject begins.


Masking fluid is randomly squirted and drawn over the blank canvas, dropped straight from the bottle. This is left to dry overnight.

The next day the canvas is sprinkled with water, and Sennelier inks are dropped onto the canvas. The inks spread, run into one another, and create their own hues and shapes.

Once again, the canvas dries overnight.


Ink and masking fluid dry, the latter is removed by peeling off from the canvas. Now there is a picture of white lines and sheer colour. The inks are very strong and will never fade.

The canvas is placed on an easel, and one can take anything from one day to a week, to finally “see” the painting inside. I turn the canvas around each day, and study it. Sometimes the subject is easy to see, other times it takes a while to see it.  Not once, when I begin a painting using this technique, do I know what will emerge.


I use oil paints to paint in the body of the work. The richness of the oil, together with the vibrancy of the inks, creates a beautiful effect. Occasionally I will add some Rembrandt chalk pastel (very rich) to enhance a certain area, and balance the work.

Sometimes very little oil paint is needed, to bring out the subject. The inks play their part very well.

The artwork is then left to dry.

These paintings are totally original, and can never be copied. They are too intricate for anyone to do so.


“Lady with a bucket”                       



I alternate using masking fluid, as some works are just ink and oil paint. The masking fluid provides a certain excitement and movement, necessary in some pieces. Below is an example of no masking fluid. The inks create a subject, the oil paint enhances the subject.



I use Sennelier inks, Rembrandt chalk pastels and a range of oil colours All of my materials are purchased from the Italian Art Shop, in Cape Town

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The talented artist Sophie Niemann is exhibiting her unique work at the ‘Beyond Knowing Nature’ joint exhibition at The Cape Gallery on the 2nd September 2018. This work needs to be seen first-hand as it is not quite as it seems…. first glance her art work looks like an oil painting but look closer… as incorporates African textiles and a technique known as ‘Thread painting’, making subjects of her work come to life with a unique texture, tactile appeal and depth.

Sophie Niemann, is a self-taught artist, who has lived and worked in Africa for the past 20 years. Art and wildlife has always been a passion for Sophie. During her time in Africa as a Zoologist, she has had the privileged to spend most of her days in nature working for a conservation and community organization, setting up programmes across Africa.

She uses her experience with wildlife and nature as an inspiration and hopes to express the beauty and wonder of nature in her work, touching a wider audience to educate them about the significance of conservation and the issues facing our vanishing species.

We asked Sophie more about her art and technique:

What inspired you to use fabric and embroidery in your work?
I grew up surrounded by fabric…literally as my mother made fabric models and I divided my time between enjoying nature or spending time in my mother’s ‘Aladdin’s cave of a sewing room’, rummaging about and creating things from all the off cuts of fabric. Through my teens and adulthood I always had a sewing machine for mending and the odd creation. However, I only picked up the hobby again when my kids went to school, when at the same time I revisited my love of art and painting. However, something seemed to be missing from my artwork, I missed the texture and patterns of fabrics and made a challenge to myself to see if I could incorporate the two. After discovering the technique of ‘Threadpainting’, basically ‘painting’ with thread on a sewing machine, there was no stopping me and love the texture it brings to my work and the challenges it brings to be to create the finished piece.

Describe the technique do you used to make your artwork?
Firstly, I have to decide on a subject matter, which is probably the most challenging part of the process for me. I keep a scrapbook of ideas, colour combinations, sketches or images that ‘strike a nerve’ with me. Then I find a particular image or subject seems to ‘get under my skin’ for a while and keeps jumping into my mind and then I know this is the one I should focus on next. Then I set to work drawing the subject, normally with charcoal on a canvas, then I used acrylic ink to mix and merge into its own creative way to form the background and colour tone of the work.

detail 2

Then I enjoy painting the whole picture in oils, despite most of it being covered with canvas later. It gives me more insight on where the shading, light and texture is, before I add the fabric over it..
Then I lay over water soluble fabric, which is transparent and proceed to choose and add fabrics over it, securing it with pins and glue. After this I remove the fabric section and add to an embroidery hoop and the many hours of sewing begins. For this part I use free-motion machine embroidery technique known as thread-painting. It is like a paintbrush, but instead of adding dark/light/details with paint, I sew layers of thread, leaving areas of design of the fabric here and there to depth and interest.
Once competed I cut out the fabric work and pin it back onto the original artwork, where I sow it on and give the last details while blending it into the picture to give the finished effect.

What is your artistic inspiration?
Nature and the vibrate African colours and fabrics. I have been honored to spend most of my time living and working in Africa in wildlife areas working as a guide, wildlife research, and traveling around Africa for a conservation organization and latterly training safari guides and living on a game farm. So I am naturally drawn to African wildlife, which I have had the privilege to know intimately, which helps in getting the feel and character of the animals in my work. Also African colours have influenced my work hugely and the fabrics I use, from the warm browns and oranges of winter to the vibrate colours and culture of the country. I love using traditional African prints such as Shwe Shwe in my work to give the artwork a more African feel and texture.
.view more work by Sophie Niemann

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Barry Jackson: Celebrating Mandela


I feel privileged to have been part of the team that worked so well together to get the statue of Nelson Mandela up at the City Hall.

Koketso Groth, owned by Dali Tambo won the tender from The City of Cape Town.
They commissioned Xhanti Mphakara and myself and together with Sculpture Casting Services in Somerset West who did the mold and bronze casting, we took on the project.

Xhanti and myself come from different backgrounds with complimentary styles and we work well together. As a collaboration we have also done the Mandela bust in front of the Parliament building, and a life size figure of Mandela for The Long March to Freedom.

With the City Hall statue we started with a maquette, 45cm high capturing as much detail as we could. To make this we found a model with a similar physique to Mandela and took reference photos allowing us to see how the creases and folds on the clothing fall. After final approval of the maquette we proceeded to the 1.95 meter artwork. This took three months of work with numerous trips by Dali Tambo and his Project manager Sarah Hains from Johannesburg who facilitated our progress.

Like any projects of this size we had to overcome obstacles. There were moments when I feared failure but after the inevitable panic and adrenaline in the final stages we were ready. Both of us enormously relieved when we got a big thumbs up both from Koketso and the city of Cape Town.

What this means to me personally: It is a wonderful feeling to know that in time to come  my grandchildren can bring their grandchildren and stand next to the great man and say ,
“My grandpa was a member of the team that made this statue”  

view Bary Jackson’s work

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Craig Paton Ash


Painting wildlife provides the usual artistic challenges of capturing the appearance,  behaviour and environment of the subject but it is easy to ignore the ‘personality’ which is seen as critical in human portrayal. 

In striving to capture more personality and visual intrique in my recent wildlife art I have firstly eliminated colour and background to help focus on the ‘jizz’ of the subject  and secondly I have been exploring different viewpoints and proximity to better investigate texture and shape and more vigorously engage the viewer beyond pure recognition.

The paintings I have on show at the Cape Gallery’s Visual Safari exhibition display this development around one animal – the elephant.

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notes, winter solstice 30.06.18


Artist: Wilna van der Walt, The orange sellers, oil on canvas 50 x 60 cm

It is as if the unconscious tells me: be patient and bear with it. A new dawn will follow.

The picture was taken by my sister-in-law during a trip through KwaZulu-Natal. What spoke to me most was the relaxed attitude of the portrayed figures.

One must have an attitude of patience and bear with many things. Preparations must be made for change in the future. The fruits of wisdom, love, have real value – something I had difficulty realising for a long time. In this roadside image the two women are now seated, waiting and ordering the oranges, the alchemical balm. There is time to bear and wait, like a mother carrying a child.

The implanting of the upside-down tree, or the tree growing back to the mother, earth, or alchemical process, is supported by the two males – one a man, the other a boy, not yet mature. They are two aspects of the animus. The implanting of the tree brings bout the arrival of the old woman. As the balm, she is the wisdom and helper.

The young woman is preparing to undertake the journey to the holy feminine (purple is the mulberry woman) mountain of their birthright from which they are still cut off by the devil’s fork hedge of the wrong kind of guilt. At first, the truth is carried in projection, on the other side. One has to take up the quest. When one takes others’accusations and projections on to one’s shoulders, one takes on guilt that does not belong to one’s own self. This needs to be differentiated out.

excerpt: ‘The old woman and the moon, an inner journey in oil’ – Wilna van der Walt

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En Plein Air – A Solo Exhibition by Christopher Reid


On View 26 March – 21 April 2018

When painting en plein air, I am not merely capturing a visual moment, but conveying
the experience of being there for the duration of the painting. I capture the light, shadows, and clouds when their patterns are most interesting. Smells, sounds, and sensations find their way into the painting and there is an urgency and freshness that isn’t found in paintings from photos. 
– Christopher Reid

Christopher Reid was born in 1975 in the Transvaal. At a young age his family moved
to the US where he later studied at the Savannah College of Art and Design. He founded
an advertising agency and worked as a graphic designer until he returned to South Africa a decade later in 2015 where he now pursues his love of fine art. He is an internationally recognised artist whose portraits, landscapes and wildlife demonstrate
a contemporary realism with an emphasis on colour and depth.

Plein air is about experiencing painting and drawing in the landscape. This practice
goes back for centuries and was made into an art form by the French Impressionists.
Their desire to paint light and its changing and ephemeral qualities, coupled with the creation of transportable paint tubes allowed artists to paint “en plein air”, which is
the French expression for “in the open air.” Today, plein air painting is a flourishing trend in the art world. Artists come together for excursions and workshops devoted
to the practice and find it as rewarding and powerful an experience as it was
for the first plein air painters all those years ago.

Preview work on show https://www.capegallery.co.za/christopher_reid_1.htm

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