The opportunity to visit South Africa for me, was overwhelmingly influenced by the prospect of our activities being an ‘Art’ experience. From the train journey to Heathrow and return, our learning was encouraged through daily tasks in sketching and painting with watercolours. On arrival in South Africa the group led by professional artist Sue Chatterton visited a renowned gallery and prepared for what transpired to be a very informative private meeting at the home of a long-standing local artist Barbara Siedle. Painting opportunities included and extended to the amazing Durban coastline and city, Umhlanga and colourful Ballito.
After three days of painting and sketching landscapes and the people of this area, we moved on to the Umfolozi Big 5 Game park where we were warmly greeted by our truly superb hosts Craig and Glynnis. Suffice it to say that this retreat’s classification was no less than six stars for its luxury accommodation, cuisine and safari experience. We spent 3 days experiencing the amazing animals led by our passionately eco friendly ranger, Victor. The pinnacle of these few days was a carefully planned ‘private studio’ set up in the bush, in the searing heat, and possibly with a variety of curious animals around. (Thankfully, ably protected by essential safety precautions).
Our second week, after a short internal flight to Cape Town opened a new window of artistic opportunities and for three days opening our curtains and having breakfast right on the V&A waterfront with a backdrop of Table Mountain was a feast for capturing lively subject matter. Art activities started with sitting on one of the beautiful beaches overlooking the mountain range, followed by the contrasting bright colours of some of the regional houses. The coastal journey down to Simons Town, penguins, ostriches - in short, provided a further plethora of painting opportunities for the group. For someone who had no previous experience of South Africa, the schedule provided a more than appropriate array of visual stimulant.
Final days, inevitably took us to the wine growing regions, Franchoek and Stellenbosch. Tongue in cheek, what better way to celebrate our newly developed artistic skills, than a glass in one hand and paint brush in the other. The chosen winery was just one of the many wineries sporting spectacular landscapes? Both towns enabled us to experience more galleries and to discuss the diverse styles of art. Even our hotel was adorned with spectacular works of art including the use of unusual media.
To conclude, this snapshot of an art experience where learning was the focus, our time abroad was never going to be long enough to create even one masterpiece to bring home. However, the skills and techniques learned along the way have provided the group with enough confidence to attempt more aspirational artwork at home. Sue certainly used her passion for art to encourage and nurture our learning and our schedule on this holiday in South Africa could not have been more suitable.