Categories: Annual Projects

Author

Stephen Quirke

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Portfolio 2023
The river running through our town

Lourens River rises in a spring in the Hottentots Holland Mountains. It flows . This sparkling, gift bears a message of life through nature reserves, farms and parks – through two towns then flows over the beach into False Bay.

The Lourens River needs care

Most in our town don’t notice river. Some find it convenient for squatting. To others it is an inconvenience, rather to be confined to a concrete canal. Yet others view the river as a source to be plundered. With these watercolours and the wanted to highlight the beauty of the river.

The watercolours were used in the 2023 calendar to appreciate the volunteer Lourens River Conservation Society, founded in 1980 to work to preserve the Lourens River in as natural a state as possible and to clean the river, remove alien vegetation, and educate the public.

photo of a watercolour artist

Watercolours at Lourens River Mouth

Painting the source of the river from the mouth

Collecting the visual material was a significant part of the project.  There are places along the river that are magical in their beauty.  Vergelegen Estate welcomes guest who want to walk along the river.  And one of the residents at Hathersage Farm welcomed me onto the property.  But it is remarkably difficult to gain access to the upper reaches of the river.  To get material for my paintings of the source I hiked over the ridge from Jonkershoek in Stellenbosch and down the Lourens River gorge.

Also, some areas along the river are dodgy – not places to be after dark.   In Victoria Park people sleep along the river bank.  Even the community under the bridge on Main Road in Somerset West present issues.  I have once been accosted and came close to being robbed passing the area on foot just after dark.

Here the watercolours I created:

watercolour of a river

Lourens River in Hathersage Farm

Hathersage #1 This watercolour was used for the cover of the 2023 SJQ Watercolour Calendar

 

This is the Lourens River flowing through Hathersage Farm and that is our peak Helderberg in the background.

I submitted this watercolour to the 2023 annual exhibition of the South African Society of Artists and was awarded “Best Watercolour” which I think is quite cool.

watercolour of a rock pool in the mountains

Rock Pools at the Source of Lourens River

January 2023

The Lourens River seeps out from a spring at the bottom of a small cliff face in the Hottentots Holland mountains and collects in small pools surrounded by jagged rocks in the Diepgat ravine, named after the cave at the top of the kloof.   As the rocks make their way down stream they are rounded as they roll in the river.

The mouth of the river is in the picture, feeding into False Bay – though it is hard to see in the haze.

 

watercolour of the beach

Hottentots Holland from the mouth of the Lourens River

Lourens River from the mouth looking up to the source

This is where the river flows out over beach into False Bay. And standing in mouth, with the waves washing over your feet it is possible to see Diepgat Kloof and the source of the river – 23 Kilometers upstream.

The watercolour shows some of the panorama of the Hottentots Holland. However I only learnt from Jan Tromp after this was complete that you can see the source from the mouth.

watercolour painting of a river

Lourens River in Vergelegen Estate

There is a pool and a rapid just below the River Cafe

Vergelegen Estate is a special, healing gift to our town.  Walking through the long fields in the shadow of Helderberg is a real tonic.  The Lourens River flows through the estate.

In preparing for this painting I sat quite often at this rapid to sketch the river in watercolour – and enjoyed sitting in the rapid in the bottom left as a relief from the blistering heat of Summer.

Watercolour painting a river in wood

Walking next to Lourens River in Radloff Park

April 2023 A walk next to river in Radloff Park - my good friend Albert. (Sold)

This is the river flowing through Radloff Park with my good friend Albert walking on with his little dog.  He had just stopped to offer me great encouragement in my art before moving on.

The tree in the middle distance and the tree casting the shade in the foreground are both gone, having fallen prey to the beetles ravaging our area.

The weeds in the foreground are still there.

Watercolour of a Tree next to a river

Lourens River in Hathersage Farm

The Stone Pine on the river in Hathersage Farm

Hathersage Farm is the last area of farmland before the river enters our town.
It is the most beautiful stretch of farmland. And I have other photos which I am looking forward to converting into watercolours.

I liked the big Stone Pine. These trees were brought over by the Huguenots (I am told). In Europe the trees were planted in the gardens of Christians at a time when it was dangerous to confess this faith. With the termination of the Edict of Nantes, when the Huguenots fled to the Netherlands, they took seeds with them.

Watercolour of a bridge over a river

The Old Bridge over Lourens River

The Old Bridge

The Old Bridge built in 1845 is the second oldest bridge in South Africa.  It is quite solid but is not used.  The new bridge just behind it carries the full traffic load.

Watercolour of a bridge

Gaaities – the informal community in the flood culverts on Lourens River

Gaaitjies

Gaaitjies (holes) is the name given by the residents of the storm-water culverts under the main road in somerset west.  The river is just to the left of the watercolour.

I painted this portfolio to support The Lourens River Society and Jan asked me specifically to paint the Gaaitjies.  And the people living there.

Can you spot how I used the Golden Ratio to design this painting?

Watercolour of an island in a river

Informal settlement on the gabion island in Lourens River

Lourens River settlement

There was a time when a homeless community set up their camp on the gabioun island just below the Andries Pretorius Street bridge over the river

I photographed the scene for the watercolour just after a rain-storm when the residents were drying their bedding.

watercolour of mountains

Victoria Park looking up to the source of the

September 2023

This little yellowwood (Podocarpus Latifolius) is doing its best to survive in Victoria Park, the stretch of Parkland between Somerset West and Strand. That is Diepgat Kloof in the notch in the mountains and the river on the right.

 

watercolour of a river

Victoria Park and Helderberg

October 2023

This is Lourens River near the end of Victoria Park. That is Helderberg on the horizon.

Note the willow trees. Willow trees seem to carry an air of foreboding. It is no wonder to me that Tolkien had an ancient willow tree spread evil magic in the ‘Old Forest’.

Watercolour of a river

The golf course, Helderberg and source of the Lourens River

Lourens River Estuary pushing up to Strand Golf Course

The Lourens River estuary pushes up from the beach about a kilometer inland to the Strand Golf Course. Again, that is Helderberg on the horizon and Diepgat Kloof on the right.

watercolour of table mountain

Table Mountain from the mouth of Lourens River

December 2023

Table Mountain from the mouth of Lourens River

Watercolour on 300gm Arches Cold Pressed

610 x 460 mm

This the where the estuary meets the beach. The river flows out right stage to meander its way across the beach into False Bay.

That is Table Mountain in the distance.

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