I first met Bob and his wife Fay way back in 1981 in South Africa when I was apprenticed to an electrical engineer. At the time the McKenzie’s owned the farm Gray Rocks near Queenstown in the Eastern Cape. Bob was at the time heavily involved in cattle breeding programs, dairy and various other farming operations. My company had been employed to ensure that the farms electrical installations complied with the regulations required for connection to the national grid. Now, nearly 28 years on, standing in Bob’s studio in “The Barn” it seemed like that history was a world away, in another dimension.
Bob has since retired from cattle breeding, moved to a small holding and as I understand it, only has limited involvement with the industry; all his time now being focused on his other great passion….painting. Fay is well renowned in the area as a caterer par excellence and, as well as catering for various occasions also runs a carvery from their lovely home which is open for limited bookings and special occasions. My reason for the visit, quite apart from the lovely lunch which Deborah, Amy and I enjoyed was to catch-up with our friends Bob and Fay and to view Bob’s studio and his new works.
The studio has a number of spaces, some where Bob paints are smaller while others areas are larger where he hosts regular week-end painting workshops; I was not disappointed and found Bob’s studio was just as I had always remembered and it. There were few works on the easel and a stack of paintings standing, either commissions awaiting collection or others requiring framing, something which Bob also does himself.
Bob paints a range of subjects but essentially he loves landscapes and seascapes and if you add a few cows to the equation it is an irresistible combination for Bob’s eye. I understand that he has painted from being a young man and was inspired by many of the great artists but on a local lev, mostly by the late Les Elliott. It seems that Les inspired many people to paint including his own son Dale Elloitt who is also a well-known and respected South African Artist and friend of Bob’s.
From the first time I saw Bob’s paintings at a local art exhibition I fell in love with the colours in his pallet and his ability to capture the essence of an Eastern Cape landscape. I am fortunate to own two of Bob’s paintings and a print or two which still entertain my imagination and I often use them to sharpen my memories of “home” now, seated at my dinning room table over 5 000 miles from the Eastern Cape. Bob’s own words will give you a taste of how inspirational his environment is to him:
Over to you Bob ;” The fabric of the African Landscape must be one of, if not the most diverse and varied on the face of the earth. I am indeed fortunate to be situated more or less in the middle of it, here in the Eastern Cape, within easy reach of the most beautiful coastline in the world, lush tropical NAtal,the arid semi-Karoo and the incredibly varied Orange Free State. All this together with the exquisite tapestry of so many human cultures. The growing awareness of the Eastern Cape as a game farming area is drawing viewers and hunters from all corners of the world. The area also boasts perhaps the highest concentration of pedigree livestock farms in the Republic of South Africa. All this put together makes it a veritable Eden for an artist. My deep love for all in nature makes painting this sort of environment not only a pleasure but also a privilege.”
What more can be said?. I came away from The Barn and The Studio, Bob, Fay, their animals and a tasty dinner table filled and inspired. Inspired by Bob’s love for painting and also the deep fulfilling touch of friendship and a shared passion for creativity and expression.