Art Courses

Watercolour has traditionally been the medium of choice for plein air landscape painting. Swift to execute and quick to dry, its portability made it the travellers’ choice. Within the South African historical context colonial travellers Levaillant (1753—1824), Baines (1810-1875) and Bowler (1812-1869) were among many who used it to record flora, fauna and topographical landscape.

Watercolour’s historical legitimacy as a tool for observational studies is rich and this hands-on workshop encourages participants to deepen their practice both by noticing what is visible, but also to look beyond the surface delights of the picturesque view to reflect on the more complex layers of what lies before them. Muratie, one of the oldest estates in South Africa, dating back to 1685, is an ideal location for such considerations. Varied in its topography; river, hills, indigenous vegetation and cultivated winelands, its beginnings lie in colonial history. Granted by the Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, Simon van der Stel to German soldier Laurens Campher, the property is graced by a hard-won romantic beginning – Campher’s steady love for Ansela van de Caab,  a slave who worked in the Company Gardens, in Cape Town, was rewarded when her freedom was obtained and he made her his wife. The house he built for her is now Mok gallery – the space in which this workshop finds its base.

The 5-day workshop provides a concentrated, focused time for artists who wish to refine existing skills in watercolour, deepen their practice, explore the genius loci or spirit of place, and become more critically reflective about the environment that is before them. Painting will be on-site plein air (weather dependent) and in the studio.

Time: 9h00-17h00 each day.

The workshop will be supported by presentations on:

  • Contemporary landscape painting
  • Contemporary watercolour
  • The histories of Muratie
  • Informative site-specific walkabouts.

Details re specifics of the programme and material requirements for participants will be provided nearer the time.


Virginia MacKenny, Emeritus Associate Professor at Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town, is a practicing artist, curator and critic. Her research focus is on contemporary Southern African art engaging environmental issues. A founding member for UCT’s interdisciplinary Environmental Humanities postgraduate programme she contributed, with Professor Lesley Green, the opening chapter to the Routledge Companion to Contemporary Art, Visual Culture, and Climate Change (2021). A solo exhibition Strand/Shore (2021) exploring the shoreline between Cape Town and Namibia, included The NearandFar Tree – an adult/children’s story which she both wrote and illustrated. She was invited by British Council Creative Commissions Living-Languages-Land to participate in COP 26 (2021) in Glasgow. She is currently working on Burning Beasts an ongoing collaborative and interdisciplinary project with photographer Margaret Courtney-Clarke.