Thursday, May 27, 2010


I went to pick up my portrait of Claire yesterday, which I gave to a lovely woman called Tanya, who owns a framing shop in Sunninghill. She helped me choose the right frame and got her husband, who is an artist, to paint one of the wooden pieces by hand in order to get the colour just right.

I had to wait three weeks for it, but I am very pleased with the results.

In fact, I think it looks fabulous!

If you like this frame, you can find her shop at the shopping centre in Maxwell Drive, it's called Sunninghill Art and Frame and can be found on the basement level down the escalators outside Spar.

I took some of my other paintings to show her as she displays art for sale in her shop as well, she liked my stuff and was interested in a couple of landscapes, but she said the art market is slow at the moment and I wouldn’t get much for them.

This is because people expect to pay much less for a small painting, even though the amount of work that went into it is the same. It seems that it might not be financially viable to paint small works. I decided to hold onto them for the time being as they form part of The Walk series and I have an idea it might be nice to hold a mini exhibition of the whole series when it’s done.

She loved my portrait painting and wants more of that – she also mentioned that she has a lot of landscapes already so it would be great to have something in the portrait genre.

My pig paintings also proved worth selling, but two have been sold already and the other two I want to keep.

The rest already live in other people’s houses.

Here’s the thing, the only portraits I feel the urge to do at the moment are of my daughter Claire, it’s easier to paint something that you feel strongly about, but then I can’t bear to part with portraits of her because they have so much sentimental value.

I definitely want to explore the pig and other animals in strange settings theme more, I will get back to that warthog painting one of these days, the one I posted a while back but was struggling with.

I am also toying with the idea of trying my hand at abstract stuff; I think it would be fun, though it is a lot more difficult than painting what you see.

So much art to do, so little time!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More of The Walk series and a special tango couple

This weekend past the creative juices were flowing and I finished off three paintings.

In a previous post I showed a picture of a work in progress from The Walk series of a grey tree in Cr Swart road.
I wanted to see how it would look as a more completed painting so over Friday and Saturday I added lots more to it. Then I heard that a friend liked the painting very much – Before the changes – in other words the one I posted in its raw state.
So I decided to do another one of the same tree, but keeping the rawness and freshness.

It has a more expressive feel to it and I must say I quite like it.
So here they both are – hope you like them.

A long while back I painted a small painting of pink tango shoes, called, unsurprisingly, Pink Tango Shoes. I decided I didn’t like it as it was, so I made it smaller and bought a wooden frame the right size.
I then painted the frame in dark pink tones to enhance the pink of the shoes.
It looks a lot better now.
Here it is.

On the tango front, I met Daniella and Ariel, a professional tango teaching and performing partnership from Argentina, on Saturday night at a tango braai. Ariel did the braaing and he is a master! The meat was superb, but it had to compete with Daniella’s special garlic, olive oil, lemon and herb sauce, which is the most incredible taste sensation ever. We had a mini milonga afterwards and all got turns to dance with them – it was just great – they are really good.
Daniella tells me she has only been dancing for four years, so she must have put in a lot of practice!
My husband Leo, being South American himself, hit it off with them and happily chatted in Spanish all night. He had such a good time that on Sunday we took them out to see the soccer stadium at Soccer city and for lunch afterwards. He bought them tickets to see Argentina play in the world cup, so I reckon he has some friends for life.
Lucky for me they were very happy to give me some tango lessons in exchange, we start next week. These two have a very interesting story on how they came to South Africa, if they let me I will tell you all about it in a future post. They are here to experience the country and to teach and perform some tango while they are about it.

I was hoping to go to the Tuesday night milonga tonight, but it seems I have caught a cold today so it is a quiet night in for me. I am sure my fellow dancers will thank me that I didn’t spread the germs.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Books glorious books

I love reading more than anything. More than painting, more than TV and yes, more than tango.
I can go days without doing the tango or painting or watching TV but I get very twitchy without a book to read. I have been addicted since I learnt to read, if I am not working and have the time I can go through a book a day. When I choose a novel it has to be the thickest one I can find, else it’s over before I feel I‘ve even started.

Since buying books that only last me a couple of days gets expensive, I have always belonged to a library. As a child I was allowed two books every two weeks (library rules) but lucky for me I got to use my brother and sister’s library cards too, so that gave me five books for the two weeks. (my brother was young so he only got one card) Lovely. I always read them all in the two weeks and didn’t waste any time going back for more.

I currently belong to the Olivedale library, I am allowed six books over three weeks, but since I became a parent I always have to renew them for a further three weeks.
It’s not too bad as libraries go and it’s close to home.

Occasionally I will buy a book. If I read something in the library that I really liked and it seems worth keeping, I look for the book online and buy it. Here’s what I want to share with you. It’s called Loot and is one of the cheapest places I have found on the net for south Africans to buy brand new books. you don't have to worry about customs duty issues either like you do when you buy stuff overseas. Delivery is free too, if you order over R225.
Then there is a wonderful second hand bookshop I discovered a few weeks ago in the Randridge Mall. It's next to the coffee shop and opposite Pick and Pay. I popped in there to buy some children’s books for Claire and met a fellow bookworm and talkative, sunny personality called Dorothy who owns the shop.
She was so friendly and so helpful that I walked out with more books than I had intended, including a fascinating book by RW Johnson called South Africa’s Brave New World : The Beloved country Since the End of Apartheid. This book will make you want to vote anything but the ANC.

I also recently read and then bought one of the best books you will read for motivation, inspiration and how to succeed. It’s called The Success Principles – How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield – the guy who did the Chicken Soup books. This book will keep you awake at night, you will be that inspired to succeed. One thing he says that will inspire you is that it is possible to make a living by following your passion.
I still have my library copy but I am taking it back soon, so you could go to the Olivedale library and read it for free, but, Dorothy has first dibs.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Only twenty four hours in a day

I have a general feeling of urgency and sometimes frustration.
I want to get into my studio more and just paint, but until I am famous and raking in the dough – I still gotta keep as many hours as possible with my day job of programming.
The funny thing is, when I was younger and had graduated with an art degree, I really, really wanted to be a programmer. I worked hard and believed in myself and eventually I got there. I am sure that as maths and art were my two favourite subjects at school, this has become a running theme in my life.
Then of course there is this thing called Argentine Tango, which got its hook into me and I want to be really good at that too. Here’s the thing, all three need lots of time and dedication to get good. Here’s the other thing – every day has only 24 hours in and some of them are needed for sleeping. Being a mother to a two year old isn’t helping, it’s not a complaint – parenting is the greatest joy I have ever experienced, but it really does eat into those hours.
I gave up TV a couple of months ago, you know how lovely it is to veg in front of the goggle box after a long day, and there are occasional days when I say stuff it and do the veg thing – but I am selective about what I watch.
So You Think You Can Dance has ended but America’s Got Talent has just started, thank goodness for PVR – I can record and watch later, even if it takes a few days for me to get to them.
Luckily I don’t live in Uruguay – they have 24 hour tango TV!
So the evenings when I used to goggle eye the goggle box I now spend programming, which gives me an hour or two in the day for painting.
I need the day because natural light is important otherwise the colours come out all wrong.
I want to spend more than just a couple of hours though, which is the frustrating part.
I picked my daughter Claire up from school yesterday a bit earlier than usual – she’s going through an emotional clingy phase – and I asked her if she wanted to come and paint in Mummy’s studio.
She was keen – Claire LOVES to paint – so I set up her little table with brushes, paper and paint and the two of us spent just under an hour in my studio.
She got bored after a while and then of course started touching everything, including standing barefoot on an old not yet dry palette.
So I had to call it a day, but not before I finished up my latest painting in The Walk series. It’s a piece of veld at the corner of CR Swart where it meets Elnita and .Kowie Road in Boskruin.
I captured the scene just in time because the grass has been cut now and all the cosmos is gone.

Oh and before I forget, yeah right – it has been buzzing in my head since it happened, I have been published by an online Arts and Culture magazine called Novo Slovo.
I had to write a piece about me and my art and include a painting.
Here is the link.Karen Steffano - Introspection

As for tango, I did attend a fantastic tango breakfast at Doppio Zero in Rosebank on Sunday, I got to dance with my husband Leo (he hardly ever comes to tango) and it was fun.
I missed the Tuesday night milonga – I didn’t sleep well the night before so had an early night instead. I have considered going to Bert and Brigitte’s one tonight in Northcliff, but if I don’t get there I have been invited to a tango braai this weekend so will get my fix then.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Another one done and dusted

I finally finished my latest painting. Yay! It’s the first of a series of small paintings entitled “The Walk”.

A friend and I – ok let’s name him – Marlon and I, take a walk every day of about five kms around our neighbourhood, supposedly for fitness and keeping those thunder thighs less thundery and the man boobs in check, but we find it has other, even better added benefits as well. On our walk we share our dreams, our thoughts, our current issues and our future plans. We come up with new ideas on our walks, we give each other advice and we motivate each other to achieve the greatness we both feel we deserve.
He is about the best friend a person could have and I cherish our walks; I can tell you right now I know he does too.
So I came up with the idea of preserving something of this time in our lives with a series of paintings depicting scenes from our walk, especially the paths we walk on.
I took some photos of some of the best places from a composition point of view and have started the series with the one above.
I have begun another two; one is of a small piece of veld which is currently displaying cosmos in all its autumn glory. The other is of a fabulous grey tree on the side of the road. If you want to check it out it’s on CR Swart road just before it meets Drysdale/Elnita in Boskruin bordering Northwold.
I started with some colour washes and I am interested to see that it looks very cool just as it is, very fresh and almost abstract, I am now wondering if I should leave it as is – maybe it’s a new style for me?

Other interesting news is I received a message from an editor of a Croatian Arts and Culture magazine via an online gallery I am a member of called Artbreak, inviting me to submit an artist’s statement and an image of one of my works for a book they want to publish about artists worldwide. He says they have about 65 artists so far and when they have 75 to 100 they plan to publish. Every artist included in the book will receive a free copy. He told me I have great talent.
So I have begun writing a nifty piece all about myself and my art, which I will submit to his magazine and then hold thumbs I get put in a book.

Well, it’s almost time for Marlon to show up for our five k motivational, man boob reducing, thigh slimming bonding session.

Gotta go.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tuesday Milonga and a couple of zebras

A few weeks ago I ran a survey on whether I should finish my zebra painting started at age 16 and never completed.

As per popular vote, I decide to finish it.

Here it is.

It’s not going to be making it into the top galleries but maybe when I am famous and/or dead it will be worth something –aka – the artist’s early developmental period blah, blah, fishpaste.

Ah well, at least it has a bit of sentimental value

Now the tango.

I had fun last night at the milonga, notwithstanding the ugly shoes.

I got lots of dances – yay, but I also spent a bit of time watching the ladies footwork.

Things are looking up in this department, I noticed some lovely footwork - one woman in particular was really very good at gently closing her feet and then taking the next step, it was nice to watch.

I mentioned in my previous post that it would be fun for a couple of guys to dance together and maybe it’s just serendipity or maybe they read my post, because Richard and Ryan danced a few tangos together last night, including a couple of milongas – what fun plus they were both pretty good at following!

Natasha also took Richard for a spin with her as the lead and it looked like they were both handling it pretty well. So it seems there was lots of experimental tango going on last night.

I wonder what we’ll all get up to next.

I was dancing with Vladi and at one point we found ourselves doing the rumba, well it was more a tango with a rumba feel, or could have been a rumba with a tango feel – whatever - then when a Viennese waltz type song came on we debated doing one but then decided we were both a bit out of practice so played it safe with sticking to tango.

Have you ever found yourself slipping into another style just for fun?

I usually find that if I do ballroom stuff it ends up looking and feeling like an argentine tango – I can’t help myself – the tango just feels soooo much better.

Ok – it’s confession time – hands up all those who have started up one kind of dance and ended up doing tango?

Hands up all those who have ever done a voleo or a tango sidestep while standing in a queue?

Hands up all those who have been to Buenos Aires or are planning to go there soon?

Ok – me first – all my hands are up!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Metro Milonga

I get a call from my dad this week saying “Hey I read your blog, now I wanna come and watch you dance tango.”

“Oh ok” I say, “but you might be bored, I spend most of the evening on the dance floor.”

“That’s ok” he says, “I will come in my own car so if I want to leave early I can.”

There’s a catch though, in return for the pleasure of him attending a tango night, I have to agree to attending a musicians' get together in Marks Park to watch him play Blues Harp.

This is not a problem – I am sure it will be very entertaining so I look forward to the occasion.

He has been practicing for years and this is the first time he’s done any performing in public, I am told he is rather good. Watch this space; I will let you know how it goes.

I told him if he can learn to play the bandoneon I will get him lots of live gigs – ha ha!

He says he’s strictly a blues kinda guy.

So anyway, I had a great time at the milonga which was held at Metro in Benmore Gardens. I had a wonderfully unexpected dance with Natasha who is really quite good at leading. She also has a nice flow to her dancing which I like. She came over and gave me the Argentinian nod, so cool! It was definitely an evening for the girls because we were given a lovely demo by Sonia and Tracey – Sonia in the lead. Hey guys, maybe we should have two chaps doing something together, just for something different?

I was definitely feeling a lot better on the dance floor, wearing a dress and my dancing shoes with HEELS does help things along in the tango feeling department.

My foot held out for the whole night, though I was landing my right foot a bit skew to avoid too much pressure on my big toe joint, so it may have looked a bit weird to anyone watching.

It’s a bit sore today though, it may well be an ugly shoes evening on Tuesday in Rosebank.

Erik and Pater got into a discussion about the merits of harmonica in tango music, so perhaps Pa will have a bash at it and we get another live music event. Think he may need another instrument to accompany him – any volunteers?

It seems he had a good time last night, he didn’t leave early – I usually stay to the very end because I don’t get to milongas often so want to make the most of it and he let me have a couple of last minute dances with Ryan just as we were about to leave, so thanks for that Pa.

Also big thanks for showing me how to get to the parking in front of the restaurant, I could never find the entrance so always end up being one of two cars in the downstairs parking garage – it’s a bit creepy down there all by yourself.

I have got tango music in my head all morning and I can’t wait for the next milonga.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tango, Paintings and fine art ownership

My first fine art purchase arrived last night!

The painting I bought from Garth Marais, a talented contemporary artist in Cape Town, was shipped up to me and eventually got to my door.

I am immensely pleased with it. It looks even better than I imagined and I am impressed with Garth’s talent.

So here it is, hanging in my lounge!

It’s called “While I sleep, I destroy your world.”

It’s about revenge.

I am not into revenge or anything, it’s just that I loved the creativity, aesthetics, thought and workmanship that went into the piece, not to mention its wonderful uniqueness.

I may need to make a plan about my orange cushions though, they just don’t go!

There is something magical about owning a unique piece of art, I can see why art collectors get such a buzz from it. If you have never tried it you don’t know what you are missing!

As for my own art, well today I finished another painting, this time it’s an impressionist landscape of a gorge in Magaliesberg.

I am going to leave it aside for a week or so and then have another look at it, there may be some finishing touches I might add; in fact I am wondering if it would look better if I jazzed up the colours a bit.

Here it is:

Now the tango. I went to the usual tuesday night milonga in Rosebank, and discovered that I struggled to get into the zone this time.

Maybe it was the takkies I was dancing in, but I seemed to be making lots of following errors and just couldn’t find any flow. Apologies to my partners – it really wasn’t you!

Later in the evening things improved a bit, I kind of found my tango feet in the end and ended off the night with some wonderful tango.

Based on my survey about women asking men to dance, - the vote was mostly in favour - I decided to give this a bash and was pleased with the response. So I got at least an extra dance or two that I might have had to sit out. Another thing I have noticed is that some of the beginners I danced with a while back are no longer beginners and are becoming wonderful dancers who are a real pleasure to dance with.

Our tango scene here has so many dancers who are really, really passionate about tango, which means the growth in ability and numbers in a short number of years is remarkable.

Tango is an addiction, once you get the bug it takes you over, so that when you buy a dress for example the main criterion becomes “But can I do voleos and ganchos in it?”

There is something wonderful about getting together with all the other addicts and knowing you share this passion for tango – it’s a sense of knowing we have a special secret that the rest of the world i.e. the non tango innocents, are missing out on.

It is quite a difficult dance, so only the really passionate stick it out, it’s also difficult to explain to a non-tango person what it’s about because unless you are watching show tango there isn’t really much to see, but to me it is about the feeling the dance gives you, when you connect emotionally with your partner and the music flows between and around you. It’s a form of artistic expression, yet it is an emotional one too.

Roll on to the next evening I am able to attend a milonga!