By Cathy Gatland in Clarens, Free State, South Africa
We took a drive last weekend to the small town of Clarens in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains, known as an 'artist's haven' as so many live there, or visit regularly. Apparently it is also a biker's haven, as both times we have been, we've had these enormous growling, throbbing machines follow and overtake us all along the way there, and once in the village, parked outside the pubs and restaurants while the leather-clad, be-studded, tassled and tattooed riders mill around on the pavement and occupy tables not too far away from their beloved beasts.
I first tried sketching the approaching road, but found it a bit stressful and decided to relax and enjoy the scenery - but grabbed a quick scribble at a 'pitstop' in Harrismith. It must be one of the prettiest places in S.A. to fill up and get coffee and a snack - rose bushes and flowers everywhere with sandstone mountains as a backdrop - bikers were here too so in they went - I didn't realise at that stage that my weekend's sketching would mostly feature these guys!
In Clarens, late afternoon and at the Brewery for a refreshing drink, I started sketching some wire sculptures outside the window, when more bikers arrived and I had a view of them through the doorway. I discovered that it was, in fact, the Harley-Davidson weekend in Clarens, and that the Steel Wings raise funds for Aids orphans and other charities. They did seem perfectly nice and normal once you got chatting (my husband chatted while I sketched) in spite of the rather intimidating outfits.
On Saturday I sketched at a wedding - a commission and the main purpose of our trip - though flattering to be asked, that was scary... a whole lot more pressure than picking your subject and it either working, or not. I'm still working on those!