Meet Marina Clunie: Local Artist And Owner Of River Studio in, Velddrif
Driving along the R27 Cape West Coast Road, I was told that the salt pans are a landmark for “almost there”.
As I crossed the Berg River via a quaint little bridge, I carried on past the palm trees and turned right at the 1st turnoff in direction of the river. I glanced to my right and there it was, a little dirt stripe hugging the very edge of the river, welcome to Bokkom Laan, Velddrif.
Half a kilometre of gravel road, ten buildings, 14 jetties, 2 tame and hungry pelicans and the very last place I expected to find an art studio.
River Studio is where I first met Marina Clunie. Her small table is cluttered with an array of paintbrushes in all shapes and sizes. Over the last 11 years, multiple tubes of paint have spilled the colours of the West Coast onto the wooden surface where she paints. A tiny easel holds the miniature riverscape that has her total attention.
As I wandered around and over her paintings that filled every wall and floor space in this restored “Bokkomhuisie”, I felt myself getting lost in her world.
I smelled the salty wind as I gazed at stormy seascapes, felt the warmth from a sun-drenched scene and got completely lost in a painting of a little boat gently floating in the yellows and blues of the Cape West Coast.
Eventually, both Marina and I found ourselves back in the present time and we got chatting. What an inspiring lady and her journey to life as an artist in this studio is a fascinating story.
Marina Clunie was very creative from an early age, but life, work, marriage and three kids kept her busy, leaving no time to follow her passion to paint. So, Marina made a pact with herself that when her youngest child graduated she would start painting.
After 20 years her marriage broke up, but then Marina’s face lights up as she says “the day arrived when I attended my youngest son’s graduation. Now it was MY TIME. I was 51. I enrolled at Art B in Bellville for weekly art sessions.”
By this time Marina had remarried and was living in Bellville with her husband Des, who had a cottage in Port Owen, Velddrif. Being fascinated by water, clouds, and boats, Marina found the area charming and promptly bought a hundred-year-old fisherman’s cottage, planning to restore and decorate it herself, creating a space to fulfill her dreams and paint.
During her 2nd term of Art School, Marina woke up one morning and found her car had been broken into. There and then, her and Des decided it was time to make the move and Velddrif.
Creativity comes in many guises and Marina turned her fisherman’s cottage into a studio come coffee shop. She scoured boot sales buying old furniture, crockery, and collectables to create the perfect ambience to welcome visitors.
Des transformed the garden into a space to relax and enjoy a meal and Marina says the guests loved the ducks and tortoises that roamed around, and the chickens that provided the fresh free range eggs to compliment the bacon.
Loving to bake and cook is a big plus and Marina Clunie happily worked in her kitchen with the big red walk-in chimney. She smiles as she relates one of her favourite stories, the day an elderly couple came in for a meal.
“They loved the old house. Des wound up the gramophone and played a 78 rpm record – “If you love me half as much as I love you….”. The couple’s faces were awash with tears. That day was their anniversary and that was “their song” when they were young. They told me that for them this had been their best day in a long time. Not only a memory for them but for us as well.”
This was all very nice, but Marina was still too busy to paint, until one day a couple walked in and asked if the house was for sale. Twenty-four hours later, the deal was done as Marina realized that she needed to make time to paint.
She set her heart on a little Bokkom huisie in Bokkom Laan as it was one of her favourite places to sit and paint when she had the time.
“ the river, boats, old buildings and never ending, ever changing atmospheric landscapes with a clear view of the moody clouds and mist rolling in from the sea. My perfect spot! “
She sent Des off to find her this perfect spot, and he did. It was obviously meant to be.
Eleven years later Marina Clunie says she still marvels at the views.
Some days you might find her outside the studio, sitting under one of the nets where the bokkoms are laid out to dry, painting, or she might be absorbing the scene, allowing it to imprint on her mind for a future artwork.
You might arrive at the studio and not find her as she sometimes goes on painting trips. She loads her paints and easel into her car and heads off to neighbouring West Coast towns. Maybe you will see her on your travels as she tells me
“I will stop and paint out of the boot of my car. I find this really allows one to capture the essence of the area. That excitement where I just NEED to capture something on a canvas. And I need to do it with colour. So my “sketch” is also with paint as I can immediately use the colours I see even if it is in a wash.
I asked Marina what inspires her and I love her answer.
“I want to paint a mood rather than a picture. My inspiration comes from an “atmosphere” like a shadow and the sun and cloudy skies and reflections in moving water. I don’t think I would be painting if I lived in a city. I need that uncluttered expanse that I see at the river and the sea. “
In her work, I can see why Marina says she is inspired by the Impressionist Claude Monet, and she tells me she is an admirer of the landscapes by Hugo Naude and loves Makiwa and the amazing colourful work he does with a palette knife.
Marina Clunie‘s favourite place to paint is still the Berg River as it changes all the time. Autumn and winter colours, dark clouds and stormy seas are her soul food paintings.
Laughing she says, “ I suppose with the name like “Marina” it is not surprising that I love painting water. I don’t need a photo. The pictures are all imprinted in my mind. The vastness, the tumbling waves, the rolling clouds. “
When she is not painting Marina loves being a granny and makes regular trips to Cape Town to catch up on lots of hugs and kisses from little arms and lips. They love the gifts of paintings of fairies and colourful animals done just for them.
As she says, she is not always at her studio, but she is open most weekends and during the busy season.
She lives close to River Studio and her phone number is on the studio door, just give her a call, and if she is not on a painting trip, she will come and open up for you.
If you really want to see her, it might be wise to phone in advance.
Marina Clunie’s parting words filled my head, and they need to be shared:
“Not many people can say that they fulfilled their dreams. I am blessed to be able to say that.
One needs to take that first step wherever your passion lies. Life happens, keeps you busy, but never lose your passion or lose sight of your vision. Life is made up of seasons. Your season could be just around the corner.”
Distance from Cape Town: 156,5km
Where: At the bridge one turns right, carry on past the palm trees and turn right at 1st turnoff in direction of the river. Bokkamlaan, Velddrif
Contact: (c) +27 (0)22 783 2685 | +27 (0)83 415 9524 | www.riverstudio.co.za
The Roaming Giraffe is Di Brown. Travel writer and blogger, mother, grandmother, avid reader, tourism professional, learner photographer, social media influencer, Twitter fan and lover of Instagram.
West Coast Way is South Africa’s road trip with the most twists. South Africans and visitors can explore a unique collection of themed routes to do adventure-filled Cape West Coast self-drive trips or a West Coast Holiday. The new West Coast Way “basket” of free routes on offer include the West Coast Way Tractor Route, the West Coast Way Berg Route, the West Coast Way Foodie Route, the West Coast Way Cultural Route – as well as the newly launched West Coast Way Wild Route, all of which are designed to showcase the many attractions and activities that are already on offer on the Cape West Coast and inland areas – but may be unknown to many. For more information on West Coast Way’s #WestCoastTwist and the list of 101 Things to Do on the West Coast visit www.westcoastway.co.za or call West Coast Way on 0861 321 777. Connect with West Coast Way on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at WestCoastWaySA.