About Me

Chris Watcham - South African Artist, Traveler & Honorary Ranger

Chris Watcham - South African Artist, Traveler & Honorary Ranger

The strongest influence in my life was growing up in, and getting to know, the untouched Wilderness of the Kalahari in Botswana, in the early 1950’s. Hunting with Bushman as a small boy, and Farming as a young man, taught me a respect and love for that never ending Savannah of that great Wilderness, never to be seen on the same scale again. I thank our Maker for that privilege, and now for the opportunity to express that love in my artwork, namely oil painting.

My Paternal Grandfather (Lewis) and Maternal Great Grandfather (Drodtsky) pioneered the Ghanzi District, Bechuanaland Protectorate (now Botswana), which is a Limestone and Pans area blessed with my favoured Leadwood trees, lying just South of lake Ngami, and the Jewel of Africa, the Okovango Delta, and where those Pioneers got water from hand-dug wells.

In 1963/64, I studied Agriculture at Cedara Agricultural College, after Matriculating in 1962 at Roosevelt High School, with the intention of Farming on our Family Farm in Ghanzi District, Botswana. (then Bechuanaland Protectorate.)

I started working as an Agricultural Officer based in Molepolole, (nearby Gaberones did not exist in 1965, the Country being run from Mafikeng) my task was to establish Agricultural Centres as far as Kang in the West and Kutze Game Reserve in the North, spending 5 nights a week camping in the Kalahari. I spent a little time as a Professional Hunter having acquired three hunting concessions in this same area, doing Photographic Safaris and Hunting in the area I knew so well. Since then, I have done many Photographic Safaris from South Africa up into those regions.

With the new Botswana becoming independent in 1966, the Country underwent huge transformation, and I ended up travelling around the Middle East, and hitch hiking around Europe for a year. On my return, to salvage my share in a leather tannery in Gaberones, the new Capital, I went to investigate a Farming job in Pilgrims Rest, E. Transvaal, a Town I had never heard of before. I accepted a job offer, for I thought 6 months, to start the Farming for Transvaal Gold Mining Estates along the Blyde River. It was such a wonderful challenge that I stayed for four and a half years, exploring that incredible countryside at the same time, until I met my wife, married, and decided to go Farming on my own, where our two children grew up with horses, and animals, in Midrand Area, but also had the benefit of going to School from home.

We built up a successful Automated Egg production Unit, and a largely automated Piggery, as well as a successful Angus Cattle Stud Herd.

I had the benefit of Farming on the outskirts of a city and being able to join the Rotary Organisation, and have served in various capacities, amongst others as President, as a Team Leader of a Group Study Exchange Team to Australia for six weeks, various District Committees, and as our District Chairman of Rural Foundation, where we involved Clubs with different villages North of Hamanskraal, in Self Help Projects, and building Clinics, Pre-Schools, Training and Community Centres, etc. Personally, for my Club, I was responsible over a period of twelve years, for planning, training, and building a Clinic, equipping and getting Government to Staff and run the Clinic and Maternity Ward.
I also involved our young Rotaracters, and built a Pre-School alongside the Clinic, with their own borehole.

I joined the Midrand Civic Foundation, and Chaired it for two years, during which time I started the Midrand Bird Club, which I also Chaired for two years.

I was a member of the Midrand Chamber of Commerce.

I also worked as an Honorary Ranger with the Wild Life Society, to which I have belonged for many years, until a number of satellite were broken up by politics amongst aspirant leaders. I have missed this tremendously.

I was an Assistant Scout Master in Midrand while my Son was there before he went to St Andrews School in Grahamstown. I was the last Scout to be awarded the Queen Scout Badge, just before South Africa became a Republic in 1960.

I was also involved on the Thusanang Board of Trustees for the Olievenhoutbosch Development Association, a Low Cost Housing area outside of Midrand, where we
controlled funds, and were helping develop a training facility for the local people, and an Aids Centre for children under the NOAH Organisation. As a ROTARY Paul Harris Fellow, and Senior Active Member of the Sandton Rotary Club, I still get involved in Friendship Exchanges to other Countries, which are great experiences, and various other projects we have.

As far as my wanting to be an Artist goes, the seeds were planted at School.
I was complemented by my teacher, for a copy in watercolour I did, as an exercise, of a Thomas Gainsborough, and a John Constable painting. I never forgot his words.

It was years later, after I got married, when we needed some paintings for our house, that I did some watercolour paintings of the Kalahari Bushveld, and Blyde Canyon. These paintings were praised by friends, and the Framers, but did not get me motivated enough to paint any more, which would have meant neglecting my Farming, Rotary activities, Civic Foundation, Scouting and Wild Life activities. But I did pursue my love of photography, and Safari’s into the Wildernesses of Africa, right up to the Congo where we tracked down Gorillas in the Virunga Mountains, and climbed Kilimanjaro Mountain, with the intention of one day painting from these photos. Botswana and Namibia were my biggest love.

In 1977, I did my first three oil paintings, one being a copy of a David Shepherd, an Elephant scene. (I am a Great fan of his.)
For 22 years, I did not paint again, until an Artist friend of mine, Claire Baecher, told me she was coming to my house on a Friday to paint with me. It took me hours to find my things, but it did get me going, and I have not stopped since. I owe her, and my wife a debt of gratitude, for their encouragement to persevere and make the time, and give myself the opportunity and privilege, to express the feelings I have been dying to express all those years.

I have exhibited paintings at private exhibitions, and at Norscott Manor, and Broad Acres through the Brush and Chisel Art Society, where selection is done before hand, and very successfully at Art In The Park in Pietermaritzburg, annually, where 50 Artists are selected Countrywide to participate.

I sold my Poultry Business and Angus Cattle Stud two years ago, and the Piggery last year May 2010, so that I can allow myself the freedom to let the spirit fly and paint full time, with out all the stresses of business bothering me, and interrupting the flow of feelings and thoughts about what I am painting.

Since 1990, I have made a concerted effort to travel every year all over the World. I have been to Antarctica, a phenomenal experience, climbed to Base Camp of Mt. Everest, which is higher that Kilimanjaro, and also been to Greenland and Iceland, as well as Canada (3 times), USA (often), India (3 times), Australia (4 times), New Zealand, China, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia and it’s jungle, Europe, South America including Galapagos Islands.

My Daughter lives in the UK., where we travel to often. My Son married an Australian girl while in UK for 8 years, and now lives in Australia.