Bryan Keenen, along with his cairn terrier, Jock of Knysna, are icons in Knysna. They are found most days in the courtyard in Woodmill Lane. Bryan paints on commission but what’s unique about paintings for himself, whether it’s the choo-tjoe steam train or the Knysna Estuary, is the fact that Jock is in all of them. “Jock won’t be around for long,” Bryan explains. “This way i’ll have him forever.”
Bryan was born in the Fifties in Germiston in the province now called Gauteng. His life has been ecletic and rich in experience. He’s been a Braamfontein train driver, a projectionist for Ster-Kinekor, worked on diamond boats in Port Nolloth, being a deckhand in Jeffrey’s Bay and even served in the Rhodesian Light Infantry (in the Seventies).
He tracked criminals in Hillbrow but after being part of a team that bust a large gang, threats forced him to leave town. It was this that led him to Wilderness for a short while but the taste of the Garden Route always called him back.
Having left the railways with no pension or insurance, he backpacked around South Africa for 3 years, finding work where he could. This led to a mohair factory in Alicedale. It’s where he met his beloved dog, Jock. Sadly. It’s also where a factory accident cost him 4 fingers for which he has never been compensated for.
Bryan, Jock and a dustbin bag of clothes arrived in Knysna in 2000. It was a town he had fond memories of because of the “fantastic people and the heritage buildings”. Initially, life was challenging and he lived for long periods in a sand cave off Salt River and in a tent nearer to town. But perseverance and love for his new home began to pay off, especially with his creative talent growing (he’s never had formal training).
He began painting in front of the old Coffee Connection in the Main Road but, in 2005, the owner of Mugg & Bean (which has since relocated) invited him to paint in Woodmill Lane. They’ve been there ever since, Bryan with his easel (and lately with his Rotary sponsored trolley) and Jock exploring the courtyard whilst saying hi to the many shopowners who’ve befriended him…and occasionally chasing a passerby for no reason locals have ever figured out:)
Ever in love with new pursuits, Bryan Keenen is currently learning how to play the keyboard. He can be regularly seen playing an early morning game of chess at Chaplin’s Bistro, a few metres from where he sets up his painting stand.
Contact Bryan: 072 823 2650 / firstname.lastname@example.org (checked infrequently)