Baboons, Dassies and African Penguins September 8, 2013
On my last entry, Lyn and I were in Namibia exploring the desert. We made our way south to Cape Town with stops at Sossusvlei, Fish River Canyon and Franschhoek. For my last entry in South Africa before flying to Mumbai, India, I thought I would tell you about our day exploring Cape Point, South Africa, an area south of Cape Town. It is not the southern most point of Africa, but it was a very interesting day-trip out of Cape Town.
Our first stop on the way to the Cape was Simon’s Town, where we saw the only nesting penguins in Africa. In 1982 there were two nesting pairs of Adelie penguins that had migrated to Simon’s Town. Since then the colony has grown considerably and is now a protected area. I never thought I would be seeing penguins in Africa, but considering the geographic latitude it makes sense.
Our next stop was Cape Point where we encountered baboons and dassies, also known as the Cape Hyrax. I made sketches of both of these animals. Nothing to fear from the cute little dassie, but the baboon is another story. In this coastal park there were several families of baboons that were habituated to human food. With all the tourists that visit this area the baboons spend a lot of time trying to steal food from unsuspecting tourists. It makes for great people watching and seeing there reactions to being robbed by the baboons.
As an artist, I found this small region of Southern Africa that we explored overwhelming with the many choices available to paint. I doubt I will ever finish painting everything I saw here, however in the next blog entry we are heading to Mumbai, India.
Dassie at Cape Point, South Africa
Baboon with Pringles
Adelie Penguins, South Africa
Fisherman at Cape Point
Sketch of Fish River Canyon,
Quiver Tree’s , Namibia
Quiver Tree’s at night in Namibia
Cheetah’s, Rock Paintings and Quiver Trees August 27, 2013
After leaving Etosha National Park our first stop was a farm that takes care of wild cheetahs. In some parts of Namibia the cheetah is considered a pest that attacks and kills live stock. This beautiful cat that can reach speeds of 110 kilometers per hour has lost its territory to cattle farmers in Namibia and was being hunted to extinction. In the 1980’s one farmer decided that there must be a better way than just killing them and so farmers started to bring him captured, wounded and baby cheetahs which he keeps in a fenced in area on his property. It is not the perfect solution however it has become a small eco tourism business he calls Cheetah Park. The cheetah’s are kept in a large fenced in natural area and are fed daily. He also has a few pet cheetah’s that live with his family in another fenced in area around his house. We camped on his property for the night and watched the farmer throw big chunks of meat to the cats from the back of a tractor. The next morning before leaving Lyn and I got the chance to spend time with the tame cheetahs at his house and this was my opportunity to get some sketch’s done of these amazing cats.
Our next stop was Brandberg Daures National Heritage Site at Brandberg Mountain. We took a small hike part way up the side of the mountain to see rock paintings that date back 2000 years. I had the chance to sit and sketch some of these paintings. It was an amazing feeling to sit quietly in the presence of this ancient rock art and in my own way commune with artists from long ago. In the early days of tourism to this site people would throw water at the rock art to help enhance the colours for their photographs. This caused a lot of damage to the paintings and some of them have faded quite badly.
After this experience we went on to a place called the Spitzkoppe Hills also known as the “Matterhorn of Namibia.” It is a group of 120 million year old granite peaks in the Namib Dessert. We had the time to go for a hike up one of these peaks. There was no trail and so it was more of a scramble up the side through cactus, huge boulders and the odd Quiver tree which has the look of a tree from a prehistoric time. The watercolour painting I have done at the top of this post shows the incredible colour of the rock in certain lighting conditions which in my minds eye could be what parts of Mars look like.
This painting was done from photographs of cheetahs at Cheetah Park. I changed the background to reflect its true habitat in Namibia.
These drawings are from my sketch book.
The cheetahs I was sketching were tame and so I was able to get very close. The experience was surreal.
Coloured pencil sketches of rock art done on location at Brandberg Daures National Heritage Site, Namibia
Coloured pencil sketch of the Namib Dessert. Sketched on location\
The tame cheetah’s were very gentle and were the farmers family pets.
The Chobe River and The Okavango Delta August 20th, 2013
What do you call a herd of Hippo’s?
Cape Buffalo grazing near the Chobe River, Botswana
Cape Buffalo in Chobe National Park, Botswana. Pencil Sketch
“The Tree of Life” Watercolor and Pencil Sketch
A Mokoro is a dug out canoe that is powered by standing in the back of the boat and poling it through the water.
These traditional hand carved wooden boats are called Mokoro’s
After leaving Victoria Falls it was a relatively short drive south west to the town of Kisane in Botswana. From here we went to The Chobe River which cuts through the North east corner of Chobe National Park. We boarded a river boat thinking we would get our first look at some African animals. What we didn’t expect was the over whelming number of elephants, hippo’s, cape buffalo, crocodiles and lots of bird life that come here during the dry season. Being in a larger boat we were able to get up close to the hippo’s in the water which you just can’t or shouldn’t do in a small boat such as a Makoro, which was the next boat we were about to experience.
After this great day we continued on to Maun to start our three day camping trip in the Okavango Delta. The Okavango River flows down from the mountains in Angola and into the Kalahari desert, where the water is absorbed into the sand. The river forms a delta here where we were about to embark on our canoe trip. The trip to our campsite in dug out canoes called “Mokoro’s” took about two and a half hours traveling through pristine landscape. Sitting in the bottom of the boat I am seeing the journey unfold from the perspective of three feet above the water as we ply our way through tall reeds and hippo pools.
Our campsite was on an island in the middle of the delta. From our base camp we spent the next couple of days exploring on foot and by canoe looking for elephants, zebra and hippo. It is an interesting feeling when you are on the ground looking for wild life and your guides are completely unarmed. It makes you feel like you are part of the food chain.
That being said one of the trips we took in the Mokoro’s, took us into this deep water hippo pool surrounded by tall reeds. There we were in our little wooden boats looking at two full grown hippo’s at the other end of the pool about a hundred feet away. After a few minutes of looking at each other one of the hippo’s goes underwater. We realize rather quickly that there is a stream of bubbles coming towards us. The bubbles are getting closer and closer and I am thinking to my self that we are so screwed!
Just when it is looking like carnage time the bubbles start moving away. OK that was fun, lets not do that again any time soon. With all this fun and excitement I did manage to do some pencil sketches and some small watercolour paintings on location. One of the great pleasures of this trip has been the opportunity to paint in exotic locations like this and to share this unique experience with my wife Lyn.
Walking with Lions, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe August 16th, 2013
We had the opportunity to spend some time with two 18 month old lion sister cubs just outside of Victoria Falls. Lion Encounter is a not for profit organization working to reintroduce lions back into the National Parks of Africa where the lion has become extinct. There main goal is to increase the overall population of wild lions in Africa.
In the 1940’s according to National Geographic the estimated population of lions was approximately 450,000. Today it is estimated that there are fewer than 20,000 animals in the wild.
We were somewhat cautious of being part of a lion program that could potentially sell the lions to a private game reserve that caters to hunters. We were assured that this was not the case by the information and video that we watched that this was about reintroducing lions into the wild through a 4 stage program. We were seeing the lions in stage one. In stages 2 and 3 they are part of a pride with no human contact. In stage 4 the off spring from the pride in stage 3 are released into the wild when they are old enough.
With that being said our experience with these lions was amazing. We spent about an hour and a half walking and hanging out with them. It is one thing to see a show on television about lions and it is another to see them up close. Later on in our trip we saw wild lions in Etosha Pan from the safety of our truck. Taking pictures while on the ground with lions allows you to get a lower perspective than if you are in a vehicle.
The pictures that Lyn and I took with our cameras were used later on for the watercolor painting at the top of this post. Often when I am preparing to do a more formal watercolor such as this one I will do a series of sketches to become more familiar with the details. One of the things that amazed me about lions was how there coloring blended perfectly into the surrounding bush. With this in mind I used a limited selection of colors to suggest this in the picture.
As amazing as this experience was I realize that this is somewhat controversial. Our next encounter with African animals would be on the Chobe River in Chobe National Park in North West Botswana.
Walking in the bush with lions.
Lion Sketch#1 Pencil and watercolor wash
Female Lion in Zimbabwe Watercolor 15 inches x 22 inches
Lion Sketch#3 Pencil
Lion Sketch #2 Pencil
Lion Sketch#4 Pencil
An Afternoon at Victoria Falls August 15th, 2013
After our flight from Buenos Aires to Johannesburg, South Africa we took a relatively short flight to Victoria Falls (only 1200 kilometers). The next day we spent some time orienting ourselves to our new reality. We were staying in a camp ground for a couple of days before heading out on a truck with Oasis Overland Tours. Our trip would take us over land through Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and south to Cape Town, South Africa.
Painting streams, rivers and waterfalls are some of my favorite subjects and so a day exploring at Victoria Falls was an inspiring way to kick off a month in Southern Africa. In the western section of the park is a monument to Dr. David Livingstone a Scottish pioneer, and missionary explorer. The monument credits him to “discovering” Victoria Falls which is maybe a British Colonialist perspective when you consider that the locals who had probably lived there for hundreds of years called the falls Mosi-oa-Tunya. So maybe he was the first European to see the falls.
We saw our first monkey’s in the park called Vervet monkey’s and as you would expect they do very well for themselves feeding on handouts from all the tourists. We saw this in the Amazon Rain Forest in Ecuador and with the Baboon’s at Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. All along our trip I erred on the cautious side by keeping a safe distance from our monkey friends.
As a former white water raft guide I was very aware that just below Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River is one of the greatest rafting day trips on the planet. If you are an adrenaline junkie this is the trip for you. Sadly I only had one day to do this and we decided that since I have done hundreds of rafting trips that we would go walking with lions as this would be a more unique experience. This will be my next blog story and was one of the great highlights of our trip to Southern Africa.
One of my favorite painting trips each year is to the Sunshine Coast which is just north of Vancouver, BC. In past years while I was still working full time as a chef, a couple of weeks away from the grind of cooking was an opportunity to sketch quietly by the lake or in the woods. Now that I am working full time as an artist I guess I can say that this is a chance to get away from my studio and just paint.
The sketches and paintings shown below were all painted on location with the exception of the watercolor of the cedar tree which was done in my studio. Over the years I have done a lot of sketches up at this cabin and these pictures are just a small sample of the last twenty three years. For me this place has given me a lot of inspiration and the opportunity to experiment with my art work.
Pencil sketch behind the main cabin.
Banjo in the water at Pat Lake
This week I wanted to share with you some of my recent paintings and sketches from the forests here on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. I find that I paint in different styles depending on the subject matter and where I am.
If I am on the road and sketching in a city with lots of people around my working style will be more about line work and simple watercolor washes. The private side of my self is saying “This is great!, I love this, but lets get this done quickly and get out of here”. When I am out in a forest or any place in nature where there are less people I tend to work in a slower more methodical way.
Producing art by its very nature is a solitary process and for me I can settle down into a longer working session with less distractions and delve deeper into the subject matter when I am out in nature.
The picture of Salal bushes in the forest at the top of this post I spent all afternoon painting. It is very easy to get lost in the moment and do this.
Douglas Fir tree on the Sunshine Coast. Watercolor
Lightining Strike on Mt. Seymour, North Vancouver, BC. Watercolor
Along The Varley Trail, Lynn Headwaters Park, North Vancouver, BC. Watercolor study.
Salal bushes on the Sunshine Coast. Watercolor painting
My out door studio.
I thought that this week I would take a break from posting about my journey around the world in 2013. In real time I am working on new watercolor paintings everyday. I decided to enter into another on line challenge about painting weeds in their outdoor location. Painting outdoors is a very different experience compared to studio work.
In the studio I have the luxury of stopping whenever I need to. I can use a hairdryer to dry my watercolor painting and most important I have a comfortable chair. The biggest advantage to painting in the studio is that you can control every aspect and stage of the painting with in reason.
This painting challenge on face book is hosted by James Gurney, author, illustrator and an exceptionally talented artist. His out door painting studies are an inspiration to many artists at different stages in their development. To see his blog and the Weed Painting Challenge you can go to http://www.gurneyjourney.blogspot.com and look for weed painting challenge in the index.
The title of my picture is Persicaria and Driftwood and was painted by the Fraser River in Richmond, BC. just a few miles from home.
Persicaria Maculosa, Watercolor and pencil
My painting gear beside the Fraser River.
Forest Buddha, study #1
Forest Buddha, study#2
In the original post of “Experimenting with Watercolour” I was showing my first attempt at this painting of a gateway at Angkor Thom, Siem Reap, Cambodia. In the second study I have painted the picture without a pink sky and I have tried to focus more on just the stone heads. I wanted to express more of the feelings of serenity and awe that I felt looking up at these massive stone heads in the forest.
These pictures were a great practice exercise and will be left at that.
A couple of years ago I was visiting the Unesco World Heritage site of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It is an amazing place to explore. I was hoping to paint some watercolours of this place as soon as I got back. I did some sketches while I was there but soon realized that it was going to be a challenge to paint.
This week I have decided to give it a shot and see what I come up with. Painting moss covered, crumbling ruins requires some thought and a little risk taking. Getting bogged down in all the detail would be very easy to do. I have taken a more impressionistic approach to focus more on the mystery of this place.
I am not finished exploring the possibilities of this picture and so I will paint it over and post the results soon.