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.
Driving through Etosha Pan in Etosha National Park, Namibia August 24, 2013
After leaving the Okavango Delta in Botswana we headed west to Namibia and Etosha National Park. Etosha National Park is one of Namibia’s largest wildlife parks and contains with in its boundarys what is known as Etosha Pan which is a salt flat left over from a long dry lake bed in the Kalahari Basin. This is a great place to see animals in the dry season as they stay close to the watering holes.
I was able to do a lot of sketches while we were there. These sketches were done mainly in coloured pencil that I reworked back home in my studio with the help of photographs Lyn and I took. Drawing and painting wild African animals has been a huge departure from painting Canadian Landscapes but I believe that as an artist it doesn’t really matter what the subject is as long as you feel passionate about what you are painting and drawing. As someone once said a picture has to pass through your heart first before you should paint it.
With this idea in mind we camped that night inside of the park in a camp ground which is protected by a high fence and so we didn’t have to worry about the sound of roaring lions in the middle of the night. After dinner we walked a path that took us to a watering hole where we could watch the animals come down to drink. With my sketch book I drew black rhino’s just as the sun was setting. I think that I would be hard pressed to find anything more interesting than that. They also made good subjects as they didn’t move too much.
The Rhino’s came down to the watering hole just before the sun set. Watercolour wash and pencil
Coloured pencil drawing from my sketch book.
Conte Drawing done in my studio.
This is an experimental watercolour I did. It is a combination of wet on wet and glazing techniques. For some reason this Giraffe seems to have a Mona Lisa Smile.
Young male lions guarding their kill. There is a good chance they didn’t kill this animal but stole it. Pencil Drawing
This man decided to get out of his car to check his tires inside Etosha National Park.
This is what the man checking his tires did not see. The man was lucky but the Elan not so much.
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
Driving South from La Paz to the Uyuni Salt Flats July 19 to 24th, 2013
After leaving Puno, Peru on the shores of Lake Titicaca we headed south into Bolivia through the high arid plains known as the altiplano. We spent a couple of days in La Paz, which is considered the highest capital city in the world at 11,975 feet. We stayed at a small hotel in the central area of the city and made up our own walking tour as we went.
The Witches Market also known as La Hechiceria was really interesting in that they sold witch craft supplies with lots of obscure and strange products necessary to carry out traditional spiritual rituals from the Aymara world. Dozens of vendors line the streets and sell everything from dried frogs, snakes, owl feathers, llama fetus as well as the usual things like post cards and key rings. Good times.
While I was in La Paz I read a book called “Marching Powder”, by Rusty Young; A true story of friendship, Cocaine and South America’s strangest jail. If you are planning a trip to La Paz this book is a cautionary tale and will give you an interesting perspective on drug smuggling and prison life in Bolivia. You can also visit this prison which is now officially closed.
Back on the road to the Uyuni Salt Flats we ran into a road block in Oruro that lasted for about twelve hours which offered me the opportunity to sketch and paint. When the road finally opened again it was getting dark and so we pulled over to a road side stop to camp for the night. In reality it was more or less a garbage dump and make shift memorial for unfortunate travelers. I normally only post pictures of my art work for this blog but sometimes a photograph tells the story better.
The salt flats at Uyuni are the largest in the world at 4,086 square miles. We spent a day driving on the flats and for the most part it looks like snow. A popular tourist excursion is to drive to Incahuasi “island” in the center of the salt flats. The island is covered in very large cactus and offers a really good vantage to see the salt flats from a higher view point. The sketch I did of the Cemetery of Trains was inspired from this day trip. It is a place very close to Uyuni and unique in its own way. It seems like the kind of place Pink Floyd would have used for an album cover.
Mountain Bluebird, Yellowstone National Park Watercolor
Breakfast at Colter Bay Campsite
Camping at Colter Bay, WY. May 23, 2013
For most of the day we were driving around the northern part of Yellowstone National Park near Mamoth Springs. There is so much to see in the park that you really could use a week just to cover the main sights. That afternoon we headed south to Grand Teton National Park which is just ten miles south of the Yellowstone southern park border.
My first view of the forty mile long Teton Range was breath taking. I thought that we might see some interesting and beautiful places on this first leg of our journey to Boston but this was amazing.
The watercolor painting I have done of the Mountain Bluebird was painted from a photograph that Lyn took. We found that these birds were elusive and it was difficult to just get a good photo let alone sketch this bird from real life. The sketch of our campsite is typical of my loose sketch book style. This style of loose drawing is a lot of fun and offers a nice change from doing a more formal watercolor.