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.
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
Exploring Buenos Aires August 4th to August 12, 2013
After leaving the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia we traveled south into Argentina. We drove through a number of interesting towns and cities including Salta, Cafayate and Cordoba. We were excited to get to Buenos Aires which would be our last stop in South America before flying to South Africa.
Lyn and I had been to Buenos Aires a few years earlier but we didn’t stay long enough to really explore “The Paris of The South”. With eight days available to us we rented a short term apartment and started our grand walking tour.
Our apartment was in the barrio (neighborhood) of Recoleta, which was central to most of the places we planned on walking to. Everyday we plotted with our trusty map where we would walk to and what we would see. We met local people that were very helpful with suggestions for us and so our plans were always fluid. As always I carry a sketch book and a camera in the hopes that I will get some good sketches and photos for future paintings.
The National Museum of Fine Arts in Recoleta was a great surprize with a wide range of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings plus paintings by El Greco, Titian, Rembrant, Goya and many more. The museum opened my eyes to some amazing Argentinian artists from the 19th and 20th centuries.
High on our list of to do’s was going to a tango show and wandering the antique markets in San Telmo.
Buenos Aires is a city that really comes to life at night. Many locals or Portenos as they like to call themselves have dinner after 8 and 9pm. Some bars and cafe’s stay open most of the night. For us going to an authentic Argentinian Grill for Parilla (grill or BBQ) was something we managed to do but the restaurant didn’t open until 8 pm and so after walking all day this was a bit of a stretch to wait but well worth it.
Most evenings we cooked from our apartment and shopped at the local mercados for our food. This was its own adventure.
After a week in this beautiful city we boarded a plane for South Africa. As exciting as the next leg of our trip would be I felt a little sadness at leaving such an amazing place.
Pen and Watercolor sketch.
Pencil and Watercolor sketch of Rodin sculpture “The Thinker” with the Plaza Congreso in the back ground.
Cafe Tortoni is the oldest cafe in Argentina. Pencil Crayon
Pen and Watercolor sketch. Available for sale.
A new landmark in Buenos Aires, The solar flower or steel flower automatically opens and closes with the level of light. Created by Eduardo Catalona
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.
Home Stay on Amantani Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru July 17, 2013
Our trip to Amantani Island started with a day at Puno which is a city on the shores of Lake Titicaca in southern Peru. We found that it was very cold at night even though it was July. This is in large part due to the altitude of 12,507 ft.
Arranging a home stay on Amantani or Taquile Island can be done easily from Puno. This was an amazing cultural experience that was another high light of our time in Peru. This was also another great opportunity to sketch and gather material for future paintings.
On Amantani Island we stayed at Isabel’s Bed and Breakfast. There were no cars on the island and so the absence of cars was quite a pleasant experience. People live a traditional life style of fishing and farming the land. This was another one of those places I could go and paint for the summer that is like going back in time. It reminded me of the Mediterranean in that it was arid and rocky, plus it was hot during the day. At the time that we were there they were building a hospital on the island and so things may have changed a little since our visit.
As part of this excursion we spent the following day exploring Taquile Island as well as visiting The Uros, a group of 42 man made islands inhabited by the Uru people. The islands are made out of totora reeds and have to be replenished with more reeds as they only last for about 3 months in the water. This is the big tourist attraction on Lake Titicaca and is a fascinating place to visit.
Watercolor and Pencil Sketch looking out over Lake Titicaca from Amantani Island. Available for sale.
Pencil and Watercolor sketch of Isabel, our home stay host on Amantani Island.
Pen and Watercolor sketch from Isabel’s back yard.
Pencil and Watercolor study.
A pen sketch of the bell tower in the main plaza on Taquile Island, Peru.
Pen and Watercolor sketch.
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.
A Day in Cuenca June 21, 2013
After leaving Banos, we drove south through the Andes to Cuenca, which would be our last stop before arriving in Mancora, Peru.
Cuenca is a city of around 260,000 people that has become a very popular place to retire. Our impression of Cuenca is that it would be an easy place to live with plenty of cheap restaurants, beautiful colonial architecture, museums and a national park near by for hiking and exploring.
I managed to do some simple sketches while in Cuenca. The sketches were all done in black pen and I gave them simple watercolor washes later on. I don’t always find it easy to sketch in public but that is the nature of the beast.
Sometimes I meet local artists as a result of sketching out doors and so this can be a rewarding exchange of thoughts and experiences. Once I settle in to the place I am sketching I tend to be too busy to notice or care about people looking over my shoulder. All of my out door sketching practice in South America would be a good warm up for painting and drawing in India, but that is another story down the road a bit.
Pen and Watercolor sketch. Private Collection.
Waiting For Our Luggage in Quito, Ecuador June 8th, 2013
Flying into Quito’s new international airport was a roller coaster type landing with a full on brake slam at the end for good measure. There was an older lady from Quito sitting near us and I noticed she was making the sign of the cross as we were descending. She said that this was a normal landing for Quito.
The fun was just beginning as our luggage never arrived and so sadly we headed into the big city with not so much as a tooth brush. Our bags did show up, one bag at a time over the next five days. There was nothing we could do about that and so we made good use of the time and explored the city.
Fortunately we had our cameras and I had my sketching gear. (More important than a toothbrush) The picture at the top of this blog entry is a watercolor and pencil sketch depicting a day of hiking in the hills above Quito. On one of our walkabout’s we came across a construction crew demolishing an old building. All these men standing around looking at a back hoe seemed like a scene I might see back in Canada. I guess construction culture is some what universal.
Quito was a good opportunity to acclimatize to the next two months of travel through South America and to start working on my Spanish.
A page from my sketch book. Pen and watercolor wash.
The View From The San Francisco Monastry
Exploring The Hills above Quito.
Old Man of the Mountains, Pencil and watercolour sketch
Boston. MA. May 31, 2013
Arriving in Boston from Vancouver, Canada by car was the kick off point for our journey around the world. We had a week to explore the Boston area before flying to Quito, Ecuador. We stayed with family in Lincoln County which is very close to where the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War took place on April 19th, 1775.
Walking around Lincoln, Concord and Boston I couldn’t help but feel the presence of early American history. After spending a day in Boston learning about the Freedom Trail we also visited Walden Pond, where Henry David Thoreau lived in a small cabin from 1845 to 1847.
There is now a replica of his cabin very close to the original site. I have painted a small watercolor of this cabin with out the paved paths and roadway that is nearby. I like to imagine that in his day this cabin was a little more secluded and so I have tried to paint it more in the spirit of what I think it may have been.
I also painted a watercolor of the Old State House which was built in 1713. It is one of the oldest public buildings in the United States. It stands out in that it is surrounded by modern day high rise buildings and the contrast of this made for an interesting composition. I added five birds to the picture in honor of the Boston Massacre which happened very close to this building in 1770.
I look forward to our return to Boston after our trip as there is so much more to see. Our next stop along the way is Quito, Ecuador.
Built in 1713, The Old State House is one of the oldest public buildings in the United States.
17th Century Window looking out at Paul Revere’s House
Henry David Thoreau’s Cabin at Walden Pond
Watercolor and Pen sketch of a bronze sculpture, Make Way For The Ducklings by Nancy Schon. Sold.