Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2013 Holiday Drawing

Seasons Greetings!

"Classy Snow Lady (Mourning Dove)"
Graphite Drawing, 5 x 8

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world,
and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.

~Norman Vincent Peale

Best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Stay in the park big guy…PLEASE!

Adventure in Tanzania, Africa 2013

Part 2
Encounter with a very large Bull Elephant
Field sketch from Tarangire NP, Tanzania 2013
Halloween 2013 and I am out in the bush on a game drive, the west side of Silale Swamp in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. About mid morning we had made our way over to the area by Kuro Air strip, a small airport for what I call “puddle jumpers” to land at. Just as we were coming around a bend in the road that actually intersects with the road to the airstrip I saw the largest bull elephant I have seen to date and with what I considered to be huge tusks. Just a grand elephant!
We of course stopped and got into position to watch and photograph this gentle giant. I guess when you are that large and older you earn the right to move slower, to go at your own pace, slowly pulling Acacia leaves off the tree that you are under and watching us with one eye as he goes about his business. He eventually walked out from under the tree and into the sunlight over to the next grouping of trees. Camera shutters are going off in a rapid fire capturing every step, every movement as he simply walked from one tree to the next. He was the star and we were the paparazzi. We all looked at each other silently acknowledging that we all thought we had just gotten the perfect shot and that we had the makings for a grand painting, drawing or photograph. Satisfied we moved on.
On our way back up towards the swamp we saw him again, this time he was standing in the middle of the road that we had to go down. After about 15 minutes of patiently waiting he moved to the side of the road but just barely. We were in a great need to get back to the ranger station because our park pass was getting ready to run out so we had no choice but to get by the giant and quickly. Our guide through the land cruiser into gear and quickly got up to second gear and we raced by him… I have never in my life seen something so large move so fast! This enormous animal turned around so quickly and was facing right at us as we came parallel with him. If he had made the choice I sincerely believe that he could have with just a slight nudge turned the Land Cruiser over and kick us around just because we are silly little humans. Let me also mention that just before we made our way past him that he took a tree probably 10 inches in diameter between his trunk and tusk and simply pushed it over with what looked like no effort at all.
Even with my fellow artist that was originally on the left side of the vehicle and between me and the elephant ending up basically in my lap I pretty much got a good sequence of photos from the encounter. The elephants face is all over the picture frame because I was just pointing the camera in the general direction of the big guy, hanging on to the truck with the other hand and just basically staring at him in amazement as he turned to meet us.

Sequence of photos as we rushed by the giant!

Even though my encounter with this giant bull elephant was indeed exhilarating and I will forever remember him, it is not because of this event that I will be thinking of him but because of his safety. As we drove off I can remember saying, “Stay in the park big guy… please stay in the park!” He is a prime target for a poacher and I hope he can move that fast when he really needs to.
This sketch is how he looked after we had just passed him, alert, head up, tusks out and on guard.

Art to save Elephants

Thursday December 12, 2013, 9am CST - Sunday December 15, 2013 12pm CST

This sketch is currently available in the Artist Ambassadors Against Poaching “Art to save Elephants” silent auction that is being held of the AAAP FaceBook page. The silent auction runs from Thursday December 12, 2013, 9am CST – Sunday December 15, 2013, 12pm CST. Please click here to visit the page and place a bid, ALL proceeds from this auction go to African Wildlife Trust and their efforts to help save the African Elephants just like the one that i drew in this sketch. Bid often and bid high!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Silly……. silly man…

Adventure in Tanzania, Africa 2013

Part 2
Among a pride of nine Lions

Field sketch from Tarangire NP, Tanzania 2013

I went to Tanzania with a goal, more really of a high hope, that I would get a chance to see big cats. I say this because when you go on safari  you need to be happy with whatever Africa will give you, even if its your 207th zebra.  
Africa... Africa was very generous this last trip!
On October 14, 2013, which was day 3 of my 2013 safari, we were on the east side of Silale Swamp on a park road that isn't heavily traveled. To be honest I wasn't expecting much from this drive because many of the previous trips down this particular road in 2012 didn't offer up much. But as I said previously… Africa was very generous this trip.
We had eaten our bush breakfast on the side of the hill that leads down into Silale Swamp about 9:30 in the morning and were making our way south down the road to the bottom of the swamp to cross over and go back up the west side. Our guide and what a fantastic guide he was, saw something under a tree and as we got closer we noticed that they were lions, SCORE! To even make this better as we got closer the group of lions grew from 3 to 5 and finally we counted 9. Nine lions all at once! Africa was being extremely generous this morning!
We stayed there for probably about a good solid ½ hour photographing, sketching and taking notes. All of the artists composing pieces in their heads for a painting that they would do back in the studio. Just a fantastic experience. We would take a grouping of photos from one angle, move the Land Cruiser to another vantage point and again start capturing more reference from this new angle. You knew when the lions had moved because this automatic buzzing sound would come from both vehicles. That was just plane fun to be part of.

Our open sided vehicle

Our guide tells us that we need to start making our way away from the lions and start moving on but as we are leaving we will circle the larger group of 5 to get one last volley of images. When doing this the lions would be on our right as we circled, I was on the right side. It’s midday and the lions are pretty docile sitting under the tree although they are showing a small interest in the herd of Cape Buffalo that are walking towards the swamp not too far away. As we make our way around the last corner of the tree I am sitting there taking up close shots of this one particular lion which has its eyes shut, I am using my 500mm lens but only need it zoomed into 200mm because we are close to the lions. So close that I take the camera away from my face for a minute and visually measure the distance between me sitting in the vehicle and the lion laying on the ground. I calculate that I could lay my body length down twice in the space between me and the lion. I literally am thinking to myself as I put the camera back up to my eye that “Holy XXXX! We are close.” Just at the moment that I start to take more pictures the lion opens it eye, stares straight at me and then proceeds to follow me as we slowly move past him. I took a few more nervous shots, put my camera down and without asking anyone else in the vehicle, turned to the guide and said “We are good…. LET”S move on!”
Did I mention that I was riding in the open sided vehicle that day? Twelve feet from a lion who is looking at me with an intent stare that I perceived as “Silly……. silly man….. Come just a bit closer and you will have brought me my lunch. Come closer, I dare you.”
This field sketch is from the moment just after the lion had opened it’s eye and stared at me.