Tuesday, May 23, 2017

SKETCHES OF SOUTH AFRICA, PART 4



Not far from Johannesburg is a nature reserve called Marievale. We visited one overcast and misty morning. The heavy rains of a few days previous had flooded most of the roads in the reserve, fortunately Steve's 4WD managed the water with ease. The pic above shows what awaited us upon our arrival - low clouds and plenty of standing water! Still, there were birds about including Little Egret, Black Heron, Squacco Heron and Hottentot Teal (all in the above pic - in the distance, a small party of Yellow-billed Duck).





Our drive to the reserve was a bit slow through all the mist but made for some very interesting and atmospheric images. The occasional figure appearing along the roadside was visually exciting as they seemed to just appear out of the mist. Birds were scarce but a Glossy Ibis flyover was a bonus.





Later (once we had found a hide that wasn't flooded), we settled down to see what was about. A Black Heron (above) didn't take long to arrive, along with a very exciting African Rail. Earlier we had seen a Black Heron fishing and characteristically shading the water with its wings - my first views of this behavior! There were quite a few common species about but not many waders - probably due to the deep water.





 A Malachite Kingfisher came and stayed for awhile (earlier we had seen a Half-collared Kingfisher) and our arrival had frightened off a Giant Kingfisher that was perched on the roof of the hide. Finally a Pied Kingfisher over the water brought our tally to 4 (later 5 for the day as we also saw 2 Woodland Kingfishers near Steve's farm North of Pretoria). I managed a few drawings of Blacksmith Lapwings in my sketchbook.





On our way out, we had much better views of a Squacco Heron plus plenty of other waterbirds, also displaying Red-bishop Birds and various whydah and widow birds. All in all, a great visit!




Photos above by Steve Pearse and myself.







Tuesday, May 9, 2017

SKETCHES OF SOUTH AFRICA, PART 3



Moving away from Kruger, we rented chalets for a few days at Giant's Castle. Amazing landscape and a truly wonderful setting nestled amongst the hills. Great walks too with plenty of wildlife. We were mostly birding and I added a few new birds to my life list. We saw Bearded Vulture on most days and Cape Vulture every day - they roosted amongst the rocks nearby. I surprised a caracal lynx early one morning but mammals were a bit scarce. The Mountain Chat that I did a study of (above) was present and singing most mornings - this one is of the dark form.




A pair of White-necked Raven kept us entertained as they mostly hung about the place and afforded great views for studying their habits. Gurney's Sugarbird was another 'must' for us and on the last day we found a single bird near the access road.




Other birds were found mostly in and around the chalets as they were well planted with bushes and small trees so attracted plenty of different species. A pair of breeding Cape Robin Chats had young so were always around - even foraging around one's feet at times! A great opportunity for more studies and photos.




We walked to the 'caves' where there were a number of well-preserved Bushman paintings. Wonderful really to see them up close - especially for an artist! Swifts of different species were all around including Alpine Swifts - another must-see for me. Starred Robin was a possibility and Steve thought he heard one singing but we couldn't find it later when we went back the next day - it was unfortunately raining so that was probably the reason.





I also did studies of the landscape. The ones shown above (also in my sketchbook) are just ideas and some may be the basis for larger oils later on. I think I gathered enough reference on this trip for a few years worth of work! I'm not sure when I'll be able to get to some of these SA studies though as I have a watercolor exhibition coming up soon so will be finishing work for that plus other stuff I'm working on at the moment - busy days!

Monday, May 8, 2017

SKETCHES OF SOUTH AFRICA, PART 2



In Kruger Park, this hippo was hanging around the shallows while we sat in the hide nearby. At times it moved from a resting place half-submerged under an overhanging tree to deeper water further down the channel. One time it surfaced just in front of the hide pushing up and aside waterlilies, scattering the ever present Jacanas and flicking its ears to clear water from them. Astounding - and all just a few meters away!




Pied Kingfishers were also present, at times resting on nearby branches, occasionally fishing. They were great subjects while they sat nearby affording wonderful views for sketching and photographing. When I have time I'll get to some larger watercolor paintings of them.




It was extremely hot in the park, 40 degrees Celsius! We drove around with the windows down allowing a slight breeze that made it bearable. Bird life was great with many species seen and photographed. The Steppe Eagle drawn above was resting in the top of a small tree. It drew a crowd as did a recent lion kill. Due to all the rains though, the bush was quite thick so most animals were difficult to see. Still we had great views of a small herd of elephants that crossed the road just in front of us - we missed leopard and rhino though. Still there is always next year!

Monday, April 17, 2017

SKETCHES OF SOUTH AFRICA, PART 1



During a recent trip to South Africa I managed to find some time to do quite a number of sketches and watercolors. Most of these were in my sketchbook but I have to say that after such an amazing trip, (during which I lost count of the number of photos I took), I think that I have enough reference now for a few years worth of work! So I'm sure a lot of these sketchbook studies will translate into larger oil or watercolor paintings at a later date. I also painted a few landscapes and will re-visit these when I have finished my current project.




Birds featured prominently although I did sketch and paint a few larger animals including elephant and hippo. We traveled around quite a bit visiting Kruger Park for a few days and also spent some time at Giants Castle (more about these trips later). Also a few shorter day-trips were undertaken and the bird count continued to rise - with a few welcome 'lifers' too.



Studies shown above - African Jacana and Lily Pads, watercolor; Southern (or Common) Fiscal (unfinished), watercolor; African Jacana study, graphite.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

WINTER MIST




As far as snow goes, this has been a milder winter than usual with no major snow storms. It has been cold though and spring has taken a while to arrive. Warm fronts from the South usually brings a more moist atmosphere and sometimes this combination results in mist. I am always over in the reserve when this happens looking, sketching and when the temps are mild, painting. This smaller study didn't take long so was able to mostly complete it in one go. I did a few small touch-ups later when the paint had dried a little but basically left it as it was. Size is 7" x 5". Oil on canvas.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

FALLEN POMEGRANATE, PART 6



Quite a few glazes of color were required to bring the painting to its finished state. I mostly used Raw Sienna and Yellow Ochre for these with a little Burnt Sienna for the decaying branch. I slightly deepened the small areas of green and worked a little on the pomegranate. It also got a cast shadow across the middle which helped define the form. Some of the darker shadow areas were also worked on, trying all the while to get an overall feeling of uniformity. Within the leaves is a feeling of depth, light and shade, and I tried hard to keep the painting bright without resorting to any gouache.

Monday, March 27, 2017

FALLEN POMEGRANATE, PART 5



After a few sessions, I managed to complete most of the shadow areas. I'll still have to go back and darken a few parts and also add a little more of the finer details. Since most of the painting will be shades of ochre and brown, I add in a complimentary green to a few places - namely the two leaves at the top and a few blades of grass on the right. Keeping these colors to the periphery helps against too much visual distraction - I don't want too many things competing with each other. These greens are also somewhat subdued. The fallen branch with the shadow on the top right makes an appearance but I'll still have to darken it a bit. Next I'll glaze warmer tones all over the painting - what you see here is basically the underpainting so expect to see a dramatic change from this to the next!