Last year I finally made it to the eastern steppes, the largest remaining stretch of an ecosystem that at one time stretched from near the Pacific Ocean all the way west to Hungary. Now there are only remnants and Mongolia has the largest, best preserved part. We were heading west from Toson Hulstay Nature Reserve, a steppe area that is home to Mongolian gazelles and a variety of other mammals and birds, and had just crossed the timber bridge in the painting. We stopped to stretch and walk out on it to see the river. I got out of the van, turned back to look toward the way we’d just come, and saw this enormous cloud formation with rain in the distance. Summer is the rainy season in Mongolia and storms like this are welcomed by the herders whose animals depend on the grass that is watered by the rains. A good grass year means that more animals have a better chance to survive the long hard winters. So I never mind rain when I’m traveling there. I’m just happy for the local people.
I just returned from four great days at Delger Camp, operated in conjunction with Nomadic Journeys, and which is located at the Khogno Khan Nature Reserve, about six hours west of Ulaanbaatar. Staying in one place for awhile is very useful for getting in serious painting time. I do quick pen and ink sketches while on the road, but there’s usually not time to get out the watercolors.
Along with the paintings and sketches from this current trip, I also thought I’d share other pieces I’ve done up to now. Everything was photographed in less than optimal conditions in the apartment I have the use of, but I felt that sharing them while I’m still here would be fun and have an immediacy that would be missing if I waited until I get home in a couple of weeks.
They were done with either a Winsor Newton Cotman watercolor travel set or Yarka poured pigment watercolors and a Robert Simmons Sapphire brush. The paper is either Arches 140lb cold-pressed or a w/c paper I brought back from the Lake District in England many years ago. The pen sketches were done in a 7×5″ Pentalic Nature Sketchbook. I used a non-waterproof pen with a Koi waterbrush for the one with the tone and a .01 Sakura Micron pen for the others.
Mongolia gets very little rain and most of what does fall comes in the summer. After the brutal winter zud (a drought year followed by an extremely cold winter with heavy snowfall) that hammered the country these past months, a year of good rainfall would be a blessing, indeed.
Being a herding culture, the Mongols have always depended on rain to grow the grass they need for their animals. The rainy season is short, so I suspect that as wonderful as a Mongolian summer is, it’s also a time for some anxiety.
In 2008, rain came late, at the end of August. My husband and I were at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve. We arrived on a beautiful evening. It started to rain at around 3am and didn’t stop for 18 hours (we counted). But we had perfect weather for the rest of the trip.
In 2009, on my Artists for Conservation Flag Expedition, it was definitely the rainy season, even though there wasn’t enough to break the drought.
Here’s a few of my favorite “boroo” photos. (Note: “Boroo” is pronounced more like “baurau”, with a rolled “r”.)
Rain has, so to speak, seeped into the culture to the point where it’s a leitmotif in many of the music videos I’ve watched and clearly has romantic connotations. Sometimes it seems like there has been an informal competition between groups and singers to see who can work the most rain into their video.
Here is one from Javhlan. Imagine this singer with an absolutely glorious voice, standing in the woods singing as the crew poured “rain” onto him. I’ll bet he only needed one take.
And, taking it even further, is A Capella’s “Boroo”. Hope it was a warm evening.
Finally, instead of a set-piece like the previous two, Guys 666, who normally seem to be hard rappers, did this video, also called “Boroo”, that tells a story, albeit not an entirely happy one.