Inktober 8- “Baby Spotted Hyena”- We spent around a half hour watching a clan of spotted hyena on an art workshop safari I took in Kenya in 2004. One of the adults was laying on the ground. Suddenly a little head popped up next to her leg and this cub came out into the morning sun. Platinum Carbon Ink pen on Strathmore 300 vellum bristol.
This has been a fun, and instructive, series for me and I’ll definitely be doing more of this kind of thing for my own study work.
Most of the drawings I’ve done for the previous posts were done fairly quickly, generally 30 minutes or less. For today, I’ve done more finished drawings, once again using the Wolff Carbon pencil on vellum bristol.
The idea for these was to use all the features of the subject, including gesture for the full body drawings, to capture its character and essence.
For a Bactrian camel head study, I looked for reference with a 3/4 view, but most of what I have didn’t seem like it would draw well because the position of the features is so odd. Time was limited, so I stayed with a classic profile that shows his calm, unexcitable nature. My husband and I got to sit with a large group of camels at Arburd Sands when we were in Mongolia and I could practically feel my blood pressure drop as I sat and sketched them.
The body of this spotted hyena got too big, so I cropped her at the shoulders, which gives a different look than the camel above, in which the drawing trails off in value, number of lines and amount of detail. I find hyenas interesting and compelling on a number of levels. They live in a matriarchal clan structure, will go to war with lions and move a lot faster than you think they can with their gallumping, awkward gait. The African night wouldn’t be the same without their crazy whooping and insane giggling.
I love the flow of the pose I captured at Yellowstone as this coyote ran parallel to the road in nice morning light. The head demonstrates that you can get a lot of character without a lot of detail if you make your marks carefully, see the shapes correctly and don’t get hung up in drawing individual hairs.
This drawing and the next one ended up too big to scan, so they were photographed and then processed in Photoshop. They were done on white paper, but I kind of like the toned effect. In any case, I’ve rarely done primates, but I got some incredible reference of the gorillas the last time I was at the San Francisco zoo and have been looking forward to seeing what I could do with it. The big silverback male was on morning patrol and he didn’t miss a thing.
Sometimes a subject serves itself up on a silver platter and is so compelling that the artist’s job is to simply not mess it up. I found warthogs to be, pound for pound, THE most entertaining animal I saw in Kenya. This one was at Lewa Downs, grazing near the lodge we stayed at. He’s got it all: great ears, that remarkable face and the solid body carried by relatively delicate-looking legs and feet.
Contest result: No one got all the noses right. The right answers are: grizzly, bison, moose, turkey vulture, elk. The person who came the closest guessed black bear instead of grizzly because the muzzle wasn’t dished, but nailed all the rest. This may be because it was a young animal. I went back to my reference and took a good look at my pictures of black bear and I think, in fairness, that I didn’t do a good enough job making it clear in my drawing which was which, so I would like to announce that Heather Houlahan is the winner and will be getting a packet of my notecards. Congratulations and thanks to everyone who entered!
On to mouths. After eyes, the mouth may be the most defining part of an animal’s head. These drawings were done with a Venetian Red Derwent Drawing Pencil. They’re kind of waxy, like Conte crayon as opposed to chalkier, for lack of a better term, like hard pastels. The paper is, once again, vellum bristol.
All of today’s examples are from Kenya.
First up, a reticulated giraffe that I photographed in the Samburu, Kenya in 2004.
Giraffe lips, believe it or not, are very interesting. As anyone who has fed a giraffe at a wild animal park knows, the upper lip is extremely flexible, almost prehensile. What is really impressive, however, is that the mouth is so tough that a giraffe can wrap it’s tongue around a very thorny acacia branch, pull it loose, stick it in its mouth and chew it without a second thought or, apparently, getting punctured.
This is the mouth of a white rhino that I photographed at the Lewa Downs Conservancy, south of the Samburu, also in 2004. Lewa is one of the best places to see these prehistoric-looking beasts. White rhinos, when seen from the front have a square lip. Black rhinos’ lips come to a point. According to Wikipedia, there is no actual evidence that the word “white” is a mis-translation of the Afrikaaner word for “wide”.
This is the mouth and muzzle of a Coke’s hartebeest, a large antelope, which I saw in the Masai Mara, Kenya. It has a very long head. When I enlarged the image to see the mouth better, I was struck by how its shape and the shape of the nose flowed together in an almost art nouveau manner. Just the kind of thing I look for.
Also from the Mara, this is the mouth of a spotted hyena. Their jaws are trememdously strong and can break large bones apart. And, as you can see, are filled with teeth. Studies have proved that they hunt at least as much as they scavenge. They live in female-centric “clans” in a defined territory that they defend against anything, even lions. I really enjoyed watching them and hearing them “whoop” at night.
This is the muzzle of a young lion I saw in the Mara. No scars yet and it has an almost soft quality that will change as he gets older.
Finally, I was out in the safari vehicle at dawn, also in the Mara, when we came upon a lioness who was just waking up. She gave us a REALLY big yawn, got up, stretched and ambled off. Keeping everything lined up and in decent perspective was challenging as you can see from the erasure marks.
Next week the eyes have it and then I’ll put it all together.
Four years ago today, internationally known wildlife artist Simon Combes was killed by a cape buffalo while walking with his wife on a mountain called Delemere’s Nose, which is part of the Delemere estate in Kenya where they lived. Just two months earlier, I and nine other incredibly fortunate wildlife artists were on the safari of a lifetime with him. Looking at dates on my images, I see that we had gotten up the morning of October 12 at the Kigio Wildlife Sanctuary and spent most of the day driving south to the Masai Mara. When we stopped for lunch in the Masai group ranch north of the reserve proper, we saw our first Mara wildlife, a male topi on top of a mound. Then, in rapid succession it was wildebeest, gazelle, hippos, a huge male giraffe right inside the entrance to the Reserve and then…lions!
My tribute page and the photos that I took of him during the safari are here. But what I want to share today is what it means as an artist to be able to travel to a place like Kenya with someone like Simon, who knew the ground and the animals and who always seemed to get us to the right place at the right time. I had realized very quickly on my first trip there in 1999 that it was pointless to paint animals like cheetahs and lions without having seen them in their habitat. There’s really no way to get it right and those who have been there know the difference instantly. Trust me on this. So out of the 5,218 photos I shot in 2004, here are a few that I hope will illustrate this point, followed by some of the paintings that have resulted from the trip. If you want more, the whole safari is here. on my website.
Emotion and point of view play a major role in the creation of great wildlife art. How could the two women in the front vehicle not remember and “channel” this encounter if they paint an elephant? We’ll all remember this morning in the Samburu going from cool to warm, the beautiful light and this bull elephant who made it abundantly clear that it was time for us to move along.
Artists get asked all the time where we get the ideas for our paintings. Well, here’s one I probably wouldn’t have thought of if I hadn’t seen it. Baboons and impala breakfasting together at Lake Nakuru. Part of the problem with zoos and game parks is that the animals are out of context. You never see the natural groupings or interactions. Or if there are different species together, you have no idea how that would play out in the wild. To me, this kind of reference is gold. I can paint this African “Beauty and the Beast” scene because I saw it, photographed it, know it happened.
There really is something about lions. They define “presence”, even when they are still kids, like these two. Great afternoon light and you hardly notice that his face is covered with flies. For contrast, here’s a zoo lion. He’s gorgeous, with a huge mane and perfect whiskers. Dead giveaway, along with the flat light and lack of body condition. This lion don’t hunt. Which would you rather paint?
We went out on an evening game drive in the Samburu and as the sun was going down, it seemed to be really important to Simon to get to a particular place. We were literally along for the ride, so just waited to see what was up. Oh, yeah, this is very, very nice. It’ll do. Thank you, Simon.
Here’s a selection of the paintings that have come out of the safari so far.
Reference shot in the Mara. Simon did some interesting jogs with the vehicle to get alongside this big bird, who just wanted to walk away .
I loved the northern Kenya landscape with the huge, storybook doum palms.
Reference shot in the Mara. There was a cub, too, but that’s a painting for another day.This one was snapped up by a collector who also loves vultures and gets first crack at any I do.
John Seerey-Lester was kind enough to choose this painting for inclusion in the 2008 Art and the Animal Kingdom show at the Bennington Center for the Arts.
Cropped in from a large herd of buffalo at Lake Nakuru. Nobody was getting anywhere near that calf. No way, no how.
Reference photographed in the Mara, where we got an eyeful of cheetah every day we were there. This painting was juried into the 2008 Animal Art show at the Mendocino Art Center here in California. I’ve got to be in the right mood to paint all those spots, but I do love cheetahs!
ART THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“A few days later I looked up from my work to see a new elephant, one that I had not seen before, standing quietly only yards from my easel. He had crossed the river to my side on the outer curve of the ox bow and wanted to pass through the narrow neck where I was working. To do so he would have to pass within five yards of me or go back the long way around. I held my breath as he shifted silently from foot to foot, carefully weighing the situation. Finally, he moved forward and past me, watching intently as I stood motionless. Such rare incidents of trust between man and wild animals give me a great thrill.”
I had a terrific time doing North Coast Open Studios this year, not the least because I sold the coyote painting shown below in my June 3 post. The title is now “Double Check”
Lots of nice people, most of whom had not been to my studio before. On Saturday afternoon, one couple stopped by who had driven all the way from Ukiah just for the event. She had researched the artists and chosen the ones they wanted to visit, since, with over 100, there wasn’t time to see them all. I was very flattered to make the cut!
I’m now in prep mode for the Marin Art Festival and will head south on Friday. Really looking forward to it. Temperatures are supposed to be in the 80’s, though. I paid an extra $25 for electricity, so the portable fan goes with me. I ain’t suffering for my art if I can help it.
Today I’ve been scanning drawings for new notecards. Here’s three of them, a jackrabbit, spotted hyena and a snow leopard:
The next big event for me locally will be Wild Visions 2, a group show consisting of myself, Paula Golightly, John Wesa, Linda Parkinson, Shawn Gould. This time we are showing with Meridian Fine Art at the Umpqua Bank Community Gallery. There will be a reception the second Friday in August, so save the date! More as it gets closer.