Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fishermen of the Okavango Delta


The Okavango Delta covers an area of approximately 3.2 million acres, when in full flood. The best way to appreciate the size of the Delta is to fly from Maun to any one of the camps within the Delta. Since the land is so flat you are able to see from the air that the delta, just doesn’t seem to have an end. Myriads of channels twist and wind around palm fringed islands as far as the eye can see.

However there is no better way to see the Okavango Delta intimately, than in a Mokoro or a (Dugout). You are able to glide over crystal clear waters, while watching the wildlife that inhabit the fringes of the waterways. Water lilies, Painted Reed Frogs, Jacanas, Fish Eagles, Hippos, Sitatunga, Lechwe, and Elephants are just a few of the beautiful things you might see on such a trip.

Dotted around the Okavango Delta are a few villages, consisting either of the Beyei, or Humbakushu tribes. They mainly survive by subsistence living which includes, farming, fishing and a little hunting. Some have left their former way of life and have become guides, polers, or are employed in other capacities at the many lodges and camps that are scattered across the Delta.

The introduction of nets many years ago have lead some of them to become commercial fishermen, selling their catch at different villages .Its not unusual to come upon a island by boat and beneath its leafy canopy find a fishermen’s camp, with nets strung between trees ,a smoky fire, old tents, and a battered gas freezer. Some of the fish they freeze but many are just split open, gutted and then dried in the sun.

The oil painting above is one I did some years ago, and sold, depicting some fishermen with new nets in their Mokoros. The perspective of the two Mokoros is not quite right, but that’s all part of the learning curve, I sometimes have a look at my old work and have a good laugh, but even though some are badly drawn, color wrong, composition boring, they have sentimental value to them, and bring back good memories . I have to thank all those who bought my early pieces of artworks even though some were not that great. Each sale was another confirmation that I could actually earn something from my art.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Elephant charge

                                                                           
This is a painting I did when I was 19,in Kasane,a small town on the edge of the Chobe River .Our family stayed just 10 km outside Kasane in Lesoma Valley but know to many as Elephant Valley due to its abundance of these animals.At the end of the dry season only a few muddy waterholes remained where all types of wild animals would come to drink.During our 4 year stay which started off with our family living in some old army tents,in the middle of the bush we experienced a piece of the real Africa,without the frills.Maybe,one day I write a book about all those stories or I might even get around to blogging about it.

Anyway since I love wild animals I would often go for long walks into the bush in hope that I would be able to see something special.To me this could mean many things ,I used to collect animal sculls ,insects,rocks,reptiles,interesting pieces of twisted wood. Sometimes if fortunate I would find something new like bits of broken elephant ivory chipped off during a fight between two bull elephants ,or the drag marks of some dead animal that a leopard had dragged up and left in a tree.

During one of these walks I came across a bull elephant which was not too far away from our tented camp.He was drinking at a very muddy waterhole,and after drinking he started to throw mud onto his back .Moving slowly I inched forward ,through the sparse shrubbery in an effort to get closer for a photo .At that time I had a old film camera without much of a lens ,so in order for a good picture I had to get closer.However on my way towards him he sensed the movement,and immediately stopped drinking,his head held high he paused ,then stared at the very area I was standing .Then moving purposefully towards me,he made short run, flapped his ears, and with a loud and angry scream , suddenly stopped 50 meters away from me Before the dust could even settle he hurriedly disappeared into the bush.
All the while I was standing dead still,my heart beating like a jack hammer with my hands still glued to the camera.Elephants especially bull elephants are fairly docile and relaxed creatures.They can however if suddenly frightened,and if, feeling threatened charge and even kill someone.

The painting that resulted from that experienced,( One of many ) was a composition based on the photos I took then ,so although there are two elephants in the painting its actually the same elephant
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Lost farm in the Karoo ,South Africa.

Some time ago I was in South Africa for almost a year.My subject matter quickly changed,from painting elephants, and other wild animals to landscapes ,buildings and people of South Africa where I was staying.Here is one of my paintings of an old empty barn,and windmill which is very common in many parts of South Africa.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Flight of the saddled billed stork.

This is a typical scene while traversing  the Okavango swamps ,a pair of Saddled billed storks posing in an open swamp plain .Although the Okavango is home to hundreds of differnt beutiful birds these are one of my favorite types of birds.

These  huge birds can attain a height of 150 cm (5 feet) and a 270 cm (9 feet) wingspan. The male is larger and heavier than the female, with a range of 5.1-7.5 kg, the female is usually between 5 and 6.9 kg. They are  probably the tallest, if not the heaviest, of the storks .Females are distinctly smaller than the males. The sexes can be readily distinguished by the golden yellow irises of the female and the brown irises of the male.
The head, neck, back, wings, and tail are iridescent black, with the rest of the body and the primary flight feathers being white.  The massive bill is red with a black band and a yellow frontal shield (the “saddle”) hence the name , Saddled billed storks .They are often seen in large open areas where they can comfortably hunt ,insects, frogs ,and even small fish.

After drawing in the birds ,I did a thin oil wash from the tree line to the bottom of the painting,then I built up the details such as the grass,water,etc.I then did the trees ,sky and last of all the two birds.The foremost grass storks I blurred ,and then did a light blue and gray wash over the trees to give them a smoky sense of distance .

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Stripes running free

Here is the last of the three paintings that I will be submitting to the Maun Masters Exhibit (Stripes running free).The other two paintings that I will be submitting is the two boys riding donkeys and ,a leaping and a hopping over Kubu Island.In order to create a sense of action in this painting I have blurred the legs of the running zebras, and the background.These two Zebras ,mother and foal were seen in the Moremi area.Startled by our presence they took of running ,the foal always close to its mother as if there was an invisible cord between the two .