To join me on a virtual sketching trip, download a travel sketch-journal here.
I add tutorials to them so you can learn the techniques and details you see in the sketchbooks.

My former workshop students asked me to upload my workshop workbooks to make them available to everyone. So you can also download a workbook and give yourself a workshop! Enjoy!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My South African Safari ends, alas!

The ibis skull is about 9" long.
I was having a great deal of fun at Panzi Bush Camp.  The folks there have made a collection of skulls and interesting seedpods which I took the opportunity to photograph and sketch.  The Hadeda Ibis was particularly fascinating, and it earned a page in my sketch journal, along with two views of a baboon skull.
Hadeda Ibis and baboon skulls

The African Porcupine has dug a den in this hillock
Bev took me out back and showed me the earthen  bank where the porcupine lives, tunneling into a hillock just behind the kitchen. It sometimes wanders in the back door and into the office to say hi to Glynn, but it didn't happen while I was there. Guess I'll just have to go back and try again....

Five days at Panzi wasn't nearly long enough to sketch and draw everything that caught my interest, although by now I was needing a break from sketch journaling. I think two weeks is about optimum for me if I'm sketching and journaling hours each day.  It can be exhausting (although exciting and exhiliarating ~ go figure!), and by now I was nearing the end of my third week.  

"my" yellow orchids
I spent some time lounging on my little chalet deck gazing dreamily up at the gorgeous yellow orchids growing in the tree above, and lazily sketching a fat skink (a lizard)  that liked to bask in the splashes of sun on the deck railing.

sketching the skink
One morning I rode into Hoedspruit with Glynn and John to shop for souvenirs and exchange some dollars for rands.

There are some really nice shops in Hoedspruit, but I mostly shopped at the outdoor craftsmen's displays, which have a lot more cachet than a modern shop. I bought a couple of charming carved creatures ~ a hornbill, and a hippo in a carved stone pool, from the man in the picture below.  

Craftsmen and their wares on a Hoedspruit roadside.
Nothing lasts forever, and after five wonderful Panzi days of sketching and exploring, bush-walking with Glynn and chatting with Bev and John, it was time to leave.  Glynn drove me into Hoedspruit to catch my shuttle to Johannesburg, where I caught my plane home.  

my plane taxis into its berth
 On the back of the plane seat in front of me was a screen upon which I could watch movies or switch to an airplane's-tail view of the scenery. We took off at about sunset, and chased the moon across the Atlantic, arriving, 17 hours later at dawn, on the east coast of the US. This is the view from the tail of the plane taxiing into the airport at NYC after crossing the Atlantic.   I was home again.

If I'd blogged this last August, I would have waxed poetic and told you some more tales, but I have been working on my South African Sketching Safari sketchbook and tutorial ever since I got home and I am just about waxed out.  

The cover of the new South African Sketching Safari sketch journal.
The sketchbook and its tutorial is finally finished, and I finally got it uploaded this morning. It took me a couple of days to write the code for the new webpage and make all the connections to other pages on my website and to the server so that you can download your own copy, but now,  TA-DAH!  It is done!  

If you'd like to learn more about what's inside, go here to its page for a closer look, and I hope you'll be tempted to download a copy to see more.  It's more than a hundred pages, and it took me six months to create, so $9.95 is a pretty good deal I think.

My next sketch journal will be done in Saguaro National Park near Tucson.  Watch for it! If you put your name in the alerts box at upper right, you will be notified when I blog about it.  In the meantime, have a happy holiday, and I'll blog again soon.  

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A New Day at Panzi Bush Camp

My chalet at Panzi Bushcamp
The next morning, Glynn arrived at Marc's Treehouse Lodge to pick me up and carry me off to continue my South African odyssey at Panzi Bush Camp.  Panzi is a small reserve with boardwalks radiating out from an open veranda/dining room to little A-frame chalets.  The railed boardwalks which rise up through ravines to the rooms allow close-up views of the ravine vegetation as it arches alongside and over the path. 

My room was the furthest distant one from the dining room, at my request, to be closest to the viewing deck and waterhole, and I was within breathing distance of any passing wildlife, which I knew might include the resident porcupine or bushbucks, or passing hyenas and baboons, to name a few, which gave an exciting tang to the whole experience.  At night I would hear baboons and hyenas, and unknown things rustling around in the thornbushes.  Exciting!
The boardwalk to my chalet
To my delight, the A-frame had a tiny deck on the front end with a couple of deck chairs in which I could sit for sketching. I would spend lots of time here writing and coloring my sketches.  

My sketching gear and bird book

Here's my gear ~ my sketchbook, bag full of art gear (watercolor pencils and waterbrush, pencil sharpener, extra pens and all that other fun stuff we journalers like to play with) plus the pretty wooden bowl I had bought from a local artisan, in which I kept the interesting things I picked up along the trail, like seedpods, feathers, etc.  

My bushbuck sketch
An inquisitive bushbuck doe
After getting settled, I stepped outside to be met by this gentle bushbuck doe, a mere six feet from my my door. I was struck by her bright orange coat and liquid, black eyes, and although she didn't stick around more than a few moments, I took several photos of her which turned into one of my favorite sketches.

Notice the plant beside her in the sketch?  This is the Mother-In-Law's tongue which is found as a houseplant in many American homes and offices.  I was fascinated to find it poking up at random spots under thorn bushes in the South African soil, so I included one beside the little bushbuck. I'd never seen a Mother-in-law's Tongue plant outside a house or pot before.  They say travel is broadening. If so, it widens one's mind in the oddest places. . .

Glynn, Bev, John, and Margaret ~ plus Sally the dog and Kitty.
I was ready to relax, now, after all my game drives and moving from treehouse to treehouse at Marc's Treehouse Lodge, and Panzi was the ideal spot to do it.  Run by a family which includes Glynn, who used to be a park ranger, his mom Bev and dad John, and Margaret who takes care of the rooms, I felt very comfortable in the homey atmosphere.  

Most guests don't stick around during the day and lodges don't generally provide lunch, so I had come prepared to feed myself midway through each day with energy bars. This had added quite a bit of weight to my luggage, but it was essential unless I wanted to lose some weight (not a bad idea, but being hungry makes me grumpy and not inclined to sketch or write in my journal). 

Breakfast at Panzi Bush Camp
But Bev kept a fruit bowl supplied in case I got a yen for a banana, and coffee or tea was always available, which pleased me mightily.  And in my opinion Bev and John could cook for a 4-star restaurant if they chose.  Look at this classy breakfast!  Dinners were incredibly good, too,

The elevated viewing deck provided a great view of the waterhole, particularly at dawn and dusk, and I spent a lot of time birdwatching and keeping an eye out for wildlife.  

A kudu stops by the waterhole
One evening I watched a hamerkop (a big bird with a head like a hammer (which is what its Dutch name means) bathing at the water's edge. I saw kudu bucks visit in the dawn light, posing self-consciously as I watched through binoculars and sketched furiously in my sketchbook. 

All that remains of an ostrich
Glynn took me on a couple of walks in the bush, where we checked out termite mounds and antelope tracks in the dusty trail, and found a pile of ostrich feathers and the ostrich's skull, all that was left of a leopard's midnight feast.  

Giraffe with ox-pecker
The walks were terrific.  I had a chance to get so close to a giraffe that we were looking UP into its face as it placidly chewed its cud and gazed back down at us.  Notice the ox-pecker clinging to the side of its face ~ these birds remove (and eat) ticks and other parasites from larger herbivores. I wonder how they figure out it's not a good idea to remove a tick from a lion.......?  

We also found a zebra skeleton and skull, leftovers from another leopard kill.  There are leopards at Panzi Bush Camp, but not lions, because the lions can't get through the fence.  

Aloe tree
There are fascinating things growing out in the bush.  I really enjoyed the aloe trees, with clusters of big seedpods and thorny leaves.  The ravines around which Panzi Bush Camp is built are also beautiful, although they can be a big problem in the summer when the rains drain down off the Drakensburg Escarpment to sluice through such ravines as these.  
Rocky ravine

The boardwalks at Panzi are occasionally wrecked or washed away in these floods, and roads to the camp sometimes wash out as well.  But not in the winter, which is when I was there (August)

Uh-oh, I've run out of time.  I will finish up my saga in the next blog. I've been working on the sketchbook tutorial (like these) for several weeks, which is why so much time had elapsed since the last blog entry.  I'll try to get to the next/last one sooner!

 BTW, I wrote a review about Panzi Bush Camp for TravelAdvisor here if you want to read my recommendations.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Final Cruise Through Kruger

me, bundled up
One final chance to see Kruger wildlife ~ not to be passed up!  So bundled in every warm item of clothing I had with me (plus a blanket for the windy back seat of the game drive vehicle) I joined another group to see the sights. 
Yet another posing kudu..

Even though we entered in through the same gate each time, our driver/guides always took different routes down branching dirt roads in pursuit of  desired sightings. 
 Our drivers often conferred with other drivers along the road, passing good sightings back and forth. On this last drive we saw some fine creatures.  
Kori bustard, 2' tall
Zebra family
Zebras, with their black and cinnamon stripes were a bit shy, usually moving off as we approached.  It was amusing to see every kudu buck we encountered posing majestically.  

Elephant savaging a small tree
The park has an overabundance of elephants, and you can see that they are probably overbrowsing the trees.  This wasn't the first time we encountered elephants knocking down thornbushes and trees.  It's a pretty awesome sight to see these huge animals at work.

Impala herd
Impalas are one of the more common antelopes in the park, so common, in fact, that we would have to occasionally beg the driver to stop so we could photograph them.  To the guides, these beautiful creatures are dirt-common (like stray chickens or dogs, I suppose)  ~ who'd want to take a picture of THAT? So we'd speed on past these amazing animals with their delicate features and crisp markings.   
Endangered ground hornbill pair

But the ground hornbills caught the attention of everyone, including the driver, whose job, of course, is to show his van full of people Kruger's rare and amazing animals (but chiefly the "Big Five" of course: elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopard and lion, which is what most visitors are clamoring to see). This hornbill pair was pacing along beside the road, with the male in the lead carrying a twig in his mouth with which he was courting the female.  If you look closely, you can see it here, right at the tip, a plant stem about six inches long and maybe 1/8" thick. 

A menacing Cape buffalo
 I really got a kick out of the Cape buffalo. This big bull came over to inspect our van, which made the driver understandably nervous. But most of the other buffalo were pretty blasé about our presence.  Our driver didn't let this one get much closer than about twenty feet.

We managed to see all the Big Five on this drive, and our driver was exultant ~ we didn't spot the fifth entrant, a leopard, until the very last moment, after sunset, when we were supposed to be out of the park ~ and the driver was thinking he'd failed us.  Our first intimation that there was something big ahead was the clot of cars blocking the road. We couldn't have passed if we wanted to.  

Leopard In Grass At Dusk
It was a bit harder to discover what they were looking at, but finally a car departed and we edged in close enough to spot our beleaguered victim in the dim light ~ at a distance. 

My photo is pretty dismal, but I got a halfway decent sketch of it.  
We saw all the other Big Fives that day, but the rhino was a mere blob of gray and the lions were at a terrific distance. To be honest, a great deal too much of a blather is made about "The Big Five." I much more enjoy the Little Thousands. 


My sketch of Treehouse #2
The next day, I moved into my final Treehouse.  This was the one I had originally arranged for, but due to various circumstances I managed to stay in two others, as well.  It reminded me of a Hobbit house, actually, with its polished wood door, and the trunk of the tree rising up through the floor and exiting through the ceiling.  

Treehouse #2 from below
It rose high about the Klaserie River, and while that isn't obvious in my sketch, it shows in this photo taken from below. 

Zebra tracks on the path
The next morning on the way to breakfast I came across some perfect zebra tracks in the path.  The zebras hooves are so and hard they make the tracks look like the zebras are wearing horseshoes.  Here's a set of mare and foal tracks. 
Banded mongooses

Then shortly after that, a small troop of banded mongooses (no, not mongeese) flowed across the road in front of me.  This is the closest I ever got to them.  It was a fruitful walk to breakfast (not that far, only a hundred yards or so up past the other treehouses, but full of nice surprises), so I came back later with my sketchbook to record all the interesting things I had encountered.  
Here's a page out of my sketchbook:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

An "At Home" day at Marc's Treehouse Lodge

Looking downriver
I'm back from my trip to Idaho to visit my brother (that's a one-thousand-mile round trip, which kinda takes it outta ya) and now I'm ready to resume where I left off a couple of weeks ago ~ let's see....ah yes! Kruger National Park.

Sandy banks show tracks
As I've mentioned before, it is next to impossible to journal or sketch in the bouncy environs of a game drive truck, so I was getting behind on my journaling. And I was tired! Those drives are exhausting!

So I took the next day off, turning down another game drive in the park in favor of exploring the grounds at Marc's Treehouse Lodge and catching up on my journal.

This lodge is situated on the Klaserie River. The water level is low in August and the banks are bounded by bamboo-like reeds, but the river is capable of staging raging floods in other seasons. I could see the line of flotsam where the water had flooded in the past, and I heard that one of the treehouses had been swept completely clear of furniture ~ bed, mattress, everything ~ by floods last year.  
Sketching along the Klaserie River

But now it was lovely, calm and low, with lots of places to search for tracks on its sandy banks.  I sat on a huge boulder and sketched the river. Look closely at the photo, and you can see not only my shadow, but also my treehouse at the extreme upper right. 
Nyala buck
From this vantage point, and later  from my treehouse balcony, I watched a magnificent nyala buck browsing in the reeds. 

Then I followed pretty nyala antelope does around the grounds to sketch them, and caught up on my drawings from previous outings. Nyala stripes and markings are like fingerprints ~ each one is different.  And look how different the doe appears from the nyala buck!  The bucks don't hang around the treehouses like the does do, and I'm not sorry ~ with those huge horns they could be trouble.

Nyala does wander the grounds

A vervet monkey gives me the eye
I was fascinated by the bands of striped mongooses which drifted ghost-like through the grassy openings beneath the trees, and the vervet monkeys which eyed me suspiciously as I tried to edge closer for a look. These same monkeys (maybe this very one!) later broke into my treehouse and chewed off a corner of one of my wildlife guides. But I wasn't really upset ~  how could I ask for a more authentic souvenir of my South Africa trip?!

my private shower room
After this exciting day of exploring, I took a leisurely shower in my own private open-to-the-sky shower room (next to my own private outhouse). I suppose you can't expect to have a bathroom and shower in your treehouse!
Then I settled down on my balcony with my journal to finish my river sketch and watch the sunset on the Klaserie River.

Here's my river sketch page ~ can you spot the nyala buck in the reeds?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Kruger Park, Second Time Around

A lot of beautiful creatures revealed themselves on a sunny winter August day in Kruger National Park (South Africa).

I somehow didn't publish this post back in September!  So here it is now.....

The South African "Watch For Wildlife" signs are much like ours in the U.S., but instead of deer they feature springing spiral-horned antelopes, which I found quite charming.  And watch for wildlife, I DID.

A game drive vehicle
We went in a game drive vehicle like this one, and glory of glories, there were only four of us that morning, and I claimed the entire rear seat to myself ~ which meant that I could slide from side to side to see whatever was to be seen. The hardest part was to NOT spend my entire time behind the camera snapping photos. It is so easy to get so involved taking photos that you have to look at your photo albums later to be able to see your vacation....

Mom baboon and her kidlet
So here are some of my prizes, snapped between actually LOOKING at them: 
I saw baboon families, with the mothers carrying or escorting their exploring babies ~ this youngster had dismounted to look around, but finding itself in the tall grass it leaped back up on its mom's back for a free ride and a much better view.

kudu buck on point
The kudu buck is the antelope pictured on the Watch For Wildlife sign: I noticed several kudu bucks like this, posed motionless for minutes at a time. Our guide said that the biggest bucks do this to show that they are dominant, that they don't HAVE to assume ordinary poses like the young bucks.  Maybe so.  They stand so still they seem to be carved from stone.

It was hard to NOT get great photos of many of the animals, as they allowed us to pull up rather close to them without wandering off. The vehicles in the park must remain on the road (or on the shoulder) so there was no roaring off across the plains to find a good picture site. And because they aren't chased by cars, the wildlife tends to ignore them entirely.
Zebras are picturescue
Most of the animals, like this zebra, were quite blasé about being stared at. I love how the South African zebras are not "black and white," but "black, white, brown, white, black, white, brown...," the brown being a lovely cinnamon red on many of them.  It's amazing how they actually blend beautifully into the scenery. 
warthogs on parade
And of course, being a connoisseur of warthogs, I was very appreciative of this married couple which trotted across the veldt in front of us.  Aren't they charming? Don't they have a saucy air about them?  Aren't their tails jaunty? Love 'em!

A blasé Scops Owl
We stopped for lunch at a gift shop and restaurant in the center of the park where I noticed a sign touting "the most photographed Scops Owl in the world" next to the ladies room. Searching about, I finally found this tiny owl, barely six inches tall, perched in a bush only inches away (maybe 20") from the passing crowds. As I watched, it opened one eye to check out a yowling child, then closed it again. It apparently lives there, and was completely unconcerned about its safety. Of course, I took its picture, adding to its tally.  
Lizard on poker plant
 And I also discovered this little lizard perched on a flowering "red-hot poker" plant on the grounds of the restaurant.  There were all sorts of birds flying about in the chartreuse-barked fever trees, too, and I added several more to my list.
This is a starling!
(By the time I flew home, after 21 days of part-time birdwatching, I had checked off 101 South African birds in my bird book without much effort on my part.)  

There are many colorful birds in South Africa, but one of my favorites is the yellow-billed hornbill, about as common, and about the same size, as a crow in the U.S.  They are everywhere, and seem to be curious about human doings. 
Yellow-billed hornbill, my favorite
They approached to watch me sketch numerous times. I think they weren't used to seeing people sit in one spot clutching a stick (pen) and scratching at a piece of paper.
I mean, who DOES that?

There were so many things to draw, even in winter.  These gorgeous red-rimmed flowers were on the restaurant grounds, so I'm not sure they're native ~ but they're sure pretty, and a bright touch in the sere, dry winter environment on the veldt.
There were seven lions here, including half-grown kittens
Right after lunch, we were delighted to discover this pride of lions lying in the shade of some scrubby trees. Actually, we didn't find them ~ we found the clot of cars and game drive vehicles parked beside the road and looked the same direction everyone in the vehicles was looking. 
Giraffes are gorgeous.
A lying lion is very flat. Would we have driven right past if the others hadn't seen them and stopped to look?  Maybe that waving white foot would have caught our attention.....

I am particularly fond of giraffes. I could watch them all day. There is something amazing about that long neck topped by a delicate fuzzy-horned head. An 18-20" prehensile tongue definitely adds to the allure ~ and don't forget the long, beautiful eyelashes! What's not to like about a giraffe!
an elephant teenager - check ear size
But for sheer excitement, there is nothing to compare with being approached by a herd of elephants.  This teenager was romping with its friend just below the road in the river bottom.  You can tell it's young by comparing the size of its ears (large) to the size of its head. Also, it's only half the size of the adults.  The mom elephant in the other image had just finished pushing over a small tree, and was cruising our way looking for something else to eat.  
Mom elephants is still hungry
This was WAY different from watching elephants in a zoo or circus. They are incredibly graceful and majestic in the wild. 

Apparently not a "moveable feast"...
Our last sighting of the day, just as the sun was touching the horizon, was this pair of hyenas.  The one on the left was chewing happily on something while the one on the right was keeping an eye on the traffic. I got the impression, very strongly, that they KNEW when that sun went down we would have to leave, and they were going to wait it out. 
No WAY were they going to abandon that lovely bit of roadkill they had found at the edge of the road.  These two pictures are among my favorites ~ the sidelong glance of the one hunkered down on the road's edge is a real hoot.  

I thought you might enjoy seeing my sketch of the hyenas ~ of course, there was no chance to sketch in the game viewing vehicle so I drew it later that night from my camera screen. This is a combination of two photos I had, one with the left hyena looking back over its shoulder and the other standing as shown in the image above. I moved them closer together to make the image work a little better.  
More later ~ but I'm going to be traveling next week, so I can't guarantee how soon that might be. I have a lot to do to get ready (including briefing the house-sitter), then I'll be on the road awhile, visiting, going to a wedding, etc.  

So until......

Here's a grab-bag of other entries...

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