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!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Today is a Visual Feast

I spent all my blogging time today preparing and loading my Coyote Trails photos to the photo site, Flickr, so I don't have time to blog properly.  Go here, then click on the "Set" entitled "Coyote Trails in South Africa" in the right column.
[When the collection comes up, click on "Slide Show." If you want to see the captions, click on "Show Info" at the top of the black screen which is showing the slides.] 

Then you can look at my absolutely astonishingly wonderful photos. Yeah!

Tomorrow I am taking a class at Coyote Trails Nature Center on how to make a Digeridoo (you know, that Australian musical instrument which makes entrancingly weird sounds) so I may not get to my blogging. But the next day, tune in again.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Kruger National Park ~ August 4

Thorns are good sketching subjects
As a sketch journaling instructor, which I have been for many years, there is a possibility that I might be included in the Coyote Trail's entourage for next year's South Africa immersion expedition. With this in mind, I was intent on not only participating in the tracking instruction, but also in the sketching possibilities associated with our ten-day expedition at Moholoholo Mountain View.  Let me backtrack just a bit here to give you some background:

My room at Moholoholo Mt. View
Colin, Becky and their delightful children, live at Moholoholo. It appears that Becky oversees the smooth working of the lodging and food aspect of Moholoholo Mountain View, both of which were top notch values for the price. Colin, who heads the tracking programs there, is a consummate naturalist and tracker, skilled in identification of the species found on his turf, the environment in which they dwell, and the interactions of the fauna and flora (he could answer any question I threw at him!).  

We listen intently to Colin's teachings
But more than that, Colin is a superb teacher. We would go out as a group together to learn the tracks and trailing techniques, but since I was focused on EVERYTHING ~ including interesting seedpods, thorn arrangement on acacias, duiker (a small antelope) topknots, identifying birds, and photographing and sketching everything I could, my intake of Colin's instruction on tracks and trailing was imperfect at best.  But even with my peripheral in-and-out attention, I picked up a great deal of useful information in record time.  
Colin discusses a leopard track
Sandy and Joe (Joe heads Coyote Trails School of Nature) were there to get tracking certification as well as scout out the course for next year, so their attention was focused pretty much "heads down" on tracks and trailing.  Johann was there as a student, so his input on the proposed course was invaluable from a high school student point of view. Johann's mother, Alessandra, is a professional entomologist and saw the course from a parent's point of view ~ a good addition to our party. As artist, journalist and board member of Coyote Trails, I lent gravity to the situation (uh-huh, sure!).

Kruger National Park   
Elephants at Orpen Gate
Early in the morning on August 4 we headed for Kruger's western entry at Orpen Gate.  It was several kilometers distant from Moholoholo, and we arrived at sunrise, a good time for viewing animals.  Virtually at the entrance we watched, entranced, as elephants fed on tree foliage only yards away. It was easy to see how their tendency to push over trees might affect the environment in a major way.
A black-backed jackal studies us
A few moments later, a black-backed jackal trotted across the veld beside us. With my little click-and-shoot camera, I had a problem getting good, sharp distant shots (my little camera does wonderful things at close and medium range, but is lacking in the telephoto department).  Still, I'm happy with this jackal picture. Jackals remind me a lot of the coyotes in my Oregon forest.

Impalas are most common in the park
 Impalas seem to be the most common denizens of the park, and we found ourselves saying repeatedly "it's just an impala" as we greedily searched for new species to admire.  
Cape buffalo (not water buffalo)
The animals are undeniably wild, but they have become quite at ease with being stared at, ignoring the cars entirely. It seemed as though this Cape buffalo might start chewing on the car's trim at any moment.

A crocodile with a charming smile
Crossing the Oliphant River, we got out to take photos from the bridge. I was quite taken in by the pleasant smile on this crocodile... looks like a friendly chap, doesn't he?  Hmmmm.............

Elephants so close we could almost touch them
It was near sunset and we were running out of time when we came across an elephant family browsing right next to the road. This lady was so close she over-filled the frame, and the teenagers below entered into a friendly tussle which we could have stayed to watch for a long time. 
But vehicles must be out of Kruger Park by dark, and the sun was close to setting, so we reluctantly pulled away ~ only to come to a sudden stop a short way down the road when we saw this beautiful caracal, a rarely-seen tasseled-eared cat about the size of our American bobcat, only a few feet away in the grass.  For a moment it stared directly into my eyes, and I had an indescribably deep feeling of connection. Then it was gone. We'd been hoping to see lions, but to me this was far, far better.
Caracal in the grass

Exiting at Phalaborwa Gate (the locals pronounce it pal-uh-BOR-uh) it was well after dark when we reached Moholoholo, tired and hungry, but filled with satisfaction with our day's adventures in Kruger National Park.

I forgot to mention, just before we left the park we came across a helicopter, and a truck filled with armed men beside the road, preparing to launch an anti-poacher operation.  It was good to see that poaching is being taken seriously there. Rhinos are the most at risk.

Okay. More tomorrow or the next day!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

South Africa ~ Moholoholo Mountain View

Dan'l came by this morning to see my sketchbook. He spent an appreciative three hours with it, asking questions and puzzling out conundrums with me (why do Africa's shrubs have such prevalent thorns while American shrubs seldom have them?  What technique do millipedes use to keep from tangling up their many legs? How did the Voortrekker women (South African Dutch pioneers) use termite mounds for bake-ovens without getting bit by the mound defenders?). We always have fun with this kind of stuff, even if we can only speculate.


DAY 1 at Moholoholo
Can you see the twig snake?
Our program, at Moholoholo started on August 3, with a warthog dissection.  Actually, the day started out with the amazing sight of a Twig Snake in a tree, waiting for some sunshine so it could warm up and start moving.  Our ranger/guide Pickett pointed it out to us. It was hard to see, even only two feet above our heads, since it was the same size as the twigs it rested on and its scales almost exactly mimicked the tree bark. You can spot it in the photo because it's head is a bit bigger.  Resting on a branch, its head would blend and you probably wouldn't see it at all.

Pickett trains us in anatomy
Now, as I was saying: warthog dissection.  The Coyote Trails course we're contemplating for next year is a practical one with many survival techniques covered. The female  warthog provided not only an amazing anatomy lesson from Pickett, including parts you could eat raw (the kidney was sweet, slightly chewy) and parts you probably wouldn't want to eat. It's good to know how to survive in the bush, and this was inherent in the course, so we had been expecting it.

We all took part in skinning and preparing it to use as bait later, when we would hang it in a weeping bushwillow tree to lure a leopard to to the wildlife cam. When the dissection was finished, I sketched the head, adding notes (taken from Pickett's comments) about how the curling mustache on a tuskless female resembles the tusks on an adult boar, so that a predator might mistake a defenseless female for a wicked-toothed boar if it got only a glance, and not try to catch it. Not having a toothy boar head to draw, I sketched a nearby warthog boar skull, which tells the tale nicely.
These aren't to scale ~ the boar would be twice that size!

Then we piled onto a game drive truck to go out into Moholoholo Reserve to put the warthog bait in place. We were all eager to see if we could lure the leopard in, and to do that we all took turns dragging bits of warthog along the trails to the tree so the leopard would know it was there.  Since there were leopard tracks right in the road, we figured we had a good chance of success, and the tracks added a thrill to the proceedings.

Sandy records her track notes
We got a chance to study tracks this morning and every day of the course, with comparisons between species, discussion about what the animal was doing to create that particular track, and a great many other things, such as when the track was made, why, how, and even what direction the animal was looking as it stepped along.  My roommate, Sandy, was studying diligently for her tracking certification, and  I was busily sketching every free moment, and well into the night, so we made perfect roommates (each involved in our own pursuits) and became good friends in our free moments.

The female is chewing bones as the dark male watches
The Reserve harbors a wonderful array of wildlife, from white rhinos and kudus to elands, pythons (we smelled one but never saw it) baboons and hippos and MANY other native wildlife.One of my favorite sightings was this giraffe pair. The female, on the left, was busily chewing bones with deep, hollow crunches (they do this regularly ~ to get enough calcium to support all those neck bones, I guess), while the male on the right watches. The male is unusually dark, and I understand that giraffes continue to darken as they age, so perhaps it is very old. 


I have run out of time today.  More tomorrow or the next day.

Monday, August 27, 2012

South Africa (after a wood-gathering glitch)

I had every intention of blogging about South Africa yesterday, but summer is almost over and I needed to start pulling in wood out of my forest to burn in my woodstove this winter.  Years ago a reforestation crew cut the hillside's dead trees and shrubs into 6' (2 meter) lengths and stacked them in piles out in the woods. I can handle the pieces smaller than about 7" in girth. 

Last year by now I was half done
 "Pulling in wood" consists of putting on gloves and looping one end of a sturdy nylon strap around one end of a piece (or several small pieces) of firewood. Then, laying the other end of the strap over my shoulder, I pull the log/s up, down or across my bumpy hillsides covered with poison oak, wild honeysuckle trip-vines and fallen logs, like a donkey in harness.  I stack them beside my road, where I can later heave them into Dan'l's truck to bring up to the house to cut into stove lengths.

I'm six weeks late getting started this year because of preparing to go ~ then going ~ to South Africa. So I started working yesterday morning before it could get hot. 

I sketched this nest last summer
Trouble is, I was far down the hill when I realized I had forgotten my gloves. It was a nuisance to go back for them, so I decided to work without them. That was a bad idea for two reasons. Poison oak grows tall and luxuriant in my woods, and there was another little problem I encountered when I lifted a log and uncovered the entrance of a yellowjacket nest.  

Wasps came roaring out quite angrily (I can't say I blame them) and one of them stung me on my little finger as I gallumphed speedily away through the trees. My finger was so swollen and sore I couldn't type yesterday. (Excuses, excuses! But it sounds pretty convincing to me....) 

At least I escaped a poison oak rash (so far). My good luck! So here goes, once again:

Beginning the tale of my South Africa Sojourn.  
The plane alit in Johannesburg after an epic transoceanic flight of some fourteen hours, and I was picked up at the airport by MoAfrika Lodge, southeast of Johannesburg (the inhabitants call it Joburg), to meet up with Sandy and Joe of Coyote Trails School of Nature, later that day.  

A Blacksmith Lapwing Plover
Eager to get started on my journal, I launched out the door to the edge of the lodge yard and managed a quick sketch of a Blacksmith Lapwing.  Then I made the mistake of patting the three Rottweiler dogs which live there.  

this is George
Immediately, I was adopted as a fellow romper, and everywhere I turned there was a super-friendly dog waiting to gnaw on me.  Using a good bit of stealth, I sneaked out again and again, sometimes getting a few minutes to sketch, and sometimes not.

Imagine my delight at spotting two ibises that first day!  The first was a Hadeda (pronounce as in LA-di-DAH) Ibis, found anywhere there is water of any sort, and a Sacred Ibis, a big white bird that reminds me of our Wood Stork in the US.  
Sitting down to sketch the Sacred Ibis, I was overtowered by three dogs licking my face and chewing on my hand, my sketchbook, my knee, whatever! 
I finally figured out that sketches would have to be roughed out quickly then finished from my digital camera screen in my room, so that's how this ibis sketch happened. BTW, the three dogs were named (I kid you NOT) George, Double-U, and Bush. 

Sandy and Joe arrived in time for dinner, and the next morning we started out in our rental car for Moholoholo Mountain View Camp, some 200 miles to the northeast.  

the landscape east of Joburg
Here is some of the landscape directly east of Joburg.  As you drive, the rolling hills gently give way to higher hills, then you come out on the lip of the Drakensburg Escarpment, which drops down into the Blyde (BLEE-deh) River Canyon.  And that's where I'm going to drop this blog today.  

Tomorrow, I'll get started on our ten day tracking/trailing/survival adventure at Moholoholo. Be sure to come back for the next installment of photos, sketches, and whatever strikes my fancy.  I'd love comments, if you have the time and will try to answer any questions you might have. 

Stay tuned!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Back from South Africa

A giraffe at Moholoholo
South AFRICA?  Okay, so you didn't even realize I was making a trip to South Africa?  Actually it was one of those things that had been in the planning stages for a year and a half. Since you can't think about something like that for a whole eighteen months, I put it completely out of my mind until, WHOA! Better get movin'!  And then, involved with preparations, I didn't leave time to blog about it before I left.  Duh. 

It was an absolutely terrific three week journey, separated into three distinct parts, with the expectation of recording the entire event in one of my travel sketch journals within the next few months, like the ones here.

Laying track for a leopard photo shoot
Part 1 ~ Ten days with Joe and Sandy, Coyote Trails School of Nature staff, plus student Johann and his mom, Alessandra at Moholoholo Mountain View Camp to scope out a course in tracking and bush survival Coyote Trails is scheduling for high school kids next year. I did lots of sketching and journaling during the ten days. We also took a drive through Kruger National Park in our rental car to check out the wildlife.  

At Marc's Treehouse Lodg
Part 2 ~ Then I took off on my own for five days at Marc's Treehouse, living in a tree house above the Klaserie River with sketching a high priority, but also making a couple of trips into Kruger National Park on game drives  undertaken in a vehicle with a top for shade but open on all sides, perfect for viewing wildlife in any direction.

Sketching frog behind the bar
Part 3 ~ Then I spent four days at Panzi Bush Camp, with time for more sketching and journaling, plus lots of laid-back enjoyment of the thorny African bushveld. Panzi Bush Camp has a waterhole and a viewing deck,  located right next to my cabin, so a lot of time was spent on the deck sketching and soaking up the atmosphere. Exploratory walks with the naturalist, Glynn, were an added enjoyment, and I was able to get many of my questions about wildlife, tracks, and the African environment and vegetation answered. And the great food ~ oh, my!
And now ~ I'm going to blog this over the course of the next several days, as I'm still sorting the dross from the 2500 photos I took.  The photos were in addition to sketch/journaling 43 pages in my sketchbook, with a number of additional pages partly begun and in line for finishing before I can put it up online. 
Drawing by flashlight

I was pretty focused, I guess.  Many nights found me coloring sketches by flashlight and booklight, using my photos for reference. That's what I'm doing in this photo at right (gotta find a better way!)


Before I left, I spent a LOT of time tweaking my gear. If you recall, in December while in Belize I had a sticky problem with my vitamins getting moist and gumming up in the container.
Keeping the Vitamins Dry
I resolved that problem this time (although not technically necessary because the bushveld of South Africa isn't humid) by dropping one day's supply into a plastic bag, tying it off, then dropping in the next day's supply, etc. I got two week's worth in one plastic bread bag.  It worked perfectly, plus I later used the little strings for page markers in my field guides, a happy surprise use.

Baboons can glare like real hoodlums

Next blog I will tell about some of the fascinating things that happened during the first ten days at Moholoholo.  I helped bait a camera set-up for leopard (see the image above, under Part 1), tracked a wild white rhino and her calf through thornbush veld, and learned to identify tracks and sign of giraffe, wildebeest, leopard, rhino, kudu, impala, baboon and other African wildlife.
baboon tracks

I  also pursued my artistic investigations of acacia thorns, geckos, bushwillow fruits, bone-chewing giraffes, porcupine quills, and many other interesting subjects. 

And oh! the incredible birds!  I identified 101 species in my 21 days, a very satisfying number for this part-time birder.  

Lilac-breasted Roller
So! Stay tuned for the next installment!

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

Related Posts with Thumbnails