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Africa Geographic Travel

Written by: Francisco José Hernández 

I had the chance to enjoy art in motion during a morning game drive. The encounter started simply with a white female rhino and her calf feeding in an open field of long dry grass. In the distance a gentle swaying journey of giraffes approached the placid rhino duo. As the giraffes drew close they recognised the challenge laying ahead. A young giraffe’s curiosity caused it to stop ahead of the rest, stretching its neck forth, sampling the air waves, motioning its head for the best perspective, tuning its ears for the best line of sound, sniffing the air for clues. At the same time, the baby rhino sensed their presence, stopped eating, lifted its heavy head and stared at the skyline of gentle giants that lined up its horizon. 

For an artist, time had stopped in its tracks, the lead on, the drama, the intensity of the moment had reached a climax point of expression that teetered dangerously the very edge of my drawing abilities. The beauty, delicateness and intensity of the moment seemed to halt the pulse of nature, certainly my heart…only to resume an instant later as both giraffe and rhino went back to grazing. I felt the moment was best captured not in a photo, but as a piece of art best reflecting the surreal magic of these creatures.

Starting my art – Creating the background to match the tones of the sky, distant vegetation and dry grasses in the foreground.
In this step, I introduced the main character of this scene, slowly but surely the curious giraffe takes form and shape.
When it came to paint the patterned skin detail of the giraffes, I chose a slightly different strategy to the one employed with the first curious youngster I drew. I opted to paint the darker sections first and the gaps in between them there-after.
A bit more attention to the various tonal hues and registers of the vegetation managed to settle these into the right place, and textures soon popped by themselves and became more tangible and visible.
Introducing mother and baby rhino is left for last, and the final touches are applied to bring more texture to the vegetation and some luminosity to the entire canvas as a whole to allow it to stand out on its own right… depicting that bright South African light that defines the South African bush. The painting is then ready.

In our next Art Safari, participants will learn how to observe, pre-empt, expect and capture the shape and volume of extraordinary animals and situations. Through patient tuition I hope to nurture and encourage an understanding of how best to illustrate these moments and encounters into a sketchbook. By the time we depart everyone will have a vivid collection of sketched memories, instead of a gigabyte of images to process and store.

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Africa Geographic Travel
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