…On our third day in in Kruger National Park, it was lovely and sunny. We started out following the Sabie River.
Here is a map of the area for you to understand the terrain we travelled:
After leaving Skukuza camp, we travelled eastward towards the morning sun, and along the lower road long side the Sabie River. Can you see where I mean on the map?
We had the whole day ahead of us. Because of the bright happy sunny aspect, it felt like our hearts were swelling with the feeling of an adventure about to happen. And you’ll see as the day progressed (in the blogs ahead) that we had some silly and exciting things that happened along the way.
Our first encounter was…
A Crested Barbet:
It was easy to photograph him because he was foraging on the side of the road. But check out his crazy outfit!
I think these birds are really funny looking. Because, of their untidy bizarre mixture of colours, spotted textured black feather `coats’ and cocky head crests.
Their nosy intimating behaviour:
Why? Because they like to check out and raid other bird’s nests, compulsively eating or throwing out their eggs, thus interfering with the hatching of the other bird’s eggs.
Crested barbets like to make their nest in holes of dead rotted trees. And because of their territorial activities, they fiercely drive off their cousins the Black-collared barbet, who also like nesting in holes of dead trees.
Crested barbets are about 23cm long and their main diet is insects, but at times will consider eating fruit.
Their call sounds like a muffled alarm clock,” terrr” which can continue for long periods, louder and slower. But when agitated will “kekekekek…” in alarm. The female crested barbet makes a “puta-puta…” call.
Moving on we sighted some…
Wildebeest grazing quietly:
What impressed me about this scene? It was first the dominant size of the trees grouped together on the left! I guessed the trees would be fascinating and challenging to paint. I was longing to see how I would portray the depth and tremendous variety of colour within its borders.
Secondly, the foreground: The wide open space in the foreground with dry grass made strong statement. Oh but the wildness of the colours therein! Now that’s what gripped me. I thought that would be fun and a challenge too. And as you know I love a challenge, just to see what I could make of it.
Wildebeest are big animals,
But the size of those trees seemed to overpower the size of the wildebeest grazing quietly there.
Do you want to know what I think of Wildebeest? We used to farm cattle, so of cause I straight away looked at them and declared they were just wild cattle! And a dinner snack for lions!
But if you come face to face with them, like we did later on, in our trip in Kruger Park. We see why they are so scary and fierce to look up close to!
And for those who want to know how I took up the challenge of painting that scene…
This is what I did:
- The usual blocking in of the compositions basic shapes, and building up the darker tones in those areas.
- Then when that’s dry, on another day, I filled in the lighter tones: First of the sky, leaving the blue atmospheric haloes around the trees.
- Then filling in the sky pinholes within the dominating clump of tree’s foliage: You see if the `white’ of the sky is too bright within the pinholes, they’ll pop-out-at-you! So you interplay the tone value levels of the sky’s blue in the pinholes, until you get a comfortable `settling in’ appearance.
- The grass was another inter-play of colours. Working from dark to light and using a change of brushes, eg: a scuffed fan brush, a chisel shaped brush and a thin long-haired brush.
- Slash it on at first and adjust later until you get the right effect, with a few weeds in between. The interplay of colours seen from a distance thus creates a `third colour’.
- And if you incorporate soft complementary colours, in your trees and grass you create atmospheric dimensions and conditions.
- Some highlights and some blurred areas, until you get the right effect of the grass moving in the light breeze. And some off white highlights for the sunlight on the twigs, shiny leaves, horns, etc.
Oh, and did you see the white dry thin log lying in front of the wildebeest and trees? And… the stump of a tree in front of the wildebeest on the right? There is even a thin twig behind them too, to their left. These little things make the scene authentic.
The end result: I felt I had obtained the atmospheric feel to the clump of trees that I so desired. You can almost feel the possibility of birds flying in and through the tree foliage!