Sunday, 17 November 2013

#479 In the field: Africa . . . the big cats: Cheetah

Please start this series of posts with #477

Nowhere else in the world can big cats -  the Lion, Leopard, and Cheetah -  be experienced like the Serengeti and Tarangire.   Trish and I had several encounters in the Serengeti, including a dramatic stalk and chase and after we joined our group of artists in Tarangire, we were thrilled with more.  This post will focus on the CHEETAH with the Leopard and Lion to follow.

Below, the early morning sun backlights a pair of beautiful Cheetahs in the Serengeti.

The Cheetah is the fastest of all land animals and has been clocked as fast as 70 to 75 miles per hour.  In short bursts of up to 1500 feet, the animal can accelerate from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds.  Below are photos taken in the Serengeti.

Below, the dark lines that run from the eyes to the mouth are called "tear lines" and help protect the eyes from glare -  similar to a football  player's black marks under their eyes.  The dark lines also assists the cat in focusing on prey.

Below, on our last morning in the Serengeti, we witnessed this Cheetah zeroing in, stalking, and chasing a Thomson's Gazelle.  The animal missed the prey and as Trish continued to photograph,  I forgot about my camera, and simply watched the drama unfold in the distance!   The Cheetah uses its speed to knock down prey from behind, then go for the throat and is successful only about 50% of the time.

Below, at this point, the gazelle is flicking its tail and clueless.

In a sudden burst of speed by both predator and prey, the chase is on!

Below, is a picture of a seemingly out of proportion Cheetah taken in Tarangire after a kill.  The fat cat has eaten its fill and will abandon the leftovers which other animals, such as hyenas and vultures, will clean up.

When I packed my art and reference equipment for the trip, I included many skeleton drawings of  various species . . . the Cheetah, Lion, and Leopard included.  This material was an important aid to my field work . . .  it provided a resource for comparative anatomy and combined with my field guides and the immediacy of digital photography to work from, I was able to observe and record data while it was fresh on my mind.  I found that there was simply too much action to draw from life on my first trip to Africa.

The Cheetah is on my short list of species that I will include in my Africa portfolio of sculpture.  In the field, I look for the most distinctive and prominent features of a specific animal and note what impresses me and affects me most about the particular animal. . . first impressions are paramount for that is what I will try to capture in my sculpture.  Below, the magnificent animal is athletic, has a very narrow waist, and a very deep chest and long legs.

Above and below, the small head, long legs, and the lean, muscular body impressed me.  I was aware of the long tail that helped the animal steer [like a rudder] and maintain balance while running at top speed.  The beautiful cat has a flexible spine that arches and springs back, allowing giant strides.  Seeing the stretching and bunching during the chase in the field, made a lasting impression on me.

I will return to this subject in a future post during the design, modeling, and creation of sculpture depicting the Cheetah. Upcoming posts about various species are the precursor to my African Portfolio.

Next Wednesday's post is about the LEOPARD.
For anatomy reference, see posts #563, #616, and #655.
Blog, text, photos, drawings, and sculpture . . . © Sandy Scott and Trish Smith

1 comment:

  1. I'm anxious to see the process and how you express the essence of your experience into clay and bronze. Thanks for sharing!