Thursday, 28 November 2013

Addendum: Happy Thanksgiving 2013

Happy Thanksgiving 2013!

Original etching - watercolor tint
© Sandy Scott 1979

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

#482 In the field: Africa . . . the big cats: Lion, part 1

Please start this series of posts with #477

This post spotlights the LION.

Unlike the Cheetah and Leopard - see post # 479, 480, and 481 - Lions live in a family
group called a pride.  A pride can be as small as 4 lions or contain as many as 30 or more.

Below, is a pride of lions photographed in the Serengeti.

The females in a pride usually do the hunting . . . but once a kill is made, the male typically will drive the females away and eats his fill first . . .  afterwards the females and cubs eat the rest.

Lions typically work together when they hunt, which increases their chances of catching prey.  They usually hunt at dusk and the female does most of the work.  Lions kill only when hungry and their immense physical strength places them at the top of the savannah food chain.

While in Tanzania a few weeks ago, we spotted many lions in the Serengeti, Ngororgoro Crater, 
and Tarangire . . .  including the pair below, on their "honeymoon."

Blog, text, photos, drawings, and sculpture . . . © Sandy Scott

Sunday, 24 November 2013

#481 In the field: Africa . . . the big cats: Leopard, part 2

Please start this series of posts with #477

Due to the proficiency and experience of our excellent guides, we had successful sightings of Leopards in both
the Serengeti and Tarangire.  The guides coached us to look in trees for the hanging tail of the elusive animal.

Below, the Leopard's tail hangs below a branch in the Tarangire.

Below, even though we knew to look for the cat's tail hanging vertical from a branch,
the guide always spotted the beautiful creature first!

Leopards have been ranked among the least visible and the most difficult to spot due to their hide and stalk hunting technique . . . typically in low-light conditions; and their camouflage; especially in sun-dappled trees.

When hunting, approximately one in four attacks is successful.  When a kill is made and as soon as the Leopard has satisfied its appetite, it drags its prey up a tree, out of the reach of scavengers.

Of all of the big cats, Leopards are the best at stalking prey.  They are silent,  move with stealth  and can get
within a few feet of their intended prey.  Below, is a drawing from my sketchbook.

Below, are more images of one of my favorite African species:  The Leopard!

Below, Leopard at ease on a termite mound.

Below, Leopard descending a termite mound.

Below, are drawings from my sketchbook.

Blog, text, photos, drawings, and sculpture . . . © Sandy Scott

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

#480 In the field: Africa . . . the big cats: Leopard, part 1

Please start this series of posts with #477

This post and the next, spotlights the LEOPARD . . .
one of three big cats experienced "in the field" on a recent trip to Tanzania, Africa.

Please note, the previous post was about the CHEETAH and after two posts about the LEOPARD, I focus on the LION.

Unlike the Cheetah and Lion, Leopards are known for their ability to climb trees and are routinely seen dragging 
their kill up trees, hanging and securing them on branches, and returning to feed, again and again.      

Below, is a photo of a magnificent Leopard surveying its territory in the Serengeti.

The LEOPARD is smaller than the Cheetah and Lion but due to their massive skull and jaw muscles, 
they are able to take large prey such as impala, Thomsons gazelle, bushbuck,  warthogs, primates, 
and even young giraffe as well as smaller prey such as rodents, birds, and reptiles.  
They silently stalk their prey, pounce, and strangle the throat with strong teeth and jaws or bites 
on the back of their neck and typically, drag them up a tree, safe from other predators, to feed.

Below, are studies of the Leopard from my sketchbook.

Below, while in the Serengeti, we saw this Leopard with a kill in a fig tree.  We watched the cat move the kill to a different branch and after it had eaten its fill, descend and - according to our guide -  probably went to a nearby waterhole.  I'll never forget the profound drama of this encounter with hyenas circling the tree!  We spotted this incident  at a kopjes, which is a rock outcropping on the savannah plains.  Kopjes is the Dutch work for "head." 

Several hyenas were under the tree, waiting for dropped morsels of meat.  Although Lions are occasionally successful in climbing trees and stealing Leopard kills, hyenas can only take a kill away from a Leopard on the ground . . . 
if the cat is unable to move the kill to a tree.

Below, a hyena waits under the fig tree for the leopard to drop morsels of meat. 

Blog, text, photos, drawings, and sculpture . . . © Sandy Scott and Trish Smith

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

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

#478 In the field: Africa . . . con't

Please start this series of posts with post #477.

Before meeting the artist group in Arusha and traveling to Tarangire, Trish and I arrived in Africa early and spent a week in Ngorogoro Crater and the Serengeti.  The name Serengeti means 'endless plains' and is derived from the Maasai language.

Below, a cheetah finds shade under an acacia tree in the beautiful Serengeti.

We had an excellent guide - named Bariki - who, like our guides in Tarangire, was extremely knowledgable about animals, plants, ecosystem, history, and every aspect of the African experience.   To my delight, he was an avid birder and could spot, identify, and discuss the many species we encountered.  Simply put:  He was a walking encyclopedia and we learned much from him.

Shown below is our guide, Bariki with Trish.  His tribe is located southeast of the Ngorogoro Crater . . . he spoke excellent English and traveling with him as a private guide was a profound learning experience.

Also pictured, is his favorite bird:  The Lilac-breasted Roller.  More than 500 species of birds have been recorded in the Serengeti . . . some of them Eurasian migrants which are present from October to April.

While in the Serengeti, we stayed in the bush in a tented camp.  The spacious, comfortable tent had a floor, bathroom, shower and exceeded all our safari expectations.  Shown below, is our tent, the interior, and a view of the dining tent from our porch.

We had lion and hyena in camp after dark and the Maasai kept a fire going and patrolled throughout the night.  
I'll never forget the sounds the animals made . . . they will remain with me for the rest of my life. 
A full moon added to the drama, and after the first restless night, 
an unfamiliar peace came over me and I accepted the situation in dreamy, sound sleep.

Below, the evening glow of kerosene lanterns added to the charm and ambiance in camp.

Our routine in the Serengeti began with an early breakfast and a game drive to nearby waterholes to experience the spectacular concentration of plains animals.  We returned to camp every day at noon for lunch as both we and the animals sought shade in the intense heat.  We stayed in camp for about 4 hours before returning to the field until sunset.  Below, a picture of zebras at a water hole and lunch with a welcome cold refreshment at camp.

Africa produces great beer; we enjoyed Safari, Tusker, and Kilimanjaro.

I used the 4-hour downtime during the heat of the day to work with my field guides, and, thanks to the immediacy of digital photography, draw in my sketchbook.  Trish and I each took over 10,000 pictures during our 3 weeks in Africa. The daily game drives were full of action and I did not spend my time sketching in the field with so much activity. 

Below, photographing from the open top of the Land Rover.  


We saw lots of different quadruped and bird species but when I think of the Serengeti, I think of the cats:  we saw many lion, leopard, and cheetah.  Although we saw elephants and we were ever mindful of our anti poaching purpose for being in Tanzania, Bariki reminded me that the upcoming trip to Tarangari was the best place to experience elephants.

Below, one of many lion photographs.

More about Africa in next Wednesday's post.

Blog, text, photos, drawings, and sculpture . . . © Sandy Scott and Trish Smith


Sunday, 10 November 2013

#477 In the field: Africa . . . introduction

Several days ago, Trish and I returned from an incredible and productive field trip to Africa with a group of artists. African Wildlife Trust, in conjunction with Safari Legacy hosted the event in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania.
We photographed, sketched, painted, observed, and experienced the amazing wildlife that Tanzania has to offer.

The purpose of the trip was and is to raise awareness and funds to combat the international poaching crisis . . . particularly in hard-hit Tanzania, where ten of thousands of elephants are slaughtered annually for their ivory tusks.

The internationally known group of artists on the field trip is shown below:  From left to right, Julie Askew (England);
Tony Pridham (Australia); John Agnew (USA); Jan Martin McGuire (USA); James Gary Hines II (USA);
Paul Dixon (South Africa); me; Robert Caldwell (USA); and Dale Weiler (USA).

Our group of artists was hosted by Kikoti Camp.  The beautiful and unforgettable camp, located a few miles from Tarangire Park,  was reminiscent of a Hollywood set or a scene from the movie, "Out of Africa". . .
stunning in its remote setting, charming with its good food and amenities, and alive with wildlife.

Below, preparing for dinner as the sun sets over Tarangire.

Below, Trish and I enjoy breakfast at Kikote Camp.

Below, Maasai tends the fire at Kikoti Camp.

African Wildlife Trust is an African based NGO that was developed out of concern and spreading much needed awareness for the excalated poaching crisis in Tanzania.  Ongoing projects include establishment of anti-poaching units and working with a team of conservation consultants to focus on proactive, effective wildlife law enforcement.

As "artist ambassadors" and in an effort to raise awareness and funds, we are planning several museum and gallery shows of artwork that will be created as a result of the profound wildlife experience in Tanzania.

Below, is a photo of a female waterbuck.  A loose herd of mostly females were routinely seen at Kikoti Camp.  Waterbucks have a strong odor that humans can smell from 1500 feet.

More about Africa in next Wednesday's post.

Blog, text, photos, drawings, and sculpture . . . © Sandy Scott