To travel north from Cape Town via railway into the wilds of Central Africa is to discover mile upon mile of veld stretching interminably as far as the eye can see – a vast ocean of grasses and trees that goes on for days.
Traveling by air can’t even compare – what can you see from 40,000 feet? That kind of journey doesn’t make much of an impression on the mind, let alone the soul.
But train travel is a different story. The slow rocking of the carriage on the rails brings a sense of peace and timelessness: three days of suspended animation in which the demands of the modern world are laid aside. Back to the era of Burton and Speke – and Rhodes? Not quite that far – but far enough to realize we have seriously compromised ourselves with the modern fads of ‘fast’ and ‘instant’.
This land teems with wildlife, rarely visible in quick glimpses from the train – and much less so today than formerly. But the wildlife is there, as it has been for centuries – living out its own dance on the hot, shimmering plains that would swallow us up if we were to step away from the lifeline of the two slim, steel rails beneath us.
Digital – vector art. For more details, click on images.
Geology and the passage of time…
The volcano that once existed here is sleeping now. The scorching fires have long since died away, and the battered earth has drawn a cloak across its scars.
The subterranean pipes that carried searing hot magma from the earth’s fiery core remain: embraced now by powerful, living roots that grip and swell around them.
Where once a crater stood, a wild tree grows. Tucked away in bolt-holes far below, by day the kiwi sleep.
Yes, there are 2 of them there.
Acrylic on Arches Dessein 120 gsm art paper, 19″x 25″.
For more details, prints and products, click on the images.
Had an interesting little adventure last night.
We’ve been in about four days of uncomfortably cold, high winds, accompanied from time to time by rain. Down in the South Island (and probably on the Central North Island Plateau too) there is snow on the mountains, a friend from Karamea tells me. I’m not surprised.
Last night I went up to get the sheep in at about 5.15pm, I guess. They were up in the gorse and tea-tree on the hill, and though we called back and forth, they were not inclined to come – heads down, eating, from what I could see through the scrub. Alright, so I left them. They will come – it’s a cold night with dark, lowering cloud.
They didn’t come.
I went up again, about 20 minutes later – with the pot of nuts this time, rattling and calling. They were still on the slope and not about to come down. Finally Alphie the ram detached himself from the girls and came to the sound of food. I led him down to the shed and fed him, hoping they would follow.
Still they didn’t come.
I went back up a third time, leaving Alphie behind a loosely shut gate. Two-thirds of the way up the hill, he overtook me, heading back to his women. I decided to leave it a bit longer.
Back at the shed I did a few things – keeping out of a rain shower. Thank goodness I’d already fed the pigs and put them to bed down below, I thought. I almost felt like leaving the sheep to their own devices, but the good shepherd inside sent me up for a fourth time. It was getting darker.
Just above a little grassy plateau, I stood looking up at the ewes in the scrub, and suddenly realized I couldn’t see the lambs. “Where are the babies?” I asked the sheep. Then I spoke in the high-pitched voice I use to talk to the lambs, and immediately App, the younger ewe, turned and moved towards a little hollow in the hillside. Then I saw the little heads – they were sitting in a bunch. It was a very nice camping spot with a bit of overhanging tree trunk, but if it rained they were going to get wet, no doubt about that. And the wind was coming straight across from the north.
So grumbling and grumping, and feeling thankful that I’d brought a staff, I threaded my way up the steep slope through the tea-tree and gorse bushes, over fallen branches and clumps of long grass – which being wet were quite slippery.
When I approached the lambs they jumped up, then the whole party moved off westwards along the ridge, near the fence line at the top. That would do just fine – they were headed for a corner in the fence that would send them down off the hill and along towards the shed. I have an arrangement down there with two 10 foot gates that can be opened and hooked together to form a race leading into the place they have been sleeping in at nights. Fortunately, I’d left it set up ready, because I was still a little way behind them.
They all had feed – Alphie for a second time – and I finally got in home at about 6.30pm: nearly dark.
It’s always a good feeling at the end of the day to know that everyone is fed and in shelter. Especially when the weather’s bad. It HAS rained, several times, since darkness fell.
Acrylic on illustration board. – 10″ x 14″.
For prints, products and more details, click on the images.
Yachts off the coast in the heat of a Far North summer’s day. But there’s a bit of a breeze and all the boaties are reveling in being out on the water.
This scene could be in many places, though the red tree blossoms give a clue. These are pohutukawa trees – our NZ Christmas tree that flowers in the summer, from the Far North to the Bay of Plenty.
As you can see, there are 2 rocks (called Arrow Rocks) sticking out of the ocean in this bay, and over recent years they have become an important scientific resource for geologists, because the span of geological time covered in these rocks is unique.
A news report in 2010 stated, “There are not many places on Earth where geologists can study a sequence of rocks spanning the Permian and Triassic periods. So it is little wonder that they keep returning to Arrow Rocks near Tauranga Bay. The island has fossils and sediments which date between 252 million and 292 million years ago and have the potential to offer clues about the planet’s biggest species extinction event.”
Japanese geologists realized the scientific importance of Arrow Rocks in 1999 and visit annually accompanied these days by scientists from the NZ Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences.
This painting is available as prints and on other products. Also, I have just turned it into a Mighty Wallet – here is how the design shapes up:
For more details, click on the images. Enjoy!
Here in New Zealand Christmas means high summer, and Christmas Dinner is often held on the beach, on a deck, or outdoors in front of a holiday home overlooking the sea.
We are fortunate in NZ because our beaches don’t get crowded, as in many countries overseas. Though beaches are not my ‘dream location’, I really do enjoy a beach that is deserted – a back to the wilderness type of thing. And I’ve got one or two fond memories of riding horses on beaches of this kind.
I created this painting after I moved away from Wellington, and I think the inspiration was the south Wellington coastline – Terawhiti with Makara behind – which also can be seen from the Inter-Island Ferry. As many will know, the Inter-Island Ferry crossing on a good day is a real treat, as the south Wellington coastline gives way to the fascinating convolutions of the Marlborough Sounds coast with its multitude of bays and inlets.
In this picture the atmosphere of the weather IS indeed benign, and if it were not for the lack of Pohutukawa trees lining the cliffs and flocks of sailing boats in the bay, it could well be the Bay of Islands, close to where I live now in what we euphemistically call ‘the winterless north’.
I think what makes this painting work so well is not only the composition, but also the colors. In a sense, this is a limited palette – but it doesn’t feel like that, and probably the muted, olive green shades have turned out to be the perfect foil for the rich blues and orange.
Acrylic on paper. For more details about the work, click on the images.
Believe it or not, there is a connection between this post and the last one about Mount Ngauruhoe and Tama Lakes. Let me explain.
Even today, Manet’s “Déjeuner sur L’Herbe” it is not what one would call a ‘comfortable’ painting, and maybe it was this element of unease that moved me a few years ago to create a modern version, setting the characters in a landscape of the future, when our pesticides, herbicides, GMOs and climate change have finally completed their deadly work.
The intervening years haven’t altered my perspective on this small painting, and I hope it conveys to others what it spoke to me as I created it.
Manet’s “Déjeuner” caused a sensation when it was exhibited. The painting was rejected by the Salon in 1863 so in the same year, Manet took the opportunity to exhibit it in the Salon des Refusés. Even in that venue, it caused an uproar, mainly from the fact of two women – one scantily-clad and the other naked – dining out in the woods with two fully-clad males. As I said above, the painting is still a little unnerving, even 150 years later, when we are much more ‘enlightened’.
The subject of this post is only a small sketch – about 7″x5.5″ – done at a time when I lived in Wellington and our Central North Island Plateau was very much a reality to me. So I placed the scene in that location, What made the fit for me was the desert quality, and the power pylons and lines.
Our State Highway No 1, which runs the full length of both islands, passes along the eastern edge of the Central Volcanic region. This is the Rangipo Desert. Between the road and the mountains runs the main power trunk line – carried on pylons which can be a pain when taking photographs. On this stretch, the road has a special name – ‘The Desert Road’. It’s very hot in summer and in winter it can often be closed altogether due to hazardous snow and ice conditions.
Bear in mind that when this painting was done, there was much less appreciation of the environmental impacts of many things that were used thoughtlessly. We are a little more aware today – though maybe too little too late.
So there we are at ‘déjeuner’: taking our leisure. Three of the little group of characters are still there – still lingering over luncheon and apparently oblivious to the gradual change that has taken place around them. Still socializing, in spite of the circumstances.
There is no grass underfoot. There are no shady trees left in the park, only the march of power pylons. There’s no longer any need for shady trees, because the sun’s rays are taken care of by the clouds of pollution overhead.
Party on …
I’ve mentioned Mt Ngauruhoe a couple of times in the past. It’s been one of my favorite mountains for some years – an elegant cinder cone on our Central North Island Plateau.
Mt Ngauruhoe is exciting not only for its beautiful shape and its snowy mantle in winter, but also for the fact that it’s still an active volcano and one used to be able to rely on there being a plume of steam coming out of its crater pretty much all of the time.
Not the case with Ruapehu (which erupted properly in 1995-6), and not the case with Tongariro, which proved itself to be still active in 2012, to everyone’s surprise – though it has hot springs and fumaroles on its flank. Ngauruhoe, technically a vent of Mt Tongariro, kept everyone reminded that it was active. It last erupted in 1973-75, and I see DOC advises people not to go down inside the outer crater to the smaller main vent, because there’s a danger of being overcome by fumes. I would think so.
Ngauruhoe’s more recent claim to worldwide fame was its featuring in Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord Of The Rings’ movie series, with some digital manipulation, as Mount Doom.
A few weeks ago I sold one of my Ngauruhoe artworks on an iPhone case. It’s one that has never sold before (the original was not for sale), so I was really pleased. It’s a watercolor-style acrylic of the mountain, and like Peter Jackson, in the process of creation I think I manipulated it a bit – making the sides steeper than the actual 45deg slope of Ngauruhoe. And maybe ‘the look’ is also because I slanted the profile of the crater rim…
Near Ngauruhoe are two small volcanic lakes – Tama Lakes – set in the tussock-covered, pockmarked saddle between Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. I was fortunate on one of my trips to the eastern (Rangipo) side of the plateau to pass by and capture a very cool mirror effect that the sides of these lakes make with the slope of the mountain above – if you are in absolutely the right position to see it – and I was.
I took photos and the image has stayed with me for years. Some of these very brief visions never leave us – they root deep down in our consciousness and quite literally become part of who we are, I think. A bit like the Harrier Hawk episode. As I mentioned before, this whole Central North Island Plateau has a huge pull on me: it’s almost uncanny.
Acrylic on paper. For more information about the work, click on the images.