An Artist's Journeys in Nature

Wildlife

The Plains Of Africa 2

Moreover, this journey has its own unstoppable momentum. Days flow into nights and nights flow into days.

There are no ‘sleep stopovers’, no hotel rooms. no packing and unpacking bags, no break in the inevitable flow of the steady heartbeat of this mighty continent, transmitted through these shining, silver rails.

When night falls, living space is transformed into sleeping space: bunks let down that rock the traveler into slumber almost before his head hits the pillows. And the journey goes on.

Up ahead, the loco still puffs its way through the darkness, slowly gaining altitude as it heads towards the central plateau lying beyond the Highveld. Final destination altitude is over 4500′ (1500m) above sea level: a long, slow climb of over 1100 miles (1800 km) from Cape Town, and that’s as the crow flies.

The route passes through the South African diamond town of Kimberley – viewed only as a skyline during a short station stop – and then heads more directly north. After Kimberley, no major towns are in evidence as the loco strikes out across the eastern plains of Botswana, with the Kalahari Desert lying further over to the west.

All around the train the open canopy of trees – mopani, msasa, acacias – drift past the traveler like ghostly sentinels under the moon, illuminated by the glow from the carriage windows. Wildlife goes about its night business, probably with barely a glance at the familiar string of passing lights and muffled sound, soon to vanish again intp the vast spaces of the dark.

Digital – vector art. For more details, click on images.

Patricia

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The Plains of Africa

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.

africa-plains

Digital – vector art.  For more details, click on images.

Patricia

http://patriciahowitt.com/


Sleep At Last

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.

Patricia

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The Elusive Moth and The Cure-All

A few days ago, I cut down a heap of understorey bush known as kawakawa or pepper tree (Macropiper excelsum) and threw it in where the sheep were grazing, to be burnt when the time comes.

It is aromatic and very hot to the taste. I soon discovered the sheep will eat it – not entirely surprising because when I had my neighbor’s cattle in here some years ago, they also ate it.

It was highly regarded by the Maori people as a remedy both external and internal for many ailments – abdominal pains (especially digestive), rheumatic pains, toothache, kidney, bladder and urinary complaints, and as a blood purifier. As a poultice it was used for boils, bruises, eczema, toothache and badly infected wounds.  In her book ‘Medicines of the Maori‘, Christina Macdonald cites a case that she knew personally of an old man who bound up the nearly-severed top of one of his fingers with kawakawa leaves – and the finger healed quite easily.

When used in steam baths, the effect was “stimulating, exciting the salivary glands, kidneys and bowels”.

Many Maori people still use it today, and I boiled up some leaves to try it as a drink – much more mild, warm, and pleasant-tasting than I had expected: definitely added to the ‘drink more often’ list!   I’m about to try making a healing ointment out of it, too.

Branches were burned by the Maori to keep away insects from rows of sweet potato seedlings, and more recently by explorers, surveyors and hunters to keep mosquitoes and sandflies out of their camps. One asks – why are we messing with deadly chemicals when the Creator has made this stuff available to us? (And we all know the answer to that.)

The leaves of this plant are invariably covered with shotholes, and when I was illustrating ‘Taketakerau The Millennium Tree‘ I finally found out (after quite a bit of hunting) that these holes are caused by the nocturnal caterpillars of the Kawakawa Looper moth (Cleora scriptaria). You will find if you research it, that many people can tell you the holes are caused by caterpillars (big deal!), but it was hard in 2011 to find a source that would actually identify the species. There are far more illustrations of Cleora scriptaria on the net now.

Needless to say, though I’m surrounded by this stuff, I’ve never seen either a moth or a caterpillar in daylight. When I did the artwork for the book, I took the liberty of painting the moth on the leaves of the plant, in the subdued light of a storm.

Many people have commented how appropriate the use of this plant is for a painting entitled ‘Endurance’ that reflects on the long life and turbulent times of a tree now more than 2016 years old.  See also http://taketakerau.com/painting32.html

Acrylic on Bainbridge board 15″ x 20″.

For prints, products and more details, click on the images.

Patricia

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Turn Around

I’ve been out of circulation for quite a few months – and there’s a reason for that.   Back in late 2014 I was struck by a nasty disease called polymyalgia, which came close at the time to destroying my mobility.  Fortunately, once diagnosed, the solution was revealed – prednisone.

Aaargh!  Well I wasn’t entirely happy with that, but does one want to walk freely or not?  In addition, it was causing mayhem with my blood – too many platelets, anemia etc.  So my doctor put me on a modest dose of prednisone and over the period of about 18 months we tailed it back and achieved a recovery.

In the meantime, however, I had an accident and decided to go to a chiropractor (fortunately a very good one).   I’d had chiropractic before because I have 2 curves in my spine, not helped by riding horses.  So we entered into a process of sorting out these curves and re-stabilising my backbone.

I’d been quite depressed at the time of the polymyalgia – a mental state that was not helped by seeing all the things that needed doing round my 10 acre property and not being able to do a thing about them (physically or financially) – and so the obvious answer seemed to be to move away from this place, which I’ve been associated with for 47 years and have loved dearly.  I’d even got to the point where I wasn’t interested anymore.

But things kept getting in my way – not the least being shortage of finances to get things tidied up for sale.  On top of that I had a tree fall on my roof (damage? – oh yes!) and a second tree taken down because it was in danger of following suit.   Fallout everywhere.  Funds getting even lower.   I seemed to be stuck in mud.

Then just before last Christmas, the tide started to turn.  We began to win with the chiropractic.  I’m now getting around my land as in the old days – and for the most part it’s steep and hilly – and working quite hard, if carefully.  There are a few things I used to do and now cannot, but apart from that, the recovery is little short of miraculous.

I’ve decided to stay – how could I ever have thought of leaving?  To keep my grass down I’ve taken on breeding rare breeds Damara sheep.  My first 2 bought in early July are a Damara/Arapawa cross and her daughter.  Both have had lambs to a Damara crossbred ram, and I now have a fullblood Damara ram also.  So the headcount is currently 4 females and 2 males – and the lambs at 2 weeks old are a delight!

 

Below is one of my drawings of an Arapawa ram.  This breed, now officially accepted as a Rare Breed in this country, came about by early explorers and whalers dropping off sheep (probably of merino origin) on Arapawa Island in Cook Strait – where they continued to breed.  No doubt the motive was to provide a food source.

Initially they were regarded as game.  Later they were marked for extermination, until their value as a gene pool was recognized and a sanctuary established for them on the island, all thanks to the efforts of Betty Rowe and her husband Walt.  Now there are a number of breeders of Arapawa sheep throughout New Zealand.

Like Damaras, Arapawa sheep are shedders, and are naturally resistant to fly-strike.

So here we are!!  Hallelujah!

For prints, products and more details, click on the images.

Patricia

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Dolphin Fantasy

While on the subject of summer and the sea, here’s another Mighty Wallet design I’ve just released – Dolphin Fantasy, which shows 3 Dolphins flying through the air above a distant rural landscape / seascape.

This work started life as a wet-on wet acrylic, and after it dried I added the dolphins.  I had been reading a book about dolphins, and that, plus frequent reports of the many pods that circle our coastline and visit holidaymakers and tourist boats, inspired this work.

As the painting came together, I realized these dolphins were in fact having fun far above the sea and land, and that added the extra spice of fantasy to this artwork.

Here it is on the Wallet:

A great breath of spring and summer to carry in your pocket!  For more details, click on the images.

In the sidebar I have a link to the original artwork on Society6, where it is available as prints, iPhone cases, cushions and many more products.

Patricia

Design collection at Dynomighty

 

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Boring Kingfisher?

No-one could make the general statement that the NZ  Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus) is a boring bird.   The clearly-defined color scheme of secondary opposites, the sharp haircut, the extraordinary flying, hunting and diving skills all make for an exciting avian package.

And it’s certainly hard to beat that metallic color scheme.

Even the nest-building process seems a little ‘over the top’:  the kingfisher flies repeatedly at the chosen spot in a bank or tree trunk, using its beak (another very significant feature) as a drilling or ‘boring’ tool until it has drilled a large enough hole to give it purchase to continue excavations in a more standard fashion.     A woodpecker on steroids, in fact.

That beak is surprisingly large, when you see it in silhouette, and very useful for catching prey (especially fish, for which the Kingfisher will dive up to 3 ft underwater, and small vertebrates), as well as drilling holes.  Its shape is a direct giveaway to the family relationship between Kingfishers and Australian Kookaburras (Dacelo novaeguineae) – both Southwest Pacific birds.

Laughing Kookaburras are quite a lot larger (39-45cm / 310-480gm for the Kookaburra as against 23cm / 55gm for the Kingfisher), but the outline and proportions of the two species have a great similarity.

wetlands_700

Kingfishers scanning for prey, Waioeka Flats, Bay of Plenty.  Illustration for the book ‘Taketakerau The Millennium Tree’ (2012).

My one complaint about the Kingfisher, and the reason why against all the odds I often tell him he’s ‘boring’ is the call.  It is a very harsh, unmusical ‘keek’, repeated either strung together quickly 4 or 5 times (over and over), or repeated once at intervals of of 5 or 6 seconds (again – over and over).  Either way, it can after a while quite simply get on your nerves.

I only wish the Kingfisher had inherited from the Kookaburra side of the family, the distinctive laughing call for which Kookaburras are renowned.  Just think of it, I would be able to roll on the floor laughing when the Kingfisher gives voice (which is quite often), instead of saying, “Aargh, shut up boy….!”

And if you don’t happen to know what the Kookaburra sounds like, give yourself a treat and go HERE.  Scroll down and run the Sounds files (especially the second one) – and make sure you have some room on the floor…

Patricia

http://patriciahowitt.com/