The Artist’s Safari
It is said that once you visit Africa it will always be a part of you. Truer words have never been spoken. Although many years have passed, I need only to shut my eyes to see, with all my senses, my first night in Africa—the hippo’s deep bellow echoing down the Zambezi River valley; the screeching fish eagles climbing into the sky, about to mate; the
coarse twine-like bark of the enormous baobab tree; the sweet scent of the African bush as dusk settles over the plains; the sight of my first elephant, its enormous gray bulk moving with surprising silence through the savannah.
Since that night I have returned to AFRICA many times, and my heart is still not satisfied; I understand that it probably never will be. Each time I visit, I learn a little more about the people and wildlife who inhabit this unique corner of the globe, I become more intoxicated with the unscripted adventures of the magnificent animals I encounter, and I leave a little more of myself in this magical part of the Earth. Close encounters with the amazing creatures of Africa allow me to look deep into their souls and capture their spirits with pen, lens, and paintbrush. My heart beats even harder when I shut my eyes and remember my reflection in their stares. I am humbled by the gifts they offer by allowing me to witness their instinctual fight for survival. I am driven to paint because I know they are in a battle for their existence. The statistics are appalling. Fifty years ago there were 450,000 lions in the wild; today there are 20,000. Where once 700,000 leopards roamed, today only 50,000 exist. The cheetah once numbered 100,000 back in the early 1900s; today some 10,000 of these beautiful cats remain. These sad numbers, as well as the animals’ magnificence, motivate me to honor the dignity and beauty of these superb creatures by capturing them in mysketchbook and on canvas, copper, and silk. It is my passion—my calling, if you will—and my gift to Africa.
When you’re on safari, you never know how the day will unfold. I have learned better here than anywhere to expect the unexpected, to go with the offerings of the day, to live in the moment, to leave assumptions behind and embrace the very essence of life itself. As I watch the animals in the wild push themselves to just live another day, so too have I learned to challenge myself to be the best I can be in every single moment. These are lessons that can be learned only here in Africa, where nature is distilled to its essence, where the air is clearer, the sky is bluer, and a human feels smaller and humbler than anywhere else on Earth. The pages that follow are colorful threads of life on safari, drawn from my own memories and those of my guides, teachers, and friends Humphrey Gumpo and Mark Ivy, and copied from my sketchbook and camera lens. Together they form a brilliant tapestry emblazoned with life on this exceptional continent. As you move through the pages, I encourage you to value and respect the animals for the amazing creatures they are. Allow yourself to feel humbled by them. Listen to their wisdom. Strive to hear the language they speak, the messages they communicate about the magnificence and frailty of life. Shut your eyes to see.