Monthly Archives: January 2015

A MOTHER’S PATIENCE TESTED: SKETCHING BOTSWANA’S LEOPARDS

Today I went browsing our pictures and videos from the 2013 “Drawing the big Cats” trip, and was reminded of the amazing luck we had to meet two different leopard mothers with their offspring, which taught us so much about the family life of the most secretive of the African big cats.
Unlike the case of lionesses, which can share their motherly duties with other members of the pride, the females of the other big cat species have to deal with the unstoppable playfulness of their cubs without any assistance. As a result, there are many situations where the mother’s body language shows the whole range of emotions between enjoyment and impatience in a matter of seconds.

I decided to make a quick sketch to capture such a moment, when our Chobe mother leopard was trying to bring her cub to a stashed prey for breakfast. But the cub only wanted to play, and play more!

As always, the key to capturing the shapes in your sketch lies in the first minute and the first few pencil strokes. With scenes like this one, where two animals are interacting, it is even more important to get all the geometrical relationships between the objects right from the start. Otherwise things can get very complicated as you add detail
leopard family 1 baja

With the main masses in place, it is possible now to define more carefully some important volumes, especially in the heads and limbs
leopard family 2 baja

Only when all things seem to be broadly in the right place can we indulge in elaborating the fur, shades, and coat spot patterns
leopard family 4 baja

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Looking from a high place: cheetah on termite mound sketch

One of the most memorable moments in the latest “Drawing the Big Cats” safari was our encounter with a cheetah mother and her cubs. The little family was so relaxed in our presence that we even had the opportunity to sketch them live, as the mother rested on a shady termite mound and the cubs alternatively accompanied her or played vigorously in the surrounding grassland.
Today I have taken a look at some of the pics and videos we took during that encounter, and found one image especially attractive: the mother cheetah looking out from the top of a termite mound that looked a bit like a castle, with several pinnacles resembling battlements.
I decided to make a quick drawing to recover the essence of that moment.

Once again, I draw the essential lines as fast as possible, not dwelling on too many details. At this stage I discover a nice but totally fortuitous example of “resonance”, as the shape of a pinnacle on the left part of the mound echoes that of the cheetahs flexed hind leg… The playful artist in me loves this sort of little things!
guepardo 1 baja

Then I add shades to give some depth to the drawing
guepardo 2 baja

Finally, and once things seem to be roughly in place, I spend some time rejoycing in the detailed shading, spots and main textures
guepardo 4 baja

I have to confess to having taken a small artistic license in this rendering: I omitted the largish radio collar which scientists put on this beautiful cat. Obviously every bit of information biologists can get from these wild animals can be vital for their conservation, but a collar like that is nonetheless something of a blemish on the perfection of such an elegant cat!

Want to see some footage of our encounter with this charming cheeath family? Check this link to watch the video in YouTube:

“Did I hear a squirrel up there?” the leopard thought

It has been months since our last “Drawing the Big Cats” trip to Botswana, but each encounter with the felines remains vivid in my mind. Today I remembered that beautiful leopard in Savuti, and the way she cocked her head at a sound coming from the treetops above her. She was so much like my house cat “Kali”, who used to look at the sparrows perching outside our window here in Madrid, with that particular mixture of curiosity, lust, and a hint of irritation at not being able to catch them…
I look back at the videos and pictures we took of the leopard, and I discover so many new details that add to my memory of that encounter, and I decide to make a quick drawing which allows me to explore some aspects of that moment.

As always when sketching I try to get the general outline and proportions right as quickly as possible, before getting to work in the details
Savuti leopard-1 baja

As I go along I fill in the shadow patterns and make the spots ever more bold
Savuti leopard-2 baja

Even when the drawing is taking shape I like to look from a distance every now and then, and to look with my eyes half closed to see general patterns and not be distracted too much by detail
Savuti leopard-4 baja

After all, details make our drawings so lively but it is also sooo easy to get lost in them and lose the big picture!

Drawing the big cats is always exciting, but when you have the opportunity to draw what you actually saw there are so many subtle nuances that get into your artwork. And then of course there are the memories of the great times shared in the bush. Being there with a small group of like-minded people really turns the trip into so much more than just watching wildlife. It becomes a journey of discovery, and one that changes us so deeply for the better, and we return home with a deep sense of gratitude for having been able to experience such an immersion in the wild. As long as the big cats and their natural environment endure out there, our world will remain a really wonderful and mysterious place to live in!

TWO WOLVES WITH A DEATH SENTENCE – DOS LOBOS SENTENCIADOS

running wolves collage 2

There are two wolves in a Spanish game reserve called Sierra de la Culebra, which have got a double death sentence. The Reserve´s authorities included them in a culling plan and auctioned the rights to shoot them among trophy hunters. But Spain’s conservationist group “Lobo Marley” purchased their hunting rights in the auction, intending to put these two individuals to a different use. They would be captured alive and equipped with camera-collars to follow their daily activities, for research and education purposes. Predictably, the Reserve’s authorities opposed this plan, but meanwhile an American filmmaker working for National Geographic heard about the story of these two Spanish wolves and offered to make a film about them. Working with the NG’s “Crittercam” team, and in collaboration with “Lobo Marley” and the local authorities, he would tell the world about the plight of the Iberian wolf, and at the same time publicize the beauties of a Spanish region in desperate need of ecotourism. But the regional authorities also rejected the join offer of the independent producer, of National Geographic’s “Crittercam” team, and of “Lobo Marley”. A sadly lost opportunity for everyone.
Months have passed, and the end of the hunting season is getting closer. But of course “Lobo Marley” is not using the rights it purchased to hunt the two wolves. We want them to live, and thousands of compassionate citizens who donated their money want them to live. But the autorities are under pressure from hunting lobbies which make a lot of money by hunting the wolves using an illegal and immoral method: baiting the animals and shooting them from cabins.
Recently a meeting of the local authorities of the area´s villages has resulted in a joint decision to kill the two wolves without even waiting for next year’s auction. They want to send a message to the whole Spainsh society: that there is no room for hope, that there will never be a change, and that ecotourism will always be a minor activity in their region, totally subservient to the hunting interests of a minority.
So our two wolves have a renewed death sentence upon their heads. But if they finally get killed, we need to make an uproar like never before. “Lobo Marley” speaks in the name of a majority of Spaniards who are convinced that we need to protect our natural heritage and to make a sustainable use of it, and who feel compassion for other living beings.

Follow and join Lobo Marley!
http://lobomarley.org/en/

Sign the campaign against the killing of 190 wolves in northern Spain!
https://www.change.org/p/prevent-the-massacre-of-190-wolves-in-castilla-y-le%C3%B3n-and-asturias

Hay dos lobos en una reserva de caza en España que llevan una doble sentencia de muerte. Las autoridades de la reserva de la Sierra de la Culebra los han incluido en un plan de “control de población” y han ofrecido los derechos de caza en subasta pública. Pero el grupo conservacionista “Lobo Marley” ha comprado esos derechos en la subasta con la intención de dar un uso distinto a esos dos ejemplares: ponerles collares transmisores equipados con cámaras, con fines divulgativos y de investigación. Predeciblemente, las autoridades de la reserva se opusieron al plan, pero entre tanto la historia de estos lobos llegó a oidos de un productor estadounidense que trabaja para National Geographic, y que se ofreció a hacer un documental sobre ellos. En colaboración con el departamente de “Crittercam” de NG (especializado en la colocación de cámaras móviles en animales salvajes), con “Lobo Marley”, proponían contar al mundo la peripecia de los lobos indultados por la sociedad española y poner en el mapa internacional los valores naturales de una comarca que necesita vitalmente del ecoturismo para potenciar su economía. Pero las autoridades regionales (la Junta de Castilla y León) también rechazaron esta propuesta conjunta de National Geographic y “Lobo Marley”. Una oportunidad para todos, tristemente perdida.

Han pasado los meses, y se acerca el final de la temporada de caza. Pero por supuesto, Lobo Marley no va a hacer uso de su derecho a cazar esos lobos. Los queremos vivos, y miles de ciudadanos españoles compasivos y sensibles que donaron su dinero los quieren vivos. Pero las autoridades están presionadas por “lobbies” cinegéticos que hacen pingües negocios con una modalidad de caza tan inmoral como ilegal: cabar a los lobos y dispararles desde una caseta mientras se alimentan.

Recientemente, una reunión de las autoridades de los municipios de la Sierra de la Culebra ha dado como resultado la decisión de matar a esos dos lobos sin siquiera esperar a la siguiente subasta. Quieren enviar un mensaje muy claro a la sociedad española: que no hay lugar para la esperanza, que las cosas nunca van a cambiar, y que el ecoturismo siempre será una actividad menor, totalmente sometida a los intereses minoritarios de los “lobbies” de la caza.

Así pues, nuestros lobos llevan una doble sentencia de muerte sobre su cabeza. Pero si finalmente son ejecutados, necesitamos crear un clamor como nunca se ha escuchado. “Lobo Marley” habla en nombre de una mayoría de españoles que están convencidos de la necesidad de proteger nuestro patrimonio natural y hacer un uso sostenible del mismo, y que son capaces de sentir compasión por otros seres vivos. Y que están hartos de ejecuciones sumarias.

¡Únete a Lobo Marley!
http://lobomarley.org/en/

¡Firma la campaña contra la matanza de 190 lobos en el norte de España!
https://www.change.org/p/prevent-the-massacre-of-190-wolves-in-castilla-y-le%C3%B3n-and-asturias