African Safari Family Legacy
FIRST STORY FROM RECENT TRIP TO AFRICA
The following are additional drawings by Cliff. Again, there is no intent to suggest I am a professional artist. Others often comment how good I am at it, but I have no formal training. I believe anyone can sketch, and the goal of sketching is to become "intimate" with the creatures of the wild, so when you see them in real life, you'll be more inclined to view them in a deeper perspective. Each creature I sketch draws me closer to it. I recently drew a tse-tse fly after I drew a gazelle. I feel as close to the tse-tse fly as to the gazelle. The greatest creature or the smallest all conspire as one ecosystem, each symbiotically linked to the other. I cannot disrespect the tse-tse fly, as I wouldn't the lion or cheetah or elephant. Now, mosquitos--ah, there is the moral dilemma. I plan on drawing one of those too, since I will find they will be most "intimate" with me during our AfricanSafariLegacy journey. But, do I swat the noxious mosquito or let it drink my blood? Respect of the wild might have limits, and those might be simply the mosquito who, upon lighting on my neck, may find sucking my blood a last supper. I will think on this as I draw the mosquito.
If you are planning an African Safari Legacy, even if it is years ahead, start drawing now. The more you draw the creatures of the wild, the more you will become part of the great adventure you are planning on, or dreaming about. Your sketches will improve no matter how inept you feel you are with a pencil and piece of paper. Be patient. Let your heart and soul flow to your fingertips as you do your best to capture the essence of a lion, elephant, zebra--or, even a tse-tse fly. Draw and redraw, for you will find--if you stick to it--you will be drawing the roadmap of your own African Safari Legacy. It will happen. And when it does, you will go to Africa not to see things for the first time, but, if you have drawn the creatures of the wild to the best of your personal ability--youwill be going to meet old friends you placed on paper.
My drawings are nothing more than handshakes with the creatures, a kind of respect I offer them prior to our meeting--a tribute, if you will, to their magnificence--even if they are a tse-tse fly.
I did the initial drawing on a subway...looking at a picture and drawing the outline without looking at the drawing. I went to a class once where the instructor gave us drills about "letting the force be with you." You look at something and draw it without taking your eyes off the subject. The idea is to connect your hand and eye creatively, and to trust the flow. I'm still working on it. The outline I made of the rhino was a rough outline, nothing like the finished product below, where I spent a considerable amount of time studying the drawing.
A rough wildebeest drawing completed on February 6, 2007, drawn on the 6 Subway and at the Soldier's Sailors and Marines Hotel on Lexington Ave., NYC. The wildebeest migrates yearly by the millions. Hopefully, we'll be able to see the herds moving through Tanzania when we are there.
I drew an elephant as one of my first drawings. Then my grandson, Adam, got a book on elephants from the library, and I read about their fascinating lives and habits. I learned they consume about sixty gallons of water a day, and that the cracks and crevasses on their thick hide is designed to capture moisture to help keep them cool. Also, elephants hook up on other's tails for the "comfort" of knowing the presence of the other elephant. So, I drew the following picture of the elephant on the 1 Subway going from the East Village to the Bronx, where our other daughter and grandson, Ian, live. The trip is about an hour, and allows one good drawing time unless it is crowded.
WHY I FEAR
THE TSE-TSE FLY
Nothing is scarier to me than a tse-tse fly attack!
In Vietnam, I ducked a lot of bullets, mortars and grenades. I can't say I wasn't scared.
But, with only a few weeks to go before we launch our African Legacy Safari, my bones are beginning to quake. The enemy I fear the most is the deadly tse-tse fly. Like some terrorist waiting in the bush to ambush me, I awake in a cold sweat, nightmarish images of being carried off by giant tse-tse flies swirling about my groggy, paranoid mind.
As a little boy, I read about the tse-tse fly. Its strange ability to induce sleeping sickness on its victims struck me with same horror as the movie JAWS did our oldest daughter, Sabra, when we stumbled into a movie theater in Palm Springs before it was generally released. We didn't know the nature of the movie, and our daughter, who was about six at the time, still has fears about swimming in the water, even when you can see the bottom clearly for a hundred feet.
I carry that same childish fear about the tse-tse fly. So, in our readings about Africa, my eyes froze on a comment by a fellow traveler who was lauding one of the lodges we will be staying at. The woman's comments glowed about the hospitality, scenery and accommodations until the tse-tse fly comment. She ended her blog statement with how the tse-tse flies drove her nuts.
"TSE-TSE FLYS!" I shouted. "TSE-TSE FLYS!"
I immediately began to learn all I could about tse-tse fly repellent. Lo and behold, there is nothing that one can put on to create an anti-tse-tse fly defense. Don't wear blue, I read, and, one commentary noted the tse-tse fly has been known to chase down moving vehicles. Moving is an attraction, however, I doubt I will stand still while tse-tse flies circle the landing zone of my body.
My defense against the tse-tse fly is a good offense. So, in the following drawing I braved all my courage to draw one in articulate detail. My wife GOOGLED the web for pictures of the deadly creature. She, offered me a palate of photos, including two tse-tse flies mating. I chose the one below. The idea of tse-tse flies procreating with a hunger for its children's children's to bite me was too much of a legacy to endure.
By becoming graphite intimate with the tse-tse fly, some of the sharp edges of my fear have dulled. Looking at any monster in the face allows one to quell the fear of anticipation and expectation. Hopefully, the more I study the tse-tse fly, the less fear I'll have of it.
And, perhaps instead of biting me they will chose my wife instead.
Nothing is more graceful than a gazelle in flight. I've only seen them at the zoo and in documentaries, but I have seen the grace of deer running in the forests of Oregon and can imagine how spectacular they must be in the wild. I chose a gazelle to draw since I expect to be seeing many of them. After studying many photos, this replication of one photo details for me the beauty of the horns, and the elegance of the gazelle's majestic look.
My wife and I once owned a very majestic animal--a Siberian Husky. She was like a queen with a regal neck. I was struck by the Ethiopian Wolf's demean in this National Geographic photo I rendered with pencil. Africa has many legacies, and the magic of its total beauty cannot be understated.
I love eagles. When I saw the African Fish Eagle, I was a little stumped. For some unjustified and unknowledgable reason I had the strange and inaccurate belief that all eagles were American. As our national symbol, I suppose I laid some property rights to the eagle, when, in fact, the eagle belongs to the world. I then thought about the African Safari Legacy. Here I was going to touch the soil where my greatest ancestor stood on a couple of legs and knuckle-dragged his/her way around the world. If I could accept and acknowledge that all humanity was from the womb of Africa, and Africa was the Mother of Humanity, why then couldn't I accept that perhaps the African Fish Eagle might just post date the American bald eagle? Obviously, each of us tends to put barriers around our ethnicity, nationality, homeland and likes to lock our doors at night because our home is our castle and we are the kings and queens of our own land. So, I started to draw the African Fish Eagle. As I did, I began to share the intimacy of the eagle's relation to all Creation, and, perhaps, that the American bald eagle might be a great grandchild of the African one. Who came first is not as important as the recognition that Africa contains countless mysteries and ultimate answers.
The talons of an African Fish Eagle are awesome weapons. They illustrate the power of P-51's cannons blasting during a straffing run in World War II, or, the scalple of a skilled brain surgeon cutting a pathway through someone's brain. I was struck by the power of the Fish Eagle's pose just prior to snatching a tasty meal from an African river or lake. I hope you enjoy it also.
When I tackled drawing the African Leopard, I was nervous. Could I draw a magnificent, powerful beast that rules the trees and is the spotlight of carnivorous majestry? I must say my hands trembled as I started on my quest to render the great African Leopard. But as I immersed myself into the drawing, I found the power of the leopard an ally. As though it were my spirit guide, I felt the pencil gliding over the sketch pad with ease and comfort. I thought I was finished a few days before the completion date of March 5, but I had erred by smudging the leopard's spots in an attempt to enhance the drawing. Instead, I marred it. So I painfully erased all the smudge between the spots, which took a full day. Then I used my ebony pencil to darken the spots and highlight areas until the leopard came to life. I hope you enjoy the drawing as much as I did letting it unfold through my fingers.