Saturday, April 07, 2007

'Out on Manoeuvres'

Hyaenas. Someone once asked me... 'Why paint such a horrible, unappealing creature?'
Well, truth is, to me they are fascinating and at times endearing. They have a reputation as being 'filthy scavengers' and their character is much maligned. But they are, in their own right, very successful hunters - they're just smart enough to not waste energy if someone else nearby happens to have made a kill that they can easily grab. Along with the lion... the sounds of hyaenas calling, is to me, THE sound of Africa.
On the first night in Amboseli in 1999 I lay awake for many hours just listening to hyaenas calling to each other from three different directions. I taped some of the calls and just couldn't help grinning....... it was eerie and beautiful at the same time.
This painting is from that trip in Amboseli. One afternoon as we started to head back to our tented camp, we drove along the track for a short while with three hyaena running alongside. The sun was behind them and I loved the look and feel of it. I kept my video camera recording trying to capture not only the hyaenas but the swallows that were flying over their heads. They made continuous passes coming from behind and catching the insects flying up out of the way of the hyaenas feet. The footage I got was very shaken from the bumpy ride along the rough track but it gave me something to work from and build up using other points of reference. Most of all it gave me the atmosphere in the sounds and the light of that moment and the movement in the gait of the animals.
It seemed the hyaenas were on a mission, their direction and pace was purposeful and steady, a lolopping canter towards a waterhole surrounded by rushes. Were they just very thirsty or were they aware of something we couldn't see - a hidden carcass or an unsuspecting animal about to be flushed out?
The painting is in oils on canvas and is approxiamately 3 foot long. I love the 'letterbox' composition as it focus's the attention on the subject whilst giving the feel of the expanse of the habitat.

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