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Safari Snippets: Practicing Sketching

I wanted to try sketching the animals while on safari, so I did some practice sketches in the months leading up to our trip. It was also a great opportunity to research a few facts about each animal, which proved really interesting.

Despite my practice, sketching from real life was a million times harder than sketching from photos. No matter how much you beg, elephants just won’t stand still when they’re browsing! (Fun fact: Browsers eat leaves, grazers eat grass.) I won’t be sharing my on-safari sketches, but here are some of my pre-trip sketches.

The elephant joke in this one is for my Dad, who loves a good pun!

Sketching elephants

I always intended to paint the large hornbill in the centre of this one, but never quite got there. For any Lion King, the movie, fans, Zazu, Mufasa’s birdy advisor is a hornbill.

Sketching hornbills

Kudu have the most magnificent ears. They are extremely large and pretty antelope – and in real life they don’t look like the bandits mine have turned out to be!

Sketching kudu

Ironically, I was inspired to draw the leopard on the top right with very few outlines after my favourite Wildlife Photographer of the Year photo – a polar bear that is only defined by it’s outline in the sun. I want to explore further the question “What is the minimum number of marks required to make an animal identifiable?” Obviously, it’s way fewer than I use here!

Sketching leopards

Despite appearances, the warthog on the top right here is having a mud bath. He is not dead! The fellow below him is my favourite, even though he appears to be being eaten by a wormhole!

Sketching warthogs

This is my favourite African bird because they’re so unexpectedly big! They grow up to 1.5m tall and their bills are so striking in colour.

Sketching saddle-billed storks

I had a lot of fun making the mud splashes for this one!

Sketching hippos

Zebras are a happy lot. They often seem to pose with big, cheesy grins. Unfortunately, the one on the right has been caught with his cheeks full of grass… or he’s been stung by a bee and there’s been some serious swelling… or of course, it could have been too much Christmas pudding!

Sketching zebras

Please skip over the next picture if you’re afraid of clowns. I don’t know where that one on the top left got his clown suit, but he’s pretty scary in it, right?!! And by the way, since doing the research for this page, aardwolves are on my “must see” list!

Sketching hyena

I’d love to learn more about how to show motion in my sketches. I wanted the guy on the right to be charging, but he looks like he’s just having a tough morning jog to me!

Sketching rhinos

I bought some new watercolours for this painting and I love how vibrant the colours are!

Sketching lions

Safari Snippets: Have you ever been charged by a herd of elephants?

Baby elephant charging

Life in Sweden | 23 December 2016 | By

Something exciting always happened on our way to stake out the hyena den. Not far out of the lodge we had to work our way around a fallen tree spanning the track. No need for expert tracking skills here. By now we could all identify the damage from hungry elephants on the move. The whip crack of breaking branches meant they were close!
Around the next bend, we found ourselves in the midst of a morning tree party. The graceful giants were stripping the bark from everything in reach. Their slow, steady pace at odds with how fast they wreaked utter havoc on the area.
A collective gasp flew from the group as we spotted a five week old baby elephant. His face scrunched in determination as he wrestled a twig with his wayward trunk. The other elephants ambled around us seeking out the juiciest greenery. With the baby tucked into his mother’s shadow, they seemed confident that we were not a threat. We settled in to watch this tiny marvel.
elephants eating trees
Up close to wild animals, the situation can change in an instant. The baby, who was completely entralled with his twig, spies us with glee and drops the twig. Then he’s coming for us – ears flapped out, trunk raised and bellowing. We are all completely charmed, “Oh look! Only five weeks old and he’s charging us. How adorable!”. But Jacques our guide knows what’s coming, he’s started the vehicle, called out “Hold on!” and we’re off!
A towering wall of panicking aunty elephants has formed behind the charging baby. They’re coming for us – ears flapped out, trunks raised and bellowing.
Elephants charging
It’s a tense few moments, but the mother elephant manages to wrap a trunk around the baby and halt his charge. Seeing the threat receding, the other elephants slow and peel off back into the bush. The baby gives us one final shake of his head, “Ha! I showed you!”.
Years from now, my family will still be telling the tale of the time a baby elephant charged us. I imagine that baby elephant will grow up and trumpet about how he scared off a monster and saved his family when he was only five weeks old.

Safari Snippets: Honey badgers on the left!

Lion stalking honey badger

Life in Sweden | 21 December 2016 | By

We’re cruising along in the cool morning air, snug in our blankets, delighting in the dusky, fresh smell of the African bush. An out of place blur of black and white catches my eyes and I spy a pair of honey badgers. “Stop! Honey badgers on the left”, I cry! We pull up sharply and sit quietly watching them forage in the dirt. Hours of watching nature shows have taught me two things about honey badgers – it’s really rare to see them and that they are fierce. It is a real treat to see them in the wild and I feel I could just sit all day and watch them dig.

I glance to my right where two lionesses ghost out of the bush. “Lions on the right!”, I whisper urgently! All heads whip right and our guide, Jacques, chuckles “Get your cameras ready. This will be good!”

I’m torn. I’ve always wanted to see lions hunt, but I don’t want to see an animal hurt. Do I watch or shut my eyes tight, put my fingers in my ears and chant “la la la” under my breath until it’s over? I can’t look away.

The first lioness flows silently through the dead branches of some fallen trees, then smoothly flattens herself to the ground. The larger honey badger pauses, nose to the wind, sensing something off kilter and freezes as she spots the lioness.

It’s on! The lioness springs forward and grabs the smaller honey badger in her maw. We think the little furball is toast when suddenly an overpowering stench envelopes our vehicle. In shock, the lioness drops it’s prey. Time to turn tail and run, right? No! The little honey badger pops back to it’s feet and charges at the lioness, tail erect, the message clear “Don’t you ever do that again!”

Honey badger telling off lion

The lioness backs off and turns to stroll away throwing an amused “whatever” over it’s shoulder, but the feisty honey badger is running on adrenaline. It darts in and nips the lioness on the leg. The lioness kicks out and the badger tumbles away into the scrub. And back it comes for another go!

Honey badger chases lion

Luckily, the bigger honey badger has some bush smarts and gathers the smaller one up and draws it away. Off they go prance, tails spiked straight up, giving off very specific “Don’t mess with us!” vibes. The lioness follows for a short stint, then wanders off to find a snack that doesn’t fight back.

The observant among you will wonder where was the second lioness in all this? She joined the initial rush, but when things went south, she backed off with a very clear “You got yourself into this mess, you get yourself out” attitude.

It’s been three months and my family is still laughing over this incident – one of many treasured memories from our epic South African safari.

Living Area By Numbers

living area by numbers

Life in Sweden | 16 November 2015 | By

There are two important numbers regarding living area that you need to know when you live in Sweden.


Life On Hold

Pupdate | 10 November 2015 | By

As I’m sure you all know by now, we’ve had a new addition to our family – Kaira, an 8 week old Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy.