I love to get out of the house, spending time in nature as often as possible. My husband and I are fortunate to live in an area that has some very beautiful pockets of natural bush nearby, Krantzkloof Nature Reserve is one such pocket. Situated just 8kms from my home, I try to put aside a couple of hours each week to disconnect from studio-life, and reconnect with nature. The shadowy forest pathways of Krantzkloof are the perfect place to find painting inspiration.
When I wander the paths of Krantzkloof, I’m always on the lookout for birds. I’ve seen some incredible species in there, including; Spotted Ground Thrush, Bush Blackcap, Pygmy Kingfisher, Buff-spotted Flufftail, Emerald Cuckoo, Green Twinspot, African Crowned-eagle, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, Grey Waxbill, Lemon Dove, African Olive Pigeon, Olive Woodpecker, Knysna Turaco, Mountain Wagtail (to name a few)! And, of course, many MANY sightings of the holy grail itself, the Narina Trogon.
Although I’m constantly on the lookout for birds, I always keep an eye out for mammals too, dassies in particular. I’ve become familiar with a shady little spot beneath the forest canopy, at the foot of a cliff. It hosts the base of a rocky outcrop. A colony of dassies live there, and they can often be seen if you look closely enough. They tend to dart for cover or freeze when people approach (making them nearly invisible in the dim light). To be quite honest, I don’t think many people ever notice them. I’ve found that if you approach quietly and calmly, they don’t dart away at all. In fact, they even let you get close enough to see their smiley little faces.
Walking through “DassieVille” two weeks back, I was delighted to come across a very relaxed-looking individual. She was stationed calmly on a rock, unperturbed by my presence. As an additional bonus, she was even positioned in a spot that had relatively good light. As per my usual dassie-spotting protocal, I initially stand very still. Once I can see that the dassie is relaxed, I’ll usually chat softly to it and take a few steps closer, establishing a comfortable distance for both parties involved. On this particular occasion, I was even able to explain that I’d dearly love to get a nice photo to use as a painting reference. This particular dassie was most obliging, even adjusting the position of her little feet so I could get them in the photograph too.
Returning home, feeling incredibly inspired by the beautiful morning I’d just spent, fully connected in nature’s company, I started working on that painting that very same afternoon. It’s the most rewarding process, having a personal connection to a piece I’m working on.
A couple of days later, with a slightly stiff hand, feeling absolutely astonished by just how much fur a dassie actually has- the painting was complete! This little character then became the latest member of my new range of acrylic works, available as A4 prints (perfect for framing), greeting cards, and gift tags.
For me, there is nothing better than taking inspiration straight from the things that feed my soul. I like to learn interesting facts about the subjects I paint. Researching the dassie, I was pretty blown away by the complexity of just how interesting and unnusual they actually are. I’ve shared some facts here– please have a read if you’d like to learn more about them yourself- spoiler alert, they can SING!!!