Join me as I research new paintings in such spectacular African wildlife destinations as Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans, and Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park– then follow me back to my studio in the USA where, step by step, I’ll bring the paintings to life. Thanks for visiting my website! — Charles Alexander
Although gathering photographic reference–especially of animals in motion– is of paramount concern while on safari, the chance to sit and sketch offers multiple rewards. Doing so forces me to slow down, encourages me to become more attuned to my surroundings, and, most importantly, helps me to identify interesting shapes, patterns, and motifs everywhere around me. A single sketch completed in the field is indelible– much like writing something down is an aid to memory. I treasure the opportunity to field sketch in Africa, particularly in the Masai Mara in Kenya. The Mara is a combination of very seductive elements– wide-open landscapes, the migration crossings at the Mara River, the abundance of big cats–that make it an incomparable field of exploration for the artist.
Sketching in the wild: this is uhuru, this is freedom. Just to sit and be still long enough to allow the senses–especially the eye– to awaken…this is when you begin to notice the miniature worlds underfoot, the brown lark in the grass, the textures of ancient rock, the subtle shadings of the atmosphere on a clear and brilliant day…
Though I have traveled many places, the foundation of my life as an artist rests firmly on my field work in East Africa. This is the landscape of my childhood dreams come to life– and a place where the sheer variety and abundance of living things is beyond even a child’s imagination. Experiencing this place first hand has brought my life full circle.
I am currently in the process of creating new works based upon my field work in Rwanda, Tanzania, and Kenya. Subjects of these new poems, essays, and paintings include the region’s profound landscapes and amazing wildlife dramas–hyenas hunting flamingos, jackals fighting vultures, a mother cheetah teaching her young ones to kill, mountain gorilla families, the chaos of the migration river crossings– to name just a few.
Please keep checking back as new work is added to my site.
Ostriches nest communally, one cock bird to several hens. Once a clutch is laid, the dominant female incubates the eggs during the day. This lead hen will expel the eggs of weaker females that do not fit within the nest scrape. Her eggs are also at the center, making them less vulnerable to predation. The male sits at night, his black color making him undetectable in the darkness. I’ll share a look at the male brooding this nest in a future post.
A difficult morning for a golden nomad– and a glimpse of the sniggering rogue’s gallery that stormed his solitary kill. Each hyena is a unique character in its own right, with one ratty old fellow (wait for the painting) confronting the lion with a wildebeest foreleg poking out of his mouth like a jaunty cigar.
A preview detail from my new Serengeti lion painting Primal Echo. The total composition also includes the cat’s forelegs and follows the sinuous lines of his back and belly out of the painting as he strides forward from his kopje resting place to answer an unseen challenge. I’ve applied the first layer of pastel to the background and to the lion’s head and ruff– and will proceed from left to right, building the picture layer by layer. Many more refinements to come as work continues…
Sketching on the windswept Masai Mara plains has been an absorbing challenge. I am fascinated by the various stages– or taphonomy–of decay and decomposition of animal bones and carcasses on the plain (and how they sometimes by chance become fossilized). Bleaching bones are an integral, everyday part of the landscape here in the Mara, telling stories of lives lost and of life carrying on in one of the most magnificent places on earth. The hunt, the kill, feasting predators, lively scavengers, and finally lonely bones left to tell the tale: all stages of this process of life, death, and renewal are endlessly fascinating to observe.