I’d like to start my posts here at Artist In Africa by discussing the creation of the above painting– Eyes of Virunga: Mountain Gorilla (pastel, 18 x 24″). Over the next several posts, I’ll take you from field research in Africa to work in my studio in the USA as I revisit the long journey that went into the making of this piece. Feel free to come along and share the adventure!
Eyes of Virunga: Mountain Gorilla represents a first in a series of gorilla paintings researched in Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans on the slopes of the majestic Virunga volcanoes. The world of the mountain gorilla is just as ethereal, mist-shrouded, and hauntingly beautiful as I had ever imagined. Here, I am standing in the patchwork of fields that literally cloaks the entirety of the Rwandan countryside. Rwanda is the most densely populated nation in Africa– and its volcanic soil incredibly rich. Every square inch of ground is cultivated, right up to the edge of the Parc National des Volcans.
The world of the mountain gorilla is clearly demarcated from the busy human world of villages and fields by this low wall of porous volcanic rock. The mountain gorillas and the countless other organisms that share their island of habitat are quite literally castaways, adrift in a burgeoning sea of humanity.
Once inside the park, the landscape of patchwork fields and rural villages abruptly vanishes– replaced by a great zone of bamboo in the lower elevations and montane forest on the volcanoes’ upper reaches. Here, the slopes of Mt. Bisoke provide a home for the Amahoro gorilla family. Today they are over an hour away, so let’s get moving…