38 Travel Zambia May 2009 Quick on the draw Click! Snap! Move on. Such is the safari routine for many, as they dash around the bush bagging the requisite images of wildlife to impress the folks back home. But how much more rewarding might it be to stop still and just look? There's no better way to do that than with pencil in hand, explains Mary- Anne Bartlett, founder and leader of Art Safari. I always knew that if I was going to spend my life painting I should choose a subject that fascinated me, took me into the great outdoors, gave me plenty of physical exercise and brought me into contact with fun people. But I never imagined that I'd end up leading such incredible artistic journeys. Zambia was a natural place to start: the fulfilment of a childhood dream, during which words such as ' Zambezi' and ' Livingstone' had evoked my almost mythical great- great-grandfather, Sir John Kirk, who had journeyed alongside Dr David Livingstone as expedition doctor and botanist during the Zambezi Expedition 1858- 63. I knew I had to grab the first opportunity to visit the places he'd seen. Both Kirk and Livingstone made lively sketches long before photography changed the way in which we recorded images. I found these fascinating and, inspired to do the same, soon discovered that a simple sketch can capture an incredibly intense period of time. When drawing a slumbering lion, for example, I saw his quivering whiskers and heard his grunts and snores as never before. This concentration of observation and memory, I found, heightened the sense of presence, and was much more powerful than the split- second exhilaration of a camera shutter. To sketch from life is to be alert and aware, with all your senses tingling. At the same time, it brings out your inner naturalist: learning, observing and recording as much information as possible. Finding my fulfilment in this way led me to set up Art Safari, and I now lead groups of both beginners and professional artists to Zambia and other countries to learn about wildlife through art. My task is as much about teaching them how to look and observe as how to paint and draw. The safaris are paced more Above: Adding a splash of colour, African style. Opposite below ( left to right): Working up the sketches back at camp; discussing technique with the expert; show- and- tell in the local village.
May 2009 Travel Zambia 39 slowly than most, luxuriating in time spent at each place rather than clocking up the miles. We aim to be at the still point in the magical continuum of events in the natural world. Even to an experienced Africa hand, an art safari can be a revelation. Drawing opens your eyes: you notice the slant of a zebra's eyes and how its stripes flow into the mane; you work out the mechanics of an elephant's ears, trunk and legs, and the slope from the chin to the bagginess of the belly. And this close observation of outward form gives you a fresh insight into underlying structure - such as, for example, how strongly an elephant's shoulders are built in order to support its massive head. I tend to prompt my guests with fiendish exercises to develop ways of seeing - and to explore colour, form, perspective, style and technique. One particular big baobab is now affectionately known as ' that sodding tree' after I'd tormented one group with it ( baobabs, like giraffes, never fit on the page). Other guests have come to know the exhilaration of the ' blink' sketches, where their page soon becomes covered with parts of - and then whole - impala or carmine bee- eaters. Of course animals will insist on moving. Pick one hippo to draw and he'll immediately twizzle his ears and sink. But with practice and tuition it's amazing how you can train your eye, memory and hand to reproduce an animal's position as you sketch it on paper. And yes, cameras can still click away - there's no harm in using your images for reference later. Wildlife, of course, is also about habitat: the nearby vegetation that provides everything from camouflage to food source. When drawing, you begin to look around your subject. You see the ebony tree that towers nine times the height of your elephant, the seed pods in the foreground and the cloud formations beyond. And my guests? Many find that once they've spent time sketching - whatever they think of their results - it's very hard to return to a standard safari. They've developed a new notion of time and now seek out companions who feel the same way. For many, too, the notion of keeping a Victorian sketchbook is not so far- fetched. At the end of a safari they look back over the pages, relive those first- hand experiences and feel again the connection between themselves and that particular animal or landscape. Their trip to Zambia has turned into a highly personal journey, bringing a whole new creative - and, for some, spiritual - dimension to the beauty of their surroundings. Safari Focus The trick is to travel light. I like to have a pencil in my hand all the time, a paint box handy, a camera slung around my neck and binoculars close by. Then it's a juggling act whenever you stop. Art Safari supplies stools and drawing boards. The list of other materials may seem long, but in essence it's simple and should fit in one bag: A3 hard back sketchbooks: watercolour and cartridge soft drawing pencils, conté and water- soluble pencils professional quality full pan water- colour box with integral mixing palette brushes ( mop, rigger, large round and hake) art box or day bag that accommodates EVERYTHING bulldog clips or masking tape ( in case it's windy). Otherwise, you will need the standard safari gear: hat, sun protection, anti- malarials, water bottle, binoculars, torch, camera with good zoom ( plus spare memory cards/ film), adaptors, insect repellent etc. Sharp observational skills, a good sense of humour and boundless enthusiasm all help. Art Safari Essentials Art Safari offers tutored safaris, for experienced artists and beginners alike, to Africa, Asia and Antarctica. The trips are based in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. They may also include visits to centres for carving, textiles, painting and ceramics. Safaris to South Luangwa National Park, based at the new Thornicroft Lodge, depart in September and October 2009. Find out more at www. artsafari. co. uk or info@ artsafari. co. uk; tel + 44 ( 0) 1394382235. ALL PICTURES BY MARY- ANNE BARTLETT