SCRUMBLE — A Blog About Pastel Art
Scrumble is a pastel painting technique of lightly touching the surface; the result is visually stimulating and very textural. My blog adapts that technique of scrumble, lightly touching on art and the art of pastel painting.
Lunch and tribal dance at camp. Were we ever surprised to see some of the same Samburu men and women from our morning village trip! They are famous for the standing still jump, which is just what it sounds like. Pencil thin, the young Samburu warriors propel themselves straight up, as high as three feet, to a chanted rhythm. I think it defies gravity, because they seem to rise from their feet, without a knee flex.
Afternoon Safari. A long, hot game drive, looking for elephants with finally our first sighting of the huge mammoth! Just gaze in awe.
On the way back to camp, the unexpected: a lioness stalking oryx, the two males waiting much behind her. She has to do all the hunting and killing. A special sighting like this brings the troops, in our case the safari vans, 15 when we left. The new arrivals disrupted the pattern of the oryx—it would be a long stalk.
Rule is that safari vans HAVE to be back in camp before dark, about 6:30. At 6:28, Joshua cranks up the engine and floors it; we were bouncing all over the truck. “I take short cut roads,” he says moments before he swings the wheel 90 degrees, like a man possessed. He was a stickler for the rules and etiquette of the park. from the Africa journal, December 21, 1996.Comment on or Share this Article →
The Samburu men insisted on a fire making demonstration, notching and twirling a stick to create friction and blowing on the dry cow dung (it has many purposes). Smoke and the fire ignites.
Now that the formalities were complete, the Samburu could commence with their purpose for allowing our visit: craft selling. The women had their handicrafts spread on the ground: beaded necklaces and bracelets and earrings, elephant and giraffe hair bracelets, wooden dolls, calabash, and rungu.
The rungu is their weapon: it’s a club, about two feet long, carved from a tree branch with the tree knot on the end, very smooth, an assortment of shapes and decorations. Typical position of the tribesmen is one foot braced against the opposite knee, tall spear stuck into the ground supported by one hand, and the rungu tucked under the armpit of the other arm.
Pastel painting, one of my earlier works, before I learned to trust that I couldn't ruin a painting, a fearsome thought after dotting all those beads on the necklace. The best part of this one is the hands; somehow they look relaxed, elegant.
I tried one huge necklace, made by Mariso, (in this photo) with the intention of buying; but her price started at 18,000 shillings (about $360 US). I couldn’t take it off fast enough; they all just laughed at me. Bargaining is expected and she came down to 8,000 shillings, but I regrettably left without it. I say regrettably, after seeing the last wistful look on her face. (We did buy a calabash, some dolls of crudely carved wood, wrapped in leather and beads, and the tri-legged pillow. After scrubbing and several days in the Saudi sun, the smoke smell was still too strong to bring inside.)
The village visit was a wonderful experience; we will remember it a long time. The photos do not make it possible to comprehend the difficult living conditions of the Samburu, but they do remind me how lucky I am to live in America.Comment on or Share this Article →
Samburu mother and child
Women wear the bright orange kanga sarong as dress and support for babies, held snugly against mother’s back. Their famous, layered necklaces of bright beads signify status and family wealth. Contrasting the distant greens and the earth tones of their immediate environment, the colors are a visual treat. Looking beyond their friendly welcome to outsiders, one recognizes the family bonds within the tribe.
The mother in my pastel painting, Eyes, seemed to embody the proud spirit of the Samburu women, as her baby turns a suspicious look in another direction.
A young girl stood under a tree, her hands stretched overhead, holding onto branches. The tree had little containers tucked all in and around it and, as a tribute to the Christmas season, her gesture became the basis for my pastel painting Her Treasure Tree. That painting initiated my ongoing series of the people of Kenya and the ochre so dominant in their lives.
It is one of my earlier works (1997) when I was still working on Canson paper. Although it was an accomplishment at that stage of my painting, it's easy to see my progress and how much more I push the pastel and color now. AND STILL SO MUCH MORE TO LEARN ABOUT THIS GREAT THING CALLED ART!
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The huts are small and low, about 12x8, four feet high. Twigs and sticks are interwoven or tied into the basic shell; cow dung, clay and mud are mixed and applied inside and out to form hard walls and top; floor is just the ground. You stoop over to enter the smokey interior; a smoldering fire is kept at all times, partly to keep the flies away. Just inside the door is usually a small area in which baby calves and goats are kept at night, for protection from wild animals.
Loosely interpreted, two bedrooms separated by the kitchen divide the hut. Cooking is done over three stones on the ground, signifying mother, father and child. This cooking area has several hanging calabash, which are gourds or animal skin bags.
The hot equator sun creates strong contrasts on the dark skin, beautiful to paint:
Kenya Cowboy, Pastel, 24x18
Cowhide strung between branches and support poles about a foot off the ground provides bedding. A neck support is whittled from some natural tree formation, and keeps the neck about six inches above the ground. I think the support is necessary because of the women wearing those huge necklaces and the men wearing braids in their ochre colored hair.
The Samburu are herdsmen--cattle and sheep--and do not hunt for food. They will, however, chase away a lion and take his catch. Their diet consists of meat, milk and animal blood. They don’t farm and only in the last ten years or so have vegetables and fruits occasionally been brought in from market. from the Africa Journal, December 21, 1996Comment on or Share this Article →
The Samburu natives are well aware of the tourist dollar, with full-fledged negotiation on the fee just to enter the village. The fee, however, covers as many photographs as you wish to take and an English-speaking guide. Jeffery, our guide, lives in a close by village up the hill and has a well prepared presentation.
Before entering the village, the chief pointed to an open structure of woven twigs and thorny bush surrounding an acacia tree and said, “parliament.” The guide shrugged him off, so the interpretation is up to us and we decided it’s either their dispute settlement place or their jail.
The village houses 68 native Samburu people, which is four families--the elder father, his wives (up to four) and his children (including married ones and their families). It contains about 20 huts and is “fenced” with thorny acacia branches pushed together about three feet wide. Effective against the wild animals.
We were met by a line of women singing/chanting and doing the necklace dance. They wear extraordinary beaded necklace and bracelets, many layers of rows of beads. The movement of their chest, neck and shoulders bounces the necklace up and down. Enchanting.
The children and women wear lengths of cloth tied around the shoulders or sarong-style and a few wear old discards of western style clothing; the men usually have a cape and shorts, although the chief, 29-year-old Philip, was wearing a McDonald’s cap. Many of the men cord their hair and paint their hair and skin with ochre, an equivalent to Alabama red clay. from the Africa Journal, December 21, 1996
Eyes to the Future, Pastel, 24x18
left panel of Generation triptych
(painted from the first photo above, the direct but almost shy stare from one of the boys captivated me throughout the painting)Comment on or Share this Article →
SPOTS AND STRIPES
Ours is a lucky group. Leopard laying way out on tree branch, swishing tale, surveying all the crazy safari trucks parked around his tree. The guides say first leopard in five months. It was a beauty to watch. The leopard really was about ten feet overhead, regally posed for my photo, which became my pastel painting, Lazy Leopard.
Unbelievably close to a giraffe family. Fascinating to watch the neck maneuver, graceful and peaceful looking. Little known fact, though, that lion will not attack standing giraffe. It has a powerful horse-like kick, so lion cannot get close enough for a kill.
a cheetah, her two beautiful cubs close by;
zebra everywhere; cape buffalo; birds; crested crane; the slinky mongoose;
huge herd of impala, two males with horns locked.
It is an awesome sight and feeling to watch the animals in their natural habitat, knowing that we humans are just a temporary intrusion in their surroundings. from the African Journal, December 21, 1996.Comment on or Share this Article →
THE CARRIAGEWAY . . . from 5000 feet to 2000 feet
So Bill says, "Joshua, this your first trip out?" Joshua, our driver, paused several seconds before realizing and then appreciating the humor.
The road north from Nairobi to the Samburu area, still referred to by the British term "Carriageway," descends from 3000 feet, passing coffee and pineapple plantations. Small, round thatch roof huts of the Kikuyu villages built up the slopes of the hills, surrounded by small parcels of crops. The dirt is basically like our Alabama red clay. Small shacks, some with brick walls, mostly mud walls. Odd seeing these villages, all housing built of the same materials, but some were well kept and some looked like I don't care.
The weirdest tree we saw at the Blixen Home and thought was a graft is apparently abundant and wild growing: Euphorbia Candelabra, a giant cactus tree. On old ones the trunk is bark, but the branches, shaped like a candelabra, are a cactus. Stop for lunch at KenTrout Farm. Yeah, like our catfish restaurants, but grilled whole trout and outdoor eating by the Teleswan River. A couple of hours later we drive through Buffalo Springs Reserve and Samburu National Reserve for our first animal sightings: impala, gazelle, lions, eland, ostrich, oryx, dikdik. Meager but exciting viewing and we are all ready to rest. Samburu Serena Lodge was a welcome sight and much like the cabins in Gatlinburg and some ski towns. At 6:30 bait for leopard is hung from a tree across the river, so all of us first-nighters eagerly peer through the dark, waiting for that leopard. Bill sights it first, slinking up the tree and across the pole. It tore at the meat, all cameras snapped and we thought WOW. Disappointment: it was a smaller cat, similar to the leopard. from the Africa Journal, December 20, 1996
The weirdest tree we saw at the Blixen Home and thought was a graft is apparently abundant and wild growing: Euphorbia Candelabra, a giant cactus tree. On old ones the trunk is bark, but the branches, shaped like a candelabra, are a cactus. Stop for lunch at KenTrout Farm. Yeah, like our catfish restaurants, but grilled whole trout and outdoor eating by the Teleswan River.
A couple of hours later we drive through Buffalo Springs Reserve and Samburu National Reserve for our first animal sightings: impala, gazelle, lions, eland, ostrich, oryx, dikdik. Meager but exciting viewing and we are all ready to rest. Samburu Serena Lodge was a welcome sight and much like the cabins in Gatlinburg and some ski towns.
At 6:30 bait for leopard is hung from a tree across the river, so all of us first-nighters eagerly peer through the dark, waiting for that leopard. Bill sights it first, slinking up the tree and across the pole. It tore at the meat, all cameras snapped and we thought WOW. Disappointment: it was a smaller cat, similar to the leopard. from the Africa Journal, December 20, 1996
Next adventure: Day 4, Photo SafariComment on or Share this Article →
OUT OF AFRICA
A circuitous route, but finally, 31 hours since wake-up time, arrival at Windsor Hotel in Nairobi. Entranced by all the ethnic origins, we encountered people wearing costumes from shorts to furs to saris. The flight attendant to Nairobi had announced that, “apart from English, we speak Polish, Greek, Swahili and Hindi.”
The Windsor Country Club had the look of a slightly outdated but well kept golf club. The grounds were beautiful, not the surroundings you think of as Africa. The most unusual sight the whole day was the Kenyan women sweeping (not raking) up grass clippings from a fresh mowing.
Home of Karen Blixen, author of “Out of Africa” under the pen name Isak Dinnesen. While living in Africa, she tried to grow coffee, which is now a successful crop of Kenya but at her time a disaster because of acidic soil. What a view she had, though, and wide open spaces.
Next the Giraffe Centre, home of the previously endangered Rothschild Giraffe, where we hand fed the beauties. How does one feed a giraffe? Well, its tongue is 18 inches long, and its neck ever so longer. So you stand on a platform porch, putting you at eyeball level and lay a pellet of food on the extended tongue, trying not to let your hand get wrapped up with the food.
A bit of native shopping, then the Ostrich Farm. What ugly animals. The disappointing part of the entire trip was that every stop has its own share of shops selling tourist junk. And we usually fell for it. From the Africa Journal, December 18 – 19, 1996.
Next adventure: Day 3, Road to Samburu
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