In preparing for next month's Waterfowl Festival here on Maryland's eastern shore, I have decided that it was about time that I spent some board time developing some works based upon African subject matter as this is something that I really have not done for quite some time. As a matter of fact, I would say that it has been well over a year or longer since I have completed three or four African subject works in a row.
With my current long term commitment to works with bridges as subject matter for next summer's solo with the Woodson Museum (which dates have now been set, by the way - June 28th through August 24th) and other more domestic subjects taking priority on the board lately for gallery commitments as well, and the fact that it has been just over 6 years since my last visit to Africa, I felt it was time to dig through my reference material and get crackin' on some much loved subject matter from that wonderful continent.
Having traveled to Africa on seven different occasions since my very first trip in 1972 (that long ago!), I have certainly amassed a huge body of reference material in slide form as well as print and sketch book notations, field studies and the like. Since all my travels took place before my venture into digital photography, all of this reference has languished to some extent over the last decade as I concentrate on more 'current' inspiration as well as the massive amount of digital shots accumulated over the last 7 years.
But, since investing in a pretty good slide scanner/printer recently, I have begun to dig into pages and pages of slide sheets from the trips of the 70s, 80s and 90s. There is a tremendous amount of very fine material there to work with. The 'problem', if that is what it can be called, with all of this is simply that even with all this marvelous, good reference material to work with, time has taken its toll. Over and above some deterioration of slides, the mere fact that years and years have intervened between those trips (other than one in 2001, the last being in 1999, almost ten years ago now) and now, the immediacy of the places, the intensity of the inspiration of the moment and the desire to want to capture all the distinct memories of the sights and sounds of Africa, have faded.
I am certain that other artists will attest to the fact that once time and distance have moved in to separate oneself from 'the moment', it is often quite hard to rekindle that spark that motivated a sketch or photo or internalized memory. I have become so 'plugged into' cows and sheep and the things that surround me here in Maryland now, that moving back to times in the Serengeti takes more effort than bringing to mind the goats that just recently inspired me to complete several small works for next month.
But, having spent quite a few hours in the last two weeks, pulling out photos and slides of elephants, lions, antelopes of all descriptions, the depths of Ngorongoro Crater (probably my most favored spot on the continent of Africa), the thorn trees of the Serengeti, almost forgotten images of a place that once was the major inspiration for 90% of my yearly work, I can honestly say that my heart jumps at tackling a number of upcoming works based on all these long dormant memories.
And so, it is with great joy that I begin, today, the first of what I hope will be a half dozen pieces with the flavor of Africa flooding through all my senses.