April 2020 Crocodiles may seem like a strange focus, perhaps especially for spring when we have so many sweet subjects in front of us - ducklings, chicks, bunnies! But bear with me and you might find yourself a crocodile admirer too!
The picture's rather small - for which I apologize - but hopefully you can make out the three gharials obediently lined up in front of their own individually colored cones. The Bronx Zoo, where this picture was taken, is one of many zoos participating in a program to protect and restore the population of this endangered species. These programs originated in India and Nepal but have spread to zoos all over the world.
The keepers have carefully trained these young animals to behave properly at mealtime - no feeding frenzies allowed! The training also makes the animals easier to handle when necessary, which is important not only for the keepers' safety but for the animals' safety as well. Click on the image to view a video from the Bronx Zoo.
You can see another video from the Cleveland Metropolitan Zoo here.
Gharials are native to the Indian subcontinent where, sadly, today they occupy only 2% of their original range. By the 1970s, the word-wide population was estimated at around 200. Gharials are fish-eaters and , with their long narrow snouts, are expert hunters. They are the longest crocodilians with the females reaching 8'6" to 14'9" and the males reaching 9'10' to 19'10'. Wow!
I became acquainted with these animals as well as the preservation programs on a wonderful television program, "The Zoo," on Animal Planet. I swore off zoos nearly three decades ago when I saw an exhibit of pitiful coyotes at the LA Zoo. The were pacing endlessly in a ridiculously small enclosre. Apparently a lot has improved since that time and I'm so happy to see it!
I've been watching Bob Brier's courses on Ancient Egypt from The Great Courses (The Learning Company), an activity which is feeding my fascination with the Nile crocodile. That fascination began when I saw an episode of Jeremy Wade's "River Monsters" which included underwater footage of a swimming crocodile. It was the most strong yet graceful motion I've seen since Bobby Orr on skates wearing number 4 for the Boston Bruins. Just amazing! How can any creature move like that?
Anyway, with those two influences, I decided to take a break from my book illustrations and do a painting of a crocodile. I wanted to show her travelling down the Nile bringing offerings for Sobek, the ancient Egyptian god of crocodiles, the Nile, and fertility. The plants in the painting are those found along the Nile, as is the bird. Please note, though, the bird is not part of the offering - he's a fellow worshipper!
Creating this painting - which was supposed to be a fun break - turned out to be a frustrating process. I worked on it for 5 days and from the beginning I hated (yes, I know, too strong an emotion for a painting) it. Every morning I'd walk into the studio to look at it, hoping it wasn't as bad as I thought. But it always was! So many times, I was tempted to give up.
But I kept going, and about 1/2 hour from finishing it, I finally felt it was working, and now I actually like it. I wanted to include hieroglyphs saying "we bring offerings to Sobek," but I didn't know where to put them. I may still add them at some point. Hope you enjoy this! By the way, it's 16" x 12", acrylic (largely transparent) on gesso'd board.
Inspiration from Tracy Verdugo
The very beginning of this piece was experimenting with a technique I learned from one of Tracy Verdugo's on line classes. Tracy is a wonderful, inspiring artist from Australia who works in acrylic and mixed media. The technique I was experimenting with was, working on a piece of mixed media paper, to dampen the shape of an animal with clear water then drop acrylic ink into the shape. My initial experimenting was doing three crocodiles, one above the other, just for practice. Later I decided to do something more with them, so ripped them out of their paper and used two of them in this collage/mixed media painting.
I used the same technique for the birds, but the sky is just acrylic washes. I painted the reeds with acrylic. The bottom part with the crocodiles has little bits of blue foil - the same thing I used for the stars. For reasons I can't quite explain, I really like this piece. By the way, the birds and reeds are inspired by motifs in ancient Egyptian tomb paintings.
Here's where that third practice crocodile landed. He's starring in another collage and painted piece. I used drops of rubbing alcohol into wet acrylic wash to create the bubble like shapes towards the top. The background is parts of a map of Egypt. The 'reeds' are torn from pieces of paper napkins, and the little insects are painted. Thank you, Tracy, for starting me in this direction.
April Coupon - Sales Proceeds go to Animal Rescue Organizations
I'm offering you, my precious subscribers, 20% discount in my Etsy shop. And, this month, I'm donating all proceeds to animal rescue organizations. Any sales from the Bear section will go to Idaho Black Bear Rehab. Proceeds from all other sales will go to Sierra Wildlife Rescue. Everything in the shop is hand made by me. From April 1 to April 15, just use discount code FORWILDLIFE20 at checkout. I ship the day after I receive your order, and shipping is free. Click on the image above to go to my shop!
This Month's Free Downloadable Art
I'm so sorry to say there's no downloadable art this month. I've been unable to access the website I use for storing and distributing the image files. I'll keep trying to figure out what's wrong, and hopefully will have this feature back for you next month.
The Corvid Issue!
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