Category: Watercolour

The Manu Biosphere Reserve

Posted by July 1, 2010

Well we are home and very happy, eating roast beef and drinking PG Tips.  Our month volunteering in the Peruvian Amazon was brilliant – pretty difficult to draw any animals though as they’re either impossible to see or moving very fast.  But anyway here we go, my last travel sketch entry…

The lodge we volunteered at is called the Manu Learning Centre, owned by the CREES organisation.  It was a beautifully designed place, all dark polished wood and thatched rooves.  The buildings had open sides so you were breathing open air 24/7.  There was no electricity except occasionally for the kitchen/internet, so at night it was pitch black except for candles, stars, headlamps and fireflies.  There was wildlife everywhere in the garden; much easier to see than in the rainforest actually.

The purple flowers below are loved by hummingbirds, whilst the so-called walking palm on the right was one of my favourite trees.  As my notes say, when young they can move up to 2m by putting roots down on one side, thereby bringing them closer to the light.  I thought they were straight out of a Lord Of The Rings/Labyrinth-type movie.

The MLC lodge was just above a river, the Madre de Dios.  When down there you really felt like you were in the rainforest – misty hills of deep green jungle rising up whichever way you look.  It’s vast, despite the deforestation which you see taking place in many areas.

In our last week we went on a 4 day expedition into the nearby area.  First night was spent at another volunteering lodge where they had in-house monkeys and a macaw.  Below is Chico, a 9-month-old Red Howler monkey who, despite being a wild animal that had only been there a week, desperately wanted human affection.  He was there because he got injured falling out of a tree; I don’t think natural selection would have had a lot of patience with that, but they took him in so we’ll see what happens.

On the 2nd day of our expedition, we went to stay with a native community.  Most of the people in this area of jungle were actually Andeans who had moved there (Cusco/the Andes are 8 hours’ drive away) seeking a better life, but there are also native jungle communities scattered around.  It was fascinating.  These are some of the natives demonstrating their crafts to us – basket-weaving, jewellery-making and carving spears (which has to be done topless apparently).  They still used spears/bows and arrows to hunt in the forest.  Randomly they also had two very indignant turkeys wandering around, permanently tense and occasionally gobbling in horror over some unseen issue.

The people on the right were in Cusco airport, waiting for our flight to Lima at the end of our trip.

And then it was all over.  As usual everyone on our flight to Madrid was asleep except for me.  I feel kind of mischievous drawing sleeping people, but they make such obedient models you can’t not really.

So goodbye South America.  Peru was wonderful; actually I might post some photos of the crafts I bought, they’re all so beautiful.  Thanks for checking my blog if you’ve been following it; it’s back to sketches of everyday British life now I’m afraid.  But there’s no extra value in the exotic really; it’s all just life trying to get by whichever land you’re in and species you are.  I will miss the variety of life in the rainforest though, and going to sleep to the sound of thousands of creatures buzzing in the night.  Quite pleased to see the back of the microscopic ticks though.

Ciao x

Islas Galápagos

Posted by May 7, 2010

After Lima, we flew to the coast of Ecuador, and then 1000km westwards over the sea to the Galápagos Islands.

Our 8 days in the Galápagos were some of the best of my life – I’ve always wanted to go there.  We stayed on a gleaming white catamaran with 10 other passengers, 7 crew and 1 naturalist guide.  Each day was spent visiting 2 island sites, with snorkelling in between.  The Galápagos Islands are relatively young; they were (and continue to be) created by volcanic eruptions, with the oldest thought to have been formed upwards of 5 million years ago.  As I mentioned earlier, they lie approx. 1000km off the coast of Ecuador and all the land animals there are descended from ancestors who were either washed ashore on flotsam from the mainland, or found their way through the air.  They slowly evolved to make the best of their new environment, becoming the creatures we see today.  Consequently a great number of the species you see are endemic (ie only found there) to the islands, and often to one island specifically.  Humans have lived on the Galápagos for about 200 years to some degree or another, but the animals have mostly been unbothered by them and continue to behave as such.  You can get incredibly close; sometimes you actually have to be careful not to step on them.

An excellent example of the adaptations these washed-ashore creatures had to make are the Galápagos Marine Iguanas.  The ones below were on Isla Isabela.  Read the writing by the drawings to find out about them, they’re amazing and only found on the Galápagos.  You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Eimear and Michael, a couple on our boat, who are Irish and moving to Australia.  The sea lion sketches are taken from an hour or so we spent wandering among a colony on Isla Española.  Occasionally they would bark/grunt/cough, gave me a jump every time.  Later in the week a sea lion swam up to me as I stood in the surf, looking up at me with its huge dark eyes before sniffing my legs, then (gently) biting my foot.  Am in love.

Birds on Isla Española.  Española is the oldest island of the Galápagos and has an incredible abundance of wildlife.  Here are pelicans (these two came to rest on each prow of our boat), Nazca Boobys and the beautiful Waved Albatross, which only nests on Española.  I’ve always been very curious about albatrosses so I was excited about seeing one for the first time.  The wing span of these birds is over 2m, allowing them to glide for hours.  They have an ability to monitor air pressure and therefore can sleep as they fly, alerted by their brains if they drop below their ‘cruising’ altitude.

More albatrosses, our captain and some Galápagos Giant Tortoises.  It was strange to see all the baby ones and know they’ll outlive you.

Our last day, when we visited the Islas Plazas and North Seymour Island.  At last I managed to get some Blue-footed Boobies (is it Boobies or Boobys?) down.  They’re brilliant, they just stand there, occasionally stepping left to right, looking at you about as inquisitively as you look at them.  I also loved the Swallow-Tailed Gulls, with their strange, red-rimmed, marble-like eyes.  They’re only found in the Galápagos and are the world’s only fully nocturnal gulls.  Very beautiful.

And then it was time to leave.  What an amazing place and what a privilege to have been there.  It was like seeing what the world might have been like if humans hadn’t got involved: everything in balance, nature in its pristine state.  And I haven’t even got onto the snorkelling.

Ps – for a comprehensive, beautifully-shot photographic summary of our week, have a look at the blog of two of our fellow passengers, Erin and Matt.  There’s some great videos on there too.

So long Salta

Posted by April 15, 2010

My final picture of Salta – this was the view from our hotel room.  I thought it captured Salta’s charm perfectly – the lovely architecture (you can only see its roof here but the building below was a grand colonial building in the midst of restoration) with all the subtropical greenery surrounding it.  If I had to live in Argentina, this is where I’d go.

Café culture V jungle law

Posted by April 1, 2010

On the left are sketches from a café in Neuquen; the right is of a print I really liked in a café in San Telmo (BA).  It described itself as a café for artists and literary types and this was a poster advertising a poets’ reading in 1983.  It was the perfect café: beaten-up wooden tables, a wood-beamed bar running along the edge and posters all over the walls.  Slightly at odds with all this were the fairly moody waiters, but then again it was a Monday.

Then on to the Iguazu Falls, vast stretch of waterfalls that descend through subtropical jungle at the Argentine border with Brazil.  Rich pointed out that you often find great waterfalls on the borders between countries.  Getting the sketchbook out there was fraught with danger due to water getting everywhere, so in the end my sketches came from the mostly good, occasionally hellish hostel we stayed in.   I love INXS but please, not again.

Some photos from the falls themselves.  This is the Devil’s Throat, a great cavity where water thunders down on all sides (that´s Brazil on the other side).  Standing above it and getting whammed by 82 metres´worth of upwards spray is really quite incredible.

There are butterflies everywhere and occasionally you’d come across a swarm of them feeding on an apparently unremarkable piece of mud.  Actually they’re behaving like flies but you still gaze on adoringly.

The air was steaming with vapour from nearby waterfalls in this part of the jungle; it made the lilies you can just about see tremor and fill the air with scent.  Lovely.

El Chalten (again)

Posted by March 14, 2010

Some more of the mountains around El Chalten – I was so attached to them, I kept drawing them.  This painting I did on a hike; the spike is Cerro Torre, renowned for the near impossibility of climbing it and the controversy over who first achieved this.  The very top is covered in a cap of ice, which is not only extremely difficult to get a hold in but pieces of it might at any moment drop onto your head.  Also the mountain is nearly sheer.  I thought it was much more exciting than Fitz Roy.

Secondly here are the mountains to the left of Torre and Fitz Roy.  I was sat in a much comfier cafe for this one.


Posted by March 1, 2010

Well it’s taken me ages but have finally uploaded some sketches from my travels on here.  I didn’t really have my drawing mojo on for weeks, but we’ve stopped in a Patagonian town called El Chalten for a while and with a bit of a relax, it’s come back.   Obviously I’m not travelling with a scanner, so what follows are rather poor attempts to photograph the pics with my boyfriend holding the sketchbook in direct sunlight.  Nor do I have Photoshop out here, so can only adjust the brightness a bit with the fairly basic editing page on Picasa! 

In chronological order… the balcony of our first hostel in Buenos Aires.  This was the first time I’d used my new Artist’s Grade watercolours so it was all a bit haphazard.

The beach at Puerto Madryn on the east coast.  Was being blown by a very strong wind and a lot of sand.

Random bits and bobs, including one of the long-distance buses everyone uses to get around here, and various people as they came and went on the Puerto Madryn prom.

My boy Rich with a rather long face, and the Andean mountain range overlooking El Chalten..

Striated mountains seen from the Los Condores viewpoint in El Chalten, if you look in the opposite direction to Monte Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre.  I loved these mountains.

Experiments with my new dip pen.

A tree characteristic of the lower levels of the Andes around here.  They seem half dead, though still lovely.  When hiking you come across whole fields of their blanched spidery skeletons.. I must find out why.

enigma + rabbit

Posted by August 21, 2009

A sketch of the most random thing I’ve seen in a long time.  I left our building – which is in the heart of Manchester – at about 9am on Wednesday morning, just as this guy skateboarded past.  He was completely nonchalant, like he was just getting from A to B.  I can’t remember if he was wearing shoes or not.. to clarify, the rabbit was real, looking very content in his arms, and that’s a pink clip in his hair.  People who are different or eccentric, who mess with the boundaries without caring what others think, are life-affirming to me.  It was a great city moment.



Posted by August 19, 2009

Watercolour squares

Posted by June 21, 2009

A little study on colour combinations with watercolours.



Posted by June 8, 2009