I was asked by Lapalala Wilderness School to create a map for display at the school. Their old one was created back in the year of the Rinderpest (or thereabouts) and was looking decidedly weather-worn.
I would have a week in residence at the reserve to complete the painting, as it was easier (and nicer) than schlepping a 1220 x 1220mm board all over the countryside.
The new map concept I developed included a border of “field notes” – as if they were casually scattered around it on a desk. The notes would contain sketches of some of the significant species found in that paradisiacal place in the Waterberg. Bringing the species list down to manageable proportions was a Herculean task, thankfully not mine, but I was soon in possession of a list of 40 species, out of which I could use only around 25. Compromises were found – all the grasses grouped together on one page, only one spider (the hairiest), one insect and one amphibian made the cut. How do you weigh the relative merits of one species over another? We ended up with quite a few birds and mammals with a few reptiles and trees dotted in between. The map was going to be intense colour, with a pull-out enlargement of the actual Wilderness School , including places in and around the school which play a significant part in their programme. The field notes were initially going to be monochrome sketches – but I ended up adding light colour washes (like watercolours) especially to the birds, as you can’t really identify birds without an idea of their predominant colour features.
I hit the books, found suitable source material for my species. I hit the maps as well. A local survey map and Google Earth providing invaluable information about the geography of the area (not very flat). Although this is a graphic map and would be by cartographical standards classified as “not to scale” I still wanted it to be reasonably accurate. Google Earth also gave me some idea of the colour of the area, so I was able to create a stippled colour effect on the land – making the gorges around the rivers dark green to indicate low elevation and lush vegetation, while the higher ground was stippled in a lighter green. As there are large expanses of bush without significant features, this seemed the more exciting way or representing the trees and grass, than either flat green or random texture that had no meaning other than to alleviate the greenness.
This series of photos will give you some idea of the progress.
The final part of the journey next….