Category Archives: works in progress

Kelly – in progress

In March I took a dye painting course with Hollis Chatelain at Asilomar in California. It was an incredible two weeks, with an abundance of hard work, wonderful people, and beautiful walks.

drive to big sur

I had dye painted before, but the instruction from Hollis was what I needed to be truly effective with it. Those two weeks were invaluable.

When I came back I began painting Kelly. I can’t thank my family enough for agreeing to survive without me for two weeks, and then supporting me in disappearing into the studio at every opportunity when I returned.

One of the most challenging parts of dye painting is estimating how much a colour will lighten or change when washed out. You can see how much the colours changed in this piece. First is a picture of it mid-painting. Then the same area after it has been washed.

giraffe being painted

giraffe painting after washing

Kelly – initial design

Have you ever had a moment stick with you so completely, that you knew you just had to do something to honour it?

giraffe and warthog, kenya

“hold on…just a little higher…”

It took more than a decade, but this is how my latest artwork began:

Many years ago a good friend of mine was working in Africa. Eventually I became frustrated with letter writing, and remarked to my husband that I wanted to fly over there, sit under a tree and really catch up together.

Wouldn’t you know it, we unexpectedly received some money. So we booked tickets to go to Kenya and Uganda, and meet up with my friend.

We arrived in Nairobi sleep deprived, jet lagged, and culture shocked. Trying to nap in our budget hotel was not working; the heat, traffic noise, and the lunchtime proselytizing in the park across the street were just too much to compete against. I suggested instead we get out somewhere, and do something to ground ourselves. So we grabbed a taxi and headed to the Giraffe Center, the closest nature area to the city.

The Giraffe Center breeds endangered Rothschild giraffes, and reintroduces them to the wild. Interestingly Woburn Safari Park in England also has a successful breeding program for Rothschild giraffes. I say interestingly because my father worked there when I was little, and I have many stories from there. Like the time he was converting a double decker bus for transporting giraffes, and cut out the upper level while he was standing on it. Which, admittedly, may well have been a better choice than cutting it out while standing underneath it.

Of course I have seen many giraffes, between Woburn, various zoos, and in the parks in Africa. At the Giraffe Center though I first had the wonderful experience of feeding them. Getting up close to the giraffes on the feeding platform was incredible. These gentle giants were the perfect ambassadors for our introduction to Kenya, and I have wanted to capture that moment in art since then.

Kelly initial sketch of giraffe

preliminary sketch for dye painting Kelly, 2012

My July newsletter contains an article about the Giraffe Center. If you would like to sign up for it you can do it here: newsletter