A Close Look: A painting trip in Etosha, National Park, Namibia

Francisco Hernández - AFC
February 15, 2016 share
Artists for Conservation


AFC Signature artist Francisco Hernandez shares a poetic description of his first experience travelling to Africa as an artist to observe the rich multitude of wildlife.

My first contact with Etosha was at the Okaukuejo waterhole, shortly after sunset and I can describe my first feelings with one only word. Brutal.

When you are approaching the waterhole on foot, hearing the sounds that you can only identify with the soundtrack of African wildlife films, the feeling is stillness and calm, only broken by sounds that arise from nature itself; splashes in the water, screams, grunts, squawks, flapping, insects. A collage of sounds that generate a unique soundscape.

But when you get to the shore, see and take conscience of what happens there, only in these moments does your mind become landed there, impacting against the ground as if by accident.

At the beginning, I can only look. I must make an effort to believe that it is real. There are some people looking next to me, but we are the ones who are surrounded by a fence. We are the foreigners. This is not a circus, and in any case, we are on the track and they, the other animals, are the disinterested viewers.


In these circumstances, for three days I draw nonstop; springboks, elephants, oryx, kudus, giraffes, and more.

Often, the number of animals of the same species, springboks for example, drinking at the same time is enough so that, when you are drawing, if the animal moves or turns around and goes, there is no problem, because there are ten others exactly in the same position, so you can continue with your drawing. And if it is not, you must just wait. Another animal will take exactly the same position in a few minutes.


The animals come to drink and often remain in the vicinity of the pond long enough to complete full sketches.
Next to the water, there is a big tree under whose shade, hundreds of springboks spend hours resting and ruminating. In the same tree, I had observed a steppe eagle, a black chested snake eagle, and a pied crow.


In my trips beyond the pond, I came into contact with the true essence of African nature. Large spaces and solitary animals or small groups, plunged into their routine, exposed to the harshness of reality. Ephemeral life which is within reach of the brutal waves of a more wild nature. The face and the cross of life in freedom. Infinite landscapes where, at the end of the dry season, survive one more day, it seems the outcome of a game more than the own decision to stay alive. I move, knowing that I didn´t know almost anything about this place and even the last dry leaf that hangs from the dying shrubs, is the subject of my respect and devotion. If I could understand what the birds are saying to each other. If I could understand the language immersed in all this around me that makes me feel overwhelmed.

Learn more about Francisco, his art and passion for wildlife.

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