Migration is essential to the elephants’ survival. Their conscience is hardwired to an ancient cycle of movement. It allows them to experience changing rhythms and climate patterns. This understanding insures they are never too far from water and food. Their complex society and family trees are woven into this landscape as much as the rocks and trees. With a resource as precious as water, it takes a collective awareness by growing communities and landowners in this vast area to ensure their protection.
“This painting is dedicated to my father, Simon Combes (1940-2004). For the last years of his life, he was Project Director for Rhino Rescue Trust, a charity set up to reintroduce black rhino to Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya and to protect them with a high security fence. Simon went to his grave unexpectedly, but with the knowledge that this project in which he had enormous pride was a tremendous success.
“For years now, I have wanted to paint a black rhino in a setting in which I am most accustomed to seeing them. A charging rhino with lots of dust is a great subject for a dramatic painting, but there is something about this that implies a response to the threat. These great creatures are being culled to extinction at an alarming rate, so I wanted to portray the rhino in this beautiful grove of acacia abyssinica that I grew up thinking of as sacred, sublime and safe."
Angurouk (a more phonetic spelling of the Kalenjin “Ankurwaak”) means “The trees that grow in the sacred altar.”
Artist Guy Combes’ star in international wildlife painting and conservation continues to rise. He is actively involved in several groups including the Soysambu Conservancy (protection of Africa’s Great Rift Valley ecosystem), the Action for Cheetahs in Kenya and efforts to prevent the Tanzanian government from building a road across the northern migration routes of the Serengeti National Park. Elephants are another of Guy Combes’ beloved causes.
“Elephants,” says Guy Combes, “are to the Amboseli National Park what wildebeest are to the Mara/Serengeti, which is to say that the environment suits them perfectly. The juxtaposition of forest on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro and the plains and swamps of the Amboseli lake basin are an Eden for the elephant who rotate on a daily basis, moving en masse to the most abundant food supply. On the way back to camp one day I found myself directly in the way of a gathering of several herds, numbering around 300 in total, that were making their way down from the mountain to the swamp to cool off in the midday heat. They were so absorbed in reaching the water that they were oblivious to my presence and simply walked around my parked vehicle where I had resigned to sit and wait. There was simply nowhere to go to get out of their way and even if I had tried I feared I might provoke one of the large males. I was inspired to paint one of these bulls walking towards me through the dust, his head nodding and swaying with great and elegant movement, followed by several females and young. This now ranks at the top of my many experiences that have left me in complete awe of the scale and majesty of nature and I will revisit this scene many times again in my mind and most probably on canvas.”
Climate change, poaching and relentless human development are threatening the future of these great Amboseli elephant herds and there are many conservation warriors fighting to save them, including The Amboseli Trust for Elephants.” www.elephanttrust.org
Safari Tip #8 – Sighting a Leopard: “My mantra on safari for sighting leopards is one taught to me by my father,” relates Guy Combes. “Don't look for a large cat with spots because that's not what you will see. At any distance over 100 feet the spots begin to lose their definition and magically blend into whatever background the cat resides. If you are in bright-green Aberdare cloud forest or dry warm savannah, it makes no difference.
“What you must look for is a large brown almost invisible cat. The only thing that will give him away (and he'd get rid of it if it wasn't for its usefulness as a counterbalance when climbing trees) is the bright white tip at the end of his tail, which he twitches and waves around like he's trying to shake the damn thing off.”
Another rare sighting is to watch a painting come together from beginning to end in under two minutes. Guy Combes has provided that for "Breaking Cover," which you can view by clicking below. If you’ve come this far, don’t miss it.
It is exciting to watch an artist create and while our process may be far more technical, it’s magical in its own way as well. In the end, the only way you could possess a finer version of the Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Canvas "Breaking Cover" would be to own the original itself. But don’t wait too long because with an edition of only 30, spots won’t be the only thing making this leopard hard to find!