Dienstag, 26. August 2014

Bodo Förster's Elephant Special Tours

the situation of the asian elephant (elephas maximus) is a most precarious one:
on the most peopled continent with shrinking forest stands the population of elephants which are living in the wild is dramatically decreasing; the situation of the domesticated asian elephant doesn't look better.
Since the (fortunate) prohibition of wood harvest in Thailand many Working elephants became unemployed.
Tourism seems to be a solution for them, yet the situation in many elephant camps is desastrous and should clearly be avoided.

I have been researching a lot on the issue before I decided last year to make a dream come true: to meet the biggest living terrestrial mammals close in their natural habitat and to learn more about the mahout-culture of the Karen, an ethnic people of sino-tibetan origin which resides in Burma and the north of Thailand.

a close contact with living elephants...much more than only skin deep 

Bodo Förster's Elephant Special tours and the associated Tong-Bai foundation do make a difference.

Different than in other camps the elephants of E.S.T. only work every second day, the camp is lying within deep forests where the elephants rest at night and during their days off. On the "working day" the guests of the camp are going in for a ride through the forests, accompanied by the Mahouts who stay with their elephants throughout the whole year.
The Tong Bai foundation is supporting E.S.T.'s efforts to breed the asian elephant and to provide a near to nature management for the elephants by helping to bridge financial and logistical challenges for the elephant-owners (most of them are Karen).
Thus two difficult lifespans of the elephant can be bridged that otherwise make it difficult for their owners: firstly the long pregnancy and childhood of elephants and secondly sickness and old age.


The mountaneous region at the foot of Thailands highest mountain Doi Inthanon is pervaded by deep valleys with dense forests. Here do the Karen live, a so called "hill tribe" which has been an elephant people for centuries. Close to the Karen village Mae Sapok lie the two camps of E.S.T. and the area of the Tong-Bai foundation.

Mae Geo II and Roger Förster, Mae Geo was one of the first elephants Roger's father Bodo acquired. The elderly lady has seen terrible times, suffering from a bullet lodged in her front leg and being mistreated with glowing metal poles by her former owner she can now recover leading a life with extensive work and a secure place for her old age. 

I was deeply moved by Bodo Förster's commitment and the brave move to combine a sort of eco-tourism with the aim to at least slow down the extinction process of the asian elephant that I decided to deepen my researches on elephants by going directly there and to stay with and sketch those amazing creatures and their Mahouts.

the "gentle giant" Pu Sii, the tallest elephant of the camp with a head height of 3,20 m. His tusks have been cut off close to their bases and sold, wether it was the former owner or thieves is not known. He thus suffers from a constant inflammation within his mouth and is otherwise a most stable and calm character.

Mae Geo I, the matriarch of E.S.T.'s camp I and mother of Salia (8) and Jack (1 1/2)

Mae Geo I and Mae Dou

Salia, eight years old

the cheeky elephant calf Jack, drawn by my 5 year old son Benny
Silar, chief of the Mahouts
Drawing the Mahouts of Mae Sapok
Leo, Mahout of Mae Dou, the elephant lady that I was riding

Tilli Reuters of Elephant Special Tours
Roger Förster of Elephant Special Tours      
In the Geo-documentation broadcasted by ARTE "Thailands Elefanten - raus aus der Stadt", a young unemployed Mahout is trying to find a new future for him and his elephant. The camp of Bodo Förster is portrayed in the Docu to show the possibilities a well thought through biased tourism can offer for the future of elephants in Thailand.

A thousand thanks to the Team of Elepahnt Special Tours, especially Dietmar Schramm, Roger Förster, Tilli Reuters and the mahouts of Mae Sapok Silar, Pakut, Doh, Chub, Leo, Filippin and Galamen!

If you consider to support the work of Tong-Bai and E.S.T.   follow the highlighted links to learn more about possibilities to support their projects.

Sonntag, 17. August 2014

Portal of Wat Pan Tao

yesterday's drawing:
on our way to the night market in Chiang Mai we stopped at the temple we had visited yesterday.
Since hence the kids wanted a little break we decided to rest and I thought I use the time to sketch the portal, which is absolutely amazing, while the others sat on the stairs.
I'm so thankful for my patient family...the "small sketch" ended to become an one hour study...
Lifei, I owe you something...

Samstag, 16. August 2014

Wat Pan Tao

Originally founded by the Mon people Chiang Mai is one of the eldest cities in Thailand.
King Mengrai of the Thai-people conquered the kingdom Haripunchai of the Mon in 1281 and expanded Chiang Mai to become his kingly residence.
There are a lot of sites in the town that date back to it's rich and prosperous past, mainly influenced by buddhism.
Chiang Mai has an incredible amount of temples, there are over 200 buddhist temples in and around the city.

I fell in love with one which is a bit smaller and appears rather nondescript in comparison with the grand buildings around it:
Wat Pan Tao, directly sited at Chiang Mai's main road used to be the dormitary of the monks in medieval times and was turned into a temple about 300 years ago.
It is completely made out of wood with the most intricate carvings. the wood had been restored completely in 1797.

Yesterday we passed it when were walking through town and Benny, our youngest son (5) took a nap so we decided to rest in the park behind the temple.

Me and my son Kai (8) started to draw the temple. That's what we came up with:

When Benny woke up he also joined us drawing. Here's his drawing:

The atmosphere was amazing. People were stopping to watch, but very respectfully, smiling at us in an encouraging way.
Even one of the monks brought a camera and took a photo of the three of us.

Tuk Tuk

Tuk Tuk is the name of the auto rickshaw in Thailand.
We already drove around with them and it's a sheer fun ride.

This morning I sat down to sketch a Tuk Tuk that I had spotted already yesterday and which seemed a good object to draw.
While I was in the process of sketching the driver of a second Tuk Tuk came and my object was bound to be taken away to the garage.
Luckily the second driver had parked it's vehicle next to the first one and I could get some details from the second one while the first had been turned around and tossed away by the first driver and a friend of him.
The second driver then got interested in my drawing and peeked over my shoulder while asking something in thailandish.
I tried to start a conversation in english realising that he was bound to drive away with the second Tuk Tuk while the first one had been gone already.
When he learned that I am from Germany he began talking about football. At least we found a way of comunication.
"World Cup!"
he said, our thumbs got up.
"Müller, Schweinsteiger, Götze" thumbs up.
"Germany won!" "Yes," I replied "after twentyfour years, you know." trying to relativise it.
The driver laughs. "After twentyfour years? Really?"
He points at my drawing, gives me another thumb up and drives off...
I finished some linework at our guesthouse.

Donnerstag, 14. August 2014

Wat Doi Suthep

The rainy season lived up to its name today when we took a trip to the Wat Doi Suthep, a buddhist temple built in 1383, 20 km west of Chiang Mai on the mountain Doi Suthep.
The kids and my parents in law willingly joined to climb the 309 steps to the temple's gates although it was pouring.
Inside the temple we walked around barefooted and I tried to find a "dry spot" to sit down for a watercolour sketch.
Even when I eventually found one it was pretty hard to work with watercolours: not even the rain but also the air moisture totally changed the paper's quality and it already felt as if it was soaked (I guess it was...)
Heavy hearted I decided to finish the drawing in the evening after a reference photo I took on spot.
So: no real urban sketching there ;-)

This just a small adjoining building, the whole building with the completely copper plated chedi in the inner temple are of incredible beauty.

Mittwoch, 13. August 2014

Boutique House Nipha

We arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand and stay at a lovely Guest house.
Here's the first quick color sketch I did this evening:
The view on  the backyard of the hotel, overgrown by tendrils and leaves and lit by lanterns from below, which I found fascinating. Still: in the face of so many details I totally panicked, searching for visual shortcuts wherever I could find them...
I'm just happy that on his new Video even James Gurney assures that in the face of a detailed subject this is the common emotion one can expect...;-)

Samstag, 9. August 2014

Poul's attic finds

My friend Poul finds a lot of weird critters while he's runmaging in his attic...

Today I show you how he finds them.
He even looks for them at the breakfast table.

And he does need quite some magnifying glasses...they are tiny.

He works on a very tough and smooth watercolour paper with tiny brushes.
The sepia-tone of the backgrounds is made with a pretty strong instant coffee and then he works with watercolour and gouache on top of that.
He found an antique photo album at the flea market where he collects his finds in.
I was indeed blown away by the details and accuracy he manages to maintain in this scale.
Here you can see the album and a new attic find next to the photo-album in comparison with a 1 € coin:

 This is how the album looks inside:

Everyday he finds new stuff in his attic and the pages fill rapidly...can't wait to see the finished book!

Thanks so much, Poul and Teresia for the wonderful days and your friendship!!

Freitag, 8. August 2014

Poul in Berlin

My friend Helmut Poul Dohle and his lovely wife Teresia are visiting us in Berlin.

Yesterday we made an expedition exploring Adolph Menzel's work.

 We went to the study-room at the museum for prints and drawings, the Kupferstichkabinett at the Kulturforum at Potsdamer Platz and examined Menzel's prestudies for his painting the Iron rolling mill. Here are some of his drawings of workers that you can find on the website zeno.org

For those studies Menzel mainly used a broad carpenter's pencil which then became his favourite drawing tool. You can see the nearly caligraphic qualities of the rectangular, broad tip on those studies. I will deepen some thoughts on Menzel's drawing equipment in a future post.

Here me and Poul are examining the folder which contains the studies of the mechanical items and devices seen in the final painting. Menzel even noted the size of them in Zoll (the german word for inch). In the painting Menzel arranged them according to the observations of Max Liebermann in a pretty free way. He didn't do a complete preliminary drawing which he then transferred to the canvas but sketched the positions and proportions roughly in and then began to develop figures and surrounding by thoroughly sticking to his pencil studies done on site.

We also had a look at the amazing Menzel folder no. 155, which contains his breathtaking portraits in watercolour and Gouache from the 1850s.
The Kupferstichkabinett holds about 6000 single drawings and 77 sketchbooks by Adolph Menzel. It offers the free service for the public to examine originals in their study room.
Concerning the amount of drawings it is still quite challenging for the very supportive staff to search for folders or single drawings per description.

 Here is an offer I make for art enthusiasts: if you are planning on an art trip to Berlin and want to research Menzel's drawings in the  Kupferstichkabinett and you know approximately what drawings you are looking for, feel free to contact me at christian.schlierkamp@googlemail.com .
I know a couple of folders and numbers of drawings and may be able to help you.

We then went on to visit the alte Nationalgalerie, which contains a most exquisite collection of 19th century realism and romanticism.
There we examined Menzel's paintings. here's the somewhat not really sharp photo of evidence:

Luckily the museum is on the Google-Art project, where you can come even closer to the paintings than in the museum itself (and at least without releasing the alarm...).

 The collection contains among others works by Böcklin, Fritz von Uhde, Max Liebermann, Carl Spitzweg, as well as of the Berlin artist families Begas and Meyerheim.

Here is the breathtaking sculpture "Pan comforting Psyche by Reinhold Begas:

 Tomorrow we'll be having a closer look at what Poul sometimes is finding in his attic...