The whoop of the spotted hyena is one of the most recognizable calls of the African bush. My favorite memories of sitting around the campfire at night include many occasions spent listening to distant hyenas, then being startled by a response from very close by. I have also been only feet away, eating dinner by the fire, when a huge clan of spotted hyenas ran down a track through the middle of Savute campsite at night. And on one occasion realized to my consternation that a particularly brazen hyena was sitting in the shadows behind my camp chair, waiting for us to go to bed so he could see if we had left any edible scraps in our campsite.
Several of my recent African field sketches include spotted hyenas, but these were sketched during the day, so I wanted to try painting a nocturne (night scene) of a spotted hyena foraging. My first thought was how I would cope without all the vibrant colors I usually use? Well, it turned out to be easy, because I mixed all the greys and browns in the painting from combinations of 3 lovely colors – Naples yellow, Anthraquinone blue and Quinacridone burnt orange. Its amazing what you can do with only 3 colors, used in different proportions, and many of my studio paintings make use of such a limited palette.
The hyena in this painting is using its amazing sense of smell to test the air and locate food. You can see her strong neck which is necessary to anchor the huge muscles which give the hyena such a powerful bite. Their fictional reputation may be as cowardly scavengers but this is not at all accurate. Spotted hyenas are successful predators in their own right, are essential to the health of their environment, are a fascinating species, and are one of my favorites to watch and sketch.
Spotted Hyena – Night Scent is an original framed acrylic on canvas, 20×16″, priced at US$1800. Please whoop if you’d like further details!
You can see this painting, and others, on my website – www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com.