Gone missing?…my studio is to blame

TCapp_NamPortfolio_painting2_web ready_Apr2016-6

“Hot white road – Etosha – riding shotgun” Acrylic on cradled panel. 8″x 8″

And work on taxes is also to blame and so is taking care of my family…you all know what I’m talking about. I just didn’t get to my desk to move photos around and write.

Last week, camera in hand, time to snap some working shots in my studio…a progress report of sorts. These are not perfect photos…just pieces on my easel and drawing table, to give you an idea of what’s going on…some of my process. Many are finished paintings and a couple are in progress. My Namibian Portfolio project is nearing completion! I will keep you posted…soon.

Through the haze and muck and glory of each “everyday” ~ somehow I keep moving forward. Hours spent at the computer – developing – cropping – forming compositions from my photographs of Namibia. Next stop…my drawing table…moving from my chair to standing…back and forth, I open my journal and pull elements from my travel sketches. Laying on my table are some soft pencils (#4B and #6B), for dark lines and shapes…some hard pencils (H and HB) for lighter lines and shapes, I draw…compose, delete and add.

Erase…brush the filings on the floor, lay down a better line or shape. Trying to make the strongest composition for my next painting.

Value studies in pencil

Value studies in pencil



"Brush fires and monkey fruit" Acrylic on cradled panel. 8"x 10"

“Brush fires and monkey fruit” Acrylic on cradled panel. 8″x 10″


Decisions ~ which drawing on which size panel?…which image on a gray-primed panel…or would it work better over a red-orange under painting? I begin laying down thin base layers of paint. Thin, so that I can see some of the color underneath…thinking about the vibrations of warm and cool colors…lighter – darker, brighter – grayer…

"Great Valley of Sossusvlei"-morning light. (In progress.)Acrylic on cradled panel. 12"x 16"

“Great Valley of Sossusvlei”-morning light. (In progress.) Acrylic on cradled panel. 12″x 16″


Value and composition studies - pencil

Value and composition studies – pencil



Value and composition studies - pencil

Value and composition studies – pencil


Thinking ahead ~ to try to reach the high-keyed light of Etosha National Park...an almost constant shimmering effect. Thinking about how to create the hazy, other-worldly light and color at the great dunes of Sossusvlei. As I put the paint on, my “thinking” changes ~ it becomes part response ~ reaction ~ to that last bit of color or brushstroke. How do those colors “feel” together? A warm tone next to a cool one, creates a “pop.” More contrast is introduced this way…as well or better than, merely adding light (white) or dark.

Thinking about my next move – it blurs with response…emotion…then pure action. “Okay, not quite what I was expecting, but I’ll go with it.” And so, even with sketches, studies and plans; all of which build the important foundation for a strong piece, each painting takes on a life of its own. Not to make more of it than it is…(though some days it feels like climbing mountains) ~ it is a pushing through ~ conscious and less conscious actions. Believing that the colors, brushstrokes and “decisions” will work to take me to “that place”…the light quality I’m after…that stirring of my senses ~ creating a bridge between my emotion and my experience.



"Acacia on Etosha Pan" Acrylic on cradled panel. 8"x 8"

“Acacia on Etosha Pan” Acrylic on cradled panel. 8″x 8″



"Travelers-main road Sossusvlei" Acrylic on cradled panel. 12"x 16"

“Travelers-main road Sossusvlei” Acrylic on cradled panel. 12″x 16″


It’s not formulaic or prescriptive…this thinking about how to paint a painting…though there is some method to what can feel like madness.  Maybe that’s it…the actions finally come from the sensations and evoke the emotions I’m trying to reach. The interpretation of my experience through painting.

Listening to things like Pat Metheny’s Are You Going With Me? help with the “pushing through.” An amazing road trip song.


If you are interested in my work, let me know. Thanks for looking and reading.


Follow me on Facebook


©All rights reserved Teri Capp Art

Conscious inspiration…serendipitous brush

Giraffe in Etosha grazing its favorite - one of many acacia trees

Giraffe in Etosha grazing its favorite – one of many acacia trees


Just like an unknown trail or path takes me places that I haven’t seen before; where my footprints step – (hopefully lightly left behind) – into newly discovered terrain. So it goes in my studio. ~ Ha! ~ I have found myself painting giraffe and other four and two-legged creatures! Who would have thought? I have not typically been a painter of animals but after our time spent in Namibia, I knew that they would find their way into some of my artwork. (One special client did drop a strong hint about the possibility of a painting of giraffe).

The animals that we saw were such a part of our story. Though challenging, I did quick sketches of a variety while we were traveling and now back in my studio, I’ve blended my sketches, photographs and memories of the place and its creatures into paintings. After all…they are just shapes, patterns, clumps of light and dark…areas of negative and positive space…to be figured out on a two-dimensional surface. This is one from my Namibian Portfolio project.

Detail of 12"x 16" "Giraffe in Etosha's bush" painting

Detail of 12″x 16″ “Giraffe in Etosha’s bush” painting


To drive the white gravel roads of Etosha National Park in the afternoon ~ ahead of us, a curve in the road ~ I turn, startled to see, all of a sudden, not just the one or two giraffe grazing at acacia trees close to the road ~ but five…six…seven, scattered back into the bush! How can such a tall animal (the tallest animal), seemingly just appear in the scrubby bush?

I never tired of seeing them…lanky, graceful, shy and curious…larger than life.


"Giraffe in Etosha bush" acrylic on cradled panel on my easel

“Giraffe in Etosha’s bush” acrylic on 12″x 16″cradled panel, on my easel




Detail of 12"x 16" "Giraffe in  Etosha bush" painting

Detail of 12″x 16″ “Giraffe in Etosha’s bush” painting


Like a group of cows is called a “herd” ~ the collective noun for this species is a “journey of giraffes.” I loved learning that bit of trivia.

I have been painting elephants, oryx and ostrich too. Wow! ~ who knew where my brush and paints would lead me?


Let me know if you have questions or comments.

e-mail: cappwiley@gmail.com                   Follow me on Facebook


©Teri Capp – all rights reserved



A Namibian museum…hands off?…no, hands on!

fishing_Mbunza women_Nam_post_2016-12

On our way – a bit of tarmac and another dusty road, after leaving Sarasungu Camp. Questioning where I was – again – as brilliant sunlight spread across northern Namibia and the Kavango River. Turning off of the main dirt road, we wound our way past yellow millet and sorghum crops…goats and kraals (family villages). Seeing a cluster of thatch huts ahead, we slowed and parked…stepped out of our 4×4 baakie, into bright sand, dappled with shadows from thick groves of acacia trees.

Only Cecil, my brother-in-law knew some of what was in store for us. He has forged a friendship with Zebron, one of the founders of the Mbunza Living Museum. It is one of four Living Museums that have been set up in Namibia. Zebron greeted us with his broad, bright smile and deep voice. At his invitation, we followed him, and all five of us tried to squeeze into the tiny reception hut – dark and shady, with stripes of sunlight marking the floor of sand.

Reception hut Zebron_Nam_post_2016-1

Zebron in the reception hut


Northeast border of Namibia - Kavango region

Northeast border of Namibia – Kavango region

Continuing along the northeast border of Namibia

Continuing along the northeast border of Namibia


Teri's sketch of Mbunza hut or rondoval

Teri’s sketch of Mbunza hut or rondoval


The Mbunza are one of five main Kavango clans and they are one of a handful of tribes in Namibia who have set up a Living Museum. It is an entrepreneurial endeavor backed by funding from the Namibian Government’s Cultural Affairs office and private funding. Cecil’s friendship with Zebron was born of a film project that happened over the past two years. Cecil, a filmmaker and producer, was working with another artist to gently and beautifully tell some of the story of the traditions and customs of the Mbunza. Their film is titled, “The Mbunza of the Kavango.” 

As we stood in the reception hut with Zebron, we had choices to make. An hour or two walk and talk? A craft-making workshop? In the end we decided to sign up for the craft-making…a hands on experience. We paid our fees and waited for our instructions. My sister, Kristin, and my daughter and I chose to make baskets with some of the Mbunza women. John and Cecil chose to make an arrowhead with blacksmith tools over a fire. What we thought was to be a couple of hours turned into an amazing four-plus hours with an entire walking tour of the kraal (village) and oral histories of their customs and tools, objects and work.

The actors who we met, in the Living Museum, shared with generosity – their lives – their history, and the crossover into their “now. The concept of a “living museum” is so marvelous and relevant, with storytelling at its core. The stories were the mingling of the present with the past ~ trying to find a balance ~ a place in their minds and hearts to carry on ~ push forward with parts of their traditional culture ~ to find the place where the stories help them understand their place in the modern world. Most of the group of twelve to fifteen “actors” have day jobs, if you will ~ especially the young; working as laborers on farms, in mines and in urban centers or towns, offices and stores. Their energy spent participating in the Living Museum was part-time work ~ an avocation, that added value and meaning to their lives as well as some financial reward.

Mbunza man preparing blacksmithing fire

Mbunza man preparing blacksmithing fire. Photo by Cecil Moller

The idea of the Living Museum could be perceived as contrived, but as each hour went by ~ exchanging gestures, glances , smiles and shared questions about each other, I realized how life-affirming the experience was ~ for all of us. There was a genuineness and sincerity about the Mbunza ~ silliness and humor ~ in their conversations with each of us. I saw camaraderie and respect between our group of Mbunza guides…an authenticity; they enjoyed each other. Again life-affirming and real. They were living in the story of their own cultural inheritance.


Still life with a womans's foot as she sorted mangetti nuts

Still life with a womans’s foot as she sorted mangetti nuts


"Mahangu" or millet being sifted before grinding

“Mahangu” or millet being sifted before grinding


Mbunza man playing the instrument he made

Mbunza man playing the instrument he made for hunting springbok


An introduction to another world…what was this place?..this story?…this place of animal skins, softened by hand – every part used – nothing wasted. Fishing from the Kavango River and the lakes, with their handsome woven-reed traps. This story of handmade instruments…a bowl shaped piece of wood – with sinew fastened to make a humming sound when strummed to attract the springbok when the hunter used it in the bush.

The depth to which their “form followed function” was compelling. Big gourds filled with goat or cows milk…hung from a small wooden rack…pushed by hand to rock back and forth while the person sang and churned the milk into butter. Sleeping mats were made of the reeds from the river banks…flattened and woven. Baskets were made for storing and holding food and other items. The mats were woven by the Mbunza men…to show they could work and provide for a family…that they had learned and had not been lazy when they were young! Basket weaving was done by the women of the tribe to demonstrate their ability to cook for their families.


Zebron then shared a lovely story with us about a daily ritual of the Mbunza…

At the end of the day, family groups would circle around the gathering fire. It was kept burning 24 hours – never let to burn out. Family and tribal members gather to tell stories from the day and how they connect to the past. A very grounding and centering act of connection with the people who mean the most in their lives. It made me think of our daily ritual at home…holding hands before we eat and saying something we are each grateful for that day. It’s calming and helps us look forward and to feel like someone has our backs.

Zebron telling the story of the days-end "sharing" or shrine

Zebron telling the story of the days-end “sharing” shrine. It was built of bones from their supper and the men’s bows were laid against each other to bring good luck for the next day’s hunting.


Craft-making was happening!  ~ We hunkered over the long strands of reeds which we were supposed to persuade into the shape of a basket. Angelica (Pandu), my teacher, made it look easy as she quickly poked a hole with a big nail, pushed the sharp end of the grass through, and wrapped the grasses into patterns and coils to end with the desired shape. Kristin, Zara and I each had a teacher and we sat together, working, laughing and talking for over an hour.


Teri, Zara and Kristin intently working on our baskets

Teri, Zara and Kristin intently working on our baskets


beautiful shapes, beautiful hands, real people...well seen by John and his camera

beautiful shapes, beautiful hands, real people…well seen by John and his camera


group shot of the basket makers and our wise teachers

group shot of the basket makers and our wise teachers


Meanwhile, John and Cecil worked outside of the kraal fence, bent over a small fire with a piece of iron to heat and forge into an arrowhead. …plink, plink…plink, plink, the ringing of iron on iron. 

John's arrowhead in the making!

John’s arrowhead in the making!


The amazing design of the hand-worked bellows.

The amazing design of the hand-worked bellows.

Mbunza man blacksmithing

Mbunza man blacksmithing

In the heat of the mid-day sun; arrowhead making crew!

In the heat of the mid-day sun; arrowhead making crew


Again, it was the gestures, small conversations in these intimate groups that allowed us to laugh together, ask questions, make mistakes and know each other – even if just a little.




Arrowhead and friendship forged!

Arrowhead and friendship forged!


We photographed and I sketched as much as possible, while we moved around the village that day…absorbing this place.

Busy moments...observing, listening, recording our time together...to remember

Busy moments…observing, listening, recording our time together…to remember. Photo by Cecil Moller


Later, we were drawn to the marshy land by the river and Lake Samsitu, where the Mbunza women demonstrated the fish traps. (I loved the sculptural shapes of the traps) John had to try his hand at using one!  Then he smiled, and asked, and joked his way into a makoro (dugout canoe) ride too. Much laughter ensued…all around!

John fishing in the Kavango delta

John fishing in the Kavango delta

Arrowhead and friendship forged!

Arrowhead and friendship forged!

Makoro, Mbunza paddler and John...with his camera!

Makoro, Mbunza paddler and John…with his camera


John's perspective in the makoro.

John’s perspective in the makoro.


Another highlight as we hung around down by the lake, was finding a slow-moving chameleon…a rather large one. We picked it up and photographed it…but the Mbunza people would not touch it! Some kind of superstition. A belief in Malawi is that they are enemies reincarnated. We were told some believe the chameleons to be venomous. We didn’t know why the Namibians shied away from them.

The chameleon and Cecil

The chameleon and Cecil





Chameleon in John’s hands













Last, but not least… we were invited to move…to “please sit” – under the trees…we leaned back against a primitive log rail and waited…as the Mbunza gathered. The women all formed a line on one side and the men on another, forming an L-shape. The women began to sing and clap and the men who weren’t drumming moved into the center and started to dance. One woman at a time would step out and dance in the center too.

Then a whirl of dust, a rhythmic pattern of beats on drums, louder…and stamping feet with ankle rattles and reed skirts. A song was rising. They held us with the pulse – the – circle – swirl – stamp – in the shadows of the acacias. Rolling, shrill, calls and ululation (a howl or wailing sound made as an expression of strong emotion) and harmonic singing – big smiles and sweat and dancing…until it was time to say goodbye.  Continuing on the road…continuing with our lives.

Mbunza dancing

Mbunza dancing


Faster, faster...

Faster, faster…


Zebron on the drums

Zebron on the drums

There is always more to the story ~ especially an ongoing story ~ where the characters are alive, creating a concrete coexistence between their modern lives and their history. We landed in one part of their universe…a blip on their timeline…but they were so willing to share.

Again, as I pore over the images of our journey around Namibia, I’m reminded of the value of travel to a different place. The true, real-time interactions explode stereotypes. They open up my mind to creative thinking. The touch of a hand with someone who lives every day – 9,000 miles and another continent away, leaves an awareness and openness in my soul that never goes away.

Take your kids ~ travel ~ take yourself.


My compliments to my fellow-traveler-photographers for their work included in this blog post! JohnWiley, Zara Wiley and Cecil Moller

Questions?      Comments?       Interest in my work?             E-mail or call.        cappwiley@gmail.com                Tel: 206.329.4750

Follow me on Facebook

©Teri Capp-all rights reserved