Book Review: African Diaries: Sketches & Observations by David G. Derrick Jr.

Hi all…

With two young daughters deeply enjoying art at home and in school, I find myself in the new position of having to look for books that combine art with education. Sometimes these books document the lives of famous artists while showing some of their more well known works. And sometimes I stumble on books that combine travel, education, and art in a unique way to share more than words or pictures on a page, but also an experience. This is one of those books.

African Diaries Cover
African Diaries Cover

David G Derrick Jr. has self-published this book, which is comprised of sketches and writings about a trip to Kenya he took. He uses an amazing array of techniques, from watercolors and chalks to pen and sculpture. It’s a very personal look at how he saw not only the wildlife in Africa, but the people as well.

He started in Nairobi, but quickly went beyond the bounds of the teeming third-world capital city. He seems to have found a way to go on safari as much as humanly possible, documenting what he saw and thought through words and pictures.

Visiting the Nairobi National Park, just outside of the city of Nairobi, he watched giraffes in the wild – the Rothschild, Masai, and Reticulated. He says in the book “Watching giraffes in the wild is an experience. They move around slowly and deliberately, their heads moving back and forth as they glide through the tall grass…”

The amazing part for me about Derrick’s art is the sense of movement. I’m not an artist by any stretch, but I’ve come to appreciate the gift some artists have for capturing static art and giving it life. It’s not just an unmoving drawing or painting, but somehow it comes alive. You can see that gift in Derrick’s work throughout the book.

From Nairobi, he headed to Abonseli National Park and were greeted by Maasai men and women. He became enamored by their simple existence and exuberance for life it seems. At Abonseli in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro he watched herds of elephants move freely in the park. One of the elephants captured his interest enough to be forever etched in bronze. A large male with large tusks and oily tears staining the sides of his face, making him quite distinctive. The final bronze is a beautiful, lifelike representation of this majestic male elephant, just proving more of Derrick’s artistic prowess.

Other animals found in Amboseli included gnu, cape buffalo, Grant’s and Thomson’s Gazelles, giraffes, hippos, zebras, and warthogs… It was a busy place it seems!

The artwork of a male lion eating a kill in the Mara was amazing. You could watch this majestic beast take a carcass into the grass and crunch on bones and flesh. He captured it beautifully, with vultures flying overhead, then walking away.

If you have a fascination with the Africa or dream of going on safari, this is a great introduction to one man’s experience. And with the gift of his artwork, you feel as though you’re there with him in the wild, watching these amazing people and animals in as native a habitat as you could find nowhere else in the world.

I felt honored to share this with my wife and daughters, who love animals and the wild and want to experience an African safari firsthand. This is probably as close as we’ll get for a while!

Please support this author and artist. I would love to see more of his experiences!


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