The Jaguar is a new painting for my rainforest series. Jaguars are the largest cats native to the Americas and third largest cats in the world behind lions and tigers. The jaguar once roamed from Argentina all the way up to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Today, jaguars have been almost completely eliminated from the United States. This endangered cat hangs on in remote regions of Central America and South America. My niece spent time in Costa Rica on a college research trip and was fortunate to see a black jaguar in the dead of night.
Jaguar is a Native American word meaning, “he who kills with one blow.” In pre-Columbian America the jaguar was seen as a god in Peru, Mexico, and Guatemala. The Mayans saw him as the god of the underworld.
The idea for this painting came to me a couple weeks ago. My daughter is spending a semester abroad in Prague, and has taken advantage of her free time traveling to many exciting places, She’s been to Paris, Rome, Naples and now, Vienna and is having a great time on her adventures. We are excited for her because she’s broadening her horizons by learning about and experiencing other cultures. It’s brought back to mind wonderful memories of my travels. One of those memories was a trip with my husband down to the Oaxaca, Mexico region. In a small arts village, I bought him a bright hand painted and carved, wooden jaguar that he keeps in his office for good luck. This jaguar painting is also for my husband and a reminder of our happy memories of Mexico.
Here is my most recent painting, Young Gibbonfor my Heni’s Happy Paintings Etsy shop. It completes the rainforest series which also include the tiger and crocodile paintings. I chose to paint a gibbon after a special memory I had from our travels similar to the Sumatran tiger painting.
On our Southeastern Asia trip, my husband and I spent a couple of weeks trekking in the rainforest mountains of Northern Thailand. We hiked all day through the gorgeous rainforest scenery and then spent the nights in small villages with the native peoples. We continued hiking higher in the mountains until we reached the Burma (Myanmar) border and could go no further, it surprised us that we had trekked that far north. That evening we turned off on a side path and happened upon a guest house, another surprise as we had not seen any guest houses for days. It was owned by a French woman and there was only one other traveler staying there, an young Israeli. We spent a great evening sharing stories about our travels. The woman had a baby gibbon that she had rescued from poachers, he was adorable. He was not allowed much human contact as she eventually wanted to release him back to wild but in the morning she let me play with him just after his feeding.
Although gibbons look like monkeys, they are actually small apes. We saw several on our trek and loved watching them travel through the tree branches and vines with ease. Young Gibbon is painted in honor of that baby gibbon who I hope was eventually set free to soar.
Here is my new painting of a tiger in the night, it’s another child friendly painting for my shop. I chose the tiger for a couple of reasons. When our girl was ready to enter prekindergarten, two local public schools were just starting Montessori programs. We were very fortunate to get our girl into one of those programs, a wonderful elementary school where she received a solid Montessori foundation. The school mascot was the tiger. Large blue tiger paw prints were painted on the walk to the school entrance. Tiger murals went up, the children wore tiger t shirts on special tiger spirit days. They really tried to make the school a fun and happy place to learn. We still live just a block from the school and I want to donate some of these tiger prints to the PTA for the yearly silent auction.
My husband and I also have a special tiger memory from our travels in Southeast Asia. We were in northern Sumatra staying in a small guest house on the edge of their National Rainforest Park. It was late in the night when suddenly we heard an animal squeal and then dogs madly barking. It was quite unsettling and took us a while to fall back to sleep. In the morning at breakfast we were trying to ask our host who didn’t speak English what happened, he motioned for us to come with him. A short walk later he showed us a humongous paw print of a Sumatran tiger in a muddy spot next to a spring. The tiger had killed one of their goats in the night. That day we hiked up into the lush rainforest vegetation where we saw monkeys and large fruit bats. The highlights of our day were watching a mom and baby orangutan as they foraged for fruits and taking a dip in some hot water springs. But I must say we made sure to get back to our guest house by night fall.