Obituary: Long-time ‘Veld sketchbook’ artist Jeff Huntly

2008-05-15 00:00

JEFF Huntly, whose “Veld Sketchbook” ran in The Witness for over 20 years, died on Wednesday night in Cape Town, where he and his wife Margaret had moved to be closer to their daughter and family. A collection of his “Sketchbook” drawings, paintings and essays will be published by Sunbird Publishers this month.

Interviewed in The Witness in 2004, when the Blue Caterpillar Gallery in Pietermaritzburg hosted an exhibition of his “Veld Sketchbook” originals, Huntly said that his roles as naturalist and painter were complementary.

“Nature makes you want to paint; the colours and the shapes of animals and birds inspire you. And then it becomes a writing thing. Writing is a kind of painting, in words,” was how he put it.

Huntly was born and grew up in the then Rhodesia, where his father passed his own interest in the natural world on to his sons.

As an artist, he was largely self-taught and though he cited Vincent van Gogh and Namibian artist Adolf Jentsch as influences, being in nature and observing the world around him were his main inspirations.

His first column in The Witness, published in 1983, describing an interaction between a wildcat and a field mouse, immediately showed his power of observation.

Besides his long-running Veld Sketchbook, Huntly created the artwork for stamps for both

Zimbabwe and the Ciskei homeland and designed coins for Zimbabwe.

In 2001, he received the Rotary Vocational Award for raising public awareness of wildlife and conservation through the press. In March 2002, the Natal Museum voted him an honorary associate for informing his readership of the wealth of material to be found in the museum.

Huntly’s column in The Witness ended in 2006 when he and his wife moved to the Cape.

The new Veld Sketchbook volume, which will be a hardcover book with 100 colour illustrations, will be available in bookshops from the beginning of June.

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