I often get asked where I got the inspiration for my SA Animal Alphabet letters. In the case of the first letter I worked on, A is for Aardvark, I knew exactly where to start. I could easily and clearly envisage the entire piece, right down to the last ant.
Other letters proved to be a bit more challenging, especially when there weren't a lot of South African animals or birds to choose from. As it turned out, "N" was by far the most challenging when it came to the conceptualisation of the piece. The only South African animal that I could think of was a Nyala.
Even though Nyala are beautiful antelope, it was really difficult to come up with some kind of a visual to both entertain and hopefully educate the viewer. After extensive research, the most interesting fact was that Nyala are the most sexually dimorphic antelope in the world, with the males being about double the size and weight of their dainty gals. Not a wholly appropriate fun fact for the kids...! So, I avoided "N" like the plague, hoping for inspiration to eventually strike.
I completed letters left and right around "N", all while the sickening feeling grew that I would never figure it out. After months of wondering, worrying, multiple failed ideas and many tearful conversations with my loved-ones, I was resolute in just giving up the SA Animal Alphabet project altogether.
And just then, at the bitter, heart-breaking end, the fat lady sang!
I woke up one morning with my dreams still crystal clear in my mind -- somewhere in a crisp, green tangle of an N-shaped jungle, the shy, sly Nyala outwits his enemy at the Game of Life! King Lion never saw it coming...
Neither did I.
See the South African Animal Alphabet here: