A rare vintage: capturing the essence of Africa

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Illustrator Duncan Butchart takes a nostalgic journey to some of Africa’s iconic destinations

Harking back to the days of pop art, and with more than a nod to Tintin, South Africa-based illustrator Duncan Butchart has created a series of vintage art posters depicting iconic African destinations – stripped down to the bare essentials.

What inspired this fine collection?

“My goal is for these poster images to trigger a memory of happy times spent in wonderful places. The detail of the landscapes and animals is stripped down to the bare essence, which creates a stylised-cartoon effect… but the places, of course, are very real.

“The images are designed to create awareness and pride in Africa’s protected areas – vital reservoirs of biodiversity and focal points for tourism that bring economic benefits to local communities.”

Why poster art?

“In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in vintage poster art depicting popular travel destinations. Framed reproductions of designs created in the 1950s and ’60s have become a global decor trend – in the home, as well as in offices, hotels and lodges – but there are very few African-themed reproductions available.

“It was against this background that I embarked on the project, which I have called The African Journey Collection. The resulting series of posters (currently numbering 20 different iconic destinations…and counting) includes Cape Town, Zanzibar, Victoria Falls, the Masai Mara, Kruger, the Serengeti, Okavango, my hometown Hermanus, and more.”

And the pop-art style?

“I am a long-time fan of The Adventures of Tintin, created by the Belgian artist and storyteller Hergé. In 2016, I started to experiment with his ligne claire style, which is distinguished by flat colours and black outlines, and decided to adopt it for the posters collection. The typography I have used was chosen to create a nostalgic feel.

“In some ways, the designs are a culmination of my own life story – a passion for conserving wild places, art and travel.”

Vintage posters of AfricaTell us about the creation process…

“The most important part of each poster design is the concept… the composition. I need to have a clear vision of how to represent a particular place and which animals to feature – because the goal is always to try and capture the essence of a locality in one idealised image.

“In this regard, it is vital that I bring my own experience of having spent time in each place. In the case of Kruger, for example, I felt it was crucial to feature a lion as the main subject, because the majority of visitors to this park crave seeing these big cats.

“At the same time, the typical Kruger experience is one of self-driving and so I felt I needed to incorporate a road in the design, so that is why the viewpoint appears to be through a car windscreen.

“The lion and lioness are based on a photograph of a pair walking towards me. As a specific setting, I chose the Pretoriuskop region with its distinctive granite kopjies and silver terminalia trees. As for a bird, it just had to be a lilac-breasted roller – that gloriously gaudy creature flashing its turquoise wings.”

So, how did you get to here?

“Born in England to Scottish parents, I began drawing and painting as a young boy – with birds being my main interest. Inspired by the bird illustrations in field guides as well as the paintings of Raymond Ching, William T. Cooper and Robert Bateman, I initially followed a traditional path with the emphasis on accuracy.

“I then concentrated on black ink drawings, submitting them for publication, and releasing my first limited edition set in 1989, called Four Small African Owls.

“Since when I have worked on several books, including Wildlife of the Okavango and The Vultures of Africa, and on a number of projects with safari group &Beyond.

“In the early 2000s I began to work increasingly in watercolour and travelled around the rainforests of Thailand painting birds, under the tutelage of Thai artist Kamom Kamolphalin, before turning to my boyhood hero Tintin to create my latest collection.”

Vintage posters of AfricaHow to buy:

Go to dbnatureworks.com, select the image and size (A1, A2 or A3) you would like and click buy.

Prices are £15 (A3), £32 (A2) or £48 (A1), and the poster-prints are shipped from South Africa at a cost of £30 with expedited mail (free shipping on order in excess of £150.00). Travel Africa readers can email [email protected] with your order and a secure PayPal invoice will be sent to you.”

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A rare vintage: capturing the essence of Africa