Varied Works of Larry K. Martin


Story Behind the Painting
"The Sound of Silence" Leopard painting by Larry K. Martin
"The Sound of Silence"


The lyrics of Paul Simon’s hauntingly beautiful song
“The Sound of Silence”
have been a subject of discussion for the half century since it was recorded by Simon and Art Garfunkel.  Although the song apparently was not written as a social statement* it nourished a counter-culture attempt to criticize our society for not vocalizing objections to perceived social injustices.  In a completely different context, the title of this song has come to mind every time I have observed Africa’s ultimate silent stalker- the leopard- as it moves through brush and grass of the savannas, or among the trees of the tropical mountains and marshes.


There is a sound of silence, and you can “hear” the leopard’s silence.   A collective gasp is usually the only sound from the human observers.   Humans are mesmerized by the sleek, perfectly-patterned cat, but it is questionable as to whether the leopard itself may share our appreciation of its own beauty.  Although, we once watched a gorgeous “lepress” preen and pose for an hour on a slanted tree, walking down the incline and back up, to our eye level- where it could peer directly into the eyes and cameras of these strange admirers. 

When it is seriously on the hunt, no other animal seems as unimpressed with its own beauty as is the leopard. Its facial expression is all business- with full concentration on the prey- while moving silently and with excruciating patience until within striking distance of a gazelle or other potential mealEven a short-distance stalk may take as long as an hour. 


The leopard’s own silence is in absolute contrast to the noise that surrounds him.  All other animal life acts in concert to announce his presence, and a variety of body languages warn that “death is waiting,  just behind that bush.”  Birds of every kind sound an alarm as they dart in and then flare their wings and hover over the cat.   Monkeys, from nearby trees follow his progress and add loud chatter and aggressive body posture; the impala or other herd animals face the predator, snort or “woof” and stamp the ground.  However, they do not usually run off in panic- but stay as close as possible while keeping a safe distance.   They actually follow along with the moving feline, trying to keep it within collective eyesight.  If baboons are in the area, they- the leopard’s ultimate nemesis— scream and bark out their discovery with relentless deafening calls and false charging movements.  The stalking cat still makes no sound,
unperturbed, advances in ultra-slow-motion, even as it maneuvers over and around the grass and sticks and leaves. The cat seems to glide just above the ground, without disturbing the smallest twig.  In the midst of this chorus of warning sounds, the African leopard then sinks into the brush and weeds, and maneuvers to outwit all the rest of the animal kingdom.      

Birds and gazelles are not as patient, nor as smart, as the leopard.  As time passes after the cat has melted into the grass, they tend to forget why they were on alert.   Within fifteen or twenty  minutes the little “Tommie” gazelles might even resume grazing .  With total focus from its emerald eyes, and its nearly-invisible body lowered to the ground, the leopard again eases forward in measured micro-steps. . .

 If the sun is going down, things begin to change: The leopard might well be thinking “Hello, darkness, my old friend” as the daylight fades, and the tables turn in his favor.  Then this lethal spotted beauty eases into view.  The rest is lightning.



The painting, “The Sound of Silence”… for  whatever  reason, seemed to take an inordinate amount of weeks to complete.  This ample time at the easel allowed countless hours for thinking about the leopard, its incomparable beauty, strength and quickness- the most successful wild cat on earth with respect to adaptability and survival.  With a title in mind, I thought of the unique characteristics that define a leopard, including its stealth and adaptation to darkness- allowing it to approach prey animals almost to the point of a single leap rather than a long chase.  At some point, the words “The Sound of Silence” became, as Paul Simon expressed, “a vision that was planted in my brain”.  Looking again at the song’s lyrics (at least the first verse), it seemed as though they were more  apropos for Nature, and the leopard in particular, than they had been, fifty years ago, for an uninspired high school “graduate” and his lady friend, Mrs. Robinson.___ LKM




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