Attracted to South America by travellers’ tales and the novels of Masefield and Conrad, Nigel Hughes took ship for Argentina in 1964. For two years he worked with livestock and learned Spanish. In 1970, returning to England from escorting a shipment of pedigree cattle to New Zealand, he stopped in Panama so that he could make a side-trip northwestward to visit archaeological sites in Central America and Mexico. Thus began his study of ancient Maya culture.
Twelve years later he returned as a professional artist to embark on forty watercolours of Maya monuments. Towards the end of that work he began to study and paint the Cracidae: curassows and their relations. Several of their fifty species were already nearing extinction. He painted them life size and placed them in their native habitats. Finding them involved many trips and visits to seventeen countries.
The book gallops along its various paths, in other people's company or not, ever in expectation of fresh archaeological and natural wonders or a hitherto unencountered wild animal. The title is Sunshine & Good Humour, not because it never rained but because that was the climate of the author's travels. If one travels in the expectation of being delighted, then by and large one will be.
Nigel Hughes spent five years in the army, then two in Argentina learning about livestock. Back in England he qualified as a land agent, eventually working for the National Trust. In 1977 he attended the Royal Academy Schools in London. He has painted and designed ever since. He is a fellow of the Linnean and Royal Geographical Societies and lives in Somerset.
"A joyful book: Nigel Hughes’s writing is as vivid and colourful as his glorious paintings, and his adventures make for compelling reading"
– Joanna Lumley
"Nigel Hughes has had many interesting experiences travelling as an artist in Tropical America, often through difficult and dangerous areas. His book is am using yet self-effacing, with attractive illustrations”
– General Sir Michael Rose
"It is fortunate that an artist with Nigel Hughes’s talents saw the Cracidae because it generated a remarkable set of paintings, the result of much travel, determination and adventure. It was no simple task to find all fifty species of a family distributed between Mexico and northern Argentina”.
– Professor Sir Ghillean Prance