A Walk in Miyagawa

“A Walk in Miyagawa” coloured pencils, 37 x 25 cm. May 2023

With the latest art exhibition “Home & Heart – local love stories” behind me, I decide to indulge myself with a Kyoto drawing – just for the sheer love of it.

Miyagawa is one of Kyoto’s five geisha districts. I was last there in November 2019 and this drawing is from a photo I took during that trip.

I like spending time in Miyagawa as it is quiet. Just ten minutes’ walk north, the better-known geisha district of Gion is heaving with tourists eagerly (and sometimes brutally) trying to intercept maiko and geiko (geisha) for photos.

Below are three older drawings from Miyagawa; each portrays a rear view. I love drawing the kimono ensemble from behind, while pictorially, a retreating figure guides the viewer into the scene.

“Last Night I Dreamed of Kyoto” is the same street on the same night but treated differently. Drawn in 2021.
“Surprise!” – two maiko were ambushed by a group of cameramen as they turned a corner. Drawn in 2011.
“Step by Step” – a young maiko and an old lady represent the passage of time. Drawn in 2014.

Timeless Miyagawa – as I draw the scene, so I am also drawn in.

Home & Heart – local love stories

When the world closed down to travel in 2020, my mission became to find my muse at home. I set out to rediscover my neighbourhood, to open up my mental borders and ‘travel’ here.

“Our Place” Neocolor II and Luminance. 26 x 30.6 cm. March 2022

During my home wanderings – in all seasons – I came to appreciate our gorgeous birds living in this small corner of Western Australia. (They are easily missed if one isn’t tuned into them.) As my concentration on both my Fremantle neighbourhood and local birds deepened, I hardly minded that I couldn’t travel any more.

“The Prettiest Star” coloured pencils, 23 x 23 cm. September 2022

Apart from Fremantle, other places represented in this exhibition are Donnelly River, Araluen Botanic Park, Matilda Bay, Point Walter, Karnup and The Berry Farm in Margaret River.

“Transcendence” coloured pencil drawing, 28 x 41 cm.

In 2023 we may travel again; “Home & Heart – local love stories” is my visual response to when we couldn’t. In the last couple of years I felt gratitude and wonder as our unique local landscapes, colours, quality of light, and life, gently reminded me of their presence and solace.

“Iridescent Morning” 25.5 x 28.5 cm. September 2021

I am delighted to be showing my coloured pencil drawings alongside sculptures by my friend and fellow artist, Robyn Varpins. This will be our fifth exhibition together.

“Contemplating Dawn” clay, under-glaze, oil paint

Robyn Varpins writes – “I was rather pleased to not be able to travel due to Covid as I have always enjoyed being home more than anywhere else. I love this place.

“My Companion” clay, under-glaze, oil paint.

Our title really expresses how I feel. I nestled into my home and delved deeply into what it is that makes me love this place so much. It was a joy to “seek the sacred in the mundane” and notice anew the beauty all around me. It was a journey inward to explore my perceptions and attitudes towards “Home”.

“Looking for Birds” clay, under-glaze, oil paint.

I investigated our rich and varied connection to Nature, particularly the quiet space of our back yards and gardens. That private oasis is where one can fully be at ease and nourished by simply Being. I enjoyed becoming one with the garden (where does the garden end and I begin?) Here one may keenly appreciate our treasured native birds, as well as the friendship and love of the animals in our lives.

“Listening to the Dawn Chorus” clay, under-glaze, oil paint.

It took some time to translate the theme into clay forms that expressed my felt experience of loving this place. Each sculpture expresses one small corner of this huge theme. I really enjoyed adding oil paint to many of my clay pieces, as the rich colour makes them more exuberant and alive.”

This is just a taster. Please join us between 20 and 30 April at EARLYWORK to see our exhibition. We welcome you!

All the drawings destined for the exhibition can be seen here

Click here to listen to a 37 minute interview with Robyn and myself about our art exhibition.

Radiant Guest

“Radiant Guest” drawing in coloured pencils, 22.5 x 20 cm. March 2023

When my daughter Lucy came to visit from Sydney last spring I took her to Lake Gwelup to show her the rainbow bee-eaters. Together we observed, marveled at, and photographed these vivacious creatures at their Gwelup breeding ground.

Rainbow bee-eaters fly south from northern Australia to the rest of the country each spring. While here they dig tunnels in order to lay their eggs underground, then rear their young over summer. They head back north in autumn. During their visit to our suburbs they attract attention and feature prominently on Facebook in bird photography groups. Photographers outdo one another to capture in-flight photos. I’m quite happy with a perching bird as I like to study its expression.

The rainbow bee-eater in my drawing sits on a branch of a banksia tree keeping an eye out for flying things to eat. The dappled sunlight effects on foliage and bird are suggestive to me of stained glass – perhaps a Tiffany lamp.

Lucy in a happy state of bird-watching. This was her first time seeing rainbow bee-eaters.
Note the long fine tail streamer of this bee-eater. He is male; the bee-eater I drew is female.

“October Arrivals” – my 2021 drawing of a male rainbow bee-eater.

I didn’t even know these birds existed until 2021. And during this last summer I realized that some pairs were nesting just a few streets from where I live in North Coogee. I heard their calls on the wind and followed the sound. While it is crazy to suggest that there could be a silver lining to the Covid-19 storm cloud; still, I only became aware of our beautiful birds because I was stuck in my state!

Southerly Change

“Southerly Change” oil painting, 30 x 40 cm, painted in 1983/1984.

I have just been reunited with one of my old paintings. I painted it so long ago that I couldn’t remember quite the year or time or place. I had to do some memory-and-photo-album searching for clues. My sister, Jeannie, returned this painting to me on a recent trip to New Zealand. It is now the oldest art work in my possession; between 39 and 40 years old!

The photo I painted this from was taken in 1983 on my first trip back to New Zealand after moving to Sydney the previous year. I remember I was walking down Colombo Street in Christchurch and it was a most perfect winter’s day. As I walked, dramatic clouds began forming over the Port Hills. They heralded a southerly change after which there was no more blue sky but mist, rain and bleak mid-winter cold.

Here I am during that trip (in Stokes Valley, Wellington) with Jonathan and Marie; my nephew and niece. (Remember those 1980’s pullovers? Princess Diana wore one.)

A visit to the Clements family in Beckenham. I wasn’t married back then but now these are some of my brothers- and sisters-in-law, and nephew, Joseph. And Friend, Sarah.

At Christchurch Airport – my brother, Max, my sister-in-law, Clare, and friend, Sarah. I was returning to Sydney, Australia.

I was able to date “Southerly Change” to before I had my first baby who was born in October 1984. Here I am pregnant and waiting for the event – with the painting as part of the bedroom scenery.

Once the baby (Emily) arrived it was difficult to paint but I kept going and here is a photo (and painting) from early 1985.

What fun it is to have “Southerly Change” back and to reconnect with memories of that era. I am grateful to Jeannie for keeping things.

To see more oil paintings from the 1980s and 1990s of New Zealand click here


“Himself” a drawing of Biko. 29 x 32 cm. February 2023

His owner described him once to me as “The King of South Fremantle”. This is Biko; the cat with complete self-assurance. Nothing fazes him. He is my friend – and as soft and stroke-able as he looks!

He wears a collar now but back in 2021 when I took a photo of him (to draw from one day in the future) he’d accidentally-on-purpose ‘lost’ it. That cat!


Under the Rose Bush

“Under the Rose Bush” coloured pencil drawing 16.5 x 18 cm. January 2023

When Lucy and I visited Araluen Botanic Park, quite possibly I whispered, “Look there, under the rose bush”, or perhaps she saw the splendid fairy wren first and alerted me to his presence. Either way we both have images of him on our cameras. And now he is a drawing and will be part of my April 2023 exhibition.

Araluen Botanic Park is my new favourite place. It is a 14 hectare developed garden set in 59 hectares of West Australian native bush in the Perth hills. So many birds work and play there; busy in the tall trees, at eye level in shrubs, hopping low in the leaf litter – birds and bush, birds and flowers. I go regularly for the good health of my soul.

Araluen’s website is https://araluenbotanicpark.com.au/

Lucy and her ‘Muv’ (me) with our cameras at Araluen.

Lucy and Farve (Matthew). Matthew has become an Araluen fan as well. (And yes, there’s a café.)

Afterword: 27 January 2023 – below are photos I took today of some other Araluen Botanic Park residents.

juvenile western whistler
juvenile spotted pardalote
male scarlet robin
white breasted robin
young male red winged fairy wren
A view at Araluen

Ready to Fly

“Ready to Fly” Neocolor II and coloured pencils, 31 x 38 cm. January 2023

I am a bit obsessed with our Rainbow Container Sculpture in East Fremantle. How the colours do change depending on time of day and atmospherics. My newest drawing “Ready to Fly” shows the sculpture on a fiercely clear autumn day. Early morning sun and fresh air result in THE SHOCK OF THE BRIGHT.

How does a seagull in the foreground compete with such forceful colours behind? It flaps its wings and manages to grab our attention with an upward thrust. Off you go.

In my two previous rainbow sculpture drawings “All is Calm” and “Colour My World” there is smoke in the air due to prescribed fire hazard-reduction burns. The colours of the sculpture are considerably muted by hazy atmospherics.

“All is Calm” drawn in October 2022.

The sculpture in reality is absolutely hard-edge; made from shipping containers. But I don’t want to draw hard-edged containers which is why I employ an accommodating bird to focus on. (How often I wait in vain for one to show up!)

“Colour My World” November 2022.

Now that I have drawn the sculpture so many times (four pictures but one didn’t survive) I feel positively drawn to it . When I see it in the distance, usually from a car, I feel a connection thanks to all the hours I have spent observing and rendering it in various lights. As to the birds, they sooth my soul.

Double Happy

“Double Happy” 18 x 17 cm. December 2022

I spend hours trying to get source photos for drawings. Wandering, standing, sitting, striding out and exhausting myself while looking for something inspirational and eye-catching. In November I spent a couple of days staring into garden beds at The Berry Farm in Margaret River observing birds and trying to get inspired photos of them.

The flowers at The Berry Farm are magnificent yet I find it difficult to photograph birds among them. Those poky birds are more likely to be perched on café furniture, hopping on concrete paths or playing hide and seek in leafy trees.

However patience paid dividends. I got a couple of beauties. I call this drawing “Double Happy” because the bird (a New Holland honeyeater) and flowers remind me of a burst of fireworks. (‘Double Happy‘ was the brand name of fire crackers we used to let off on Guy Fawkes night, 5th November, when I was a child.) Double happy describes my state of bliss at capturing both bird and flowers together!

Here are some more drawings I have done over the past 15 months from The Berry Farm visits…

“This Little Bird” September 2021.
“Honey Pie” 16 x 19.5 cm. November 2021
“Welcome to the Water Dish” November 2021
“Girl Power” December 2021

They’re all on human furniture aren’t they!? You can see why I am double happy to finally be able to draw a bird in Berry Farm’s luscious flowers.

Colour My World

“Colour My World” version 2 – water-soluble pastels and coloured pencils, 29 x 32 cm. November 2022.

In August I did a drawing which I called “Colour My World”. You can see it below – at least – a photo of it pasted into my art journal. The drawing itself is no more. After much deliberation I decided it was claustrophobic and I couldn’t bear it.

Part of a page in my art journal photographed.

I was sorry to have ripped up the bird because I liked him and the title (just not the rest of it). So I decided to try this subject again. I delved through my photos from that April day.

This time I cropped the container sculpture. The bird looks away from the viewer towards the morning sun. To my way of thinking the new drawing looks expansive, light and airy. It doesn’t suffer from (my perceived) sense of cramped space as the first one did.

I was plagued by doubt while working on the new drawing thinking it might also fail, however I kept going and in the end I have a sense of triumph. What’s more – Matthew likes it – and that’s the main thing!

All is Calm

“All is Calm” Neocolor II and coloured pencils. 28.5 x 37.5 cm. October 2022

The sun sinks, casting its last rays on East Fremantle’s “Rainbow” sea container sculpture. In the foreground a crested tern, already in shadow, rests on a pole at North Fremantle foreshore. At the first touch of an autumn dusk all is calm, all is bright.

All is Calm” is a drawing featuring the rainbow sculpture – a much loved piece of public art in my neighbourhood. I took the source photograph for this drawing during the month of April 2022.

Below are some of the photos I’ve taken over the past year of the rainbow sculpture.