Good Day Sunshine

“Good Day Sunshine” Neocolor and pencils, 28.5 x 41 cm, April 2022

While resting in bright morning sunshine, a silver gull observes life from its post at East Fremantle jetty.

The title comes to me on the final day of drawing. I expect John Lennon is reminding me of his and Paul’s catchy 1966 song. Once in my head the song plays on continuous loop – perhaps it will do the same in yours. (Google if you can’t remember how it goes.)

I particularly like the way the beak’s shadow descends down the breast terminating on the white post. That shadow speaks to the other verticals within the composition. I also like the placement of the car in relation to the bird. Did I wait for it to drive into position or was it simply chance? (I like to think it was intentional on my part!)

There is something about a restful gull in the sun – and I am reminded of a similarly peaceful scene from hazy Venice. Different hemispheres, seasons, atmospherics – and I can lose (find) myself in both.

“Quiet Time” 2020

A Late Night Conversation

For several days I have been “in training”. “Each night I stayed up as late as I could and each morning attempted to sleep in. My goal was to adjust my body-clock so that I wouldn’t only be awake until midnight on Wednesday 6th April but also lucid, lively and with a reasonable vocabulary at my disposal.

I had been invited by Ann Kullberg to be her guest on a webcast LIVE from America. West Australian time is 15 hours ahead of U.S. Pacific time. Ouch – hence my “in training” sessions!

Everything worked out perfectly. I had a great time in conversation with Ann and midnight came around as rapidly as it surely had for Cinderalla on another night long ago.

While people tuned in from various parts of America to see the webcast live, in my region you were all in bed fast asleep. Now that you are up and about – here it is.

While some of my artworks are seen on the webcast you can see hundreds of them on my website – from the 1970s to now.

Our Place

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

I walk into this scene on a blustery winter’s day in August 2020. A strong westerly air-stream prevails and the watery sun is setting.

A few people with strong constitutions brave the wind gusts (and probable approaching rain). Some hold fishing rods, others simply recline – staring into space.

Fremantle Inner Harbour – familiar, casual, a bleak kind of beauty. We know it intimately. Our place.

And…my place.

New View

“New View” Neocolor II and coloured pencils. 28 x 32 cm. March 2022

Last year I actively searched for new views. I studied maps and took myself on numerous reconnaissance missions in my car. I made a ‘directory of views’ which I could refer to when I felt like going out with my camera. For example what vantage points would be best for sunrise or sunset?

During my search for new views I found Mount Lyell look-out and gazebo. This is a wonderful bush-clad hill accessed from McCabe Street, Mosman Park. Ascend 20 limestone steps and from the gazebo at the top you can look east, west and south FOREVER!

On a winter’s day last July I got up before dawn and drove to Mt Lyell, ready to greet the sunrise. It was the morning after a tempestuous day of thunderstorms which had caused flash flooding and wind damage. There were still plenty of clouds about but in the east it was clear so I knew there would be a rich light-show looking west at sunrise. I aimed my lens at the cliffs of North Fremantle. The Swan River was in front, cranes of the port behind, with a glimpse of Garden Island in the distance.

I took photos as the rising sun cast its intense light onto my view. I expect the storms of the previous day were responsible for the quality of light. Everything including the air was as if gone through a washing machine cycle – dazzlingly bright! I chose to work from an impressionistic soft-focus photo. It had captured the light, rich colours and atmosphere without fiddly sharp details.

During the drawing’s execution I photographed several stages…

Neocolor II undercoat stage finished
Pencil work begins with sky
Moving down with my pencils
Now picking up the gold reflections in the apartment blocks
“New View” completed

A note to local readers – I highly recommend taking a picnic or merely a coffee to Mt Lyell gazebo, especially on a calm sunny winter’s day. I took Matthew up there last winter during one of our lock-downs when cafés were closed for dining-in. We spent a beautiful hour, mostly in silence, sipping our coffees and – gazing.

Beautiful Bird

“Beautiful Bird” drawn in February 2022, 19 x 23.5 cm.

When I was nearly finished this drawing Matthew walked past my easel. He exclaimed, “Oh what a beautiful bird!” Well that was that. I couldn’t call the drawing anything other than “Beautiful Bird”. Somewhere in my head I made a link with John Lennon’s song “Beautiful Boy“. (And now the Lennon song is playing on a loop inside me… “Beautiful beautiful beautiful beautiful bird…”) I also think of my mother who might once have exclaimed with just the same enthusiasm as Matthew’s.

I took the photo for “Beautiful Bird” in early December. The male Purple Backed Fairy Wrens were in their full breeding colours then. But look now – in February. See how they are beginning to change into their more subtle autumn/winter fashions? I took the following photos just the other day…

On the 2nd February the change is clearly taking place.
On the 12th February there is even more change.

Let us not forget the Splendid Fairy Wren. Here is a male photographed on 11th February. He is also losing his breeding solid blues and purples as white and grey feathers replace them.

My December 2021 drawing “Blue Muse” is a reminder of how the male Splendid Fairy Wren looks in his breeding colours –

“Blue Muse” December 2021

I am awe-struck by nature. I never knew any of this until recently. And so I spend my time these days – observing, photographing and drawing – away with the fairies.

The last word goes to the female fairy wren – who doesn’t need to change. She is perfectly perfect in her one outfit all year round.

A female Splendid Fairy Wren photographed on 11th February 2022.

Box Seat

“Box Seat” Neocolor II and coloured pencils on Arches Aquarelle paper, 28.5 x 33 cm. February 2022.

At Fremantle inner harbour a Silver Gull commandeers the best seat in the house. The distant objects – usually hard-edged – are diffused by light drizzle. How can a working port be a peaceful space? Yet the resting seagull, soft light and horizontal forms make it so.

Below you can see the drawing’s progression.

Stage 1: Neocolor II undercoat covering everything except bird.
Stage 2: Bird undercoated with coloured pencil only (no Neocolor). Why? Because I want the bird to have a different quality from all that surrounds it.
Stage 3: Starting to build up layers with pencils over Neocolor on lower area (except bird and box seat).
Stage 4: Coloured pencil layers moving upwards and outwards over undercoated Neocolor.
Stage 5: I attend to the sky and cranes. The picture is at a stage where I decide to begin on the foreground.
“Box Seat” completion. Because I used coloured pencils only on the bird, he stands out from his Neocolor-influenced surroundings, drawing attention to himself. He is pure – pure coloured pencil!

Up at Sunrise

“Up at Sunrise” 35.5 x 27 cm. January 2022

Who is up at sunrise? A silver gull is up and so am I. We are standing about at North Mole waiting for the sun to rise. As the sun peeks up from the east, the silver gull’s white feathers turn rosy while surrounding objects bask in gold.

I took the source photo for the just-completed drawing on 7th March 2017. Last year I did another drawing of North Mole, working from a photo I had taken back in 2002.

“Maritime Morning” drawn in 2021 sourced from my 2002 photograph.

Drawings come in their own time which can be years after their source photos were taken. I might appreciate my photo’s potential when I come across it my album but not be in the right frame of mind to do anything with it. Since 2017 my mental space has mostly been filled with Paris and Venice. Now my concentration is right here. And I must say, to dwell daily on West Australian birds and light is an antidote to Covid-19/climate-change anxiety. I self-soothe with form and colour.

Small Wonder

“Small Wonder” – a drawing of a male Purple Backed Fairy Wren. 21 x 19 cm. December 2021

I have witnessed some big wonders – and drawn them with my coloured pencils. Big wonders in Kyoto, Paris, Venice, Rome, Milan and Florence – seen and drawn from multiple overseas trips prior to 2020.

In 2021 my new wonders are local and tiny, nevertheless they are as gorgeous as the Grand Canal, St Germain des Prés, or geisha of Gion.

My latest muses take patience and stamina to even get a glimpse of – let alone photograph. They lurk in tightly packed undergrowth and fly with kamikaze speed, pausing for mere seconds. The powerful zoom lens I recently purchased to get close-ups weighs a ton. Buzzing biting insects never leave me alone and the sun beats down leaving me hot and breathless. Phew! It’s hard work.

When I took Matthew to see the Purple Backed Fairy Wrens last week, he said we were observing ‘inner space’. I like that. He meant we were peering into a hidden world which many people are unaware of. ‘Inner space’ could also refer to a state of mind – a good, peaceful and receptive one perhaps.

Photos from last week of the Purple Backed Fairy Wrens…

Female Purple-Backed Fairy Wren

Fly away 2021. 2022 is about to land. I wonder what it will bring us? Happy and safe New Year Dear Reader!

Girl Power

“Girl Power” coloured pencil drawing of a female fairy wren 15 x 20 cm. December 2021

Male fairy wrens get all the attention – at least from us. Who can blame humans for being mesmerized by absolutely fabulous male fairy wren iridescent blues?

We tend to overlook the less colourful female fairy wren. But what is the splendid male fancy dress for if not to impress her? He cavorts in his finery and cajoles her to choose him. She considers her options. Maybe yes, maybe no. She picks her partner, she calls the shots.

It’s girl power!

Some photos I’ve taken of female fairy wrens. (You can see the males here.)

Female Purple-Backed Fairy Wren
Female Red Winged fairy wren
Female White-Winged Fairy Wren
A photo I took this afternoon at Woodman Point – the male Splendid Fairy Wren on the left and female on the right.

Blue Muse

“Blue Muse” Neocolor and Luminance, 18 x 20 cm. December 2021

It was only in August when I discovered fairy wrens lived just ten minutes’ drive from my house. I probably would have remained ignorant forever if Covid 19 had not closed our borders. No travel meant intense new interest in my own back yard. (Well, either intense new interest or stop making art altogether!)

From late August until the present I have made numerous trips out with my camera (and new zoom lens) to capture photos of fairy wrens. “Blue Muse” shows the Splendid Fairy Wren and is drawn from an early photo I took back in August. In September, October and November I also learned about and acquainted myself with …

Purple-Backed Fairy Wrens (at Pelican Point)

Red-Winged Fairy Wrens (at Margaret River)

White-Winged Fairy Wrens (at Mindarie)

The birds above are all males. (You can see the females here.) Female fairy wrens are much less colourful, mostly grey/brown with a bit of colour on their tails. The next photo shows a pair of Splendid Fairy Wrens having an afternoon siesta. You can appreciate why most people’s eyes are drawn to the males!

I photographed these birds in different areas around Perth and the South West of Western Australia. My nearest fairy wren neighbours are the Splendid Fairy Wrens who live at Woodman Point where I took the source photograph for “Blue Muse“.

My eyes have been opened. Through small birds I have come to love where I live more than I ever have before. Trees and bush which I took for granted are now given the reverence and admiration they deserve.

Who could believe that closing the door to interstate and international travel could open such a stunning world right before my very (local) eyes?