Category Archives: abstract realism

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.

The Prettiest Star

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

In the past I have written about “undercover white” (Click on the underlined words to see the post). This is my method of putting a layer of white underneath colour to increase its glow and luminosity.

In this drawing I did something different – and for the first time. I put a light layer of grey underneath all of the surroundings (but not under the bird himself) before putting colour layers over the top. I did so because I wanted the background to be exceedingly muted. My hope was that the purple-backed fairy wren, with his pure un-greyed colours, would stand out from all the rest.

I drew the same bird several months ago. “Beautiful Bird” sold earlier this year but I liked him so much that I did another drawing of him for my April 2023 exhibition.

In the latest drawing “The Prettiest Star” (thank you, David Bowie, for the title) the bird is slightly inclining his head towards the viewer.

Here is the drawing I did last December. Both drawings are sourced from a photo-burst I took of him while he stood still for at least two seconds. Purple-backed fairy wrens don’t hang about for long.

“Beautiful Bird” December 2021

Transcendence

“Transcendence” coloured pencil drawing, 28 x 41 cm. September 2022

A few weeks ago I published a post on a drawing called “Celestial Forest“. I loved working on the drawing so much that when I finished it I knew I had to make a considerably larger version for my April 2023 exhibition.

“Celestial Forest” had been composed from the left side of a photo I had taken at Donnelly River in June. For “Transcendence” I worked from the whole photo.

“Transcendence” reminds me of Jackson Pollock’s abstract expressionist painting “Blue Poles”. However in my abstract realist drawing the verticals are (thankfully) not poles, but living trees.

As I stood in that patch of forest I was so moved by the sunlight filtering through the trees that it felt like a divine experience… as if I were inside a prayer. The interplay of light, wet leaves and branches became a kind of moving leadlight.

What was a word to describe this? It was Matthew who came up with my title. “Transcendence”, he said, and I knew that he was right.

The original drawing, “Celestial Forest” 26 x 26 cm. July 2022

I did not want to compare “Transcendence” with “Celestial Forest” so I waited until the latter had gone to its new home before putting final touches on the former.

Celestial Forest

“Celestial Forest” coloured pencils 26 x 26 cm.

“Celestial Forest” looks like swatches of colour up close (including if you are sitting in front of your computer screen). From a small distance it morphs into a forest with descending sun behind. (Try walking away from your screen and you’ll see what I mean.)

How did this drawing come to be? I was in the forest at Donnelly River Village in the late afternoon photographing a pair of scarlet robins. I couldn’t help but notice the light effects as the sun dropped in the western sky. It had been raining earlier. Wet leaves glistened in the light breeze. It was – spiritual.

“Hmm”, I thought, “How can I capture this?” I deliberately put my lens out-of-focus and pointed my camera straight at the sun. Then I turned attention back to the scarlet robins. When I got home I knew I had to make a drawing from the forest-y abstraction I’d captured.

“Celestial Forest” is similar to my impressionist Parisian drawings. In the Paris drawings the relationships are between street lights, neon and architecture. In “Celestial Forest” the interplay is between sun and wet trees.

“Melting Memory” (2021) impressionistic Paris – on the same wavelength as “Celestial Forest”

I drew four drawings for The 2022 Donnelly Verandah Residencies exhibition which opens on Friday 19 August at EARLYWORK, Cnr Wardie St & South Tce, South Fremantle.

They are…

“Celestial Forest” coloured pencils 26 x 26 cm. Sold.
“Forest and Bird” Neocolor II and coloured pencils. 26 x 26 cm. Sold.
“Wow Factor” coloured pencils, 18.5 x 18.5 cm. Sold.
“Verandah Resident” 16.5 x 16.5 cm.

What will my five fellow artists exhibit? I am excited to find out – in one week’s time.

If you are a local do come in and have a look. Opening 6-8 p.m Friday 19th August and then every day 10-4 to Sunday 28 August in SOUTH FREMANTLE.

POSTSCRIPT: 28 August 2022. The exhibition closed at 4 p.m. It was such a joy to participate in this group show. I met many people who visited the gallery; some old friends and some for the first time. Several drawings and prints have gone to new homes. I am tired out but so happy.

On the Lookout

“On the Lookout” coloured pencil drawing, 19.5 x 19.5 cm. August 2022

At Karnup Nature Reserve (a small patch of bush 40 minutes’ drive south of Perth) a western yellow robin commandeers a fallen log as a lookout.

What I like about this scene is that it reminds me of 19th century woodblock prints of Mt Fuji; the log and robin somehow suggest the shape of that much-admired volcano. (Japanese images are never far from my mind.)

Karnup Nature Reserve is where I came across my first pair of scarlet robins on the same day I found the western yellow robin. I wish these robins (western yellow and scarlet) luck as there is so much land clearing for housing estates in this area that one wonders for how much longer these birds will survive there. As the trees are mowed down, the patches of native bush become smaller and smaller.

“If a Japanese Lantern were a Bird” is a drawing of the male scarlet robin I found at Karnup.

Just like robins, I am constantly on the lookout. Yesterday I had a day out watching birds at Bibra Lake (a few minutes’ drive from my place). While I have your attention, here are photos I took of a splendid fairy wren family having a winter swim (or maybe a bath) followed by a warming cuddle and mutual preen to finish off.

First we meet Father…(who doesn’t get wet) but prefers to sing.

These two (mother and son?) use a fallen reed as their perch-cum-diving platform.

Let the fun begin…(and no, I’ve never seen fairy wrens take to water before)

When they’ve had enough it is time to rejoin Father who waited for them in the reeds.

Being on the lookout in nature is the best antidote to the world’s woes EVER.

Wow Factor

“Wow Factor” drawing 18.5 x 18.5 cm. July 2022

WOW! My eyes are happy when I see a scarlet robin.

A striking design of black, white and eye-popping red, the scarlet robin stands out. It is like a perching, flitting, flying and pouncing miniature Japanese lantern or Christmas tree bauble. (See the post If a Japanese Lantern were a Bird)

And I must say, Scarlet Robin, what big EYES you have…

During my Donnelly Verandah Residency in June I spent much of my time seeking out and photographing scarlet robins. I saw them in pairs, never right beside one another but not too far apart either. Each pair quietly worked its territory. I barely heard a sound from them.

Each robin stood stock-still as it concentrated on spotting food (insects, arthropods and spiders). Silent surveillance was followed by mid-air swoop (for flying snack) or pounce-to-ground (for walking/crawling/slithering snack.)

Rather than zooming in for detailed close-ups, I want to show the visual impact a scarlet robin makes within its tertiary-toned forest environment. This bird is enthralling to meet, watch, photograph and draw.

Female scarlet robin on a sign outside the general store. (Viewed from behind she blends in.)
Illuminated by morning sunlight a male (partner to the female above) glows on a branch.
A dash of scarlet in the brambles.
Bare branches in winter make him easy to spot.
I clock up many hours tiptoeing around with my camera.
This female is curious about my presence – and not a bit afraid.
Nobody is playing tennis on a wet day so the net is requisitioned as an insect-spotting vantage point.
Look ahead – one small bird performing his ablutions.
“Watch the birdie.”
Photoshoot finished. The birdie has flown.

Wow Factor” will be one of the artworks in “The 2022 Donnelly Verandah Residencies” art exhibition opening on 19th August at EARLYWORK in South Fremantle. Exhibition runs until 28 August.

Peekaboo

“Peekaboo” coloured pencil drawing , 19 x 18 cm. Drawn in May 2022

I feel like I’m playing a game of hide and seek with small birds when I am out attempting to photograph them. As I am a mere plodding biped the birds fly rings around me literally and figuratively. They flit in and out of foliage; now I see them, now I don’t; then they rapidly depart the scene.

In February when I photographed this particular female Splendid Fairy Wren I was thrilled because she paused from her insect-hunting busy-ness to see what I was up to. She hopped out of the undergrowth and came close to me, peering intently into the camera lens. Her curious look said, “What IS that clicking sound?” (Answer: “Birdie, it is my shutter-release button.”)

This is the photo I drew “Peekaboo” from.

We are at Booyeembara Park in White Gum Valley affectionately known by locals as Boo Park. The 16 hectare area used to be a quarry and tip but thankfully was rescued, resuscitated and rezoned as parkland. There is a stream, lake and lots of trees and bush. Due to years of care and extensive replanting of native flora many birds call Boo Park home.

Booyeembara is a local Aboriginal word which means of the limestone hills.

Below are some of my bird photos from Booyeembara Park; several of them (including the Swamphen) were taken this morning.

Male Splendid Fairy Wren in all his glory.
White Cheeked Honeyeater enjoying nectar.
Grey Fantail pausing for a split second.
Southern Boobook calmly (perhaps with a touch of disdain) regarding this photographer.
Mistletoebird well concealed by thick green leaves.
Exciting bird news: Today I captured images of a female White Winged Fairy Wren. Nobody has seen this species in these parts. But the identification has been confirmed by bird experts from my photos. This is astonishing.
The White Winged Fairy Wren reveals herself.
Male Rufous Whistler checks me out from his safe spot.
Purple Swamphen on its way to the pond…
…and a few minutes later (YIKES!) on its way FROM the pond!!! (One less frog in Boo Park!)
Silvereye contemplating a drink…
… and partaking.

To all you birds – “Peekaboo I see you!

Verandah Resident

“Verandah Resident” coloured pencils 16.5 x 16.5 cm. July 2022

I recently returned from a trip to Donnelly River; a 1950s heritage-listed timber mill town 300 km south of Perth. The mill closed in 1978 and today the village is a peaceful holiday haven – a place where this world still feels good. I was invited to be one of six artists to stay there and then take part in an art exhibition – The 2022 Donnelly Verandah Residencies. I took Matthew along and for several days we soaked up the wintry atmosphere, walked, observed and photographed.

My drawing “Verandah Resident” is of a Red-Winged Fairy Wren who we met on the verandah of the general store.

I will be doing more Donnelly-inspired drawings for the exhibition which will be held at Earlywork in South Fremantle from 19-28 August. Website: https://www.thedonnellyverandahresidencies.com/

Donnelly is HEAVEN. Here are some of the photographs I took…

Cottages and sheds with kangaroo
Scarlet Robin
Western Spinebill eyeing a bee
The road in showing the general store (and kangaroo)
Twenty Eight Parrot with Matthew
Derelict cottage, winter trees and spring flowers
Dancing emus
Western Whistler
Locals awaiting a phone call
Female Western Rosella (front) with Twenty Eight Parrot (rear)
Male Western Rosella in the rosemary bush
Julie and Kangaroo (photo by Matthew)

Matthew and I were so enthralled by Donnelly River that we will return in spring. If you love birds, animals, trees and peace, this is UTOPIA. Here is the accommodation website – so you can book your own trip https://donnellyriver.com.au/