A site to share my drawings, paintings, photographs and thoughts.
Category Archives: Birds
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.
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!
Under the Rose Bush
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.
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.
Ready to Fly
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.
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!)
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.
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…
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
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.
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
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
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.
“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.
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.
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
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.
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! 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.