A site to share my drawings, paintings, photographs and thoughts.
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.
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.
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” 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.
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 clickingsound?” (Answer: “Birdie, it is my shutter-release button.”)
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.
To all you birds – “Peekaboo I see you!“
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 VerandahResidencies. 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.
Donnelly is HEAVEN. Here are some of the photographs I took…
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/
Bright directional light, deep shadows, a tilt of the head, and distant cranes of Fremantle’s inner harbour have come together to create a set of compositional diagonals. The seagull balances comfortably on one leg as if an anchor point for the whole.
It looks like silver gulls are going to make several guest appearances in next April’s “Home and Heart – Local Love Stories” exhibition. After all, Fremantle (a major subject in the exhibition) wouldn’t be the same without our eye-on-the-main-chance, casing-the-joint, feathered larrikins. I have a real soft spot for them!
If a Japanese Lantern were a Bird
At the beginning of May I went searching for scarlet robins. I had seen images of them posted in the Facebook group ‘Western Australian Birds’. My mission was to find some of my own so that I could draw them. I did a bit of research and set off for Karnup Nature Reserve where it turned out a pair were waiting for me in the car park!
These striking little black, white and red robins remind me of Japanese lanterns hence the long title of this small drawing. After I thought of the title it occurred to me that it could be the first line of a verse – so I had better compose the verse.
If a Japanese lantern were a bird,
How bright its hues would be,
Illuminating scarlet globe,
Delighting all who see!
Some Japanese lanterns I have known and drawn over the years…
Now you can see why I had to find a scarlet robin, my Japanese Lantern Bird. This wee Australian bird takes me back to Kyoto.
Good Day Sunshine
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.