Here’s a small fun piece I’m about to finish. It’s one of the many great sights you can see if you are a bush-walker. It will go with a few others and hopefully be framed together as a montage of curious kangaroos and wallabies.
Right this minute in South Australia there has barely been any rain for a while yet in Queensland there are massive floods with tragic loss of life and unimaginable conditions for people to deal with. However, water can totally change what you might see as a bush-walker. The other day I went for a two hour walk in a fairly dry park. The plus, no one else was there; the minus, not a lot to see. Eventually, after not having taken a single photograph, I thought I’d head over to Morialta Falls. The minus, it was the Australia Day public holiday and there were guaranteed to be people everywhere. There were, but that’s because it’s an accessible and magnificent area. Though the falls had no water, there was still a small stream sitting (not really flowing) in the valley and this was enough to completely change my day, filling the place with wildlife.
After scoffing quite a few of the wild blackberries which were almost ripe (my favourite time – not quite ripe but almost) the very first things I saw were three tawny frogmouths. Now explain this to me……..I spent quite a while photographing them and being entranced (they aren’t a common sight and they are wacky and weirdly wonderful) and people could see me photographing these strange barky growth-like creatures but no one really bothered to look at them, and the only ones who did went “wow” and walked off after less than half a minute! Oh well, maybe I’m the weird one.
Next on the list was this strange caterpillar. Anyone recognise it?
Then a koala bear with its young
And after a whole host of fairy wrens and other lovelies, I spotted a goldfish in amongst a school of what looked like trout fingerlings. Curiouser and curiouser
Bush-walking – what a great pastime! Especially for the wildlife artist.
I’ve finally completed a new piece. It’s a scratchboard that’s been a long time in the making with a busy life at the moment and a lot of detail in this. This should really be titled “Old Man of San Diego” because it’s from seeing one of the orangutans at San Diego Zoo in California when I was there last July. “Old Man of San Diego” just doesn’t have that ring to it since this is a male Bornean orangutan, the ones with the wide cheek flaps which show dominance to other males. In all the photographs I took of this awesome male, his eyes are not visible, too much in shadow, so I used some artistic licence to create a sad portrait. It’s one of those conundrums – we need to see primates like orangutans in zoos to highlight their plight in the wild, massive reduction in numbers due to hunting, the pet trade and loss of habitat through land exploitation, and one day maybe zoos will be the only place we will be able to see them, but of course we also don’t want to see them in zoos simply because they don’t belong there. It should also be noted that orangutans have particularly sad faces but that bears no relation to their mood. It is simply due to their facial muscles and as artists we tend to humanise animals too much, something I am guilty of but I do it for a reason – to make people stop and think.
12″ x 16″
The International Society of Scratchboard Artists is having a Virtual Exhibition. This will be up for the rest of the year. I’ve had a look through at the standard of work and it’s superb – well worth checking it out. The are some amazing artists involved and it really makes me feel good to be a part of this.
Also, I’ll be delivering some work to Pulteney Grammar School for the upcoming ZOOSSA Creating for Conservation show which, as always, is in aid of the Painted Dog in southern Africa, a cause worth getting behind. Thanks again to Emma Still for organising this.
And finally, I had a table at RSL Villas, a nursing home, where I sold some work with a portion of the sales going back into the nursing home to help pay for some new chairs for the residents. It was a great day and I met some sensational staff. My awesome wife works there as a physiotherapist and everyone loves her and constantly tells me so!! Well, of course they do!
I have a lovely niece living in England called Georgia. I got to know her a bit on my recent trip there in July and decided to do a portrait of her. She’s a bright and bubbly character and a lot of fun and I’ve tried to convey that in my art. I know she received the portrait in time for her birthday the other day so I can now show it on here without spoiling her surprise.
I also have a couple of artist friends who have gone on to become tattoo artists. Well, I also have, though maybe not in the way you might think. This portrait is almost 100% completed with a tattoo needle. I used a seven stack, which is seven needles soldered together in a row and this creates a nice even texture, perfect for representing skin on the scratchboards I use. I’m including a couple of close-ups to show this texture. The hair was done with my trusty fibreglass brush.
If you click the images they will show up larger. The actual portrait is quite small, 8″ x 10″
Back in 2008 I had an exhibition that was opened by that great primatologist, Dame of the British Empire and United Nations Messenger for Peace Dr Jane Goodall. It was a joint exhibition with 30 pieces of art, mostly chimpanzee paintings and scratchboards by myself and Leigh Rust. Well, I’ve just had the privilege of having Leigh’s company again. He was booked by the Pastel Society of South Australia for a workshop and a demo and he and his family stayed with my family for four days. Damn nice people!!
I went with him to Victor Harbor, a lovely seaside resort in South Australia, where he did a demo of a koala using his own brand of handmade pastels “Rustytones”. He had two hours to show off his skills, honed from years of work in the studio and in the field and we weren’t disappointed. I heard gasps of amazement as he effortlessly created a superb piece of art right before our eyes.
As you can see from the image below Leigh has developed a palette to hold his pastels in just like an oil painter would hold a palette laden with paint, very handy and innovative. He sells all sorts of colours but has also developed specific combinations like his ‘wildlife’ palette, taking much of the guesswork out for someone wanting to try pastels but not knowing where to start.
The range is absolutely gorgeous with his pastels loaded with pigment. And the great things about them, you don’t have to break them to get ‘usable’ pieces and you certainly don’t have to rip off annoying labels since he doesn’t use any.
Leigh employs a technique which I’ve used quite a bit when sketching out the initial layout but he takes it one step further. I often look for ‘guidelines’ such as imaginary lines let’s say from an ear to an eye or from the tip of an elbow to the nose, building up a network of lines which act as reference points to get your drawing accurate. However, he actually draws these lines on his reference photograph. It was great to see him explain the rhythm of the lines, which create planes, and this can clearly be seen by the results below.
Back to the pastel demo – Leigh can talk and he spent so much time explaining his philosophy that I thought he wasn’t going to finish. And then, in no time, he finished! It was a great sight to see.
And now this lovely piece is on my wall!