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About the Painting

Poppies

Poppies 2022

60x60cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel. Sealed and varnished

What is it about poppies?  Translucent, tissue paper petals perch atop a long hairy stem that curves and bends at odd angles.  Colours range from bright red of the common poppy or Flanders poppy to sky blue of the Himalayan poppy.  Poppies give us tasty poppy seeds which we add to cake batter and coat bagels.  But they also provide opium, which comes from the milky sap of the seed capsule.  You won’t find those varieties in any local gardens. 

 

Poppies also have a symbolic significance.  Worn on Remembrance Day red poppies were among the first to flower in the battlefields of northern France and Belgium in the First World War. In folklore, the vivid red of the poppy came from the blood of soldiers soaking the ground. 

 

In this painting, I’ve chosen a common red poppy, because of its dramatic red and black combination.  In the collage background you might find images of ghosts. The haphazard texture of the background also symbolizes the chaos and randomness in the field of flowers where the poppies grow.  

 

This painting uses hand-coloured rice paper collage for texture, as well watercolour and acrylic paint and mediums. The piece has been sanded throughout to create a worn looking background. It is sealed with a polymer varnish. 

poppies detail
Poppies
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Blue Tongue Skink 2022

Triptych acrylic mixed media on wood panel.

Each panel is 30.5 x 30.5cm, 3cm deep

Sealed and varnished

3 mixed media panels on basswood show the textural beauty of an Australian native, the blue tongue skink, Tiliqua scincoides.  The blue-tongue is predominantly in the second panel, although his tale is in the third panel.  Because these clever reptiles and drop and re-grow their tales, I thought this was an apt illustration.  Fortunately or not, these skinks like living in our suburban gardens.  The like hiding in small secluded spaces, like empty pipes, under rock or wood covers or crevices under houses.  Unfortunately, most don't make it to adulthood because they are victims of cat and dog attacks. these passive creatures are slow and their only defines is flashing their vivid blue tongue.  Not enough to dissuade feral animals.  Furthermore, they feed on slow moving insects and snails, and ingest the poison that has been put out for the snails. 

Acrylic mediums are used liberally to create textures of rocks, leaves, snail, and the scales of the skink itself.  Cotton mesh collage is applied to further enhance the textures. Warnings are written with ink in the back ground:  Keep your cats inside.  Don't use snail bait - it poisons the skink too.  Sides are painted as extensions of the painting.  The panels are sealed and polymer varnished for a gloss finish. 

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skink
Catbirds detail

Catbirds III 2022

60x60cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel.

Sealed and varnished

Recently a friend told me about a couple of birds that took to visiting them in a Port Jackson fig that stood outside their place south of Sydney. It was a bird I’d never heard of before called a Catbird. Apparently, these birds greeted them with a most unusual call – a cross between a child wailing and a cat yowl.  I did a bit of research and amazingly, there are a lot of recordings of these birds online.  It’s not a pretty sound, but it is wonderous.  The alluring Green Catbird is quite stunning.  It has bright green plumage, with distinct white markings at the end of feathers and arrow shaped spots on its throat and belly. They nest in the boughs of trees, and lucky for my friends, this couple had chosen their fig – probably because they love the small orange fruit it produces.  

 

Their tree, a Port Jackson fig, provides plenty of cover for these shy and elusive birds. And although they are bower birds, they don’t build a bower nest, but rather they construct a bulky cup of twigs, leaves and vines.  

 

Catbirds are monogamous – they meet, mate and stay together for life.  The male tends to the female during breeding, protecting her and feeding her while she looks after the nest. 

 

This painting was created using watercolour and acrylic mediums.  Watercolours are applied as an initial wash on the entire board.  Handmade stencils are used to create textural leaves and figs.  Several paint layers are applied and sanded back to reveal previous colours.  The Catbirds are given special attention in an attempt to imitate their beautiful feathers and patterns. 

Catbird detail
Catbirds
Detail Through a Window

Through a Window 2022

60x60cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel.

Sealed and varnished

I can see my three grevilleas when I'm working in my studio and they are a favourite of the lorikeets.  Each day, at various times, a flock of these fast and furious birds sore through the boughs of the trees and settle on a branch with the choicest flower.  If you listen, you can hear them squawking and tweeting, but its hard to see them, because they blend in so well with the greens, pinks and yellows of the greveliia.  That's what I've tried to capture here. Three we see, but many more flitter in behind and in between.

This painting uses acrylic mediums and stencils for texture, including mesh to give the impression of a window screen. The lorikeets feathers are a watercolour wash with fine details added in acrylic. Stamps have been used to give the impression of insects joining the feast.   Pen and ink is used for the stamens.  The painting is sealed and varnished with acrylic polymer for a satin finish. 

Through a Window detail
Through window
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3 Australian Natives 2022

Each gallery wrap canvas is 30.5 x30.5cm, 3 cm deep

Acrylic mixed media, Sealed and varnished

Eucalyptus, Golden wattle and bottlebrush.

3 pieces look great together, or can be bought separately.  Each mixed media painting has been created using paper collage, watercolour pencils, and acrylic paint and ink.  

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Natives
Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus 2022

60x70cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel. Sealed and varnished

On a recent visit to the Mount Penang Gardens on the Central Coast, we came across some small eucalyptus bushes in full bloom.  The flowers were in bloom and each bush was surrounding by wood chip mulch.  I’ve tried to recreate this image, beginning with the leaves which, as with many gum trees, present themselves not in one colour, but various hues from green to brown.   The blossoms are gossamer sprays of iridescent colour ranging from pink to gold to white, depending on where the sun settles. 

 

This painting was created using layering of acrylic mediums.  Hand made leaf stencils provide the relief in various leaves.  Pen and ink are used to recreate the dainty filament of the flower. The painting is sealed and varnished with an acrylic polymer varnish. 

Eucalyptus detail
Eucalyptus
Pomegranate iii detail

Pomegrantes III 2022

60x60cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel. Sealed and varnished

From Old French, pome grenate, meaning literally “an apple with many seeds,” pomegranates are prevalent throughout literature of the ages. Pomegranates symbolise love, life, innocence and vitality, and more, from the old Testament to Khaled Hosseini’s Kite Runner.  

 

In this painting, Juliet’s words to her Romeo are written beneath the pomegranates and the nightingale.  The bird represented here is indeed the nightingale.

 

Juliet: Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day.

It was the nightingale, and not the lark,

That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear.

Nightly she sings on yon pomegranate tree.

Believe me, love, it was the nightingale.

Romeo & Juliet, Act 3, scene 5                                                                                                                      

 

This painting has textural elements created using acrylic mediums.  It has been sanded at various stages to impart a subtle texture.  The pomegranates and background were painted initially with watercolours and finished with acrylic paint. The painting is sealed with a polymer varnish.
 

pomegranate III detail 2
Pome III
Green catbird detail

Catbirds 2022

60x60cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel. Sealed and varnished

Catbirds have a most unusual call – a cross between a child wailing and a cat yowl.  I did a bit of research and amazingly, there are a lot of recordings of these birds on line.  It’s not a pretty sound, but it is wonderous.  The alluring Green Catbird is quite stunning.  It has bright green plumage, with distinct white markings at the end of feathers and arrow shaped spots on its throat and belly. 

 

Here, a Port Jackson fig, provides plenty of cover for these shy and elusive birds. And they love the small orange fruit it produces.  Although they are bower birds, they don’t build a bower nest, but rather they construct a bulky cup of twigs, leaves and vines.  Catbirds are monogamous – they meet, mate and stay together for life.  The male tends to the female during breeding, protecting her and feeding her while she looks after the nest. 

 

This painting is created using watercolour and acrylic mediums.  Watercolours are applied as an initial wash on the entire board.  Handmade stencils are used to create textural leaves and figs.  Several paint layers are applied and sanded back to reveal previous colours.  The Catbirds are given special attention in an attempt to imitate their beautiful feathers and patterns. 

Catbird and fig detail
Figs

Figs 2022

50x50cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel.

Sealed and varnished

Layers of acrylic mediums create the textures in this painting of Ficus  - pastels, iridescent watercolours and acrylic paint used for highlights. 

Figs are an ancient fruit - some theorise that the "garden of eden" tree was actually a fig, not an apple (although some say it was a pomegranate).  

What I find fascination about the fig is how it is pollinated.  It takes a determined female wasp to find a flowering fig - and this is particularly challenging because unlike other flowers, a fig's flowers are inside the fruit.  The wasp enters the tiny opening in the fig and in doing so, destroys her wings, so she's stuck inside.  There, she lays her eggs and dies.  Her male and female offspring mate, and afterwards the males dig a hole which allows the females to fly away in search of the next fig.  The males don't have wings so they stay put and die too.  Isn't nature amazing?

Fig detail
Figs
Look Up

Look Up 2022

50x50cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel.

Sealed and varnished

I discovered an additional benefit taking Hope, our golden retriever, for walks.  See, as a retriever, she is especially tuned into her nose and absolutely must stop to smell every tree, every post, every wall, well, you get the picture.  Which means there are more stops than steps during our walks.  So, I look up a lot.  I find myself looking up through branches of trees to sky in various hues of the day and night. The shapes and patterns have always fascinated me, so while Hope sniffs below, I see designs above.  

 

This painting is a composite of various photographs of tree tops.  The background is created using mineral pigment watercolours, which produces the shimmering affect.  The foreground and tree roots are created using acrylic molding paste and paint.  Pen and ink finish the fine branches of the trees.  

Look up detail
Look up
Pandora detail

Pandora Vine (Wonga wonga)

31 cm x31 cm; 3.7cm deep.  Acrylic mixed media on wood panel.

Sealed and varnished

Pandorea pandorana or “wonga-wonga Vine” is a twining vine with bell shaped flowers. After flowering they produce fruit pods, which split to reveal winged seeds. Wonga is also the name given to a large Australian pigeon, which doesn’t really have any relationship to the similarly named vine. Curious.  

 

In this triptych, vine and pigeon do come together, however, as does the Pandora, the first woman, according to Greek mythology.  Pandora’s given a box which she’s been forbidden to open.  But of course, she does, releasing evils sprites, sort of like the vines’ pods open to release their seeds.  Pandora’s story is slightly hidden in this piece. 

 

Curiosity nudged Pandora and so she gingerly pried open the lid of the box and with a great rush of wind within, the lid flew open and out pushed Greed. On its heals flew Envy followed by Hatred. 

 

As Pandora sat back in horror, out slithered Disease, who held hands with Pain. Coming to her senses, Pandora reached out to close the lid, but not before War charged through followed by Poverty and Death.

 

Finally, Pandora slammed the lid shut, thinking that she would stop more evil escaping but the only thing left was Hope.  And Hope remained always. 

 

Acrylic paint, watercolour and graphite are used in this painting, along with molding medium and collage, to create a textural piece.  The painting is sealed with several layers and varnished with acrylic polymer. 

Pandora detail
Pandora
Dendrophthoe
Detail of Dendrophthoe vitellina

Dendrophthoe vitellina - long-flowered mistletoe 2021

50x50cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel. Sealed and wax varnished

You might think of mistletoe as that thing that people kissed under in old movies, but did you know that Australia is home to almost 90 mistletoe endemic species (but none in Tasmania)? Mistletoe is a parasitic flowering plant, woody and shrubby or vine-like, attached to the branches of their host trees or shrubs.  They are actually semi-parasitic since they use their host for support and and water, but carry out photosynthesis independently. Mistletoe provides food and shelter for all sorts of creatures including birds, bugs and other invertebrates.  23 butterfly species depend on these plants for their primary food source.  This species is found in the NSW Coast ranges and tablelands to the Victorian boarder and are particular to specific eucalyptus trees. 

This piece part of my Flora Invades Life series - I am fascinated and comforted by how, when left to its own life cycle, nature, in this case, a parasitic plant adapts to its environment. Dendrophthoe vitallina is part of an ancient mistletoe, many which grow on Gadigal land, and although some species are now extinct, others thrive, and always will. Textures created in the first layers of this painting include gauze, modelling mediums, stencils and stamps. The star of the painting, commonly known as "long-flowered mistletoe" , with its bright yellow-orange flowers, takes over the canvas in the end. 

Mistletoe detail
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Orchard Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilla Aegeus)

50x50cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel. Sealed and varnished.

“Just living is not enough,” said the Butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” Hans Christian Andersen

 

A few months ago, a female Papilio Aegeus landed on our garden lawn and I was so struck by its dramatic beauty that I knew I’d have to try to capture her in a painting. After a little research, I learned that female and male Swallowtails look very different, as the wing markings are absolutely distinctive, especially in the crimson and blue markings on the hind wings.  This painting tries to emulate her iridescent wings by using a textured ground, as well as a blue underpainting.  

 

I’ve never met a person who doesn’t like butterflies.  I’m drawn to them partly because of their obvious stunning colours and markings.  When we see them, it’s easy to take it for granted that they flitter around us at certain times of the year, landing on flowers and moving on. But many butterfly species are in danger of being extinct in every part of the globe.  It may not seem important, but their role in biodiversity is paramount.  Flowering plants are linked to butterflies and vice versa.  Specific butterflies feed on the nectar of specific flowers, then pollinate other plants. Birds feed on the butterflies. Other animals feed on the caterpillars. 

 

Well researched fiction on Monarch butterflies and their incredible migration:  Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

Butterfly detail
Butterfly
Mangoe detail

Mangoes 2021

50 x50 cm mixed media on wood, sealed and wax varnished

50x50cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel. Sealed and wax varnished.

 

Mangifera indica, indigenous to southern Asia, is a member of the cashew family.  There are a myriad species of this tree all over the world, from India to Australia to Brazil, Mexico, Madagascar and back to  China. 

 

The subject for this painting is perhaps a Calypso or Honey Gold or Kent, but it’s hard to remember, because they don’t last very long once they make it to our fruit bowl.  In this painting, they hang heavy from branched panicles, sweet and juicy, ready to be plucked and packed into crates. Purples of twilight are just beginning to seep into view. If you look closer, you’ll see beneath the fruit and leaves layered textures created with hand coloured papers and imprints of stencil letters and mango tree in Hindi: आम का पेड़ .  And from literature:

"little bee, you know that the cuckoo goes crazy with delight when she sees the mango-blossom." "Shakuntala" Kalidasa

 

The days are long and humid. The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still dust green trees. - "The God of Small Things" Arundhati Roy

 

Mango Tree.jpeg
Mangoes detail
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Strelitzia 2021

50x50cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel. Sealed and wax varnished

Strelitzia, commonly known as bird of paradise, is originally from South Africa, but here in Australia, they’ve happily settled in and can be found in many gardens, backyards and bordering driveways.  And often, they can be found in the middle of those roundabouts, that we circle day in and day out.  They are a most fascinating plant – not one colour by a pastel blend of green, orange, red and purple.  

 

Strelitzia have an interesting pollination system.  For this, they need the cooperation of the cape weaver, (or other sunbirds).  Weavers, looking to get to the sweet nectar that’s contained in the floral tubes, land on a handy perch, the bright bluish-purple inflorescence.  Now they can reach the nectar with their beaks.  When they land, their feet force open the inflorescence and as they drink, pollen gathers on their feet.  When the weaver flies off to another plant, pollination is complete.  

 

In this painting, Strelitzia is being visited by a few weavers – some have flown away.  Perhaps sitting in the middle of the roundabout isn’t their favourite place the fly.  The painting is created using a variety of watercolour mediums, acrylic paint and other mediums to produce colours and textures.  The painting is sealed and wax varnished. 

Strelitzia
Strelitzia inflorescence
Sunflowers detail

Sunflowers 

50x50cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel. Sealed and wax varnished

Three sunflowers, parents and child, perhaps.  Their heads seem too large and heavy for the stalk they balance upon. Followers of heliotropism, sunflower buds and young blossoms track the sun from east to west.  But as they mature, they lose this elasticity, much like we do.  Native to North America, sunflower seeds were exported around the world and today seemingly endless fields of glorious sunflowers can be seen from highways in the Americas, Europe and Asia. 

 

These Sunflowers were painted during a Covid19 surge in the States. The numbers were growing in every measurement.  Newspapers published articles and stories of sadness, fear and anxiety for months.  I turned to my old favourite, the sunflower.  Sunflowers (like Birds of Paradise, I think) have personality, with their golden-maned heads, tilting this way and that. I envisioned a trio of flowers, calming and comforting each other. Hidden underneath, however, there are those newspaper headlines, images and tallies of a global pandemic, if you look closely to see them.  These Sunflowers don’t obscure the statistics, although my paint brush tried. But rather, for me, nature has a special ability to soothe and console.   And sunflowers always make me smile.    

Sunflower Detail
Sunflowers
lemons detail 2

Lemons

50x50cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel. Sealed and wax varnished

When one door closes, another one opens. Or, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. 

 

There are many sayings attributed to the lemon.  Many are not flattering.  Perhaps it’s because lemons are tart and their pith is bitter.  But what other fruit gives life such flavour?

 

Lemonade, lemon curd, lemon essence, lemon lotions, lemon infusions, lemon sorbet, lemon salt, lemon peels, lemon cake, lemon meringue pie, lemonheads, lemon juice, lemon slices, preserved lemons, limoncello, lemon oil, lemon scent candle, dehydrated lemon slices, lemon chicken, lemon cheesecake, lemon tart, lemon glaze, lemon marmalade, lemon butter, … 

 

Lemons can clean a fridge, disinfect the sink, take stains out of fabric, repel insects, lighten hair, freshen the laundry, make buttermilk, clean silverware, make potpourri, make invisible ink, detox a body, polish wood floors, …

 

Bring on the lemons. 

 

This painting was created using several mediums including watercolour and acrylic paint, molding medium for texture and paper collage.

lemons detail 2
Lemons
window

Harmony

60x60cm acrylic mixed media on wood panel. Sealed and varnished

Wisteria and jasmine - two of my favourite flowering plants - a sure sign of spring.  

Each year, I wander past a house around the corner that has both of these beauties growing side by side, winding into each other's branches.  Every year, they put on a stunning show with a prolific display of violet, blue, white and yellow.  I often wonder if the owners know how lucky they are to have this happen or if they've just grown used to it and hardly notice.  I hope it's the former. 

 

This painting offers a sliver of what I see, with the house's window peeking out from behind the vines, leaves and flowers. 

 

This work is created using acrylic mediums and paints, along with watercolour mediums.   The words Wisteria and Jasmine are obscured but in relief on the canvas if oneslooks closely.  

jasmine detail
Wisteria
gum nut detail

Blushing Pink

60x60cm(3cm deep) acrylic mixed media on wood panel. Sealed and varnished

This piece satisfies my need to see nature in detail.  If I could walk around with a magnifying glass, I would, just to see all the marvellous miracles on display in every leaf, blossom, and tree bark.  Getting up close and personal is the best way see nature.  Less focus on the external clutter and peripheral distractions.  Here one can see the complexity of nature. Then, one can truly appreciate the structure and functions of plants – how they grow, develop, multiply and survive – some for millions of years. In this piece, I focused on a gum blossom. There’s a flowering gum in my neighbourhood that I always admire.  And because the stamen filaments are what catches the eye, I chose the make that stage centre.                                                                                                           

I’ve created texture using acrylic mediums, paint and fabric collage. It has been sanded at various stages.  The background is “blurred” to focus the eyes on one flower and its closest companions.  Pen and ink were used to add details to the filaments. The painting is sealed and varnished with a polymer varnish.
 

Flower details
Blush pink
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