When I travel I collect, can’t help myself. Shells are prominent in the collections, but I have got to the point now where I find broken and misshapen ones are the most interesting. This drawing is based on some of these shells, but I have been very free in interpreting them, some are larger than life, others have gained twists and turns and extra texture. One thing I like is that they start to look like something else – maybe the inside of an ear or other internal organs, maybe a skull, but – strangely – still things from the natural world. These shells have a story to tell, they have had a tough life, tossed through the ocean and landing on a beach maybe far away from where they began. They are like messages in a bottle, if we can interpret the message they tell.
The drawing is approximately 45 x 30 cm, and is mainly various weights of graphite with elements of coloured pencil.
Back in December last year I started painting on old ivory piano keys. A piano key is a perfect size for a miniature, and ivory was a traditional surface for early miniaturists to work on. Each key has a character of its own, with variety of colour and texture, some showing the grain of the ivory. It is a slightly strange feeling painting on a surface that still has the qualities of the animal that it came from, but there is a warmth to it that other surfaces cannot copy. Since it has been fashioned into a piano key it has taken on other characteristics as a result of many fingers playing the piano, with all the emotions that go with learning and playing an instrument, so I feel my use is just another step in its history.
These are continuing the Japanese inspired theme that has pervaded my work this year, albeit unintentionally. The one at the top, which I am calling ‘The Chase’ will be submitted to the Australian Society of Miniature Art annual awards exhibition in June, the one on the left below, called Palm Shadow will be submitted to a miniature exhibition with a Japanese theme in August, the one in the middle below, which I have titled ‘Dappled Light’ will be submitted to another show in July, and I have no plans as yet for the last one which is called ‘Treescape’. Palm Shadow was the first one I did, and was in a post in December last year (see here), but I have done more work on it since then (I think its title needs to change too, it doesn’t seem quite right any more).
Each key is 23 x 47 mm, and I have used oil paint on them, with some scratching back with a fine needle.
The next stage of the four-way collaboration sees me adding to Karen Bailey’s book. Karen has chosen the theme of patterns in the forest – this delighted me, as it covers two of the things I like best, patterns and the natural world. The first page is a communal one, and Karen had begun it with a drawing of an unfurling fern frond, so for my contribution I chose something that also has strong, distinct shapes and rich colour, a sprig of gum nuts with leaves.
The next double page spread was Karen’s lichen.
This was followed by my double page spread – I chose an array of fungi for my subject. They were neutral coloured, growing on a dead tree trunk in Kangaroo Island. I decided to depict them in simple graphite, to emphasise the almost abstract shapes, with no distraction of colour. They became reminiscent of coral or clouds – or other objects found in nature.
The final page that I contributed to is the last double page spread. Karen had started it with a fern leaf, so I added a twig adorned with bright red seed pods – these I had found in Central Australia, and they made an exuberant contrast to the muted fungi spread.
The book is 24 cm x 16 cm. I used watercolour pencils, coloured pencils, pen and graphite in my contributions.
This is the closed book. Next week it will be heading to Gale in Oregon, then on to Cathe in Minnesota. To see work from the other three, go to