Sunday, May 26, 2019

Listening to Rain

I've just finished reading a wonderful book, titled 'The Song of Trees' by David George Haskell.  Each chapter is about an individual tree somewhere in the world.  Haskell weaves poetic stories about the links those trees share with their surrounding environment and how that influences the humans and other animals that interact with them.  This narrative of 'connectivity' of all things natural really resonates with my art practice, so I found the book a great source of ideas and inspiration.

One such idea that Haskell presents in his book is the physicality of sound, particularly the sound of rain and how it reveals the shape and structure of trees.

Here is a short quote from the book:

"The water that strikes the understory has already passed across many leaves above...rhythms of the understory are born in the diversity of leaf shapes.  We hear rain not through silent falling water but in the many translations delivered by objects that the rain encounters."

A few weeks ago, I posted on my blog about Remembering Trees Lost where I had printed a series of monoprints inspired by the removal of trees for road widening near where I live.

Some of those monoprints have been assembled and framed for a small series of works titled 'Memory of Trees', but I held back 56 of the card-sized prints to create a hanging book, inspired by Haskell's idea of the sound of rain and my recent experiences at the BioBlitz sitting in the rain beneath the rainforest canopy.

The prints hang on linen thread from pieces of repurposed wood.  The prints are graded from dark to light to reflect the intensity of the sound of the rainfall as if the leaves are speaking the rain's language.

The book is titled 'Listening to Rain', and will be exhibited next month at 'Compassion' an exhibition of artist books on the Sunshine Coast.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Where Arts meets Science - Part 4

Continuing on from my previous post.....

Day 4 of the Art-science BioBlitz at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve

The Sunday dawned without a cloud in the sky, absolutely gorgeous!

My tree for this final day of the BioBlitz was Tree 3 - 'Mook Mook', Jinibara language for 'Ghost Tree'.

It was very busy around the base of the tree, as it was one of the trees setup for climbing that day.  To get close to the tree, I had to wear a hard hat and keep away from all the noise and activity.   This forced me to look closer at the soil and around the roots, with my drawings focussing on the beautiful fungi sprouting from the strangler fig roots.

The rest of the morning was spent back at BioBlitz HQ working with the other artists.  We were all a bit frantic at this stage, trying to get as much done as possible before it was 'brushes down!' and time to go for the closing ceremony.

We all had a fabulous time, it was a highlight to work with both scientists and like-minded artists.  I feel like I've established some new connections that will enhance my art practice and help me to spread the word about forest conservation and the importance of retaining biodiversity.

The 5 visual diaries were handed over to the Reserve staff, to be scanned and documented, and then put on show at the Reserve until 25 August.

Wearing a hard hat whilst sketching at the base of
Mook Mook,  something different!

Beautiful fungi, captured on toned paper with

My watercolour kit, wet and muddy and well used

The art team at work at BioBlitz HQ - me, Kim, Jono, Jason and Leisa
(left to right around the table).  Paula was out in the forest at the time
this photo was taken.
At the closing ceremony, still working on our diaries!

My favourite drawing from the 4 days of BioBlitz -
the Bat Fly!  AMAZING!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Where Arts meets Science - Part 3

Continuing on from my previous post.....

Day 3 of the Art-science BioBlitz at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve

Saturday's weather was showery and humid but at least it wasn't continually raining, so presented more opportunities to get out into the forest.

My allocated tree for the day was Tree 1 - Gureya, the Jinibara name for 'fig', another beautiful and awe-inspiring strangler fig. 

However, I was keen to spend some time with the Entomologists - Dr Geoff Monteith and Dr Kathy Ebert.  They were doing studies of native dung beetles, collecting specimens around the trees, as well as at different levels up into the canopy.  They were very helpful and knowledgable, keen to share their scientific methodologies and findings with us.  I was able to spend some time examining dung beetle specimens through their microscopes, its amazing the detail and beauty of these little insects that play such a vital role in recycling forest nutrients.

I also went out into the forest with Geoff and Kathy as they checked their insect traps.  I made sure I recorded their activities and insects collected in my visual diary.  I managed to escape the leeches though I noted that Geoff had several hanging off his leg at one stage....!

During the afternoon,  I spent some time at the base of the Gureya tree, sketching the blackbean pods that had fallen within Gureya's dripline.  Due to an approaching storm, I had the tree to myself, its a lovely experience to be sitting on a low stool alone in the forest, with the drizzle of rain filtering through the canopy.  Finally though the thunder and a need to dry my watercolour washes drove me back into BioBlitz HQ to work some more with my gelli plate and paints.

After dinner, Leisa and I returned to BioBlitz HQ to see the insect light traps that Geoff and Kathy had erected.  There were some very interesting looking moths attracted to the lights.   We also enjoyed the song of frogs in the nearby pond.

Dr Kathy Ebert studying and identifying dung beetle specimens

I'm using a magnifier to sketch some of the insect specimens

The view through the magnifier...needless to say I now have one too!
Out with Geoff and Kathy checking the
insect traps.

Nighttime insect light trap.

Next Blog Post:  Day 4 - the final day to record the forest!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Where Art meets Science - Part 2

Continuing on from my previous post.....

Day 2 of the Art-science BioBlitz at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve

Fortunately, the rain eased overnight and was just showery, so we all were able to get out into the forest more and work with the trees.

My tree for Day 2 was Dala (tree 4).  Dala is the Jinibura name for Staghorn, and the tree certainly had quite a few epiphytes that could be seen from the ground.

I spent the morning drawing at the base of the tree.  I also watched Ann Moran and her team doing a plant survey, identifying and counting the plants around the dripline of the tree to establish what sort of species germinate and live there which also reveals bird movements (given their role in spreading seed).

After lunch, it was my turn to 'go up a tree'.   I had the awesome privilege of being hauled up Tree 3 (Mook Mook), the Ghost Tree.  I'm not fond of heights and had some reservations as I went up, but it was so amazing I was quickly distracted from the fact I was dangling at over 40metres up.  Plus I knew I was in the very capable hands of the tree climbers so I could literally sit and relax in my harness.  I took lots of photos but spent most of my 20 minutes up there enjoying the view.

Looking the part....

Hanging on, though I'm actually sitting in a fork of the tree

a Bird's Nest fern halfway up, I stopped for a good look

I couldn't actually see the ground as it was hidden by the canopy
of the rest of the forest, so that made it really easy to ignore how high up I was.

My climbing chaperone Matt climbed up further to get this wonderful photo,
almost makes me giddy looking at it!

Next Blog Post:  Day 3 of the BioBlitz

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Where Art meets Science - Part 1

How long has it been since you were up a tree?  I mean, like REALLY up a tree.  Recently I had the privilege to sit in the canopy of a 48metre strangler fig in the middle of a rainforest.....

It was all part of an art-science BioBlitz at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, which is an island of rainforest in the mountains in the Sunshine Coast hinterland (an hour from my home).  Ok, so they really aren't mountains like some cities have, but in flat coastal Queensland they're pretty impressive.

I was selected to be one of six artists-in-residence for the BioBlitz, held over 4 days.  Five huge Stranger Figs were chosen as our focus of the project.  We worked alongside tree climbers, scientists and lots of like-minded volunteers - a wonderful opportunity for collaboration and 'to look over the shoulder' at science methodologies and discoveries.

My fellow artists and I had a job to do though - each fig had a blank visual diary assigned to it, and our job as artists was to respond creatively in each book to the tree, its surrounds, its biodiversity, and the activity of the BioBlitz.

I've got so much to share with you, I'm going to blog about it in several posts.  I wasn't able to blog during the BioBlitz as I was busy focusing on the job at hand, and enjoying the amazing forest!

Day 1 
On the first day, it rained and rained and rained.  Wonderful because we seriously needed the rain and the fungi scientists were ecstatic.  Not so wonderful as the BioBlitz got off to a slow start due to safety issues. 

I managed to escape into the forest in the afternoon.  My first tree was BarrBarr (Tree 2).   This was a tricky one, involving a log crossing over creek, then through the tangle of forest for 20 metres.  I spent a rewarding couple of hours in the rain, sketching at the base of the tree, before heading back to BioBlitz HQ to use my mini gelli plate to work in my visual diary.

The BioBlitz team

Standing in the rain, checking out the trees on
the first morning.
Leeches were an issue, they kept dropping
from the trees above us!

Misty in the rainforest.  Its the first time I've
walked through a rainforest in the rain - beautiful!
(except for the leeches)

Selfie with BarrBarr

Drawings, watercolour and gelli prints inspired by
looking through a microscope at mosses


A double page spread in the visual diary
using leaves from BarrBarr - gelli prints and drawings

Next Blog post:  Days 2 & 3 of the BioBlitz

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Remembering Trees Lost

The local council is widening a road near me.  Road widening means the trees have to go to make way for bitumen, road infrastructure, and cars (including mine).

Natural habitats will always be at the mercy of human needs.  But in this case, I felt very emotional about one particular tree.  It was a beautiful eucalypt, tall and old, but healthy and resilient even though it was close to the road and a busy intersection.  Then as they started the road works, I noted it was on the wrong side of the construction fencing.  And that means its days were numbered.  This made me very sad as I reflected on its fate.  Then one day it was gone.

This event has inspired me to start working on a new series of monotypes.  My idea is to do multiple mini prints using individual leaves, employing repetition as a form of meditation.  Each leaf print will act as a metaphor for my desire to hold onto the memory of those trees, as if I'm trying not to forget them, and to remember the joy they gave me as I drove through that avenue of majestic gums.

I started working on these prints whilst on holidays at the coast. My print studio as always comes on holiday with me, this time I was able to set up my Xcut printer on the kitchen benchtop, so I had sea views as I worked.  I also used my holiday time to ride my bicycle to local bushland to collect leaves to print with.  I wanted to find ones that had character and would do justice to my idea.

I've ended up with a large selection of prints, I'm thinking that I will create a series of two or three artworks, loosely titled 'Memory of Trees' or 'Meditation on Trees'.    Through my artwork I will remember those trees, in particular that tall majestic gum on the wrong side of the fence. 

My art studio in the kitchen of our unit.

Printing on the Xcut.

The view from our unit.  

Out mountain biking, collecting leaves.
Can you see the Lace Monitor on the tree behind me?

Some of the leaf prints, I love repetition in monoprinting,
as every print is different.

Pulling the print and seeing the image is
so exciting!

The ghost image on the plate, held
up to the light... beautiful!

Another magical print.  I LOVE monoprinting!

I love how the leaf develops some gorgeous colours too.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Papermaking with friends

Last weekend members of Papermakers and Artists Qld met in Tenterfield (Northern NSW) for two days of papermaking with artist Liz Powell, who has set up a paper studio there.

We experimented with a variety of fibres including hemp, yukka, heliconia, lemon grass, bromeliad, banana, and ginger.  We took our new Hollander Beater and gave it a good workout.  The heliconia and bromeliad fibre was from my own garden, I've been doing a fair bit of tidying up lately, so it was easy to keep some of my plant waste to cook up.

Papermaking is a lot of work, requiring physical stamina and effort, but the load is lightened when working in a group.  Lots of fun as well, playing with water in temperatures over 30 degrees celsius.

I used a 30cm long mould & deckle to make a range of botanical papers, I hope to use these in an artist book in the future.

Selfie with some of the girls and the beater.
L to R - me, Zela, Tricia, Ngaire and Liz.

Chopping up plant waste to cook.
Hollander beater in action.  The cooked
fibres flow around to be macerated by the drum.
Our beater was made by Mark Lander
 in New Zealand, paid for with a
community grant.

The girls are separating the fibres to help the beater.

Close up of the beater.  Its a beautiful machine!

Papers drying in the sun.

A selection of my dried papers.
Some rough and textured, some smooth,
some with flecks, some with chunky bits!

A highly textured paper, might be good
for chine colle and collage.
Or just to admire its beauty.
Some of the wonderful food from the local
caterers, there's nothing better when working hard
to enjoy some tasty treats.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Getting closer to nature via kayaking....with link to VIDEOS....!

My apologies....the videos may not be showing if you have received this blog post via email, so you'll need to go to my blogspot to view them.

Click here to access my blog to see the videos.....

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Getting closer to nature via kayaking

What better way to spend our Christmas break than kayaking amongst mangrove forests in our local creeks?

Here are a couple of short videos so you can share the quiet special moments I have on recent kayak trips.  I use this time to get into the moment and think about my next artist book.  As I kayaked through the mangroves I was thinking about the beauty of special places such as these so close to urban development.  I'm so grateful that I'm able to see and enjoy these places, where life is based on tidal cycles, the moon and the seasons.

Click here to access my blog to see the videos.....

Friday, November 16, 2018

Reworking old prints into Artist Books

You know you've got too much art stuff when you can't find something you know you have, especially if you saw it yesterday......  OK, I admit its also to do with getting older, but I know I have too much paper and art supplies.  Something has to be done!

So this was the impetus for a reorganisation of my art studio and storage room, starting with the recent acquisition of new plan drawers in which to store my extensive paper collection.  And I've continued to use that energy to keep sorting through the rest of my studio.

Sorting through folios, I've found heaps of prints. Mostly reject monoprints from past series, where I've sold the best ones and I'm left with the not-so-good ones.  The ones where the composition or colours aren't quite right, they don't work as a whole but have plenty of interesting marks and textures.  Not a frame-able masterpiece but not worth shredding for the compost bin.

These are the prints that are destined to become artist books.  Cut down, folded, glued and taped - they become a new object with a fresh story.

I saw an interesting book design on facebook.  The book starts with a hexagon shape (I love hexagons!), with 3 valley folds and 1 mountain fold.  The hexagons can be joined all facing in the same direction so the book stands up on its own (as per my examples) or you can alternate the direction of the hexagons for an interesting 'reading' experience.

Here's photos of a couple of artist books that I've made recently using that design.  It was an experiment just for fun to see what these old prints could give me second time around.

Ok now its time to get back to sorting, labeling, shredding, and adding to the growing pile of goodies to donate.......

My new plan drawers, filled with my papers and labeled appropriately.
Now that I can find all of my papers, I know I DON"T need any more ...!
Looking down at the book of Scrub Turkey images,
turkeys running in all directions  :-)

The covers of the book were made with mat board offcuts
and covered with prints

One of the pages of the turkey book,
showing the folds

Another book of the same design, this time
using prints from a Silvereye series.

Another view of the Silvereye book,
I love the textures and imagery in this one.