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Take a stroll through my 2015 Territory Wildlife Park experience and I’ll show you what I found…

Lily lagoon

Lilies are omnipresent in lagoons and billabongs across the Top End, making these places even more beautiful. Dragonflies, frogs and turtles can be found in abundance perched on lily pads or wending through long stalks beneath the water. Largely inspired by the lilies that run along the front of the dingo enclosure at the Territory Wildlife Park, the lilies in this design sometimes hide little pig nose turtles, while dragonflies hover and land between the flowers.

Original artwork: watercolour pencil and ink

lily lagoon

midnight turtles

turtle lagoon

nesting pittas

Rainbow pittas are elusive and somehow just a little bit magical with a blue flash on a green wings, an orange cap upon a little black head. Although they are reasonably common, catching a glimpse of one in the wild is a rare treat.
During the wet season, rainbow pittas nest on the ground and in trees, adapting their architecture to suit the environment.
This design is inspired by the Mid Century Modern designs so popular in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Original artwork: digital drawings from pencil sketches

nesting pittas

wet season leaf

skeletal leaf – dry

leaf and nest

knock-em-down leaf

skeletal leaf – wet

pitta leaf

dry season leaf

skeletal leaf – late dry

darwin

While I live in the bush, I felt that the ‘burbs of Darwin needed to be celebrated too. A hat tip to the days when elevated houses were more common, the ‘Darwin’ design reflects the more tropical architecture of the Top End and reminds me my friend’s house in Ludmilla.
‘Botanica Darwin’ brings together a sprouting of a variety of tropical plants from bananas to boabs, from mangos to palms.
‘Boab greens’ is the first in a series of designs to be added to this collection dedicated to a single – and in this case fascinating – plant.

Original artwork: acrylic paint, collage

Darwin

Darwin botanica

boab greens

Inside my skin

Noses pressed against the glass at the Territory Wildlife Park aquarium, I joined unknown children, more than once this year, gazing at the enormous crocodile suspended in his tank. The rough skin intrigued me, mountain ranges of tough leathery hide, irregular and strange. As I began to draw, semi-abstract shapes emerged, the topography of a skin I do not wish to climb into!

Original artwork: Watercolour pencils, digital manipulation

inside my skin

inside your skin

wattle blossom/wattle pod

On my first day as an artist-in-the-park at the Territory Wildlife Park I walked a full lap of the park, seeking simply to familiarise myself with the spaces in which I might work. Along the way I found a wattle blossom in the centre of the track and was delighted by the rich oranges and yellows in the flower. While I might have passed this by in the search for a more iconic plant, it provided an invitation I could not refuse, and became the first design of my residency.

Original artwork: Acrylic paint/collage

wattle blossom

wattle bark (dk)

wattle pod

wattle bark (light)

wattle puffs

stealing curlews

Curlews cry in the bush outside my bedroom window. They steal through the bush on long thin legs like thunderbird puppets, with jerky, wary movements, huge eyes ever watchful. They bob their heads. They sit on funny backward bending knees. They are enchanting.
The nocturnal house at the Territory Wildlife Park gave me a great opportunity to sit and watch them. Eventually they got used to me and would come quite close, bobbing, nodding.

Original artwork: lino print

stealing curlews

stealing curlews (grey)

curlew grass

stealing curlews (dusk)

brolga promenade

The body of the brolga draws strange and elegant shapes as it dances, lines that once on the page invoked an art nouveau feeling that led to this design.
Mist
Early morning mists rising from lagoons paint these brolgas in the bruised purples of a wet season sky.
Sunset
This colourway reflects the brilliance of a Top End sunset, the atmospheric intensity of smoke hanging in the air streaking the sky with radiant reds and oranges.
Twilight
While birds really should be tucked up in their nests by the time twilight falls, I have depicted these party-goers dancing into the evening, just for fun.

Original artwork: digital drawing from pencil sketch

brolga promenade (mist)

brolga promenade (sunset)

brolga promenade (twilight)

crimson finch

The crimson finch or blood finch is one of my favourite birds. Splashes of red darting among the grasses, they captivate me: I will watch them as long as they are prepared to stay about. This design, inspired by the work of Charley Harper, evokes the movement of the grass and the hither and thither flitting of the tiny birds.

Original artwork: digital drawing from pencil sketch

crimson finch

finch spots

bovine monroe

There is no rhyme or reason to this design – it came to me unbidden and demanded to be executed. A deep bow to both the feral water buffalo and Andy Warhol, Bovine Monroe is simply for fun.

Original artwork: Digital image

bovine monroe

geese in the ‘hood

In the tropical savanna north it’s hot all year round and the wet season is marked by the threat of cyclones and feasting on mangoes.
Not to be left out, these prehistoric looking birds, with their hooked beaks and hoodie heads move into my neighbourhood just as the mangoes start ripening. They fly overhead in their thousands, honking – sounding for all the world like flying squeaky toys – to take up residence in the local mango orchards and don’t move out until all the mangoes are harvested, gobbled and gone.

Original artwork: ink drawing

geese in the ‘hood

geese in the ‘hood (lagoon)

geese in the ‘hood (orchard)

green ant march

The Northern Territory seems to have more varieties of ants than I knew existed, from big black ants to microscopic ginger ants, that eat the wiring in cars and kettles and whatever else they can get their tiny choppers into. But the most distinctive of them all are the green ants, who stick leaves together to make nests and parade about with their ‘bottoms’ high in the air. They’re very pretty, but they’re no more welcome than any other ant when they drop from a bush down my shirt and start biting!

Original artwork: digital drawings from pencil sketches

green ant march

green ant tracks

calytrix calyx

Turkey bush provides beautiful splashes of pink to the dry season bush across the Top End. When the petals fall the protective calyx remains, each section sporting a long stiff ‘hair’ almost as long as the petals themselves. It was for this unique feature that the genus was named Calytrix.
I was intrigued by the beautiful shapes of the calyx, which seemed to form themselves seamlessly into an ogee pattern, guiding me towards a more abstract representation of one of my favourite plants.

Original artwork: Ink and pencil sketch

calytrix calyx

pandanus

fire
The bush throughout the Top End of the Northern Territory is marked by a proliferation of pandanus. Every year, excessive burning-off sets the bush ablaze for miles around, leaving blackened bush to recover in the dry heat of July and August. Driving home through numerous fires inspired this design, the dancing orange heat offsetting the startling black trunks of charred pandanus.
first rain
At the first hint of rain in the early build-up, the bush begins to turn green, bright growth bursting from blackened stumps as the bush comes back to life.
fireflies
This colourway was inspired by evenings spent bathing in the thermal pools at Mataranka, where at certain times of year fireflies glow like tiny jewels flitting through the pandanus against a night sky.

Original artwork: digital drawing

pandanus fire

pandanus first rain

pandanus fireflies

wagtail parade

While they are found all over Australia, the willy wagtail is no stranger to the Top End. An insistent little fellow paraded and pranced before me one morning, demanding that I use the pencil in my hand to capture his cheeky likeness. So convincing was his bob and flick-flickety tail that I felt compelled to ensure the sketches informed a finished piece of work.

Original artwork: digital drawings from pencil sketches

wagtail parade (green)

wagtail curlique (green)

wagtail parade (yellow)

wagtail curlique (yellow)

wagtail parade (red)

wagtail parade (grey)

wagtail curlique (grey)

wagtail parade (mint)

wagtail parade (mint)

wagtail parade (blue)

wagtail parade (pink)

wagtail curlique (pink)

wagtail parade (lavender)

You can find my other fabric designs here.