(The first paragraph of this entry was written in mid-November)
Here we are, halfway through November and I haven't written about what happened in October! Steve (my husband) and I are currently having a long weekend camping at Depot Beach, so I'm writing this on the back of a map and will type it up later. Depot Beach - what a place, by the way. The only traffic is the cars and campervans arriving at the campground - the only interruption to the sounds of the wind in the trees and the waves breaking. The cicadas start up just on dark, a shift change from the lorikeets and whipbirds that have been calling all day. We spent part of yesterday and today noodling around the rock pools and beach wash, looking for nature's treasures. Hundreds of bluebottles have washed up in the past few days, making a swim out of the question! The perfect little ecosystems contained in the rock pools are like small, moving artworks. It still takes me by surprise that I feel more 'myself' while poking around and looking at the details of nature.
The residency has been going well, in that I have completed several paintings over the past 2 months. This is more than I expected and I aim to keep up this higher output in order to have more choice for the exhibition at the end of June 2018. The downside to this has been that I haven't been out 'in the field' as much as I'd like. I'm happy the evenings are staying lighter for longer. I intend to take advantage of this by going for short walks on my way home from work.
I started October by accompanying Catherine Ross on her field work. Catherine is researching the impact bettongs have on the Early Nancy - a tiny native lily that grows in Mulligans Flat. You can read more about her project here.
Her attention to detail was remarkable and admirable – we spent a couple of hours checking 12 of her research plots (approximately 50cm x 50cm), combing through the various plants within the plot to find the one or two leaves the Early Nancy sprouts. She has been regularly checking the plots over several years so she had an inkling where to look, but seeing the diversity of what's going on down there is fascinating. There were spiders, caterpillars, ants and other insects all carrying on their daily lives, and so many plants in such a small space that it made me feel like a very small part of a very big world! It was very exciting to start recognising the Early Nancies in amongst all the other plants - like finding treasure!
I was lucky to have my dad visit from where he lives in China in October. I owe my love of nature to my dad, who instilled in me from a young age the magic of the Australian bush. I was fortunate as a child to have mum and dad take our family around Australia with a caravan for several years, and I still have vivid memories of the birds, wildlife and colours of our land.
So it was particularly special after him showing me so many special places to show him one of mine - to be able to walk with him in Mulligans Flat. He was very lucky to see a lone bush stone curlew. He happened upon it purely by chance - he was investigating a flag in a log near the curlew, when all of a sudden he saw its eye peering at him through the leaf litter, where it was lying down, completely camouflaged. Steve found an echidna shortly after that we watched from a distance for some time. Dad was lucky to see some of the highlights of MF that day- I accidentally flushed a bettong from where it was sleeping in the tussock grass, and we came across an active quoll den (though no quolls!).
Later in the month Steve, mum and I went on a Twilight Tour in the hope of seeing the joey quolls. This was my mistake. I have come to realise that you will never see what you want to see in Mulligans Flat, but you will see something! Our guide Kristi had very keen eyes and we saw several mum and joey brushtail possums (always a delight to me, a wildlife carer who ends up with orphaned joeys), a bearded dragon clinging to a small tree (very unusual at night), a bettong nest, numerous bettongs and all three macropods of the area. The real highlights though were an echidna just inside the front gate (almost as though he was waiting for us!) and two newly fledged tawny frogmouths. It was a fascinating and fun tour with a very knowledgeable guide. I highly recommend booking a tour - link here. Christmas is coming - it would make an excellent present for all ages!
Part way through the month I became frustrated by artists block and wanted to do something different. I got out the Sennelier oil pastels I had bought years ago in Paris and deemed too precious to use. There is 'no time like the present' so I channeled my inner Van Gogh and had a good, expressive drawing session with lots of colours I wouldn't normally put in! There's green and hot pink in there! This is an oil pastel drawing on plywood of Banksia bettong (MF's education bettong).
A lot of October and November was spent preparing for the Collected and Created market that was held recently in Gundaroo. I painted 12 small bird portraits that became brooches. I was very happy that all sold, along with many cards and prints and a couple of original paintings. I will have a stall at the next Collected and Created market next year in April.
I finished November by adding a few paintings to my mini-series of 'Birds of the Big Dam' - a freckled duck and a pink-eared duck.