Monthly Archives: February 2013

Kanga Anga and When Paintings Talk Back


My painting of Kangaroo Paws was precocious and started talking – and telling me what to do – at an early age.  I love that moment when a painting or other ‘work of art’  lets you know that it’s time to put aside all reference materials, draft designs and preconceived notions and time to ‘Listen up!’.

The Red and Green (or Mangles) Kangaroo Paw is the floral emblem of Western Australia and endemic to this state – and Balligar.  Whilst the unopened buds are reminiscent of kangaroo paws, the flowers with six light green filaments and a longer pistil, remind me of Chinese dragons.

Thinking of dragons and the struggle of flora and fauna for survival on our bush block led to the notion of portraying a spat between the native Kangaroo Paw and an introduced weed.  My design however was like the proverbial curate’s egg – “Good in parts.” and the embryo started to talk.  Before I say more here is the painting (1000 x 750 mm) to speak for itself.

Kanga Anga PS

During design it told me that: not all parts were connecting; that the viewer’s gaze would probably be lost out of the lower right corner and there was a big, boring space in the middle!

I responded by attempting to represent pollen and bits of plant material flying in the air as a result of the energetic battle.  I sought to reserve some light, perfectly round, pollen shapes on the canvas by dropping masking fluid on to it.  I don’t think the painting thought this was going to be enough – for when the fluid was removed I was left with all sorts of unusual shapes and I felt instructed to give them a celestial persona.

The acrylic paint dried too quickly in the heat, despite misting and using medium, and I had difficulty in getting the background effect.  In desperation I rubbed at an area with a baby wipe (meant to clean me) and was delighted to find it most effective in gently lifting off just some of the dried paint.  This made it easier to give life to the dragon’s breath!

I hope you enjoyed this painting’s tale ;).

Until next time – Monday at the latest – remember “To look is to learn, if you listen carefully.” – Per Arnold


Gee Willikinwinkings Monday Again!!

What a week!  It started with Toad In The Box and ended with Been There Before, with a plethora of delights in between.

Toad In The Box

“Is it a cane toad?” we asked ourselves when this critter was discovered in a cardboard box that had been delivered to Western Australia from the East.

Western Green Tree Frog (s)

Fearful of assisting the spread of the feral species we kept it in the box whilst we consulted Google, the Shire, the Department of Agriculture and finally the Department of Environment and Conservation.  We were assured that we had a native Western Green Tree Frog in our care.  It just goes to show how good at camouflaging they are!

Drought & Fire

Early on Monday morning our drought was broken – it was official – we had zero point two of a millimetre of rain! At least the frog was released into a humid atmosphere.

I was fearful that it might get fried later that day as there was a fire east of our town and a danger of ember attack..  It was a daunting experience to be home alone, preparing to flee if necessary and fully realising that so many of our personal treasures would have to be left behind. Happily the fire fighters contained the damage to a hectare and there were no injuries or loss of homes.

My thoughts of fire were completely ousted by being introduced to the art of Dalton Ghetti via an email and I hope you enjoy a ‘wow’ moment too.

art - pencil sculpture 1

See more here.

Balligar Blues

There was little time for personal art this week as the focus was on celebrating birthdays – mine and my DO’s – over the weekend.  We thoroughly enjoyed the company and creativity of family members and friends on Saturday – especially created poems, speeches, art works and dance!  How wonderful!  This was written for us by our friend Denni – Balligar Blues 🙂

Banjo Paterson

After a big Aussie BBQ breakfast on Sunday morning with those that stayed over we were further treated to a fantastic ‘off by heart’ recital of Banjo Paterson’s The Man From Ironbark and Been There Before by Louise!  The big clean up afterwards was a small price to pay for such a memorable weekend with loved ones.

Last post I said I’d post about my painting ‘Kanga Anga’ next post – sorry it’ll be the next one.  Until then,


The Wattle Song? Wattle that be?


When I see the brilliant yellow flowers of the Wattles in our garden I’m reminded of a verse I learned as a small child “When I wake up in the morning I open my window and I sing, and I sing and I sing”. This is how the Wattles make me feel!

This photo is of one Wattle in our garden – we have a few species.  If anyone knows the name of this one please let me know.


The Wattle has been here for 34 – 37 million years!  The Golden Wattle is Australia’s national floral emblem, symbolizing this great southern land.

I just had to paint the flowers and it made sense to me to capture the musical notes they reminded me of in more ways than one.  I decided to compose my painting around musical notation.  You may see the lines of the stave; a bass clef; a neutral clef and various notes and breaks.

The Wattle Song

The Wattle Song

It is 1000 by 750 cm in size and painted in the same palette of acrylic paints as the Pincushion Hakea Laurina and others, as they were designed to be hung in the same location.  This painting taught me to be careful when choosing colours to paint shadows on yellow objects – it is too easy to end up with dull, dirty looking ones. After trying the complement of yellow (violet) I found a touch of Cadmium Red Light for warm shadows and a touch of Phthalo Green or Blue for cool shadows worked better.

There are few flowers around us in the Perth Hills towards the end of a long, hot summer and I’m looking forward to the abundance that winter and spring bring.  Until then I’ll enjoy what each season brings.

Next time will bring musings about my ‘Kanga Anga’ painting.


Gee Willinkins Winking! Monday Already?!


I’ve decided to focus on the ‘Wow!’, ‘Far out!’, ‘Amazing!‘, ‘Gee willlikins winking!’, inspiring and heart-warming moments of the past week to kick start Mondays.  Here are some of mine:

  • Wow! It looks so alive!

Sayaka Ganz

Sculptured by Sayaka Ganz from recycled utensils!  See more at

  • A heart-warming and encouraging comment from Lynda on my very first post:

    ”Helen, your lovely intro touches the heart! I feel sure that many will be uplifted and gain pleasure and joy from your paintings AND your words. I certainly look forward to returning to see what you have added and know that I shall be referring a few people who really need what you and your work can bring them. Onward and upward – from strength to strength – very best wishes with all your ventures”.

  • A Steve Jobs quote in response to my first post, all the more meaningful as it was from my son Alex:

    “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

  • This thoughtful and eloquent comment from Shazzy on ‘The Moths are Loose’ post:

“It’s always intrigued me that whilst butterflies are considered beautiful moths are thought ugly. Someone may not think twice about a dead moth but shed a tear over the butterfly.  The Bogong Moth painting surprised me by its beauty and vibrancy.  We are all trying to circle our moons but sometimes our wings get singed with the ‘fakeness’.  I feel for those moths tricked by electricity into death.”

  • An explanation from my DO (pronounced ‘Doh!’ 🙂 ) of the phrase ‘Gee Willikins Winking’ which he uses frequently: 

    think it came from the nursery rhyme “Wee Willie Winkie” which I got a fair bit of as a little boy and it must have been Dad I think that used the term “gee willinkins winking” as a gently curse as he never swore at home, or much at all in fact. ‘Dash’ and ‘Damn’ were punishable with a clip under the ear.”

  • Finding this quote by Vincent Van Gogh:

    “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

These and other relatively small things collectively made my week.  I’d really appreciate it if you leave a comment about one or more of your recent, uplifting moments for me and others to enjoy.

Tomorrow I’ll introduce you to my not so small painting ‘The Wattle Song’.
I hope you have a good day and are lucky enough not to feel like this:

 “If each day is a gift I’d like to know where I can return Mondays” – Unknown


The Moths Are Loose!


I opened my wallet and paid to upgrade this site so there’ll be no more ads – and I can customize to a greater extent.  I hope you like the changes so far.

A quick post today – as I’ve set my wallet moths free, moths are on my mind.

The following is an extract from a poem ‘Two Years Later’ that was written by William Butler Yeats.  It was written about a century ago yet seems amazingly relevant today:

Has no one said those daring

Kind eyes should be more learn’d?

Or warned you how despairing

The moths are when they are burned?

I could have warned you, but you are young,

So we speak a different tongue.

(Sorry about the formatting – WordPress is challenging!)

I leave you today with a link to a beautiful painting of a Bogong Moth by Australian artist Danielle Burford.




Relativity – Love, Art and Weather

An overnight minimum of 22.5 °C just before dawn feels deliciously cool after a maximum of 43.5.  Yet 22.5 (72.5°F) would seem like a pretty hot day in Arkansas which experienced a maximum of around 10 °C (50°F)!

I mention Arkansas only because writer Jay Maul sent me the cooling thought of cold, wet rain from there in response to yesterday’s post.  I’ve since discovered his blog and there is a heap of inspiration to be found – and lots for me to learn about blogging.  You might like to take a squiz at his blog writerjaymaul.

Whether you are for it, or against it, or neither, it’ll be hard to remain unaware that it is Valentine’s Day.  Having said that my DO (Dear One) remained unaware even after opening a hand painted card covered in hearts that I gave him first thing!

This is a favourite quote of mine on love and relativity:

“When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second.  When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour.  That’s relativity.” ― Albert Einstein

I’m so lucky to love and to be loved.  It has not always been so and I remember well a time when I felt utterly alone and unloved.  To anyone who feels like that now it may help to remember that life evolves and brings some wonderful things into our lives too.  I think this quote also indicates that we have a role to play in our own happiness, which is an empowering thought.

“We are, each of us angels with only one wing; and we can only fly by embracing one another.” ― Luciano De Crescenzo

Here is a kiss for all of you from Gustav Klimt who was relatively ignored by the art establishment in his lifetime – but that has changed!

The Kiss

The Kiss

If you’d like to see more go to the Klimt Museum.

May your day be as good as it can be, or as you can make it.



It’s Hot! The Weather and The Art


This summer in the Perth hills the temperature has topped 40 degrees centigrade on way too many days.  Today is to be the last day of the latest heatwave.  Today also marks a whole month without rain at Balligar!  It reminds me to take care of our environment.

Happily the bush around us is standing up to the harsh conditions well and various birds are chortling in the Jarrah trees as I type at dawn.  Amazing resilience – like the grasstrees around us that must be decades old as Xanthorrhoea grow very slowly.  I do think their politically incorrect name of ‘Blackboys’ is much more descriptive.  There is one old fellah (probably also politically incorrect) in the reserve behind us that has the character of a centenarian – I so want to paint him – er, it!

I have sketched and painted a group of three grasstrees on our block.  I reduced their surroundings to the red, bare earth and sky so as to emphasis the feeling of rejection / dejection of the little guy on the right and called it ‘Two’s Company’.  It’s about 900 by 600 cm.

Two's Company (2)

This was painted using the same limited palette of acrylics as the Pincushion Hakea Laurina I posted about last time.  (Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Light Red, Ultramarine, Phthalo Blue and Phthalo Green).  The colours are not so garish as they look here.  Phthalo colours don’t seem to photograph well.

The painting is a good example of ‘happy accidents’ if nothing else.  I finished the painting and laid it flat to varnish it – and then spilt rubbing alcohol on it!@#$!!  One big drop dissolved a hole in the sky back to bare canvas.  Oh what to do!!  I knew that it would look obviously patched if I tried to paint the sky back as it was.  In desperation I decided the blob would have to become the moon and that a cloud coming in from the right would help camouflage the damage.  I think the changes actually improved the composition.  If you look closely at the real painting, you can see that the little dark marks in the sky are dragonflies.  Expect to see more dragonflies in my work!

If you have any examples of happy accidents, do share!