I’ve always had an affinity with birds, perhaps because I’ve always wanted to fly, physically, not just metaphorically. Some years ago, as a wildlife carer for WRES – Statewide Wildlife Rescue Emergency Service, based in Bendigo, I came to be known as the Bird Lady of Maldon. Perhaps having wild ‘bird’s nest’ hair had as much to do with the moniker as the birds that came to me for rehab and release. I’ve never been able to whistle, and as a kid was the joke of the family in my attempts, so I talk to them, as the friends they are.
A Grey Shrike-thrush is a regular visitor to my patch and over the past year or so has become increasingly sociable. He started off hanging around for a morsel or two when I fed the chooks – no matter what time, he seemed to know. Now, the minute he hears stirring within the house, he greets me with a call, wanders into the back part of the cottage, and inspires me to the clean the bath by leaving his ‘calling card’. Finn, my Wolfie cross, old and content, gives the bird a not-you-again glance and goes back to sleep. He knows any winged visitor is welcome at our place, and not fair game, but he will and does see off the visiting foxes.
While doing the penguin print (above), I was constantly visited by the shrike-thrush, coming into the studio, treated to his comments, and shown with pride the sticks he deposited on top of the bookshelf. So far, he’s pooped on the mirror, but has shown great respect for my work. Pleased about that. And very pleased to have his company.
With a passion for wildlife, of any description, I suppose it’s natural that critters feature strongly in my printmaking. Although penguins don’t truly fly, they certainly appear to do just that through their underwater environment. Using a combination of reference photos I’ve endeavoured to make my little penguin ‘fly’. The print is a seven layer reduction print (cutting away areas from the block already printed and over-printing with the next colour). I’m not into doing large editions – too many prints in my head wanting to appear on paper – and out of 8 prints I ended up with an edition of 6, not a bad result for hand-printing and a sometimes dodgy registration system.
Into the Blue is destined next week for an art show in Millicent, South Australia, along with another avian print of an unexpected visitor to my patch that brought wonder and delight. Coming up from the wood shed, just on dusk, I spotted a male Gang Gang cockatoo sitting on the railing of the deck. It was the first time I had seen one of these amazing birds and I was awestruck. Such amazing and vibrant head-wear, which was about all I could make out in the fading light.
For this linocut I wanted the red ‘headdress’ to stand out. This gave me a challenge, as I was concerned that if I did the whole image as a ‘reduction’ print, I would lose some if not all of the fine lines – my registration method is often imprecise! So, I printed the image in black and then proceeded with reduction cutting and printing for the bird’s head – an overlay of white ink first and then three shades of red. This one was an edition of 24, 18 of which were for on-line print exchange, most of which are headed overseas.