News: July 2006

Selected as a Finalist!

I am extremely happy to have been chosen as a finalist in the 2006 Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize. This is the second year in a row that I've been selected as a finalist in this competion (my 2005 success).


The Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize is an art competition held annually by the South Australian Museum, for artwork 'depicting a natural history topic, which for the purposes of this competition means “A work dealing with natural objects, animal, vegetable or mineral.” No work shall include human subjects or human influences such as objects, buildings, stock, vineyards, cleared land etc.' (from the Waterhouse website -link will open in its own window). The competition is open to all artists around the world, and has 3 categories based on media used. There are prizes in all 3 categories, as well as an overall winner, and a people's choice winner.

This is the fouth year for the competition, and the second time that I have entered.

The Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize exhibition of finalists was shown at the South Australian Museum, North Terrace, from the 5th of August until the 10th of September, 2006.

My entry, in category B
(artwork produced using Watercolour, Pastel, Gouache, Ink, Charcoal, Pencil or a Mix):

Close to the Heart

Close to the Heart
58 cm x 74.5 cm, natural charcoal on acid-free drawing paper.

This drawing was done as part of my current project, called "Microcosm" - concentrating a year's work on one Moreton Bay Fig tree.

Close to the heart, the main vessels are large, and flow with energy. Being close to the centre of the tree means close to its 'heart'. Even though a tree may not have an organ called a heart (as animals have), which acts as a circulatory pump, trees also have circulatory systems. Trees need to bring water and nutrients up from the ground out to all of their leaves for generating energy from photosynthesis, for keeping their cells alive. And they need to distribute the results of all the photosynthesis back to all of its cells, including those in its roots. One might consider the important section of trunk just above the roots to be the tree's heart. All major circulation passes through this region of the tree. Some trees can pump water silently more than 100 metres above the ground to their leaves. How do they do this, especially when a vacuum can only hold a column of water about 10 metres high?

The subject is also close to my heart. I know this tree from spending much time at it back in 1984. It has marvellous large forms and 'presence' (a thrill from just being near the tree) that speak to my heart.

I am pleased with the composition of this drawing, which was worked out with smaller biro sketches before I started this study.

I am standing close to the centre of the tree. The large forms flowing closely past me make me feel as though I am confronting the 'presence' of the tree itself. It's a rich position to do a drawing from and I enjoyed the challenge of it. The angle of view is very wide, which provides enough challenge in itself.

I am also pleased with the choice of natural charcoal for this drawing, allowing me to build up and rework areas of soft grey tone. Using sticks of natural charcoal forces me to work fairly broadly, because they don't really allow for consistent crisp thin linework. Even so, much of the contour linework has to be extremely accurate to convey an accurate sense of the forms. Many contour lines are removed and attempted 3 or 4 times to get them as I want them.

To do this drawing, I had to stand and mainly hold the large drawing board, which proved to be physically demanding and tiring. After a couple of weeks of working this way, I worked out a way of setting the board up on an easel perched pricariously on top of the buttress roots. This was much more comfortable for me, but proved to be a pretty fragile arrangement in even a moderate wind, and I often had to revert to holding the board. I am pleased with the discipline and control shown throughout this drawing.


Detail 1:

Close to the Heart - detail 1


Detail 2:

Close to the Heart - detail 2

Detail 3:

Close to the Heart - detail 2


Below (left) is a photo of the same drawing at an earlier stage, next to a similar sized version of the finished drawing (right), which can give an idea of the amount of development put into this drawing:

Close to the Heart - early stage
Close to the Heart - final stage


Back to the News page