News: July 2008

Selected as a Finalist!

I am extremely happy to have been chosen as a finalist in the 2008 Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize. This is the third year out of four that I have entered that I've been selected as a finalist in this competition (my 2005 success, 2006 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.

The Waterhouse Natural History Art Prize exhibition of finalists was shown at the South Australian Museum, North Terrace, from the Saturday 2nd of August until Sunday 7th of September, 2008.

My entry, in category B
(artworks on paper):

Grand Sylvan Waterways

Grand Sylvan Waterways
49 cm x 73 cm, charcoal and pastels on acid-free paper.

I was inspired to draw this grand old Bailey’s Fig tree to show part of its wonderful 3-dimensional structure and tubular forms, expressive of the organism’s amazing circulatory systems. The colours used were chosen to express how close the parts felt and to show the space that surrounds those parts.

The expression of the 3-dimensional structure of the trunk and main branches was my primary focus. I started with a view which showed strong tonal relationships - using soft afternoon sunlight (partly obscured with clouds) when the shadows helped the definition of the forms. Local colours were largely ignored. I applied oranges to surfaces that were near me, and blues to surfaces that were more distant to me. I hoped to achieve an image that had a strong sense of structure and space around it. When we see such structures in real life with our eyes, our brain's excellent reconstruction of 3-D form and space provides us with a very strong understanding of the structure. I have found that my strong reading of 3-D form and space sets up much of the visual pleasure I derive when I look at things in the world around me. It provides a lot of the context for enjoying light, colour, the size of things, etc. Much of the artwork I have produced over the years has been concerned with expressing the impact of 3-D form and space.

I tried not to overwork this drawing. Even though it does rely on subtle changes of colour and tone, I wanted to keep a sense of excitement within the working of the various parts. I added some cross-sectional lines to help the understanding of the structure in front of me, but I tried not to apply them to every section of the tree's forms.

It's amazing to think about the circulatory system within such a tree. Trees' circulatory systems doesn't use a pump like animals have (hearts). Trees must still circulate water and nutrients to every cell. This means being able to transport water from the ground up into each of its leaves, many being way above the height that a vacuum can support a column of water - really amazing! It also means circulating the products of photosynthesis from its leaves down throughout its entire structure.

Detail 1:

Grand Sylvan Waterways - detail 1

Detail 2:

Grand Sylvan Waterways - detail 2

Detail 3:

Grand Sylvan Waterways - detail 3

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