Lear’s Macaw and Tabebuia – Watercolor

Monday, January 7, 2019 | 11:33 am | Media

Lear’s Macaw and Tabebuia – Watercolor – 90×66cm / 35x26in

YES its major work time again!

I know I know, so many of you were a little bit sad about the last major work ‘Lecythis and Hyacinth Macaws’ coming to an end, but I promised there’d be more to come soon enough and true to my word between all things, the next is about to begin. Yes its time to pull up your chairs and buckle up for another long haul as ‘Lear’s Macaws and Tabebuia’ is set to take flight and you know I love having you here to join me.

The fourth in this series of natural history major works measuring 90x66cms in size, ‘Lear’s Macaws and Tabebuia’ (Brazil) will soon join ‘St Vincent’s Amazons and Cannonball Tree’ (South America), ‘Sulfur-Crested Cockatoos and Silky Oak’ (Australia) and ‘Lecythis and Hyacinth Macaws’  (Brazil) in the White Room Collection.

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‘St Vincent’s Amazons and Cannonball Tree’           ‘Sulfur-Crested Cockatoos and Silky Oak’        ‘Lecythis and Hyacinth Macaws’ 

The Lear’s Macaw, or Indigo Macaw, is a large, all blue and extremely rare Brazilian parrot which is very similar to the Hyacinth Macaw. The body, tail, and wings of the Lear’s Macaw are dark blue with a slightly paler head and measures between 70-75cms in size. Similar to the Hyacinth Macaw, it has an area of pale yellow skin adjacent to the base of its beak and striking yellow rings around the eyes with large dark coloured beaks and dark grey feet. A simply beautiful bird, it is essential that its beauty is captured in this global natural history series.

Horrifyingly, the numbers of these incredible birds fell to under 100 in the early 1980’s, and even more disgracefully, the numbers in the current day are equally as scary to consider… an all too familiar story for our precious wildlife unfortunately. With numbers so low, you can imagine my complete excitement as I passed by the armed security guards and was allowed some very rare access to not only see these parrots for myself, but to spend precious one on one time (or one on five!) with these extremely rare macaws.

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Image taken from those watching over me via the security surveillance system whilst I stepped inside the Lear’s Macaw enclosures… amazing moments!

The lear’s Macaw nests in a specific variety of yellow tabebuia, a critical host plant to this amazing bird, however as this painting is part is a smaller series of blue macaws surrounded in pinks and whites within this collection, aesthetics also need to be taken into account along with the science. As such, the focus plant I will be working is one of the most beautiful trees I have ever seen, a white Tabebuia with a stunning, delicate pink throat which is also found in the natural habitat of the Lear’s Macaw.

Days and weeks were spent hunting them down all over the place on my Brazil travels, with such delight with every find. This is my favourite one found and the specific tree I will be illustrating with the Lear’s Macaw painting. Just seeing this image brings so many thoughts, feelings and emotions flooding back to me it seems quite overwhelming. Certainly this is an artwork that comes from some of the most personal, joyful and happiest moments and emotions Ive known, the sentiments of which I hope to capture in some way through this piece.

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I have some particularly special people doing wonderful things in the world to thank once again, for allowing me this opportunity during my travels in Brazil, and for making this work possible… Needless to say it was a particularly incredible experience ill not forget in my lifetime, and one I will do my very best to honour through my work. Your commitment and openness, and the love you shared with me will be in every stroke of my brush thats for sure! With this journey already in my being, lets get started on bringing my new bird painting, ”Lear’s Macaws and Tabebuia’  to reality at last.

The investment made in these natural history major works can only be described as epic. On my part it requires traveling large distances, jet lag, strange environments, dose upon dose of vaccinations that have literally begun to ruin my body (a lot less than the diseases would however!) infestations of parasites that add to the physical strain, hundreds of ticks covering my body, baking in the blistering sun, long days spent walking in the wilds as I traipse overland in strange and often quite unsafe parts of the world doing field work in search of the required reference, knowledge and information needed to create these pieces. There is a price financially, physically and emotionally, but such a remarkably rich reward in the experience, the vastness of my world, the opportunity to see the incredible things I see, the magical people I come to love along the way, and finally, the chance to express it all to the world though my work in some way. Certainly, these paintings are very large and remarkable slices of my life even before I reach the studio and this painting is no different.

Once I begin each story in my studio, I commit myself to months of unbroken painstaking work, sleepless nights, blistering hands, bruising on my arms, and a collection of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion as I run the marathon to reach the incredibly satisfying end point of each painting. It is all consuming and some of my most important life’s work, there is no doubt. And so I am here again, grooming my mental space intensely as I begin the process forward in anticipation for the long haul of bringing the ‘Lear’s Macaw and Tabebuia’ into sight. If only I could tell you all I have come to know and love in telling this story. Hopefully something in my work can express this depth and love to you as a viewer of my work.

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The general layout Ive created of this Macaw painting has been simplified to line work and enhanced in Photoshop to give you a better idea of the overall direction of the piece. From here the graphite drawing begins which is far more intricate, and even more so again in the painting process. You can see, we have a pair of Lear’s Macaws amongst the abundance of the pink throated white Tabebuia featured in this study.

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With hours and hours… and hours of the drawing complete at last, I move on to wet up my brushes and begin the painting process. It feels good, like stepping into the start of a new, somewhat intrepid adventure… much like my trip to Brazil was in fact, in search of the reference for this painting. Of course the task is daunting, but I am in love with the subject, the colours, each little section of this piece that will make it complete. And so I begin, wetting up my Permanent Rose, a dash of blue and yellow and jump in to the first crinkly textured, delicate white petals of the tabebuia flowers. Its clean, fresh and incredibly romantic. How could it be anything but a love affair!

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The flowers are underway, and probably will be for ever more!! Its a drop in the ocean but it all adds up… Its soooooo much nicer in real life, how I wish I could share it with you better, the delicacy and romance of this subject, palette and piece.


Weeks into this painting, I am drifting through the tabebuia flowers, branches and background, falling into its delicate light, colour, textures and romance between all things. Teaching away in recent weeks, working on the current series of botanical ink illustrations, and of course the Sydney Parks Project illustrations have all been on the go non stop since the end of 2018, but it is a beautiful balance for me, ducking and weaving my way physically and mentally through each space. There is no love lost on this one, it is nothing but a treat to return to as I am able. As I always say, small steps still cover many miles, as this marathon has to be and this painting is a perfect example of that.

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Though it seems like more and more of the same, i never allow my mindset to accept this. Delving into the uniqueness of every section with fresh perspective and mind keeps the painting alive and singing from start to end. It is but the reflection of our inner world on paper, so this headspace is managed more carefully than ever throughout the major works.

Sections of violet brown and sienna branches emerge from the softness of the blurred backgrounds, white tabebuia spilling over the page with pink throated clusters of blooms consume my white page, slowly but surely as i edge my way down the left side, almost connecting with the bottom edge at last. Theres plenty more to do, but it is going very nicely i think. I hope you enjoy todays update on its progress. You can see a short clip on the progress so far on my Youtube Channel 

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A little update on the overall painting shows you the progress so far. There is still plenty to get through yet, but its coming together nicely, finally making contact with my brush to the bottom edge of this painting. Work will continue on the beautiful clusters of tabebuia flowers now to the right side as i work my way through the background to the starting point again.

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