Gang Gang Cockatoos and Brachychiton acerifolius – 22×30 inch – Watercolour – AVAILABLE
On the studio table is ‘Gang Gang Cockatoos and Brachychiton acerifolius’, a new, definitely epic watercolour major work measuring 22×30 inches in size. It has been a while… too long in fact since I was able to consider a larger undertaking for myself, but ive decided it is time to return to such a challenge. After 3 years so happily absorbed amongst other amazing projects and commissions, I finally have a window significant enough to consider it once more. Its exciting and daunting, just as it should be.
Certainly putting pencil to paper was a prompt reminder of the insanity of these major work undertakings, and at the same time it feels like a return to my greatest truths. Mum always says im insane, but the right kind of insane… and this piece certainly falls in the ‘youve gotta be nuts’ basket for challenge. Then again, isnt that always my happiest place for creative undertakings? I try to be simple, but its the complexity I revel in, all those remarkable interplays of medium and subject, textures, colours, impossible and delightful combinations of beauty and the nuts. Either way, I thank and blame Mother Nature for all she creates and inspires in me.
I must say, its a very long time a large brachychiton piece has been calling me. I know its challenge well, painting a few small pieces of the subject over recent years reminding me all too well of the madness its be to tackle a large version of it. The challenge of small pieces alone kept me in check for the larger paintings, but creating the major work still nags away at me. I know by now that once the call starts it never leaves till the challenge is taken and so several times Ive gone out to photograph the brachychiton now, returning home to ponder its tangle over and over before shelving it again.
Every year the landscape is ablaze with the breathtaking red of the brachychitons, and I am reminded of my fascination and urge to capture them. A few years ago I came across a tree in full flower, but the branches still had leaves remaining. Some green, some fading away to beautiful soft earthy colours, I loved this additional dimension of colour, form and this spectacular trees magic. I decided to create a layout, taking it one step further this time. I wanted to work with Gang Gangs for this piece, their soft grey and orange seeming such a beautiful alignment to the botanicals. I love the idea of the two birds canoodling together gently amongst the intense red of the flowers and beautifully soft foliage. Wendy Bernhardt took a beautiful shot of the Gang Gangs smooching so beautifully together and it was just the right pose for this piece, I thought. Although some time has passed by us now since we spoke of it last, Wendy kindly allowed me to work from her bird reference to put this lovely combination together. The contrast of boldness and softness in the Gang Gangs mirroring the settings features so well… Then, just as i was feeling brave enough and ready to start, a wonderful commission of 48 paintings came in. There the idea of Gang Gangs and Brachychiton sat once more.
Finally though, its off the shelf and back on my table ready to come to life at last. Like I said, the second pencil hits paper you connect with the painting in a new way, becoming acutely aware of its challenge, and boy this one sure is challenging. It is intricate and complex, as I love it, as it is in nature. It is large, and it has so much intertwining of elements, uncertain areas of those ‘delicious nothings’ I adore and fear, colour, and soft focus that it comes to mind many times drawing it alone… this is too much! My hands begin to reblister and ache as the constant hours drawing and refining tick by, but once ive started theres no turning back for me. This week has been swallowed up by the pencil, but it is finally time to start unpicking line to colour, telling the story of ‘Gang Gang Cockatoos and Brachychiton acerifolius’. To kick this WIP post off, here is a section of the painting drawn up, ready to render
Its big, bold and beautiful and I hope youll enjoy a return to the long journey of major works with me once more.
let the painting begin…
If ever there was a moment you pause to contemplate your decisions, its the moment the brush makes contact with your page. The path ahead seems to come into focus in a more real way… Its another step beyond the challenge of drawing something like this painting up, but soon enough your mind lets go, surrendering to the beauty and romance of the medium. A shift left and right occurs as you find your colour balance, its intimately unique nuances and melodies suddenly locks into your mind, and just like that you speak its language.
Although one might think its repetitious, and in many ways it is, in fact every detail in the painting is also so remarkably unique. If one paints by default, the story of your painting reflects this complacency. One needs to paint alert, alive and remain so present in every stroke… and its not hard. To play amongst the beautiful. watching colour, form and textures emerge in front of your eyes is like being a magician. Being present helps pass the hours of focus too, but there is no doubt about it, its no easy feat. Sometimes I think i should be called an inchworm, but thatd be too generous a statement. Millimetre by millimetre it comes together, elements to sections, line to colour, white of the paper to life. A few days rendering in now, we start to see the first cluster of gorgeous red brachychiton flowers emerge… what a thrill…. now, just 38479565846 to go and the flowers will be done. Ill see you soon for the update!
I have been so busy painting. Time seems to have slipped by me and it has been too long since I checked in with you all here thats for sure! But Im back with an update of this crazy painting challenge Im amidst for you. Its straight up hard, just as I expected it would be… but I am so loving it! Ive been consumed by the colours, the beautiful ebbs and flows of the balance of them all, slowly unpicking my way through this immense undertaking. But, one brachychiton flower at a time finds the way forward and here I am now, completing all the flowers for the bottom half of this piece and its looking beautiful. Here is a look at the flowers in the lower left corner of this large, 22x30in painting.
Stunning. Spectacular. An abundance En masse… Just as it is in real life ❤️
Now ive moved forwards and on to the flowers of the top half! Gosh it has been a long and focussed time getting to this point, but I am well into the top half of this painting, slowly rendering the flowers that sweep along the scene around the Gang Gangs heads. If you look carefully in this image, you can see both heads start to emerge, their feathery crests mingling into the tangle of the background. At last the end of the flowers in in sight, but as much work as it has been, I am very pleased with the outcome and hopefully now, the brain chatter of this painting will leave me in peace with the story being told at last. Certainly, I am very much enjoying the process, even now. Its a wonderful emergence.
Stepping it up to the next level, i start work on the complex background and foliage bringing a whole new dimension to the story! New colours, shapes and form, wonderful broad sizes and magical textures really make things exciting now. Its a welcome change, and I also start to see the direction of the painting taking shape in a very real way. Im still enjoying it. Its a gorgeous subject and this is a beautiful piece. Thanks for following, Ill be back soon with more as the bottom half comes to striking life.
A few weeks have passed by i a blink since my last check in, but the work has not stopped, of course. Each area of background slowly comes together, maintaining its uniqueness, consistency and beauty. To me the beauty is so simple, colour, form, light, texture… relationships between them all, but to render them well certainly is not so simple. It takes time, a lot of time, but mm x mm it comes together and its so exciting and nourishing to create and see it emerge. Finally we start to get a sense of the overall painting and the work so far, as above.
Balance. Remembering on the long haul that the memory of a beautiful painting well outlives the memory of the work. I like the discipline, mind, body, spirit and honouring the integrity of everything that inspires me along the way. I enjoy the challenge, and I am still very much in this space as I create thankfully. Here we see the top right corner of the background come close to finishing and below we move on to the left side of the painting, working our way through the last stretch oh the challenge. Patience. I hope you enjoy this latest update, thanks for following 🙏🏻
It has certainly been a long haul to complete this madness that is the Brachychiton background of the painting, but after months of work, it is finally completed, branch and all, and I can move on to the next epic challenge or rendering the Gang Gang Cockatoos. These, without a doubt have to be one of the most technically challenging birds I can think of to paint, especially in watercolour… but then, as we all know… thats always where youll find me! So now its time to shift gears and take the step into painting the birds, bringing this painting to life stroke by stroke.
A few more weeks have passed by us since the completion of the brachychiton background was completed, but the progress on the Gang Gangs has been solid Id say. I love how the male is secondary in this study, yet he holds his power whispering sweet nothings into his mates ear. Shes well loved, confident, and her beauty is equal to her partners, with that striking red head and crest. With the addition on the first eye, the painting springs to life and with every day passing by me here in the studio, the piece comes to life. Im looking for essence, a story, atmosphere, accuracy, beauty, atmosphere, and connection and this painting has all of those ingredients.
Its size makes such a statement. Its colouring is enchanting, but the personality, story and connection is wonderful. Thats something you can never assume with a painting, it simply unfolds with its own soul to a degree too… and I like to let it win on this front. Easy to paint? Oh my goodness, noooo, it sure isnt! Am I still enjoying it after all this time? I absolutely am. I am still captivated. Its still a love affair… Am I happy with the results? I really am! It is so nice after 3 years, or more, of straight commissions, to return to create this major work and I am loving this painting so much.
The end is in sight now, but my focus remains as steady as it ever was, taking care with each detail and brushstroke to tell the story as I want it to be told, to honour the beauty of these fantastic Australian wildlife subjects. The male is complete and the female is half way through, but its perhaps the most difficult part of the painting. Delicate, incompatible light over dark details in transparent watercolours.
I like to make things difficult I guess! Perhaps I like finding ways to overcome challenges even more… perhaps Im just nuts but got really good at it hahaa, who knows. The time, effort, skill required makes no sense either so there are plenty of arguments to be had there Im sure! But, I do it because I love it and I find the work important. I find beauty and appreciating our surroundings important. I find connecting with all of you out there in such wonderful, positive ways so important too. So many of you have followed along with this very long journey of ‘Gang Gang Cockatoos and Brachychiton’, keeping me company, offering your enthusiasm and energy every day and I appreciate you all and bringing richness to the worlds of others so thank you.
So here we see the second Gang Gang in a mid state of completion, slowly developing the colour, tone and textures in layers to complete the feathers. The head is more complete as you can see, setting the personality for the rest to unfold, and its now I can exhale, feeling assured and confident that I am, or will be happy with the outcome. With so much involved, Im certainly never complacent about these things. I think too, theres something about your internal climate that speaks its voice in your work, so its important to be humble and aware. I have just a few days work to go now, black, yellow, orange and white feathers that will eventually meet the gorgeous tail to bring this epic painting to a close… Ill be back with the finished piece soon! Thanks again everyone 🙏🏻
And now… for the finished painting ❤️
‘Gang Gang Cockatoos and Brachychiton’ is 22×30 inches in size, is watercolour and is currently available. Let me know if you have any interest in this original artwork, or questions on any of my other works. Im always here to chat