Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Diversity - the individual tree

During my first week at the Mt.Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, I was kindly given a guided tour of the Australian Plant Communities by Ray Steward, president of The Botanical Artists' Society of Queensland.
It was wonderful to observe the diversity of species at the gardens with Ray's knowledge and experience to point out interesting plants and seasonal seed, fruit and flowers. I will retrace this walk several times during my year at the gardens to observe the seasonal changes and patterns.
I am inspired by the individual nature of trees, even within the same species each is different. I have often thought of leaves as being the equivalent of fingerprints, no two are identical.
My art develops from detailed observations of the unique qualities of plants, distinguishing features that we recognise, whether they be landmark qualities or seasonal. I have considered there can be a sense of lost identity and value when trees and habitat are described as 'bush'; the individual qualities of each plant and the associated life surrounding them can be dismissed too easily.

Monday, March 30, 2009


'Toadkill, Pushing Up Grass' Nicola Moss.©2008, acrylic and ink on canvas.

I witnessed my first 'toadkill' as it happenned while at the Botanic Gardens. A crow was picking up a toad in its beak and throwing it back down on the ground until it had the toad on its back. Then it planted one claw firmly on its body and proceeded to peck relentlessly at the toads mouth. I actually felt sorry for the toad as I watched, and at the same time marvelled at adaption and the 'learning' of the crow to make a meal of this previously unpredated species.

In 2008, as part of my inhabitat exhibition, I painted the above work, titled 'Toadkill, Pushing Up Grass'. On my daily morning walk round the garden that Summer I would often find fresh killed toads on their backs with guts sprawled. I wasn't sure if it was the crows or kookaburra's that had worked out how to kill the toads without poisoning themselves. It was the first year I had noticed these kills occurring. Around the same time radio national had a talk from a landcare group. They had trialed putting a 'toad in the hole' when tree planting and found it improved the tree growth. Blood and Bone, life returned to the earth to feed another.

Canopy Observations

I spent the first day of my residency at the Botanic Gardens in the Subtropical Rainforest area, exploring the diverse foliage of the canopy. Rich red florets of leaves on the Blue Quandong stood out strongly against the surrounding lush green. The tree dropped fine creamy yellow flowers throughout the day, carpeting surrounding paths in soft debris.

Not surprisingly, I was inspired to use rich red as part of the colour palette in my works on paper. And make a small arrangement of fallen leaves.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Work Table

This month I started working at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mt.Coot-tha as the Artist in Residence for 2009. Works during the year will be focused on the Australian Plant Communities area, comprising nine different rainforest ecosystems. Works are beginning with a series of drawings on paper responding to observations and studies of diversity in the canopy environments.

I took this photo of my portable work table whilst packing up at the end of a day at the gardens. I was attracted to the 'accidental' marks left on the cover sheet from a day of activity. The feathers were collected from an open grass area in the morning.