Finalist in the Holmes Art Prize – The Art of Riding the Wind

The Art of Riding on the Wind, Oil on Aluminium Composite sheeting, 9x panels 40x40 cms, overall size 135x135 cms
The Art of Riding on the Wind, Oil on Aluminium Composite sheeting, 9x panels 40×40 cms, overall size 135×135 cms

Here is how my bird panels look when put together as a single work. I am very honoured to have had this work selected as a finalist in the inaugural Holmes Art Prize run by the Regional Art Gallery of Caloundra. It is a specialised art prize calling for “excellence in the realistic representation of Australian birds”. They have attracted entries from the top nature and wildlife artists from all over Australia, so, without undue modesty, I am still wondering how I managed to get in. The show will be on from the 12th to 30th August at The Oakes Resort, Cnr. North Street and Landsborough Parade, Golden Beach. My partner Steve also has a work in the show – a beautiful painting of the Black Shouldered Kite, which I will post next.

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The Art of Riding the Wind, No. 9.  Sandhill Cranes.  Oil on composite aluminium panel, 40x40 cms.
The Art of Riding the Wind, No. 9. Sandhill Cranes. Oil on composite aluminium panel, 40×40 cms.

When I did this panel as part of my cloud atlas, I found that it was my favorite one, but I couldn’t fit it into an arrangement with the others,because it was too dominant. I think it works very well just on its own, in company here with a romantic pair of Sandhill Cranes. It reminds me that while searching for enlightenment is all well and good, it’s so much more pleasant in the company of a like-minded companion.

The Art of Riding the Wind continued.

The Art of Riding the Wind No. 7 - Kestrel Oil and acrylic on composite aluminium panel 40x40 cms
The Art of Riding the Wind No. 7 – Kestrel
Oil and acrylic on composite aluminium panel 40×40 cms

Here is another of my bird series, titled “The Art of Riding the Wind”. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the expression “riding the wind” is a way of describing the experience of enlightenment in Zen Buddhist and Taoist philosophy. Riding the wind is very difficult for people, but comes naturally to birds.

The work started out as one of a series of paintings of the sky in various moods. I was interested in trying to depict the boundless power and mystery of the sky. If you’ve ever looked out of an airplane window with your mind in neutral, you’ll know what I mean. Using composite aluminium panels, I airbrushed gradated layers of colour, and afterwards used oil paint to try to suggest cloud formations. The birds were later added to these panels, trying to match something of the feeling for each species of bird with the sky in each case.

The Art of Riding on the Wind – No. 2 – Australian Magpie

The Art of Riding on the Wind No. 7 Australian Magpie a

The Art of Riding on the Wind – No. 2 – Australian Magpie
Oils and acrylic on composite aluminium panel
40 x 40 cms

This is the second of my Riding on the Wind series, featuring one of the dependents of this household, the Australian Magpie. Birds all seem to have their own style when it comes to flying. The Magpie’s is determined, efficient, but not flashy.

The work is done on composite aluminium sheet. The sky has firstly been painted on using airbrushed acrylic, followed by oil paint, and then the bird has been added in oils.

Mr. Darwin’s Lovely Thought – The Tangled Bank

Mr. Darwin's Lovely Thought 65x50 cms, Pen and Ink on Canson paper
Mr. Darwin’s Lovely Thought
65×50 cms, Pen and Ink on Canson paper

“It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about and with worms crawling through the damp earth and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.”
Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, 6th Edn. (from the final paragraph).

Mr. Darwin's Lovely Thought - detail 1 - Pen and Ink on Canson paper Rainbow bee-eater and carpet python
Mr. Darwin’s Lovely Thought – detail 1 – Pen and Ink on Canson paper
Rainbow bee-eater and carpet python
Splendid Wren, Black Striped Wallaby, Golden Orb Spider, Eastern Water Dragon and Lamingon Crayfish.
Splendid Wren, Black Striped Wallaby, Golden Orb Spider, Eastern Water Dragon and Lamingon Crayfish.

This is a famous quote, and I came across it again a couple of weeks ago in a book about the concept of the sublime in art, as it happens. I started to think about doing a drawing based on my own neck of the woods in sub-tropical South-East Queensland, with the plants and animals that are so familiar to me. It took a lot of work to plan and many, many hours dotting away with very fine point pens, but I’m happy with the result. I have submitted the work for a major drawing prize, and have got my fingers crossed for a spot in the finals. In this drawing I have tried to depict a dense web of interconnected life, rich with pattern and detail, through which the eye has to wander slowly to pick out all the animals (29 of them) and various types of plants (more than 15). The style of the drawing is intended to evoke the feel of 19th century hatural history engravings and also has been influenced by the complex fantasies of Arthur Rackham.