Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Books and butterflies

Ages since I last posted but I have reasons. No excuses, just reasons,  but I've made it here now.

I've finally made a decision on the format of my next edition of books for the BookArtObject collective and I feel if I tell enough people about it then it's all that much more definite in my mind. So here is a mock up and I have my fingers crossed that I can produce about 16 identical copies. There will of course be text, covers etc.

S & I had a wonderful experience in the garden last week. A mating pair of Orchard Swallowtail butterflies were swooping and dancing so close to us that they were almost touching, and S (nearly 5) thought they would tangle in her long curls.

The very next day we were examining the lemon tree for caterpillars when a female Orchard Swallowtail hovered over a leaf and gently deposited an egg on the undersurface. Can you imagine the excitement - I'm not sure which of us was more elated but it was a pretty good moment. Now this little lemon tree was already the host to several Orchard Swallowtail caterpillars in various stages, right from a tiny instar looking like a bird dropping (their camouflage) right to very fat and mature ones all bright green and black. In addition we also had two pupae attached to branches, so from watching the mating dance, S had before her the entire life cycle of the Orchard Swallowtail. The egg has now hatched to produce an almost invisible caterpillar who immediately started eating the leaf it was on, and we are waiting to see the pupae turn into butterflies in a couple more weeks.

I am indebted to Lesley Smitheringale for the photograph of the Orchard Swallowtail butterfly - I've never been quick enough to get one like this. Find Lesley at Oz Wildlife Studio where she has a blog, shop and art classes. I really love the work she is doing with children.

For more of Lesley's photos of the Orchard Swallowtail, go here.  As you can see I handle my poor caterpillars, lovingly moving them from one tree they nearly demolished to another slighter bigger. I am constantly watching them and taking photos and they've never bothered to give me the danger display that Lesley has photographed in the above link.

I think just about everyone around the world has heard about the floods here in Queensland and now in Victoria as well. There are many artists donating to the flood appeal including Lesley. I purchased a delightful print of two lorikeets and all the money goes to the fund. From Lesley's page you can go to the Etsy group who are donating more items to the flood appeal.

If I seem to be a bit obsessed by the animal life here, I guess that's true. Between the caterpillars, stick insects, cicadas, lizards and most spiders, I'm in my element. However, I had another close encounter with a male funnel web spider last week, too close to my bare foot and I'm afraid he came off second best. He's the first I've seen inside this summer, and yes, I know I should be more careful...

I've signed up to do Michael De Meng's Art Laboratory, which is online and lots of fun. I went out and bought the most expensive set of paints for this course so I'm just hoping I learn a heck of a lot about paint effects and finishes. I've been looking at his work for ages and thinking I wanted to know more about it so here's my chance.

I've got some new books on books to show you but I think that will wait til next time.

Thank you to everyone who has asked about the floods and whether I'm near by. Not only am I well away but we've hardly had any rain here for weeks, which is unusual for us in summer. It seems very unequal that we are trying to keep the garden alive while so much of the country is under water - crops, livestock, native animals, people, towns, cities.

I suspect that the photos which matched the text perfectly when I've set out this post will not look the same when I hit publish. Sorry!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year!

 It's nearly midnight and Blogger just swallowed my first attempt at a post. I've been dragging the chain a bit lately when it comes to blogging (that was an Aussie expression, hopefully not too obtuse) but I'm definitely going to make a better effort next year. As the new year is almost upon me I thought I'd just show you some favourite photos of the past month or so, with a little bit of commentary. First up is Christmas, the 80 year old tree from Vienna and the very modern children with some of their loot.

This is beautiful Luther, an old black cat turning bronze with age. About 16 or so, he is a loving companion, very much enjoying his life in the sun, especially now that the chooks are no longer able to harass him. Considering his age he is amazingly sweet and patient when the children want to carry him around.

I am of course a bit potty about natural history and got very excited about this spider's web that I saw hanging from our roof. It was about 3 ft wide and nearly as high, way up in the air and only visible when the wind blew it the right way. I couldn't resist taking a photo and I'm only sorry the owner wasn't visible, though I know quite a few of my readers will be grateful for that omission.

This wonderful tree is a prickly pear and when I was last out on the road, mainly in Queensland, the prickly pears were in flower. They are a terrible weed in many places but the orange flowers do develop into a fruit that is sweet and juicy and highly valued in many parts of the world. Sometimes to be found in fruit shops but certainly not a common fruit.

At the moment we are experiencing terrible floods in the state of Queensland. Over a third of the state, an area the size of Germany and France combined, is in flood - and the water is expected to be there for weeks if not months. It is heart rending to see streets, houses, farm lands under water. Just three weeks ago I was in some of the towns now flooded, thousands of people evacuated, property ruined. There was a lot of water lying around when I was in Queensland and this next photo shows a puddle we drove through. This same place, the road, the trees, and the paddocks behind, are now several metres deep in muddy water.

I'll end with a sunset taken in Gloucester, New South Wales, on a day of torrential rain. I was at a friend's wedding and as the sun set the sky just lit up with this amazing golden light.

I wish you all a most wonderful 2011, a year of peace, happiness, good health and prosperity. Thank you for your support and encouragement over the past year, I really do appreciate your comments and emails.

Happy New Year!