About three years ago, I bought this small plant about eight inches tall from an eighty year old man in Moggill markets, Queensland. This market has now moved away from the vicinity of Bellowrie to a nearby suburb.
This plant did not have any flowers, but the old man told me, it will have these bell-looking flowers that the birds love. He called it a bush. My cousin Marina, a horticulturist, gave me a yellow species of the same plant. She told me the plant would be huge and I need a large space at least three cubic metres for it. When I showed her the old man’s plant, she said the two were exactly the same, the yellow-flowered one she gave me and this orange one. The orange one took almost a year to grow up to a metre or so and flowered.
My yellow plant is still about a metre tall and because I placed in a spacious spot, it has not grown into other plants. This orange bush is now branching into the chook coop and the passion a pepper tree, because I planted it before I got the horticulturist’s advice.
The orange plant needs pruning several times a year, and the plant, which I can never remember the name, (I’m sorry) provides an abundance of bird food. Daily, many little birds come to enjoy its petals, and I’m grateful to the old gardener who sold me the plant. I also love its colours.
I had a watercolour technique class tonight in Bellbowrie, Queensland, on skin tones and the weird drawings under this image are quick demos for my students on how to draw an eye, curly hair and corn-row etc. So, don’t get distracted by the massive eye – I thought it looked cool as part of my subject’s hoody (sweatshirt).
This subject has a mid-tone and as I explained to my students, I usually subconsciously draw a person that ends up looking like someone I know and has my skin colour. This guy definitely looks like one of my relatives.
The image is slightly overexposed because I took the picture with my phone and the flash. I hope you like the study.
This morning I woke to check the ailing rooster and saw the fog through my windows. It was early. I went to get my camera and left the house. The fog had stayed, even though the sun light was peeking through the gum trees in Bellbowrie.
Here are some pictures of my neighbourhood. Some of you may know it is the middle of winter in Brisbane. This exact week, 13 years ago, my two sons and I migrated to Australia (Brisbane). I try not to think of how miserable and cold it was for us, because many great things have happened since then. Life is a transformation of wonders, only if we allow ourselves to enjoy them.
His large pinkish feet were now pale scaly claws clasped in two tight fists at the end of the stiff body. All that was left of his proud behind was a featherless grey butt. It could have been a packed frozen turkey from Coles Supermarket, if we didn’t own a large rooster. Nothing was left of the tall proud white-streaked black feathers that lined and neatly covered his tail. The rooster loved to shake this tail and flap his wings before it tried to mount every hen we had in the pen.
Looking at what looked to be a corpse in front of me last Monday, I thought of the soft warm fuzzy black chick that had just hatched. My son Chris bought him and the hen at our local produce store near Brisbane five years ago. We thought we were raising layers until the black chick started acting weird, bullying the other chickens and making funny sounds that sounded like crows. It didn’t take him long to fine tune the crow and go for the hens.
The late afternoon sun caught his morbid shape on the garden mound. I searched for movement. The dogs were barking madly. Stretched out, eyes shut and one battered wing hugging crudely to a large concrete brick as if hanging on to what was left of his life, my only thought was death. I turned him over. Lifeless.
I let out a cry and swung my piece of house timber at the two barking boxers as I tried to get them off the other chickens. The dogs, belonging to a neighbour, one black and the other white, had brought the rooster down so quickly and went for the others before I reached them from the house. There were wet feathers on the lilies, the wisteria and succulents, intertwined in the tall green grass, and the chicken coop wire. My obscenities, threats and timber swinging finally chased the dogs into the bushes behind the house and out towards the main road.
I picked up the rooster. He was cold and lifeless. Being the middle of winter, I tucked him quickly into my warm hoodie and cried while I called out for the hen who was still missing. The other two roosters seemed shaken but unscathed. Knowing that sometimes when dogs kill for fun, they could drag the carcase of their kill somewhere and leave them. I wasn’t sure of the hen’s fate, but at that moment, my son Chris arrived from work.
As I was calling for the hen, I could feel the rooster moving under my arm. I asked Chris to bring a towel to wrap the rooster and sent him after the dogs to find out whose dogs they were. I raced upstairs to clean the rooster’s wounds and stop the bleeding. I took the antiseptics and thoroughly brought out the bloody mess and noticed the bleeding punctures on the rooster’s back in three places.
Chris followed the dogs across our street and checked their tags and rang the neighbour to tell them about the incident. They lived directly opposite and across the road. Then, we drove to the Bellbowrie vet.
At the vet, the rooster’s breathing almost failed again. Chris reminded me to be prepared that he was old, and the vet may want to euthanize him to end his misery.
“I feel he will be okay”, I said to Chris.
Then the rooster made a lot of noise and trembled in my arms. There were three dogs barking from inside the vet kernel and two dogs waiting in the vet’s reception. I hid the rooster under my jumper again and kept in the corner, although I felt like leaving because I could sense, the dogs’ presence was too distressing for the old chicken. I wasn’t sure how to block his ears. Sensing the discomfort, the nurse called the vet and he ushered us inside and away from the dogs.
The vet pointed to the three deep punctures on the roosters back where most of the feathers were chewed off and blood was still coming out. I described the attack and the vet was shocked that the rooster was still fighting for its life then.
“Did he have large thick feathers?
“Yes, on his back, but not anymore”, I said.
“He is very lucky; his feathers saved him”, the vet said. The vet fully examined the rooster and gave him pain-killer and an antibiotic shot.
“He is very strong and he has a full gut. That is enough feed to keep him alive for a few days”, the vet said and smiled.
“How old is he – he is big?”
“Nearly five years old”.
“He is definitely a size 30” the vet said laughing.
A size 30 is a 3-kilogram bird, that I knew. I smiled.
“He is very healthy; I think your rooster is going to live – keep him warm and inside for a few days.”
I thanked the vet as he warned that the dogs could return, now that they have had a taste of blood.
“They think they’ve killed the rooster, but they know you have other chickens”, he said.
The rooster slept in our house last night, woke this morning and had some porridge and gave me a dirty look so I gave him some chicken food – top layer mesh. He has been good all day and his wounds are scabbing nicely. He cannot use his feet yet, but he tried to stand a few times and crowed twice very loudly before he fell over. He wouldn’t let the younger rooster crow while he was recovering.
“Baby steps mister”, I said, but the rooster just gave me one of his ‘looks’.
Experimenting with a watercolour – gesso combination, I painted “Island woman”. She reminds me of someone from my past in PNG New Guinea islands – maybe from New Britain or New Ireland.
Like other mediums, watercolour paints have names and pigment intensity. This Aussie Red-Gold (Daniel Smith) paint has to be my favorite, but I use Payne’s Grey in almost everything, so I had to prove to my students, I could easily divorce Payne’s Grey for another colour. I think it is a brilliant colour. I hope you like it too.
In April 1990, several months after I was crowned Miss PNG (1989), the PNG Red Cross sent me on a national tour across Papua New Guinea. The tour was to promote the work of Red Cross in charity, disaster relief, blood transfusion services and youth growth and development programmes. This trip enabled me to learn new things, see new places and make many friends. It was a discovery of the magnitude of the work of Red Cross had done in the country and how many people dependent on these services. I was happy to be part of it all and be an ambassador for Red Cross. Unfortunately this privilege no longer exists in the quest due to lack of funding and the changes to the beauty pageant.
During my Red Cross travels, I also saw some of the most beautiful parts of PNG. Pictured is a small coastal village we passed during my tour of Kavieng, New Ireland Province. I took this picture of the house on the waterfront. A few days ago, I was delightfully surprised to find the picture (above) while going through some photos from 27 and 28 years ago. It brought back many memories of the wonderful time I had experienced.
Immediately, I had to paint this little house. The colours I chose reflect the glorious feeling I had during that time, while experiencing love and friendships; the tranquillity and wonders of my beloved PNG. I was very lucky to see a lot of the country during my reign.
I hope you like the images. Feel free to comment and share the tranquillity and beauty of this beautiful PNG Province.
“Liklik rokrok” means little frog in Papua New Guinea pidgin. I once designed and will be bringing back a collection of children’s T-shirts called “Liklik Rokrok”. Watch this blog for the re-launch later this year.
Frogs play a huge role in our environment and especially the condition of our environment. I have a special affection for this little frog. It was wonderful to find a short YouTube video posted by “Love Nature” about their life and how they have changed over time. I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did. It is amazing to learn about how a tiny creature could evolve throughout revolution and protect itself from predators to this day.
Papua New Guinea has over 30 species of the Bird of Paradise. I am currently painting this study of the male Lesser Bird of Paradise.
Painting the white feathers is simply not painting the watercolour paper with any pigment. It is not easy to add backwash to enhance the white feathers without completely covering the white paper. I didn’t want to tape or mask it out to add extra challenge…
I think my next one would be better. What do you think?