Tropical Paradise – or more correctly, sub-tropical paradise.
Here in the Far North of New Zealand, summers can be hot and steamy, and winter days unexpectedly chilly. The title of this piece of art was inspired by a builder friend I’d hired to do some work on my cottage almost 2 years ago – July 2017 in fact (our winter).
I’d heard Paul’s ute come up the drive about 9am on a cold but sunny morning, and went out to have a chat with him about the great progress he was making on the repair work.
“Lovely morning in Paradise!” he called out, pouring himself a warm mug of coffee from his thermos. That made me smile, and led to a bit of a discussion about how pleased I was with my decision to stay put on this place.
It’s always especially heartwarming when friends voice their approval of one’s decisions, and as it happened, Paul had been one of the first locals to hear the news that I’d decided to stay instead of flitting off down south.
Apart from their obvious relevance to the ‘Tropical’ theme, all the elements in this image relate to this property.
The cockatoo belonged to friends who had a contracting business and came up here to do some trench digging work while my mom was still alive. I’ve got great photos of him hopping around on a Jacaranda tree as we sat talking during a break from work. Paradise indeed!
The Strelitzia reginae bird of paradise flowers are favorites – first encountered when we moved from the north of Scotland to Central Africa – what a change in lifestyle and surroundings THAT was!
Our new town’s botanical gardens were full of new wonders, like Cannas, Strelitzias, Bougainvilleas, Golden Chalice Vines, Aloes and palm trees of all kinds. I have 2 Strelitzias in my back garden that from time to time come under attack from my sheep (would you believe!). They are very deep-rooted, so as they can’t be moved I plan to plant a couple more in the safe zone that I now call my ‘plant retreat’.
The Fruit Salad plants (Monstera deliciosa) flourish here. My parents planted numbers of them when they first bought this place in 1970, so now I have several growing 30′ or more high in my native Totara trees. Quite spectacular! They really prefer to have their feet in the shade, and not too much full sun on their leaves.
As for the palm leaves, they represent the unlimited numbers of NZ Nikau palms (Rhopalostylis sapida) that multiply to the point where I have to cut them out at times like weeds, or I would be overgrown, They flourish especially under trees, where the birds have sat above and dropped seeds into the leaf mould below. Nature is an unstoppable force!
Hope you enjoy this work, For more details, click on the image. Vector.
This artwork is built around a sculpture I made some years ago as part of a set of 4 pieces symbolizing ‘The Elements’, seen in the New Zealand context.
Fire is symbolized by the volcano, and water is ubiquitous in Aotearoa, the Land Of The Long White Cloud.
Fire and water of course do not mix, and some especially spectacular results occur when volcanic magma and gases are released under the sea. This is exactly what is predicted to occur when the next eruption takes place in our largest city, Auckland – a narrow peninsula riddled with approx 53 volcanic vent holes.
In this regard, here is an interesting comment from NZ’s GeoNet:
“The type of volcanic activity in Auckland means each eruption has occurred at a new location; these are coming from a single active ‘hot spot’ of magma about 100 km below the city. … Auckland’s existing volcanoes are unlikely to become active again, but the Auckland Volcanic Field itself is young and still active.”
For more details, click on the image.
Mixed media – sculpture and Bézier pen tool vector. Created in Macromedia Fireworks MX.
Moreover, this journey has its own unstoppable momentum. Days flow into nights and nights flow into days.
There are no ‘sleep stopovers’, no hotel rooms. no packing and unpacking bags, no break in the inevitable flow of the steady heartbeat of this mighty continent, transmitted through these shining, silver rails.
When night falls, living space is transformed into sleeping space: bunks let down that rock the traveler into slumber almost before his head hits the pillows. And the journey goes on.
Up ahead, the loco still puffs its way through the darkness, slowly gaining altitude as it heads towards the central plateau lying beyond the Highveld. Final destination altitude is over 4500′ (1500m) above sea level: a long, slow climb of over 1100 miles (1800 km) from Cape Town, and that’s as the crow flies.
The route passes through the South African diamond town of Kimberley – viewed only as a skyline during a short station stop – and then heads more directly north. After Kimberley, no major towns are in evidence as the loco strikes out across the eastern plains of Botswana, with the Kalahari Desert lying further over to the west.
All around the train the open canopy of trees – mopani, msasa, acacias – drift past the traveler like ghostly sentinels under the moon, illuminated by the glow from the carriage windows. Wildlife goes about its night business, probably with barely a glance at the familiar string of passing lights and muffled sound, soon to vanish again intp the vast spaces of the dark.
Digital – vector art. For more details, click on images.
This is the story of a bird drama I had a few years back.
I had made a ‘Cat Garden’ at the end of the house, using 6′ netting and long 4″x4″ posts concreted into the ground. It was quite an effort to construct.
The main aim was to contain cats – chiefly my ex-stray Fluffy, who used to wander off over the road until he got hit by a car and lost a back leg (a cool $500 worth of operation I might add). Given his wandering nature, and my worries about the safety of my 2 Birmans also, I decided to make this garden. It’s about 45′ long by 35′ deep on a steep grassy, ferny bank. Basically, it worked well and though my 2 silver tabbies soon demonstrated their contempt by getting out of it, they didn’t do so very often.
My large workshop has windows looking out onto this garden at ground level – the house is dug into the bank at the back and side – and the cats used to get into the garden off the top of a big bench I have standing in the workshop under the windows. They were able to step straight off the windowsill onto the ground.
I say “used to” because as the result of a tragedy involving my young Black Lab and a couple of my ducks, I moved the remaining 3 female ducks into the Cat Garden instead. In a sense it was an inspired move, because they did an excellent job of clearing out the weeds and wandering jew (Tradescantia fluminensis), which had grown rampant in there.
So the ducks were a blessing to the Cat Garden. How come I never got the cats to do a lick of work around that garden? Didn’t I build it for them? Ungrateful, lazy felines!
One day about lunchtime I heard the ducks making an infernal racket – it wasn’t their normal “where’s the grub?” chant. So I went into the workshop to look and got a huge shock. Standing on a stone in the garden about 4′ away from the window was an Australasian Harrier Hawk (Circus approximans) – now called the Swamp Harrier. He was standing side-on to me at eye level and though we see them flying round here on a daily basis, I had never been as close to one as this.
He was bigger than I thought. It was one of those unforgettable moments when I could have wished my eyes were a camera. The size and presence of him was something else. He looked calmly across at me for a moment or two, then spread his great wings and took off. The vision has stayed with me ever since.
Harrier Hawk / Swamp Harrier – Vector.
Obviously this called for action. I was surprised he had come down into the small garden, because it’s overhung on one side by the lower branches of a Norfolk Island Pine, has the wall of our 2 story house on another side, ti-tree scrub on the two other sides, and a couple of tree ferns growing in it, so it doesn’t offer a smooth flight path. But raptors are the masters of the air waves. And since I didn’t have any doubts about why he was there, I went out with a roll of electric fence tape and laced it back and forth across the airspace.
I hoped it would serve its purpose of protecting my ducks because – funny, comical characters that they were, I loved them, and I didn’t want any more disasters to happen in my duck world.
So this artwork is an attempt to reconstruct what I saw and felt in that magical moment before he departed.
Note: The Swamp Harrier is recorded as being 50-60cm long. Males weigh 650gm and females 850gm. This makes them larger than Rooks at 45cm and Magpies at 41 cm long.
For more details, click on the images.
The Polynesian adventurers who discovered and colonised New Zealand about the end of the first century AD were extremely conversant with the planets and their passages.
It was this knowledge, plus an observation of the flight paths of migratory birds, that enabled them to undertake huge voyages across the Pacific Ocean – initially from west to east, and later back in a southwesterly direction to find the islands that they were to name ‘Aotearoa’ or ‘Land of The Long White Cloud”.
The rising of the Pleiades (late May early June in Aotearoa New Zealand) is regarded as the Maori New Year, and it is a time for celebrating a new start.
Traditionally, it was a time for remembering the dead, and celebrating new life.
To this symbol, I added the Koru or unfurling fern frond, a favorite subject for me – also a very strong symbol for birth and new beginnings.
And of course, Matariki is a great time for the burgeoning of artistic endeavor, too.
This post is a follow-up to a reference made in “The Journey“.