Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I've been thinking much about last summer's Australia trip, lately, doing this latest batch of drawings. So, a little excerpt from AU field studies journal--from our time camping in the mallee woodland, Calperum Station (June 22, 2011).
....I stopped a little ways out of camp to pee, and as I was looking at the ground, saw… a paw? Yes—a severed paw, blue-black, four claws, the fur matted and the wrist trailing off into attenuated, amber-colored tendons. I stood up and looked around, and not ten feet from me was a kangaroo skeleton, disintegrated past the point of viscera, but still holding together and covered with skin. It seemed complete except that the skull was gone. I would have liked to have seen that. But even headless it was an irresistible form to draw and I pulled up my chair as near it as I dared. I'd brought a bug head-net overseas with me that I'd begun to regret packing as I’d yet had no call for it, but it turned out to be very useful now, over my hat, for keeping the flies out of my facial orifices.

I did a few sketches of the desiccated body from different angles before heading further into the bush to do some landscape studies. The mallee trees were unassuming, but handsome, with graceful curves and shoots and multicolored bark, and I recorded their shapes as best I could. There was another beautiful plant growing out of the orange sand that commanded my attention late in the afternoon. It looked almost like a cushion, round and full and low to the ground. It was such a soft pale green, like a ring of tall grass, and its interior was dark and flat, as though something had made themselves at home in the center, and I wondered ignorantly if perhaps the emus nested in them. I came close to one to examine it and when I reached out to stroke its fronds, was shocked by how extraordinarily sharp they were. So much so that I looked to see if they’d drawn blood. They hadn’t, but my fingers were still stinging from where they’d been pricked, and I blinked in amazement, trying to reconcile the reality with the cozy vision I’d been cultivating.

I was glad once again for my bug net as I finished up and wiped the gouache palette clean--the flies buzzing around the paint—and headed back to camp. Bk arrived as I was doing one final drawing, a close-up of mallee leaves. His face looked wild from his day of solitude. His pants were scintillating strangely in the dusk, and when he came closer I saw that he had wrapped packing tape around his legs from ankle to knee. I laughed, impressed. It’d been helpful protection as he trudged through the strange sharp undergrowth, which he knew the name for: Spinifex. It was such a perfect name for the spiny plant, all thin and sharp and alluring in the mouth! I was glad to know it.


  1. I'm really enjoying the mark-making in these drawings Cedra :D The story about the severed paw and the decomposing kangaroo skeleton seems so exciting... I want to go search for animal carcasses to draw now haha

  2. Thanks, Mike! There are certainly carcasses around to be found! It's a great group activity. :)