'An Admiration for Animals'

“The beauty of nature re-forms itself in the mind, and not for barren contemplation, but for new creation.” – R.W. Emerson, Nature (1836)

Born in 1990 and raised predominantly on a farm in the New South Wales country, now residing in Tasmania, my family raised an extensive variety of animals. Occasionally raising and rehabilitating sick and injured wildlife. This inherent relationship and connection to animals developed a deep love and admiration for them, inspiring many animal drawings as a child and through to adulthood.

During my years on the farm I spent many weekends exploring the countryside by horseback with my mother, witnessing many aspects of nature. Memories and experiences from this farm inspire many of my animal portraits. The Rainbow Lorikeets, for one example, that would squeeze through the chicken wire on the bird aviary and steal the food within, have been a great influence for me, inspiring several Rainbow Lorikeet portraits.

During College (year 11 and 12) I was encouraged to explore human portraiture and to pursue a higher education at University. Once enrolled into a Bachelor of Fine Art I began to veer further away from animal portraiture instead focusing on the structure, microscopic and macroscopic, of the environment, primarily utilising oil paints. I then continued on to complete a Master of Fine Art and Design in 2012 which further more veered away from animals and focused on an imaginative representation of the environment on large scale canvas with highly saturated colour. These paintings also began to verge more on the abstracted side by utilising a technique of pouring paint. I couldn’t possibly get any further away from animal portraiture.

After completing the Master’s degree I pursued a break from academia and began to draw animals again. During University I volunteered at local animal rescue shelters which also inspired my passion for drawing them and helped to reignite my desire to draw animals. At first I began by utilising graphite and ink before incorporating colour with watercolour pencils. This unique method enabled a greater sense of form and depth whilst maintaining the unique characteristics of the watercolour wash. The final layers of ink create a higher level of contrast and detail, and enable a greater degree of control.

After University I decided to take some time off for the first time in my and spent three months of 2013 in Europe, based in Berlin Germany, where I quickly began to notice a difference in surrounding animals. Crow like birds frequented the area and the ever present sparrows. Occasionally one might see a fox, a wood pecker, a squirrel or a deer. This quickly ignited an even stronger appreciation of Australian wildlife which began a succession of approximately twenty A4 animal portraits drawn from photos on my phone. This is where I began to push myself to continue to improve my technique and quality, and setting a goal to experiment with utilising oil paint for more rendered and defined depictions.

Within weeks of returning home I began taking commissions of people’s beloved furry friends and installing work in local cafes and pubs. Competitions also began to stand out as a means of exploring this passion. I attempted my chances at a local art competition only to find out that I had won the ‘People’s Choice’ award for my watercolour pencil and ink representation of the Tasmanian Devil. A local treasure and sadly suffering from the deadly facial tumour, the Tasmanian Devil is a Tasmanian and Australian icon that is sadly dwindling in numbers. This was my first attempt at entering a competition since my high school and college years and ultimately my first award since that time.

There are many animal artists across the globe and it is important to follow artists that intrigue or inspire you, that give you a goal or simply motivate you to draw or paint more. Katherine Cooper is one such artist for me. Katherine is an artist also residing in Tasmania that specialises in wildlife art. Her high level of detail and realism are strong motivators and a basis of inspiration for my work. Raising awareness of the often endangered status of Australian wildlife are both aims and concerns for Katherine and myself.

“My wildlife portraits are inspired by our beautiful native fauna and are aimed at raising awareness of their often fragile and threatened status. I am often amazed and caught in awe, staring off into the trees, seeing things others simply do not or do not want to. It’s these moments I attempt to translate onto paper.”

Previously I had predominantly worked in watercolour pencil and ink, however, recently I have been aiming for a more rendered technique by constructing paintings in oil paint. Building up more elaborate environments and detail.

My ultimate aim is to create a portrait that contains a sense of an individual with life and soul whilst also raising awareness of the fragility of animals.

“Having traveled to New Zealand and Europe I still find that nothing compares to our Australian native animals. Whilst I have a great admiration for all animals my heart is fond of our unique and beautiful native wildlife.”

- Meaghan Roberts

Journal Comments

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