Part Five Building a collection. Project one

Strengthening a theme:

I’m going to revisit tropical tourist. When I last did this theme I was on Hamilton Island. This is a commercial tourist resort island with some permanent residents, large hotels and an airport. I used garish items obtained from the local souvenir shop for my still life.

Insert photo here when I have access to my old photos again

This time I will be taking a slightly different slant on the theme. We are holidaying on Heron Island now. Heron is a remote coral cay on the barrier reef. It has a resort and a marine research station. It is a haven for birds, fish and turtles and is situated right on the coral of the Great Barrier Reef. I plan to use found items only for this still life. It will be a combination of natural and unnatural objects from the beach and the local environs I will need to return any natural material as it is a national park and no natural material can be removed.


I plan to use a range of drawing techniques and the first I am currently experimenting with is cyanotype. This involves using chemicals to sensitise fabric to UV light and produces a Prussian blue pigment in the exposed areas.

My first idea was to walk around the island regularly and collect any rubbish left behind on the beach after the high tide. Fortunately I guess this didn’t really result in much. Mostly small pieces of glass. My first attempt at a cyanotype drawing here with the found rubbish is above. I was using rubbish partly because I am allowed remove that from the beach to set up a still life. But I don’t think this will result in enough variation of texture and interest to create a still solely from this. There are so many wonderful nature colours and textures around that it would be a shame to ignore all that.

So I moved on to considering including natural objects.

I set up a couple of mini still lifes in situ on the beach and was quite pleased with the results.

Insert photo of result here

My next thought was to bring some of these objects back to the cabin and work with them there to create various still lifes that I could draw and then return the objects later.

Unfortunately once I had set this up I watched it for a while and noticed some of the shells moving. I realised that I had taken living creatures from the beach and felt I had to return them as quickly as possible. So this turned out to be a one shot only still life. I felt bad and hope I didn’t damage the creatures.

Here I am returning them to the beach.


I was excited when I saw an old rusty wreck beached off the island and immediately thought of documenting this through rusty fabric. I successfully snorkelled out and attached a piece of fabric to the boat at high tide.

This photo was taken at low tide when I discovered you could walk out to the boat.

It didn’t seem to be rusting much so I moved it to another spot. Unfortunately after 24 hours it was gone. I attached it tightly so I’m hoping someone simply removed it thinking it was rubbish. I chose silk in case it did come loose, thinking it would be biodegradable, but I’d hate to think that somewhere a sea creature was caught in it in the meantime. I seem to be having a run of endangering creatures in the name of art and I don’t like this.

I have tied silk in a couple of more accessible spots that I can check regularly, and where they are tied firmly through a loop so cannot come loose.

And yesterday I added a new spot just around the high tide mark. I had to change the position because when I came to check the high tide wasn’t quite reaching it.

It’s on a chain that is fixed to a block of concrete in the sand under those rocks which I placed to mark it.

These wonderful tide marks were present in the sand when I last checked the fabric.

And this is a 97 sec video on the tide just reaching my work in progress.

Ink and Watercolour

I’m going to move on to some ink and watercolour drawings from photographs of reef life. It’s not possible to include these in a still life as they are part of the living reef but they need to be included in a documentation of the island as they are such an integral part of this beautiful place.


I’m going to use adobe Capture to look at various colour palettes for the area.

This is the gentle palette I created from the sand water and sky at sunset. I loved this when I came out of the bush and saw it.

Sea star from the reef walk. I’m going to look at all the colour palettes and then create my own. Probably a blue green palette. In the meantime I’ll do some colour drawings in these palettes

Pisonia tree salt leaf. Apparently all the salt that builds up is directed to single leaves in order to sacrifice a few for the good of the tree.

Seaweed growing along the bunt wall


Purple coral

Plant printing

I’ve buried some paper and fabric under the Pisonia tree near our hut and I’m watering it and compressing it with my feet. Probably won’t get much but I’ll be able to augment with drawing.

These spiders and spider webs in the forest also make great imagery.

The drawings

I decided to take some small items from above the high tide mark that definitely don’t contain animals.

This drawing takes the colour and some of the linear elements and form from this little still life.

I have used textile medium primed silk and then watercolour and acrylic ink. The idea is to produce a washable drawing and I have had some success. Some of the watercolour did wash out but most stayed. That was only with handwashing though and it’s likely that more would come out with machine washing. Also the fabric has gone very translucent which is not fantastic. Next time I will try with watercolour diluted with textile medium and see how that goes.

This is an example of a cyanotype still life I did yesterday.

In progress

After processing

And this is a cyanotype on paper instead of fabric

Unfortunately it got a hole during processing. I guess I’ll repair with stitch or reverse appliqué

Silver eye birds nest made from Pandanus fibre

Ink on stone paper

Ink and a “nest” of tangled silk fibre from the edge of my fabric.

Ink, water and glue on stone paper. From a piece of dead coral.

Purple and fushia pink/orange coral. Unfortunately the color looks totally wrong in this photo. Only slightly better in real life.

This is watercolour and textile medium on silk. I am learning that textile medium will bind watercolour to fabric. An additional bonus is the effect of irregular colour where the dots of textile medium have been placed.

Clam in ink watercolour and textile medium on paper. These ones had to be from photos and on site observation.

Coral cells and seaweed. Ink on stone paper.

I have retrieved two of the rustings. Hardly any marks but the photos look ok.

This was the result of rusting around a chain, with the tides.

Those tide patterns in the sand are created by tiny balls of seaweed and the shadows. I have tried to use that idea to inform the mark I made for this drawing.

Textile medium on paper sensitised with cyanotype and exposed. The pale areas are areas of washout of chemical before they have been fixed with exposure.

Another cyanotype moved by pouring water along the base.

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