Author and illustrator Bridget Farmer reveals the inspiration behind her book, Kookaburra Kookaburra, and the amazing lino-cut technique she uses to create the book’s unique and distinctive images.
As Australian cities undergo a period of rapid densification, many home buyers are facing the stark reality that they may have to settle for an apartment rather than a house. We’re living in smaller places in increasingly crowded cities; access to outdoor spaces is becoming ever more important.
Urban Sanctuary really addresses that need: ‘To find refuge from our busy lives is one of the most significant requirements of home … the inventive and careful design of outdoor space is increasingly paramount, and, in fact, essential.’ It acknowledges ‘the standard backyard is long gone’.
This book is the follow-up to Living in the Landscape, also by Richard Black and Anna Johnson, and features 25 distinctive urban properties across Australia and New Zealand, each of which offer something unique with regard to their outdoor space. I find the homes both inspiring and practical – and surprisingly accessible. These look like real homes with concepts that could be applied to your own property with relative ease.
One cool little feature is that the houses are ordered according to their respective sizes, from smallest to largest. The first property, the Waterloo House in Sydney, is just 129 sqm, while the final property, The Red House in Titirangi, New Zealand, closes out the book at 5487 sqm. The architectural drawings for each home are presented as well, which is handy when you’re thinking about the application to your own property.
As a publisher, I think the cover of this book is pretty special. Such an inviting image that draws the eye in through the garden to the heart of the home, revealing a warm and welcoming indoor–outdoor living area. An urban sanctuary. The cover is printed on a beautiful woven stock and the text pages are printed on a sturdy matt paper, which adds to the book’s authenticity.
I snapped up an advance copy and took it home to proudly display on my coffee table. I am pleased to say that the rest of you can now get your hands on your own copy of this stunning book.
To celebrate the publication this week of the stunning Garden Love, we caught up with photographer, gardener, dog lover and bestselling author Simon Griffiths, to discover a little more about his fabulous new book, his approach to photography, how he got started and, of course, dogs, plants and country gardens.
How did you first start as a photographer, and what was your earliest inspiration?
I got my first camera when I was about 5 years old – a funny plastic ‘Diana’ camera, but it used real film, and I was hooked. At school I was good at art and science, and I suppose that’s why I was drawn to photography, as it’s that creative mix of both. After high school, I went to study photography at RMIT, which is still probably considered one of the best photography courses in the world.
Who are your favourite photographers?
I love Eugène Atget, a French 19th-century photographer, who was one of the first people to photograph gardens. His work documented French streetscapes and gardens around Paris, and also the French people. His body of work is still amazing all these years later. He had special times of the year when he would shoot gardens, such as when the buds were just about to burst in spring, which he said made the trees glow. He created stunning images, all on an early plate camera.
John Dugdale is another photographer whose work inspires me. His beautiful still lifes and portraits are shot on a plate camera and printed using early photographic techniques. They have a quiet, fragile beauty to them, which is different to the clinical properties of digital photography.
How many books have you been involved in, and do you feel that the process has changed at all?
I have worked on over 70 books now. They really are a passion of mine and I have been lucky enough to travel all over the world shooting for different authors and publishers. Garden Love is the fourth book I have both written and photographed.
The process has changed a lot over the years. I used to shoot on film and it was always stressful to be travelling with 400 or 500 rolls of film and going through x-ray machines, worrying the film would be damaged. Digital is fantastic and has helped free up the creative process for me: I can shoot as many images as I want as there is no film budget now for books. When I started, the books I worked on had a limited number of colour photographs, with many still printed in black and white, as printing in colour was much more expensive. Now there seems to be no limitation to the number of photographs a book can contain.
What draws you to photographing plants and gardens?
I’m a gardener at heart, so I approach shooting gardens from that perspective. I’m interested in plants, in how they grow and in documenting that. You can learn something from every garden you visit. It might be a colour combination or a plant you have never seen before, or it might be the way a gardener has grown a plant, pruned or shaped it. If you lived for 1,000 years, you would still not learn everything about gardening and that’s what fascinates me. And when I’m not photographing gardens, I’m gardening at home.
What is your favourite part of your own garden?
I love the topiary in our garden – the Buxus (English box) shapes I have been clipping for 10 years now, which act like punctuation marks in the garden in the same way that full stops or exclamation marks complete a sentence. The topiary gets clipped twice a year and helps give the garden structure. I actually think I might add some more as it’s very effective.
Was there anything uniquely Australian that connected all of the gardens in the book?
Yes – all the incredible stories the garden owners had about snakes and other garden critters. One gardener, who thought she had picked up the garden hose, had actually picked up a snake. And nearly all the garden owners had stories like it. Gardening in Australia is a difficult process – we have a climate of extremes, and lengthy periods of drought – and you could only be in Australia with all those snake stories.
What inspired you to feature the dogs (and other animals in your new book)?
The dogs and cats or other animals we choose to surround ourselves with become part of our gardens, bringing them to life – they are as much a part of the garden as the plants themselves. I have two whippets and our garden wouldn’t be the same without them. Animals bring life and warmth to a garden.
If there was one garden from Garden Love that you would like as your own, which one would it be?
I have to say probably ‘Foss’. It’s a really magical place, and you always feel great whenever you wander around the garden there. It’s six parts magic, four parts garden. Last time I was there, the Manchurian pear trees were in flower, and it was incredible. The blossom was so thick on the trees, it was like walking through a large white fluffy cloud.
Plants, Dogs and Country Gardens … what else do you need to add to the list, for complete happiness?
A cottage and books, then life would be perfect.
Garden Love, priced $59.99, is available now in all your favourite book shops across Australia.
John Russell was a close friend of Vincent van Gogh and Auguste Rodin, taught impressionist colour theory to Henri Matisse and dined with Claude Monet. Watch this fascinating short video to learn a little more about the particular bond he shared with Van Gogh.
John Russell: Australia’s French Impressionist has been published by the Art Gallery of NSW to accompany the exhibition of the same name which runs until November.
Bringing together 120 paintings, drawings and watercolours – including a number of works by his contemporaries – this major retrospective is the first survey of Russell’s work in 40 years. It offers fresh perspectives on French impressionism, reintroducing Russell’s extraordinary painting to today’s audiences.
Four years in the making, this is one of the most ambitious travel stories of our time.
Wild Land is an epic and unprecedented portrait of some of the most untouched parts of our planet, and a timely message highlighting the urgent need for them to be preserved for the future of the planet, and a future on which humankind’s very survival is dependent.
The video below shares the story of the inspiration behind Peter and Beverly Pickford’s quest to find the last remaining wild lands on each continent, as well as some of the stunning images they created on their journey.
Author Jaqui Cameron on the unique appeal of the Southern Highlands of NSW, and its community.
I am not a horticulturist. At this point in my life I am barely even a gardener, but I grew up with a large country garden and understand the dedication such a space demands. Having lived on a farm in the Southern Highlands with my young family for nearly a decade, growing and selling trees, I have come to know the dedication and passion of garden owners in this area. I also know that every garden comes with a tale as unique as its design and I’m incredibly inquisitive – some would say nosy! I love writing, I love a good story and I have always loved a great romance.
Over the years I have learnt that the Southern Highlands is an area with a gardening history as rich and deep as the local soil. Well known for its beauty, it has long attracted garden enthusiasts because the climate provides the opportunity to celebrate the beauty of a garden across the four distinct seasons. What is not so well known is the extraordinary variety of gardens that exist across the region, nor that it can deliver four seasons in a single day, with a clear summer morning quickly transformed by a thick wintry mist rolling in.
I have spent countless happy days driving along the quiet village streets and country laneways of the Southern Highlands, looking over gates and hedges, desperately trying to get a glimpse of whatever hidden gem might lie beyond.
I have met a wonderfully eclectic community of gardener owners, garden specialists and artists, and I have been lucky enough to visit some of the most breathtaking landscapes. I have found the beauty and the very personal love affairs people have with their gardens inspiring and delightful, and with each new discovery the idea to create a book telling the stories behind Southern Highlands properties began to grow. I wanted to uncover hidden, previously unseen gardens and explore the passions of the owners who had dreamt and worked hard to create their own private oases. My challenge was to find these private gardens and convince their owners to allow me to share their stories.
That’s where the strength and generosity of the local community came to the fore. It quickly became evident to me that there is no ego in a garden. At each site I visited, the owner would recommend another garden they considered to be an equal, if not grander, triumph with its own amazing story.
This serendipity led me to the wonderful characters, beautiful gardens and amazing stories that fill this book. I was overwhelmed with suggestions and never disappointed.
You never can tell what lies beyond the garden gate.
Text © Jaqui Cameron, Photography © Sue Stubbs
In this extract from his new bestselling book Chromatopia, author and master paint maker David Coles looks at the origin of ochre – believed to be the first pigment used to create human artworks.
The oldest human artworks still in existence are vivid depictions of animals, humans and spirits that were created using ochres. There is evidence of their use as far back as 250,000 years ago. Ancient ochre artworks are found all over the world, from the earliest cultures of India and Australia to the famous cave paintings of Lascaux in France.
Naturally occurring iron-containing ochres of the earth provide a wide range of yellow, red and brown colours.
The natural mineral could be collected or dug-up and then simply ground against a harder rock and water added to make fluid. Later civilisations refined this process to include washing the ochre of impurities, drying and then grinding to a fine powder.
Yellow ochres are an impure form of iron oxide called limonite. They can also be roasted to produce other hues
by placing on a fire or in an oven. A moderate heat turns the yellow to orange; stronger heat makes the colour turn red. These roasted red ochres are often called ‘burnt’ (for example, burnt sienna). Naturally occurring red ochres are richer in anhydrous iron oxide called haematite. They also vary widely in shade, hue and transparency.
There are many earth pigments whose specific colour comes from natural mineral admixtures. The pigments known as ‘umber’ contain iron plus manganese oxide that lends a greenish hue. Iron-oxide-free earths are not strictly ochres, but it is important to include them here as their use alongside the true ochres is significant throughout history; white earths from pipe-clay, black earths of manganese and the light green pigment terre-verte (green earth) from mineral celadonite.
Text © David Coles from CHROMATOPIA, published by Thames & Hudson.
Photographs © Adrian Lander
This is the first full-colour publication of some of the most extraordinary botanical prints of the 18th century. Banks’ Florilegium is not only a great scientific record, but also a major achievement of collaborative Enlightenment art, and a work of botanical illustration of outstanding beauty.
Joseph Banks accompanied James Cook on his first voyage around the world between 1768 and 1771. A gifted and wealthy young naturalist, Banks collected exotic flora from Madeira, Brazil, Tierra del Fuego, the South Pacific, New Zealand, Australia and Java, bringing back over 1,300 species hitherto unknown to science.
On his return, Banks commissioned over 700 superlative engravings as a scientific record. Known collectively as Banks’ Florilegium, they are some of the most precise and exquisite examples of botanical illustration ever made – yet they were never published in Banks’ lifetime.
The present selection has been made from a unique limited colour edition of the prints, with expert botanical commentaries provided by Professor David Mabberley. Mel Gooding describes the Endeavour voyage and the making of the Florilegium. An afterword by Joe Studholme outlines the history of the modern printing.
Mel Gooding is an art historian, writer and curator. He has taught at Edinburgh and Wimbledon Schools of Art, among others, and contributes regularly to the art press.
Professor David Mabberley has served as Executive Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust in Sydney. He is an Emeritus Fellow at Wadham College, Oxford, Adjunct Professor at Macquarie University, Sydney, and Professor Extraordinary at the University of Leiden, The Netherlands.
Joe Studholme co-founded Editions Alecto and undertook the printing of Banks’ Florilegium from the original copper plates between 1980 and 1990.
‘Splendid … much to enjoy for the general reader’
‘A stunning piece of history, art and botany in one’
‘This magnificent modern compilation is quite breathtaking in its beauty and detail’
‘Beautifully crafted and lovingly presented … a joy to behold’
The Garden, Royal Horticultural Society’s magazine
Format:Hardback with tipped on colour plate to front board (without jacket)
Size:35.5 x 26.5 cm
Publication date:19 October 2017
The internationally renowned children’s author discusses exploring the ocean in his latest work ‘The Big Book of the Blue’.
“I try to connect with my inner child: that eager curiosity about the world around us,” explains author Yuval Zommer. Having applied that winning process to bugs and beasts, his latest creation is The Big Book of the Blue – supplying readers with illustrated fun facts about everything from whales and dolphins to jellyfish and sea turtles.
The non-fiction book process is a lengthy one, notes Zommer. “It’s double or more the pages of a normal picture book, and you’re packing in lots of information. Details are very important to me, like the patterns, textures, structures and just sheer beauty. Nature is an unparalleled artist. Even the tiniest creature is amazing when you look at it closely – which is what children do.” There’s a lovely literal example of that in the book, as Zommer gets up close with krill through a magnifying glass.
“Children appreciate anatomically correct depictions,” notes Zommer. “When I draw, I try to understand the creature’s shape, movement and colour palette, then add in the detail. I always think: ‘What is its essence?’” He worked with sea life expert Barbara Taylor to ensure that “everything is factually robust, as well as asking what would be fun to discover – those quirks and surprises.”
From interacting with fans of his books on social media and at events, Zommer knows they’re adopted by a wide age range, so he takes care to include elements for everyone: from striking visuals for non-readers through to fascinating facts for those who are knowledgeable about the topic. Appropriate analogies help readers connect (such as comparing sea turtles’ sight to swimming goggles), and there’s plenty of wit to make parents smile.
One striking aspect of his work is the way that he overlays text and pictures. “My pet hate is books with one page that’s just an image and another that’s a big chunk of text. That’s a disconnect. Reading is about travelling through the story. It also works well for repeated reading, as you come back and discover something new, or can easily find your favourite page.”
Zommer’s personal favourites include the jellyfish page, which is backed by black so we can see the jellyfish glow and get a sense of their transparency, as well as the evocative night-time krill page and that depicting the duality of penguins: gangly on land and “almost balletic” in their grace underwater. But he’s delighted with the book’s overall variety, reflected too in its form: “It’s good to have a mix of portrait and landscape pages in a large format like this, so readers can twist the book or read it upside down. It adds another dimension to the experience.”
On a more serious note, there’s a section on threats to marine life – from oil spills and overfishing to global warming and plastic. “It’s something I thought about from the start. Even as a child, I was interested in ecology and wanting to protect the planet,” recalls Zommer. “It’s something kids really connect with, and they want to know how they can help.” An illustration of a whale whose belly is packed with plastic waste is a potent image for readers of any age.
Zommer is thrilled that his books have been translated into different languages and travelled everywhere from Europe to China, America and Russia. “The books travel more than I do! Once a book exists, it has its own life – you never know where it will go or who will read it. I love seeing kids getting into reading, and it really shows that children worldwide are fascinated by nature; its appeal is universal. That gives me great joy.”
Interview conducted by Marianka Swain @ The Arts Desk.