Monday, 19 December 2011

On Life-changing Books - part two -

I found this French book of the American bird artist Louis Agassiz Fuertes in a second-hand book stall at the summer Sunday street market in my hometown Porto Recanati. I was a teenager and at that time I had no idea about who this artist was, but I was into watercolours and birds and the book was a good bargain and I could read French. I was surprised to read that he was self-taught and also stricken to see the level of detail and yet expression and movement.

Red-breasted Merganser ©Louis Agassiz Fuertes

At 22, self-taught, Fuertes (1874-1927) was considered the most talented American bird artist of the time. An intimate knowledge of his subjects' lives and behaviours allowed him to truthfully represent birds expressions and attitudes combined with an exact ornithological rendering.
He took part as an artist and illustrator in ornithological expeditions and scientific explorations over USA, Greater Antilles, Mexico, Colombia, and Ethiopia. Definitely an inspiring life.

Killdeer ©Louis Agassiz Fuertes

He used to work from life, patiently and rigorously observing the living bird relying on his prodigious visual memory to flawlessly capture expressions and attitudes, he also worked from dead specimens to take life-size measurements and other details both drawn and written very thoroughly.
I found a beautiful website-archive with many of his paintings and sketches which is really worth a visit, click here, I hope you'll enjoy.

Common Potoo ©Louis Agassiz Fuertes

And this is also the last post for this year, with many more on the way about my latest endeavours, I would like to wish all the readers and followers, regardless of what religion you may follow, if any,  a good time spent with loved ones, and best hopes for the new year to come.
Take care                                     Matteo

Monday, 12 December 2011

On Life-changing Books - part one -

When I was a kid, my mother, knowing about my passion for drawing and nature, got me a book which I regard now as one of those few that propelled me into seeing things in a different way. The book is called 'La natura e' meravigliosa' or 'Nature is Wonderful' in English, but the original Dutch title is 'Een zucht van verwondering', published in 1990. A huge collection of watercolour paintings and drawings, detailed yet as simple and humble as nature can be in her smallest forms: nests, insects, leaves, animals and birds, which all together narrated the events of nature, the changing tides, the migration of birds, the change of season, life between the dunes of sand by the northern seas, and then into the woods and the countryside of the Netherlands. Everything was narrated by a crystal clear text explaining the ways of nature and the interaction with man. I was stricken by the simple beauty of bare pencil and watercolour.

© Marjolein Bastin

After this book I decided I would have become a watercolourist. Marjolein Bastin (1943), the artist behind it, is Dutch, and clearly shows how the closer we look the more we see. Her strong bond with every living being, no matter how small and ordinary, has always been part of her life and has motivated her to start drawing and sharing her discoveries to the world. Worldwide renowned for her illustrations and licensing products, Marjolein Bastin has never stopped looking at things with the curious eyes of a child, capturing the hidden and overlooked beauties of nature, just as she sees them, imperfect, yet beautiful, small, yet no less important.

© Marjolein Bastin

Nature artist, writer, children's author and illustrator, Marjolein Bastin divides her time drawing inspiration from the nature of her homeland, the Netherlands, Missouri, Cayman Island and Switzerland.
Her books are among my most treasured ones, still reminding me to look at things closer to find something more and new and to change my point of view to find a new perspective.
© Marjolein Bastin

Monday, 5 December 2011

Avian Faces - Bush-stone Curlews

With this painting I wanted to focus on the variety of different expressions that I could notice in the Bush-stone Curlew, Burhinus grallarius. The bottom right bird looks 'sad' but I wouldn't say the bird was actually sad, the way they are able to move their feathers, especially around their eyes and beak, allows them to appear different according to their mood or need to communicate with other birds. I noticed this is even truer for nocturnal birds, probably due to the bigger size of their eyes. It is amazing and surprising how quickly and suddenly birds can change their appearance.


Monday, 28 November 2011

Brisbane Veranda

Queensland houses or 'Queenslander' have some architectural features which are just perfect for birdwatching: timber stumps that lift the building to provide ventilation during the hot summer months (let alone relative safety from floods) also provide for a high point of view to observe the surroundings from the front verandas and if trees are close enough you may have the impression of living right up in the tree canopy. Birds feel more comfortable to come and perch or feed on the wide verandas, giving excellent observation opportunities. These are some Sulphur-crested Cockatoo that usually come to our place.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Crimson Rosellas at the Lamington NP

The Lamington National Park is approximately 100 km south of Brisbane, declared in 1915 after Lord Lamington, the Governor of Queensland at that time. Remarkable for its 20500 ha, unique flora and fauna and the sheer beauty of its mountains and sub-tropical rain forests, the park was listed as a World Heritage Area in 1994.
 Walking in such an ancient forest encountering so many species of unique wildlife and massive trees was an amazing experience. Many of the encounters such as with the Albert's Lyrebird were fleeting, but Crimson Rosellas -Platycercus elegans- were very friendly and used to feed from people's hands.

View from the tree top

Rain forest waterfalls

View from inside a Strangler Fig

Monday, 14 November 2011

Fascinating feathers

From left: Barn Owl, primary; Laughing Kookaburra, primary; Masked Lapwing, tail feather; Figbird, secondary, Laughing Kookaburra, tail feather; Bush-stone Curlew, primary.
Primary feathers: outer feathers of the wing, provide thrust and propel the bird upward and forward;
Secondary feathers: provide lift by creating the airfoil shape of the bird's wing;
Tail feathers: help the bird to brake and steer in flight.
I've been collecting birds' feathers since I was a child, when our neighbours gave us the tail feathers of the Pheasant they killed and cooked. I still think I can give feathers a second chance to be admired, weather they come from a dead bird or are naturally shed when moulting. And I still wonder how far have they travelled, what places and the secret things they lived with their owner.
Here is a selection of artworks on feathers from my shop.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Playful Magpies

I was surprised to observe the behaviour of this family of Australian Magpies, Gymnorhina tibicen. The young one, in the middle with a stick, was playing around with it and the parents , darker in colour, were jumping all around him/her and lying down making strange moves. All three birds seemed to be very interested in the stick. Their behaviour reminded me of dogs playing with each other with a stick... funny Magpies..

Sunday, 30 October 2011


In Australian English (for non-Australian readers), a person may be called 'galah' when acting silly, probably because these birds, intelligent and curious, love playing and can be seen hanging upside down and pirouetting, all behaviours that may be perceived a bit eccentric to human eyes. Galahs - Eolophus roseicapilla

Thursday, 20 October 2011

A very happy birthday!

Last October the 16th was this blog's first birthday, I am amazed by the wonderful community of people it has gathered so far, to all the followers and visitors I would like to say a big big THANK YOU. This painting is a rather old one, dated September 2007, long before I came to Australia, but I consider it kinda Australian as those feathers came from my budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus) which are one of the most common pet birds and originally from Australia. In their native country, in the wild, they live a nomadic life following the rain and the abundance that comes with it. To see more about the amazing life of Australian parrots I'll give you this link, it is a beautiful documentary, let me know what you think if you had the chance to watch it:
Until next time!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Rainbow Lorikeets

It is no wonder that when the 1500s Portuguese explorers, mapping the coasts of Australia, named it Psittacorum regio, the Latin for 'Land of parrots'. When I first come to Australia I was astonished to see how easily parrots can be seen in great numbers in any environment, city included. In this period of the year, southern hemisphere spring, trees are blooming very generously and lorikeets are very busy taking the best advantage out of this great food opportunity. The Rainbow Lorikeet is probably the most common Lorikeet in Australia, an icon from Darwin to Adelaide. They are also frequent visitors of bird feeders, but they are bold and aggressive to other species chasing every other bird away, this is in fact one of the reasons for the decline of some other bird species where Rainbow Lorikeets are numerous.  Their screeching calls are filling the air, sometimes harsh, sometimes full of joy, to see them darting in the sky is always a pleasure.
For the Italian readers, or anybody who reads Italian, I started writing for a website called 'I love Australia', written and managed by Italians in Australia, a website whose goal is to give information about anything related to this country, from immigration to nature, travel and holiday and more:
Until next time!       Matteo

Sunday, 25 September 2011


The pretty face of one of Australia's icons is very well used in any possible way. Yet the population has been nominated as national threatened, although populations vary according to areas. Dog attacks, car accidents, chlamydia and even illegal shooting... not to mention all the natural tricks and worries caused naturally by the Australian environment, make their lives hard. The Brisbane Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, , the oldest and largest (over 130 koalas) sanctuary in Australia, collaborates with Universities and the Government to research and protect koalas and to educate people to behave properly. Their motto is 'The Earth is not only for humans'.
I see koalas as beautiful even when not directly whatching us, which is pretty much most of the time.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Meeting the Bush Stone-curlew

I saw three Stone Bush-curlews at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens. They are related to waders but they are actually terrestrial and found on any habitat with ground litter, from rain forests to open woodland, their face expression are very interesting and ever changing. As many other Australian animals they were not scared by close observers, probably because they rely on their camouflage and stillness, I was surprised to read that they are nocturnal birds ( no wonder the big eyes) in fact they looked kinda sleepy. After a bit of research I found a few interesting aboriginal stories related to the Bush Stone-curlew, you can read more following this link:
English: Bush Stone-curlew
Latin: Burhinus grallarius
Italian: Occhione willaroo
Aboriginal: Willaroo
Ps:  the feathers by the sketch are real, taped on the page. 
There will be more about these birds on this blog in the future...
Until next time!               Matteo

Thursday, 1 September 2011

A soft spot for Botanical Art

Prints and greeting cards and bookmarks available.

There are more than 700 species of Eucalyptus native of Australia, I was attracted and inspired by the colours of those leaves found on the ground of a damp forest or just after rain, as they can reveal a wide range and variety of shades, bright and shiny. The colours will just vanish as the leaf dries so I took some photos just after picking. The journal pages, second image, are one of my earlier study of Eucalyptus leaves, the difference with the wet ones is evident. The following links provide beautiful examples of botanical art from a couple of friends: Hemlata Pradhan from India and Vichi Lee Johnston from Australia
Until next post!            Matteo

Monday, 15 August 2011

Pale-headed Rosellas 2

This time I wanted to show a page from the 'Design Book', the sketchbook I use to plan and design what's in my mind before the actual painting. I developed this one from a few sketches ( and a couple of photos collected from a walk at Toohey Forest, south Brisbane. Although these birds, now a favourite of mine, are so colourful, in some conditions of light they can camouflage extremely well within their environment. Also, I would like to share with you my joy after taking part in the Brisbane rally organized by Animals Australia against the live export of cattle and sheep, it was good to see how many people are passionate and caring about animal welfare, to know more follow the link:
Until next time!                                    Matteo

Monday, 1 August 2011

Kookaburra sketch + Walt Whitman's reflections

The Italian nature artist Angela Maria Russo commented on one of my  previous posts quoting the words written by the American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892). I think his words, intentionally provoking, give food for thought and deserve to be shared.

'I think I could turn and live with animals,
 They are so placid and self contained,
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respected or unhappy over the whole earth'.
Walt Whitman   Leaves of Grass

Until next time!                 Matteo

Friday, 15 July 2011

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

This amazing bird is available in my shop in an array of different artworks
According to the Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds, Australia is home for 54 species of parrots. I was camping for the National Folk Festival in Canberra and early in the morning we were awakened by the loud raucous screeches of a large flock of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, an Australian icon. In the morning sun I could see their shadows passing over the tent. I was astonished.
I have also found a way to make this blog carbon neutral, I recommend it to all of you who run a blog or website, find out how at
Until next time..          Matteo

Friday, 1 July 2011

The Sleeping Hardhead

First of all I would like to thank all the new followers (so many!), those of you who leave comments, it is very nice and inspiring to read your kind words and follow your blogs, and thanks to every visitor as well. This bird is now popular in this blog, you can easily see the sketch that originated the painting in one of May's posts. What intrigues me about this male Hardhead is that he's got a broken wing and he is also the only specimen living at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens.. I wonder how he got there.. Hardhead - Aythya Australis 
Until next time     Matteo

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Australian King Parrots

Toohey Forest can reveal very nice surprises sometimes, as it did this one, with a whole flock of males, females and youngsters Australian King Parrots. Never seen them there before. These are very elegant and gentle looking (and sounding) birds. I am still amazed to see how wildlife lives at such a close contact with people in Australian suburbia. Australian King Parrot -Alisterus scapularis. That's all for now, you are all very welcome to follow this blog by Email (on the left) for automatic updates, thank you! Matteo

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Eastern Great Egret

With this new painting I tried to capture the brightness of this Eastern Great Egret - Ardea modesta. The bird was preening and literally spreading light from the bright white feathers. From the sketchbook: 'This is the most beautiful heron I've ever seen. Extremely long neck. Amazing light as fine plumes on the back, more graceful than any swan or crane'. Another one from the Boondall Wetlands.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

What did you use?

I was asked a few times what are the tools I like to work with.. These latest sketches are from the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens, a place I haven't come back for a while..

These are the tools I like using when sketching outside: water colour suitable sketchbook, watercolors, water soluble ink pen, water brushes medium and small, water proof ink pen, fountain pen filled with water colour paint (charcoal grey).

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Rainbow Bee-eaters

Looking back through last year's journal I came across a sketch and some photos of the Rainbow Bee-eater -Merops ornatus- from the Boondall Wetlands, last October. They are migrating birds that come here to breed for the summer. Probably they are now gone back north. Amazing colours and shapes, it was a pleasure to capture their beauty with watercolors.. 

Monday, 18 April 2011

Insects and a Yabby's claw

1. Freshwater Crayfish or Yabby, Cheerax destructor, claw -Crow's Nest, QLD.
2. Evening Brown Butterfly, Melanitis leda -Brisbane City.
3. Red Arrow Dragonfly, Rhodothemis liftinacki -Crow's Nest, QLD.
4. Australian Emperor Dragonfly, Hemianax papuensis -Brisbane.
5. Unidentified Moth, -my room.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Pale-headed Rosellas

Toohey Forest. To my surprise they were not as shy as usual this time. The couple stood on the same tree for a long while, giving me the chance to observe and study them thoroughly. Among the amazing variety of Australian Rosellas, the Pale-headed is the only one I've observed in Brisbane so far..

Friday, 25 March 2011

New generations and feathers

Autumn encounters: new generations, a young Kookaburra, and moulted feathers, one from the Kookaburra's tail. 

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Teals and Stilts

This is the last painting from the Sleeping Birds series, Chestnut Teals and Black-winged Stilts, ink and watecolour on paper, 30x40cm, from a beautiful place just about a hour north of Brisbane called Bribie Island, that place teems with wildlife..

Monday, 14 February 2011

More from the Sleeping Birds series....

Female Golden-shouldered Parrot, water colour on paper, 25x20.5cm, 2011. The species is endangered, they have a very intimate relationship with termites, they make their nest inside termites mounds at the same time the young termites bugs are hatching, so the termites keep the yung parrots warm and the baby parrots provide termites with food that is their droppings.. a good example of cooperation.

Tawny Frogmouth, water colour on paper, 24.5x28.5, 2011.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Latest Yeronga Park Sketches

I am keeping an eye to that Scaly-breasted Lorikeets' nest, it seems they've got chicks to feed, while into the other couple's nest on the other side of the tree there doesn't seem to be a family... I've been using a new kind of art material experiment that is a fountain pen filled with watercolor paint (charcoal gray), it is giving brilliant results so far...

Thursday, 27 January 2011

The Sleeping Birds Series goes on...

I am a half way to finish this collection (10 artworks so far) ... this time I'm posting the Silver Gull and the Emu. I tried to use as less colour as possible for the Silver Gull, which is easy for gulls since they're very light coloured, while I needed to use a bit more for the sleeping Emu, I had this very close and sweet contact at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane. I can see in the Emu the influence that Louis Agassiz Fuertes has had on me...
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