MY INSPIRATION FOR ART BEGAN IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA - by Julia Landford
For many years I have been fascinated with the idea of art as an avenue for exploring nature and science.
I was born in Papua New Guinea and my family lived there for the first twelve years of my life. The daily adventures of climbing trees, watching spectacular birds, seeing interesting fish in the local streams and exploring our backyard wildlife kept me fully occupied. No television and no computers. I remember the lush forests and gardens surrounding my childhood homes, and the array of butterflies flying through our garden every day. I grew up loving and appreciating nature in abundance.
Years on, after returning to PNG with our own three children, my husband Alan and I were once again immersed in the wildlife of Papua New Guinea. Alan's role with the Insect Farming and Trading Agency brought us into contact with thousands of insects farmed and traded with collectors around the world. Much of Alan's work also involved wildlife, and we often had young sugar gliders or tree kangaroos living in and around our house while they were rehabilitated after being orphaned and rescued. Our backyard became a menagerie of wildlife with over twelve different species of birds of paradise, parrots, cockatoos, Victoria-Crowned pigeons, tree kangaroos and echidna, among many other animals and birds. This was the inspiration for my artwork interests, though I seldom had enough time to do the art I was so passionate about.
On returning to Australia in 1998, I established 'Wildlife and Botanical Artists Inc.' (WABA) in Canberra which has now been operating for almost twenty years. As Founding President, I wanted to create an organisation to promote links between artists, scientists and conservationists. WABA has held many annual member 'Art of Nature' exhibitions bringing together a membership of over 100 people around Australia. I established a biennial national 'Wildlife Art @ Discovery' exhibition in Canberra, along with the organisation of art workshops, inspiring field trips and other events. Along with a small dedicated team, I also curated the first Australian 'Discover Wildlife - Art & Science Symposium' hosted by WABA and the CSIRO Discovery Centre as an interdisciplinary dialogue on art, science and conservation in Australia. This milestone event inspired several new exhibitions, including a notable art event in Hobart to promote awareness of plastics pollution in seabirds.
I am keen to dedicate more time to developing my own art practice and supporting others to develop their artistic and creative passion. To achieve this, I am establishing Canberra's first dedicated natural history art school - Canberra NatureArt Lab - offering unique courses and workshops on drawing, painting and developing observation skills for artists interested in nature. It is exciting to be able to bring together a team of outstanding artists who are also inspirational teachers for our programs. Together we will build a community of nature art practice, in Canberra, a city surrounded by nature.