Billabong Flats – Australian animal stories

Billabong Flats, the creation of Ria Loader is a mythical place in the Australian Bush. Full color images accompany the first three stories, published by Book View Cafe in November 2020.

It shares space with other imaginary places like the Five Acre Wood, the Peace Rock, and the abode of Ratty and Mole. It is just as real as you’d like it to be – no more, and no less.

The animals dream the world, as much as the world creates them. The Land speaks through them. They welcome all, no matter how different they may be, or what native languages they may speak. When they come together, they can all speak the same, the voices become that of friendship and accord, where all can have adventures together.

Art prints are available at sagedepot.com.

https://sagedepot.com

Brolga: A dancing Australian crane for a children’s story

As long as I can remember, I have loved images of Brolgas. They are a crane-like bird that lives in marshes and on the plains. One of my favorite images is from Sidney Long called Spirit of the Plains. It has a woman with pipes, walking through long grass, followed by a dancing set of Brolgas.

Here she is the piper, and they her companions. Dancing, weaving, living spirit beings. It is almost as if the flute and grasses dance together to create their wild energy.
Long_Spirit-of-the-plains

Along the way to finding my own art style, I found these illustrations for inspiration. I particularly admire the metamorphic image towards the right. The transformation image by Judy Prosser is brilliant. This image gave me the idea of playing with watercolor for my own images.

BrolgaInspiration

My first drawing steps were in pen and ink. I typically like to use a .01 pen as it creates very fine lines. I use a gestural style, where I don’t try to fill in all the details. Later, I come back and add the color, let the watercolor dictate the color blends. Then I take it into digital and push the values, erase where needed, and focus on areas around the ‘face’ of the animal.

Brolga stories
These images are the sketches for the Billabong Flats children’s stories. Brolga dances in the grasses, down by the water.  The spirit of movement, the play of wings and wind, these are her ways.

BrolgaDancingRiaLoader

The graceful cranes, high-stepping in the marsh make me want to move. I am drawn to the rhythm, the sweep of the wings, and the capture of lively abandonment to the moment. Watching and drawing these birds gives me joy.

The first image above is available as a print from my store at Society6.

Sketching with the iskn tablet

isknpackageIt was a quiet day at home on Saturday. Picked up the iskn tablet for the first time and installed the software. It was a bit mysterious at first, with some back and forth to the manual. Once it was connected and charged, I was good to go. The tutorials were surprisingly helpful. The only thing I had trouble with, at first, was the orientation of the tablet and screen. I wanted portrait, and it kept coming up landscape. If all else fails, read the directions. Got that sorted, and started drawing. It was an intuitive and expressive tool to use. I’ll be giving it a good try out over the next week, to see where it fits into my drawing patterns. My first impression: how easy and fluid it was to use. It felt just as natural as drawing with a pen.

BrolgaStandingRiaLoader2018WebMy first drawing, using the iskn, was about getting used to the pen device. I played around with pressure and such, angle of the pen, and pretty much stuck to the default pen setting this time around. There’s a ring that fits around your own pen, and a couple of magnetic rings around a stylus and pen that comes with the iskn. The drawing tablet has all these magnetic spots that line up with what you are drawing. It’s really quite smooth. Using any paper of your choice, you are freed up to draw and have the illustration appear on the screen as you draw it. It felt quite a lot more expressive than a Wacom tablet, which I already have. It also has a cord-free mode and some online storage, so you can use it on the go. Haven’t tried that yet, but will do so in short order.

I’m in the midst of illustrations for a kids book that’s set in the Australian Bush. The place is Billabong Flats, a mythical place where everyone gets along and has fun. The story I’m working on is about a Brolga, a kind of crane, who likes to dance. She meets up with Koala, who has been wistfully watching her from her perch up in the big gum tree. Koala wants to dance too. The set up illustrations are of Koala and Brolga, down near the water. I decided to draw Brolga in a steady stance, much like a dancer being in first position, before movement.

The iskn will record a movie as you draw, showing the process. That’s a fun and unexpected delight. It records all of your movements throughout the drawing and allows you to export it at the end.