Wattle it be? Painting Australia's Floral Emblem


Until I began researching for a commission I received recently, I probably would have defined a Wattle tree a bit like this: “Plant with fuzzy little yellow pom-poms for flowers, that make some people sneeze a lot".

But did you know there are around 1350 species of Acacia (or Wattle plant) worldwide? And did you also know that Australia is home to about 1000 of these? You can imagine how gob-smacked I was to learn that.

I began looking about a little more deliberately on my morning walks, and it wasn’t long before I was spotting wattles with tubular brush-like flowers and short, spiky leaves; wattles with wider leaves and clumps of flowers; and finally, the fuzzy yellow pom-poms and elegant long leaves of Australia’s floral emblem: The Golden Wattle.

I picked a bunch of this latter variety to use as reference and set about composing a small 10 x 10cm painting. Simplicity was key for painting at this size, and I wanted to make those pom-poms the heroes of the painting.

I chose a purple undercoat because it complements both the yellow of the flower and the green of the leaves.

It was tricky to gauge the value (saturation) of my greens when placed on this background, so I really had to trust my colour mixing – all of which I’d done before any paint hit the panel.

This is a graduation for me; usually I’m too impatient to get painting, so I mix and apply one colour at a time – but pre-mixing is better: You get to see all the colours and their tones and values side-by-side before you crack into things, and it’s easier to make colour adjustments on the palette than on the painting itself.

Pre-mixing all the colours also speeds up the painting process too, I think. Things just flow more sequentially.

Speaking of which; not long after I finished this painting, I noticed one of my sons reaching for the tissues with increased frequency and urgency. It appeared his hay-fever symptoms had spiked and his nose had begun to flow very sequentially. Oops.

As I guiltily removed the offending wattle branches from the corner of our lounge, it occurred to me that perhaps my early definition of this common neighbourhood plant doesn’t really need much revising after all.

‘FUZZY YELLOWS’ – 4 x 4” (10 x 10cm) Oil on wood block – On display & available at The Quoll Gallery in November 2018.


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