Kathleen Marie Wilson: Drawing from Nature
Peter Drewett: His Art and Story, part one
Peter Drewett: His Art and Story, part two
Ilanna Mandel: Peace Offerings
View from the Doorway: Wallaby and
Near the town of Grafton, deep in the bush country in the northern part
of the State of
New South Wales in Australia lives Peter Drewett, carver and pyrographic artist. On any given day
Peter might look out the door of his house and see the blackfaced
wallaby above with her little joey or perhaps a goanna
lizard like the one pictured below.
His 100-acre property, as he describes it, is "a wildlife sanctuary and the source of endless inspiration as well as materials for pyrography."
View from the Doorway: Goanna
Peter says he only feeds the blackfaced wallabies every second or third
day--and then only a little--so they don't become dependent on him.
"They are hopping around everywhere," he says, "as well
as the much larger kangaroos, which are more wary of people."
From the monitor family of lizards is the goanna shown above, which is about 4-1/2 feet long. Despite their scary appearance, Peter says the goannas are no threat to humans as they are very flighty and climb a tree at the first hint of danger. He likens them, instead, to raccoons found in other parts of the world, with their habit of raiding garbage. Referring to the subject of his photograph he said, "This fellow just spread rubbish all around my yard."
Peter remembers that back in 1999, he was traveling near Uluru or Ayers Rock, in central Australia where he was visiting the curator of the Alice Springs Indigenous Art Gallery. He also remembers how very much he had admired the Aboriginal style of pyrography, called in their local language "Puna."
His first attempt at decorating a small mulga stick was memorable for
the moment of inspiration as well as the pyro tool and method employed.
Peter remembers that while they were sitting around a campfire he saw a
piece of wire glowing in the embers. He started burning patterns on a
stick using a wire from a fireworks sparkler heated in their campfire
the way the local Aboriginal people would do.
He also remembers how using the campfire as a heat source and working with that sparkler wire took seemingly forever and the result was inevitably very crude. Nevertheless, that first piece is now a prized possession.
Later in his travels in that region, about a mile from the legendary Monolith Rock, he spotted a piece of wood that was in danger of being driven over by all the tourist buses. He retrieved that intriguing snake-like 'stick' of wood (called locally "mulga" wood) and took it with him as he continued on his journey, some 6000 kilometers through Northern Territory. Along the way, he started experimenting with different designs and techniques on many organic objects and materials.
Snake, detail of a cane
As I recall, that's the question Indiana Jones asked right before being
lowered into the snake pit with Marian in Raiders of the Lost
Arc. Actually, however, in Australia as in many places, the
undeniably beautiful patterns on snakes have always been a popular
source of inspiration. Add to that, there are several wood
sources--like that first piece of mulga Peter found and the pieces of
melaleauca (or paperbark as it is popularly known in Australia) shown in
the image below--all of which lend themselves so well to carving snake
figures, that creative folk art snakes are bound to result. Peter was
quite willing to be taken in by that irresistible combination, as well,
and shown here are some examples of his efforts.
Unlike many of his snake figures, which were mostly his earlier works, the Snake Cane (detail above) is a recent work Peter made from a naturally shaped piece of paperbark (melaleauca) branch (like the one below), which he rasped and sanded before pyroengraving and later finishing with oil. He recently sent that cane off along with a few other select pieces to the State of California in the United States in the hope of establishing his work there, too.
Melaleauca (also known as Paperbark) Wood
Two Small Snakes
Snake in the Grass
The piece above, Peter explains, "is a section rescued from my firewood pile, of an off-cut of flitch, which is the first piece sliced off a log when milling. That piece was done to show a friend how simple it is to achieve a pyroengraving using a propane-heated coathanger wire made into a loop of 5 inches in diameter: The stick figures were made with a small loop for the head and a large loop to do the straight line work. And all done while cooking our meal one night!"
Rainbow Brain is a flitch section, also 14 by 7 inches,
which Peter burned with his Iron Core unit, colored with ink, and then
finished with polyurethane.
Peter explains that he doesn't often work on flat surfaces, but frequently uses pieces of flitch for teaching and demonstration purposes. In the case of the piece below, however, he was working on a commission piece: a sign for a massage therapist.
The wood he used for that project was camphor laurel, which is a native wood of China that is a serious problem in Australia, he said, because it spreads everywhere and nothing will grow underneath it. Nonetheless, it seems to make for a lovely sign.
Peter Drewett the artist does not limit his interests to the visual
arts. As a musician, his fascination with the sound he can produce with
wood and organic objects lead to the making of various and curious
musical instruments, such as his timbourine--a 'timber'
tambourine, as it were--as rich in percussive sound (including the
jingling of golden coins) as it is in pyrographic decoration.
According to Peter, parties where he lives customarily include predominantly percussion jam sessions with participants using a large variety of objects to produce interesting sounds. Sometimes acoustic guitar is added to the percussion mix. In Part Two of Peter's art and story on the next page of this issue, you will see more examples of his pyroengraved percussion instruments.
Click here to go back to page one
2004, Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved.