Posted by Nadya on May 10, 2013

I’ve been enjoying doing the local markets here in Brisbane! Here is a picture of my market stall, this was last weekend at Inspired 2013. :)

The event was organised by a wonderful local artist Kylie Farrelly, as a fundraiser for the Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital.

One of the most wonderful things about the markets is being able to talk to people about my work, and hear their stories about animals they feel a connection with. For example, someone at Inspired purchased my Tawny Frogmouth print, and shared a story about how a wild Tawny Frogmouth came to live on their balcony – what a special experience!

All of these prints shown can be purchased in my Etsy shop!

Un-abandoned blog

Posted by Nadya on May 5, 2013

Hi everyone,

I’m guilty of having abandoned this blog! I’m sorry. I’ll do better. Starting now.

Long story short: I got bogged down in work and more work, some days I think of something to post and then a zillion other things need doing first, so the post gets put into “the long box” (as we say in Russian) and the box gets longer and longer until the item or thought put in it becomes unreachable.

Well, I’m changing that. Instead of giving a re-cap of my life and art over the past 2 years, though, I’m just going to follow the principle of “start anywhere” when starting something new, and start here, today.

Here’s a new image – “Pelican Dream“:

Pelican Dream

More news soon. Promise. :)

A Bluetongue Lizard visits the Vet

Posted by Nadya on Aug 29, 2011

I went to hang the washing out this afternoon – and noticed Charlie (our dog) nosing around under some bushes. Knowing that there is a particular spot in the garden where Bluetongue Lizards like to bask in the sun, I called him away, went to take a look, and found this little guy:

Bluetongue Lizard

Bluetongue Lizard

I took this photo before the lizard turned around, and I realised that he was not moving his back legs very well, and his other front foot (on his other side in this pic) was terribly swollen as it seems like he got himself tangled in something some time earlier. I don’t think it was Charlie that injured him, he had just come out with me, and only had half a sniff before I called him away from the lizard… Anyway, I grabbed the poor little thing and took him to the vet straight away!

This is an email update from the vet, on their little reptilian patient:

“The lizard was a bit cold so we have him on a heat mat and his range of movement in the back legs has improved a little. The leg that was swollen, the vet thinks something has been caught around it at some point and he may lose the leg, but the can still get around with one missing leg. We will monitor him in the next few days and see how his movement in the back legs are. He has eaten tonight so that is a good sign.”

I hope the poor little guy recovers!

UPDATE Wednesday 31/08/11:
I’ve been wondering how the little lizard is doing. Just got this in email from the vet, the news is not so good:

“Just a further update on the blue tongue lizard you brought in for us. we have sent for an exotic specialist to see if we can save the leg. They are going to have a look at it and let me know. unfortunately if the leg is unsavable it will have to be put to sleep as it cannot survive in the wild with only 3 legs.”

ANOTHER UPDATE Thursday 01/09/11
Unfortunately, the vet and specialist couldn’t save the injured leg… Goodbye, little lizard. I tried. :(

“Hi Nadya,

I have spoken to the reptile specialist today and after assessment he had to be put to sleep as his leg was too badly damaged by the stricture and he no longer had feeling in that leg and survival would have been unlikely in the wild, it was more humane to put him to sleep rather than him getting eaten by cats or other wildlife and unfortunately we are not legally allowed to keep them as pets.
I’m sorry it was not a better outcome. Thank you for bringing him in to us.”

On my next day off I’m going to do a spring cleanup of the whole yard, to make sure that other local lizards don’t get themselves tangled in things…

Backyard wildlife encounters

Posted by Nadya on Aug 26, 2011

Been so busy with work (one workplace closed down, and I was transferred to another) that I haven’t been online to blog in a while. Let’s fix that!

After our photo-adventures in Karawatha Forest Park, I have been meaning to post about a wildlife encounter that my husband had a few days after that, here in our backyard:

Carpet Python

I was at work, so I didn’t see this. Charlie (our dog) was barking at something, so my husband went out to see what’s up… and immediately ran in to grab a camera to take photos for me, because this is what he discovered! A gorgeous Carpet Python – a harmless, beautiful snake, common to backyards in Brisbane.

He did call Animal Control because he was afraid someone on the street might confuse it for a poisonous snake and kill it, but they said it’s ok and they live in many Brisbane suburbs… I still wish it was taken somewhere safe, though.

This gorgeous reptile eats rats and mice, and isn’t poisonous to people, so he is more than welcome in our yard! He’s even more welcome to stay in the front yard where Charlie can’t get to him, just in case. Our dog tends to be very curious!

I haven’t seen him yet – but I hope he is around, and safe.

Mammoths, and new exhibition on the horizon

Posted by Nadya on Jul 27, 2011

“Life has been busy! Mostly with work, and not enough painting, but that’s normal.
Have done a bit of work on the mammoths this weekend. I admit I’m struggling a bit with the background – backgrounds intimidate me at the best of times! I’m thinking of putting in a herd of mammoths in the background just so I wouldn’t have to paint any landscape or trees – hah!

I did a bit of the foreground, then rewarded myself for the effort by switching back to working on the little mammoth’s face… it’s definitely getting there!

Baby Mammoth digital work in progress

Baby Mammoth digital work in progress

You can see my progress on the background on the WetCanvas forum thread:

In other art news, I have been invited to an exhibition in Adelaide – Creating for Conservation, raising funds for Painted Dog Conservation Inc., which supports not only wildlife conservation, but wonderful community education projects in Africa. (Well, technically, I already knew about it, but forgot, and then was invited after the closing date.)

I will be sending my original Zebra and Springbok artworks there – I would love for them to sell and contribute to this wonderful cause! Fundraising for Africa – how could I not participate?

Creating for Conservation

The Art of Saving Wildlife

7 – 9 October 2011
Belair Schools Hall, Main Road, Belair, Adelaide

Creating for Conservation is about the art of saving wildlife and in turn, the art of giving to the people of Africa. The profound impact of engaging and empowering people in life skills and promise is immeasurable no matter what country you are in. This exhibition is about supporting the wonders and ripple effect of education on individuals and communities, their livelihoods and ultimately the protection of the wildlife they live with.
…Funds from this year’s event will be going towards the projects that PDC Inc supports in Zimbabwe and in Zambia – Painted Dog Conservations’ Bush Camp in Zimbabwe, and Chimpembele Wildlife Education Centre and the Zambia Carnivore Programme.”

Mammoths Revised

Posted by Nadya on Jul 16, 2011

So I emailed the Canadian Museum of Nature for advice – and boy did I get the right museum!

Actually, my librarian friend from Canada suggested it. They put me in contact with Dr Richard Harington, the paleontologist who actually discovered the Whitestone Mammoth – a nearly complete female Woolly Mammoth specimen! Tusks and everything. He responded with some advice, recommended a book (which I already have) and sent me the story of the Whitestone Mammoth, plus an image of a sculpture that was made for the Museum, according to his advice, with the proportions from that animal. That image pretty much answered all my questions re: tusk shape, etc

So, having the statue as a reference for proportion, I’ve decided to completely revise the painting.

I’ve scrapped the front-on views, because the more I worked on those, the more the faces bugged me – something was off and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Instead I’m using another one of my own elephant photos as reference for the poses. But I think I understand better now, how to make them into mammoths.

Mammoths - revised version, work in progress, digital painting

Mammoths - revised version, work in progress, digital painting

I’m still working out their faces, but hopefully they look more like mammoths than like the elephants they are based on.
I also wanted to incorporate the Whitestone Mammoth’s broken left tusk into the image.

I’m also not sure about the pose of Mother-Mammoth’s back legs, but I’ll deal with that when I get there. The original elephant in the reference photo was standing that way – but I don’t like how it looks for the painting, so will most probably shift the legs a bit.

You can keep up with progress on this painting, on my WIP thread at WetCanvas forums.

New personal challenge – paleo-art!

Posted by Nadya on Jul 9, 2011

“…Hairy elephants were an important part of life on the way into the Ice Ages. Our contact with them has been vividly recorded in cave paintings at Pech Merle and La Madeleine in southern France that feature shaggy elephants with extraordinarily domed foreheads and sloping backs, some clearly at bay, riddled with spears. They were thick-skinned, small-eared animals, well-adapted to winter, with wildly curved fifteen-foot tusks that may well have served as snow plows. And they survived until less than four thousand years ago, holding out on Wrangel Island in the Siberian Arctic until 1500BC, succumbing finally to the combined effects of hunting and habitat destruction. But they carry on, at least as enduring legends, in the minds and mystical heritage of many northern people.”
— Lyall Watson, “Elephantoms”

I freely admit my obsession with elephants – but I was obsessed with mammoths, long before my obsession with elephants!

Ever since I was a little girl, growing up in Russia, visiting the museums and reading books, mammoths forever captured my imagination. I think we as the human race must have a genetic fascination with these gentle woolly giants that once roamed the Northern plains of Russia, Canada and Alaska. Sometimes, if I think about it hard enough, their absence and extinction literally brings tears to my eyes. How incredible would it have been to see a large hairy elephant in the snow-covered landscape of what became my motherland?

And so, the day has come for me to tackle my biggest challenge yet – painting mammoths!

I have plenty of references of elephants and their behaviour from my trip to Africa, but the challenge of this painting is adapting the physiology to match the mammoths – and that involves understanding it, first. So, I began with books, and looking for reference images of mammoth skeletons. (Because, ironically, I ended up living on the one continent without any mammoths – Australia! So I can’t just go and visit a museum to look at them.) My first frustration that I ran into with just about the first Google search, is an abundance of photos online that other people have taken in museums – but often a lack of information about what’s in the picture. “This is a mammoth skeleton.” Which species is pictured – the Woolly mammoth, or the Columbian mammoth, or is it actually a mastodon?? What gender was the animal? (And which museum is it in?) They write “female woolly mammoths had smaller tusks than the males” – okay, that’s the same as with elephants, but what did female mammoth tusks actually look like – the shape, curvature, average length? I may actually end up emailing a natural history museum or two and asking the experts! Because the scene that I am painting specifically involves a woolly mammoth matriarch on alert, protecting her baby. Fortunately, finding baby mammoth references is easier, with well-documented and well-preserved baby mammoths Lyuba and Dima.

I’ve started a Work-in-Progress thread on the WetCanvas forums, an online art community which I find to be tremendously helpful a lot of the time.
There you will be able to see any updates and progress of the painting:

mammoth - work in progress

mammoth - work in progress, digital painting

My Inspirations

Posted by Nadya on Jul 4, 2011

When I was little, I dreamed of being a biologist – just like my mother.

I was always good at science, then as my family and friends saw and encouraged my creative side, I decided to focus on art instead, and I’ve never looked back. Eventually, after settling on the path of illustration during my studies at NSCAD University, I combined my original passion – animals – with art. Just like my mother rescued all kinds of animals in trouble, I want my paintings to help animals – through donations made from the sales of artwork, or hopefully just by inspiring someone to care about Nature.

That said, I’d like to talk about those whose work has inspired me along the art journey:

botanical illustration by Tatiana Neklioudova

botanical illustration by my mother, Tatiana Neklioudova

My mother, of course, is my first and foremost inspiration!
I always loved seeing her sketches and paintings – from her expeditions, and from life in general. The above painting hangs in my parents’ home, part of a series of botanical art that she did when we first moved to Canada – on our nature walks, she photographed living plants and picked up any broken ones, to take home and paint before they wilted. I remember watching her paint this series, and we learned about the flora and fauna of Nova Scotia together. (And I learned about ink and watercolour painting.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Pleistocene re-wilding – a controversial topic

Posted by Nadya on Jun 19, 2011
I’ve been reading a fascinating forum thread on a Russian zoology forum about pleistocene re-wilding, and a discussion also popped up on “Save the Cheetah” page on Facebook today.
It really seems to polarise people, but I think it’s actually a really interesting idea from a scientific point of view.

The theory is that we humans are responsible for the extinction of the megafauna, and that the environment we know today isn’t what’s supposed to be here, and that food chains are broken and niches left empty because of species having gone extinct. Plants evolved thorns to protect themselves from large herbivores such as mammoths and mastodons, which are gone. Prey animals have adaptations to escape from large predators which are no longer there to hunt them. If not for our distant ancestors, these large creatures might still be around. In a way, we are responsible.

There is a VERY interesting experiment being done in Siberia right now, by a Russian scientist, Sergei Zimov. He is in the process of “re-wilding” a tundra, and turning it back into a savannah, not in terms of weather of course but in terms of ground cover, plants, and animals. He argues that the tundra environment there is now, was created in the absence of large herbivores – and by re-introducing large herbivores to the area, of species the same or similar to what was there in the Pleistocene, science is already seeing the effects of changes to that environment. Grasslands are coming back in these areas of Zimov’s experiment. So when/if someone manages to clone a mammoth, they will already have a suitable habitat to live in. :)

The other side of the coin is, of course, that we have messed with the environment enough as it is, that species have already adapted without those large herbivores and carnivores, and that we should protect what little pristine environment we have left. The only megafauna left now is in Africa, and it’s under threat.

I am all for protecting what we have, but a part of me would love to see humans restore what we screwed up – and to see mammoths roam the Siberian plains again…

a dream of an elephant

Posted by Nadya on Jun 6, 2011

While organising my desk just now, I found a piece of paper that I wrote on last night – I had the most vivid dream, and got up in the middle of the night to write it all down.

The dream played like a memory of one of Mom’s animal rescues – we were in Moscow I was about 10 years old, and one of the animals Mom rescued this time was a…. baby Indian elephant! Apparently we called it Cashmere. I dreamed about playing with a baby elephant in that tiny old apartment. It was really weird, but really cool, because it was an ELEPHANT – and it was a very detailed dream. I remember how warm and furry it was (Asian baby elephants are born with a bit of fur)… It was a normal sized baby elephant, very young, it could fit through the doors and everything. My mom was mixing up milk for it, but it kept nosing around with its trunk in the pangolins’ bowls too, and the dog’s water bowl. It slept on the dog’s blanket in the entranceway, and I put another blanket over it for the night… The dream ended just as Mom was making plans to find the best zoo to care for the baby elephant. This is when I woke up, and raced to write it all down.


I wish it had been a memory – but no, I never actually had a baby elephant when I was growing up! 😛