All images copyright Sue Kalab
CONNECTIONS / MY STORY / STUDIO PROFILE / CONSERVATION
I became a professional artist in 1981 when I went to live and work in Mallacoota Victoria in Croajingolong National Park on the south-east corner of Australia.
My creativity responded to the scrambly extravagance and intrinsic beauty of Mallacoota's nature. I learned layers and seasons: how one species affects another, and how if one becomes locally extinct it can take up to 30 other species with it and the micro-climate in which it lives.
One winter afternoon at offshore Gabo Island whilst stayiing with lighthouse keeper friends, we saw thousands of dolphins from the island to the horizon, as far as we could see - several thousands at once.
Nautilus shells washed up in autumn. Beachcombing was a treasure trove. I observed a lyrebird make her nest, and painted that image.
I painted rare bush orchids, taken from their secret terrestrial homes by orchid experts who returned them after I had illustrated them.
I was taken under the wing of national parks rangers, nature scientists and a farmer friend with a life-long interest in native orchids. I loved the reverence these people demonstrated towards nature, and I promised to continue their example. This became my legacy.
1993-1994. Living and working on an Aboriginal community in the Pilbara brought a different reality and world view. The old people had great dignity and knowledge in the ways of traditional Law. I loved the quiet of their "flat country” and it was another time of learning.
From 1995. Bunbury, by the bush and beach in south-western Australia. The Indian Ocean, black swans on the Leschenault Estuary, shorebirds coming from the Arctic Circle, the dolphins of Koombana Bay, ancient Tuarts that characterize the coastal landscape, the 130 million year old Basalt Rocks on our beachfront, the nearby Jarrah forest and the myriad species of bird-life that visit my studio garden – all inspire.
My art links to environmental causes. Since the early 1980s I have been an advocate and activist for Nature. Through playing a part in community-based conservation, I know that many people work to preserve our remnant flora and fauna. Some involvements:
* Since 2011. Convenor, Birdlife Bunbury. This takes my art to another level working with birders, scientists and the community and brings fresh ideas. Many times tasks involved took me away from art opportunities, but needs must . . .
* Since 2006, area coordinator for Great Cocky Count with volunteers surveying Black Cockatoo movements. (I'm the Cocky Countess), and I love painting the big black cockatoos, beloved birds of our forests but their numbers are crashing, along with the great forest trees.
* "Karrak Story", a painting for a nature conservation exhibition about logging of our ancient forests in SW Australia. This destroys the food source and habitat to the endangered Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, taking them closer to the edge of extinction. Karrak is the Nyungar word for these birds.
* Revegetation projects - "Kalab's Canopies", bringing back the birds.
* Since 2016. National Shorebird Survey, area co-ordinator.
Counting species and numbers of birds on wetlands. Arising from this I paint shorebirds and their brave, epic stories. Many migrate to the Arctic
Circle to breed, and return to Australian shores each summer.
* Organizing clean-ups of trash in bushlands and shoreline.