The other week, for no particular reason, I imagined my husband organising my obituary using one of the photos he’s taken of me. He has an amazing knack of capturing hideous facial expressions.
So, I decided that I might create a self portrait, at least I could control what the world saw after my demise. At the start of the project I admit I was feeling down, sifting through a bunch of images when you look your worst has that effect. However, a week later I was having a ball. Oh my goodness, I could never have imagined the power to be had in choosing what you look like. I actually laughed out loud (no really, I’m too old for this LOL stuff). My man kept giving me serious looks, worry in his eyes as I giggled away throughout my work.
How can I describe being able to knock 20 years off your face with a few artful strokes, give yourself luscious lips without the pain and expense of surgery. Oh, and eyes, shining with youthful glamour. I looked amazing. Except for my hair of course, I just couldn’t get it right and decided I needed a break from myself.
Very few photos show me without a kangaroo, they are the animal I love the best in the world. I adore painting roos, I added an orphaned red kangaroo called Ariel.
……so after the excitement of doing that, a bit like having one chocolate. I decided I had to paint another.
It was around this time that my imagination took hold. What if I could send out a message to mankind using this piece as a central hub. Produce a visual story of anguish and frustration? A panel of work to show the plight of an ordinary wildlife carer of kangaroos and the terrible impact man has on the species in Australia. Yes, I was on a roll.
By late afternoon, I’d come out of the stratosphere and out of nowhere decided as I was looking at myself, I’d created a big fat lie. So, I painted a few lines on my face, added lots of grey hairs, thinned my luscious lips and sat back to assess.
I didn’t want to see that greying aging woman, who wonders if she has left it too late to do something meaningful with her life. In the reality of my heart, I feel a vibrant 30 year old, with so much good work still to do, with and for wildlife and I imagine I look great. I thought, “This is my painting, I want to be doing what I love doing and look like I’ve never looked.”
You know what? I paint from the heart, I attempt to create what I see in my mind. So, I changed it back to how it was again and immediately felt better with the lie, because I realised it wasn’t. ...Not really.
'TRYING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE' - by Samantha Tro
Some months ago I decided to paint something special for the upcoming 2016 Australian Wildlife Rehabilitation Conference taking place in Melbourne between 1-4th of August.
I wanted to showcase an animal needing care as well as the role of the wildlife carer, which is this year’s conference theme. I was casting about for ideas when I noticed an image posted on Facebook by dedicated possum carer Rhoda
I’m not sure why this little joey caught my attention although it might have been the woeful expression. However, this little girl looked too sad and lost in the photo because she was newly orphaned and this is not what I wanted. I needed the viewer to see what she would look like in another couple of weeks now that she was with an experienced wildlife carer.
In my mind I wanted to give the impression of adventure and movement, whilst still showing that she was under supervision of the carer looking after her. Which is why the index finger is holding her back. I also wanted to show the link she has to the carer by having her paws gripping the hands in some way.
As a carer of kangaroos myself, I love to see that gutsy, naughty personality shine through in their eyes most of all. When you see this you know you are on the right path towards an animal’s rehabilitation so that it can be released back into the wild. So, this was my mission.
Finally I had quite a challenge with the background colour, I did multiple re-works and posted the result on Facebook a couple of times. I loved the red background, Rhoda however, preferred the green so, in the end I compromised and used both.
‘Isabella’ Is a Special Edition painting and limited to just 16 editions, to mark the occasion of the 2016 AWRC. It will only be available during the conference dates and only those signed up for my newsletter (Critter Friends) will be able to pre-order a copy of the 8 editions I am making available especially for them on a first come first serve basis. The rest will be visiting the conference.
Back in November I went to visit Dominique and John a couple of dedicated Flying Fox rescuers and carers. At the time they were inundated with small orphans and so I took along a my video and camera to learn more about these amazingly cute and intelligent animals.
I watched them all being fed which took over two hours there were so many babies in care. After feeding came exercise time and my goodness did these babies have fun on the clothes airer they cavorted around on. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any good photos or video due to the darkened conditions, the fact the critters were black and the constant movements of excited babies at play. However, I did get to see how they moved and stretched and even got a glimpse of their lovely, mischievous characters. Such beautiful creatures and really babies needing their foster carers attention and love. I learnt so much about them during my visit and didn't realise that they are as intelligent as a dog, even responding to their given names.
When I started painting this project, I was driven to create something around the stretching and acrobatics of the youngsters. I totally departed from my usual creative process, in that I didn’t paint the eyes first, like I usually do. This time I began with a stretched wing, then a folded wing…….the eyes came last. I can only guess the 'why' in this instance was that I had to get to ‘know’ the critter before I could make an attempt on capturing the soul.
I’m not sure I managed to do that, but what I do know is that this painting made my heart sing once I’d finished it and when I saw the first printed proof it brought tears to my eyes. So one could say I was fairly please with it.
I haven’t yet decided whether to make this an original or a limited edition print yet, it depends on how much interest it gets. I also have another Flying Fox painting to do, but it hasn't quite made itself known to me yet, so watch this space.
SAYING GOODBYE TO OLD FRIENDS
I’ve decided to start retiring some of my prints even though they haven’t reached their limited edition numbers. This is because I constantly strive to improve my work and techniques over time and sometimes I look back on certain pieces and think “I could do this a lot better than this now”. I also need to make room for new work.
I will be retiring the ‘Dakota’ and ‘Affera’ prints by the 1st of April 2016. So, if you have been thinking about getting either of these beautiful girls at any time, please note they will not be available after that date.
I don’t believe I have ‘talent’ for painting, mainly because I learned how to do it and practiced and practiced. If I have any talent at all, it is only the ability to include an atom of my soul into some of my paintings. Often I’m driven to produce a piece of work and I don’t really understand why, but I follow the inspiration doggedly (ha ha) when it calls. So, even though working on Flying Fox, Red Kangaroo and Appaloosa paintings, I left them all to paint someone’s dog, when they hadn't even asked me to (Yes, call it lack of focus if you will, but…) The need to do this came after reading a story, from a collector of my artwork in the UK, talking about her younger days.
Chantal's story is from many years ago, in the days when only a handful of people cared for wildlife. Back then the untrained were ignorant of the negative impact close association with a dog would have on a young animal destined for the wild. What touched me about this story is that the ‘hunter’ became protector and friend. Something I see occasionally with ex-kangaroo hunters who become extremely dedicated macropod carers or supporters later on in life. This particular aspect spoke to me in the story.
My aunt sent me this photo (it’s a very old one that’s been scanned, hence the poor quality) of my lovely Golden Retriever. We lived at Draycote Water Sailing Club at the time, out in the middle of nowhere.
This was taken when Ross was a young dog and had been out walking with my dad. He came home with a baby hare in his mouth. We had to bring up the hare (Douglas) who adored Ross as much as Ross adored Douglas. They were inseparable for over six months before we released Douglas back into the wild. We didn’t try to tame him, but he lived in the flat with us, used a litter tray and had us wrapped around one paw. We bottle fed him on warm milk with glucose and liquidised dandelion leaves. No idea where the recipe came from, no internet in those days. We took it in turns on 4 hour feeding until we had him on solids. Not so easy I can tell you, but it was summer holidays so no school. Shirley and I worked in our family’s newsagent shop in Coventry on a Saturday and Douglas had to come with us. We tucked him into a sheepskin mitt and he sat on the shelf between the cigarettes. He just snoozed between feeds, he was so good.
We’d done everything we could to make him self-sufficient, ready for his release and hoped he would survive in the wild. My dad used to swear that on a dog walk, a few weeks after Douglas was released, a hare was sitting on the bridle path. Ross went up to the hare, they nudged each other and then Douglas hopped off. I’d like to think it was true, but who knows?
I am a great believer in self-improvement and goal setting, but after hitting a brick wall in my professional development, I signed up for a John Assaraf (from The Secret) brain re-training program. Basically it is all about re-wiring your subconscious brain, kicking out old habits and beliefs and replacing with new. In six months amongst other things I had improved self worth, greater positivity and even my fire breathing dragon persona went back in its cave. Whoohoo calm me, what progress!
However, a few weeks ago my self-esteem disappeared down the plughole after someone critisised my art and me publicly via social media. Apparently, I didn’t paint, I wasn’t a ‘real’ artist, anyone could do what I could do on a computer and people should really buy from any of the thousand other artists selling their ‘real’ paintings. I was devastated, my self worth? (Errrrm, 10p fer a cuppa tea mister?) My primeval brain did its thing and I bought into their negativity believing what they said. I sat and stewed for days, my thoughts ranging from giving up my art, to searching out my canvas and oils to create a ‘real’ painting. My current work on the koalas was abandoned.
John Assaraf in his teaching says, “… your biggest growth opportunity will usually appear at the moment of your greatest point of resistance. Break through your own resistance and you’ll break through to another level of being…”
So, taking that on board I changed tack and wondered how I could ‘prove’ that I did actually paint. “Hello Samantha!”
I was in the middle of writing a blog about my artwork for aussiecritters.com.au and was struggling with an analogy to describe the status of my self-esteem. Using Google to find an answer, I was completely sidetracked laughing at the following funny analogies. I apologise for the fact that I’m pasting them here when they’ve been around since 1999 but if you are like me and missed the first and second circulation of these…enjoy!
1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a ThighMaster.
2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.
3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.
4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.
5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.
8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.
9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.
10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.
The reason I was late for my appointment.
It’s Saturday and clearing out the garage was on the ‘to do’ list but we still had an hour before we needed to get ready to leave. We were making good progress until we found a forgotten animal carrier stuffed with handmade kangaroo joey bags. I started to pull the bags out so I could wash them and out jumped a rat. The rat ran through my feet, under the car, across the parking bays, over the front deck dodging between my two large dogs and in through the open front door of our house.
We both shouted NO! at the top of our lungs, because of course a rat understands English and good at obeying commands. Once we’d taken chase into the house, our independent and unspoken efficiency of dealing with the event was, if I may say so myself, impressive. Although it took a reasonable amount of time to execute, I managed to block rat access to the five rooms leading off the hallway. Doors were shut, towels or boxes were stuffed against door bottoms whilst my partner Albert stood guard in front of the settee the rat had ran under. Once all exits were blocked, I surveyed the area and recalled method I’d devised to get a snake out of my office last year. I decided to install a chicane leading from the settee in an arc to the open front door to aid rat diversion. Just as I was positioning a bagged set of golf clubs as part of the chicane another rat ran in through the door and straight under the settee.
Even as I write this I am completely mystified as to why this other rat had run in a good few minutes after the last one. Especially from such a distance and not under any threat. Albert shouts angrily at me “What the **!! are the dogs doing?” I look at the dogs thinking “OK French sheep herding dogs, you’re standing almost a metre from the ground with hair completely covering your eyes, how come you couldn’t see that small rat?”
Part way though creating any of my paintings I get a ‘feeling’. Often it is just a feeling of rightness as in ‘This is what I’m supposed to do’ or ‘This is for my heart’ the latter usually responding to losing a little one or when I’ve successfully released an adult I’ve been particularly attached to. Very rarely do I get a ‘zing’, but when I get the feeling, it is like being almost winner on a treasure hunt. You have that thrill and excitement building in your chest, you’ve almost got the treasure, but just haven’t bagged it….yet. I’ve had that zing on my pieces such as ‘Nimitz and Missouri’, ‘Constantine’ and ‘Byron and Brumbie’.
Now, after almost three years of painting I’ve got my first ‘KA-POW!’ How do I try to describe it? Well, the feeling is mainly excitement with a dash of absolute fear attached to it and seriously, I’ve not felt anything like this before.
"My heart has joined the thousand, for my friend stopped running today" Richard Adams Watership Down
I am sitting here at my desk, it is 3.30am I’m trading the international money markets. It is late at night (or early in the morning) and I’m sitting here wondering if I’m losing my marbles. I’m just putting the finishing touches to my Constantine painting, and I seriously asked him “Constantine, did you really have that pattern of spots on your nose?” He blinks, or is it me? No, he definitely blinked just like in the Beatrix Potter film. I glance over at my other three computer screens all showing currency charts and wonder how far the US dollar is going to drop. Finally, acknowledging that all my trades tonight have been complete disasters (I wanted the dollar to go up) I sigh and look back at him. He, being oblivious to world trade markets, stares back at me from the screen and from his eyes I know beyond a shadow of doubt that these animals have souls, truly.
I’ve written many times before how, despite raising and releasing countless orphans, the few that really stick in my mind are the ones I’ve lost. I wonder why they have tended to possess the mightiest of spirits or have had outstanding personalities. Constantine is one of them and another was Earl.
I lost Earl (stupid term lost I don’t know why I use it) Earl died this morning and his passing defined a whole new level of pain in my life as a carer. Before this morning or rather yesterday morning now, I always thought there couldn’t be anything worse than losing an orphan after battling for months to save it, or after almost a year in care a roo dies just before its time for release. Well, I’ve discovered something worse and that is losing a kangaroo joey someone else has battled to save for months, a joey that up until this morning only had three months to go before release. Telling them, that is worse.
I’d been staging him (term for transitioning from human dependence to independence for release into the wild) during the last couple of months he was putting on weight, had changed his coat, was developing muscle and starting to distance himself from human contact. He was doing really well.
I had absolutely no idea how to tell his foster mum, the person who had poured so much time, love and money into saving this little guy during his early life. To make matters worse she had told me two weeks earlier on her birthday visit to him “…there is always that ‘special’ one, the one you always remember. You know what I mean don’t you?”
Samantha "I'm a person who feels I live in paradise and truly love Australia after immigrating here in 2003. I work as a foreign exchange trader, live with my true soul mate, husband Albert. I have a passion for Aussie wildlife and became a registered wildlife carer in 2005 and can say I feel truly privileged to be able to raise and rehabilitate orphan wallaby/kangaroo joeys. I love these creatures with my heart and soul. My dream is to be able to help struggling volunteer wildlife carers, financially, so that they can do what they do best without worrying how to pay the next vet bill"