Sunday, 15 December 2013

A Horse named Gemma

After coming back from my latest trip to Italy last June, I decided to make a portrait of my sister's horse named Gemma. To me this watercolour represents a link to my past, when I lived in the country, and when my love for nature and art started.

   This will be my last newsletter for 2013, so I would like to thank very much all the people who in one way or another supported my creative journey this year.

   If you would like to send me some pictures of how you framed or arranged the artworks you purchased from me, please feel free to do so, you can email the photos to, I would really like to see where they ended up to and I'd like to put the best photos together and share them online to give people some inspiration on how my artwork can be used, of course only if you agree to share corners of your house on the web.

   Thank you very much again to all the followers, I wish you a very happy holiday season and all the best for the New Year.


Friday, 15 November 2013

Australian Wildlife Art Christmas Ideas...

Southern Angle-headed Dragon

What about supporting independent art for Christmas this year ? My shop is currently being daily updated with new items:

1. a full range of 24 A5 (5x8'') and A4 (7x12'') prints;
2. a range of 12 A3 (11x16'') prints;
3. worldwide free shipping is available for all original artworks;
4. greeting cards;
5. original and printed bookmarks;
6. Second hand artist's watercolour paints.

    Please remember that when you buy my products you're not only supporting independent art but also the charity associations I support: Australian Birdlife and ANTaR.



Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Southern Angle-headed Dragon

Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve is a fifty five hectares subtropical rainforest overlooking the Glasshouse Mountains. Entering a rainforest always feels like entering a secret world of new smells, colours and sounds. Just like when entering a cathedral, it comes natural to speak softly, if speaking at all.  It is very peaceful, and before you realise it you are surrounded by Red-legged Pandemelons criss-crossing your walking track, Yellow-throated Scrubwrens hiding in the undergrowth and rainforest pigeons, doves and parrots calling from the high canopy of old trees.
And then what a surprise! You may come across this Southern Angle-headed Dragon, Hypsilurus spinipes resting on a post in front of a Red Cedar, Toona ciliata.

All original artworks available on my store are now shipped worldwide at no cost... just thinking about Christmas.



Sunday, 15 September 2013

A Baby Bush-stone Curlew

Baby Bush-stone Curlew, watercolour on paper, 28x28 cm, 2013, © Matteo Grilli 2013

I came across a family of Bush-stone Curlews at the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens, the parents were protective but not aggressive, they were keeping their 18 cm chick at a safe distance from people.

Pigments used: top to bottom, Prussian Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Perylene Maroon, Burnt Umber, Raw Umber

See older posts about the Bush-stone Curlew here.
Buy greeting cards of this fascinating Australian bird here.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize

Feathers of Australian Birds

This original artwork was selected among the finalists for the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize. The exhibition of finalists' artworks is now on display at the South Australian Museum until 8 September 2013. Follow this link to see winners and finalists' works. All original artworks are for sale. And if you really want to buy this image but can't afford the original, there are prints and greeting cards now available.

Work in progress
The framed artwork just before being packed and shipped to Adelaide.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Found a baby Tawny Frogmouth? Here is the best way to help.

In this post I am going to share the account I wrote last year about my experience in reuniting a baby Tawny Frogmouth with its family, hoping it will be helpful for the readers in case they will find themselves in the same situation during the new coming breeding season.

     On October 2012, I noticed a Tawny Frogmouth sitting on a nest located about six or seven meters from the ground in the park in front of my house. Not long after noticing the nest I could see the white dawn of the newly hatched babies. I've been watching the nest every day, enjoying seeing the baby Tawny Frogmouths growing very quickly. By the size of the two chicks it was obvious that one was older than the other.

     On November the 9th I went out at about 5 am and I saw that the nest was empty and one chick was on the ground at the bottom of the tree. The night before I saw parent and chicks in the nest just before sunset, so I presume the eldest chick fledged during the night. At that moment I could not see any other member of the family. The baby didn't show any sign of sickness or visible injury. I decided to put it into a box and went to the local vet who gave me the contact of a local carer and the baby Tawny Frogmouth eventually ended up with Sandra Bayley, the local carer specialised in Tawny Frogmouths.

     On November the 10th I was contacted by Sandra who suggested I tryed to reunite the baby with its parents on the veranda of my house which faces the park where the Tawny Frogmouth family lives. Between my house and the park there is only a street which is usually very quiet. I arranged a basket on the corner of my veranda tied to the railings and at dusk I placed the baby inside the basket. The baby appeared to be very active and started begging for food and moved out from the surrogate nest right onto the railing. My veranda is about three meters high from the ground and surrounded by a big Jacaranda tree. Everything I observed was from the inside of my house, through the closed door and window, I also turned the lights off and closed the curtains watching only through a small opening between the curtains to avoid any stress for the parents.

     I put the chick out at around 6.15 pm. The baby started begging straightaway and within about twenty to thirty minutes one parent arrived and after checking the situation for a few seconds from the branch of the Jacaranda tree just in front of the veranda, flew onto the railing and fed the chick. I believe the parent was the male as there are some differences between the two parents. The one which came is a bit bigger than the other as well as less shy in the presence of humans and grey in colour. The other parent which never came to visit our veranda is a bit smaller, shyer and has a reddish tint on the feathers.

     I was able to observe the parent hunting from the surrounding branches and feeding the chick every ten to twenty minutes. The baby Tawny Frogmouth never stopped begging and the begging increased as it could see the parent flying towards the veranda. I noticed that the parent makes a small marble-sized ball of pre-ingested food with sudden movement of its crop and then passes it into the baby's mouth. Feeding occurred in this manner for a few hours. Around eleven pm there was a break as I could not see the parent for 45/60 minutes. I went to bed just after midnight when I last saw the parent coming to feed the baby.

     The morning after, on November the 11th, I woke up at 4 am and I saw the same parent feeding the chick twice before the daylight started to increase. While the baby was alone a couple of Magpies and Noisy miners came and got very close to the baby and just as I opened the door to put the baby in the box to prevent it from being harassed, the parent (father) flew over and perched on the closest branch to the baby. The parents' beak was wide open and it was clear that it was defending the chick. The other birds eventually flew away and the parent perched on the railing and after a few minutes adult and chick were snuggling side by side. After a few hours for some reason the baby fell just on top of a potted plant located just below the railing, I decided to get the chick and put it back on to the railing, the parent didn't seem to be worried, it just kept staring at me without showing any defensive behaviour.They spent all day on the railing of our veranda, even when myself and housemates had to go out and pass at a distance of 2-3 meters the birds didn't seem to care too much, they just changed their shape into the branch-like position. 

Father and baby Tawny Frogmouth spending a day on the railing of our veranda.
     At 6.20 pm of November the 11th the parent left the railing and started hunting and feeding the baby just as the previous night. I watched the parent feeding the chick every 15 to 20 minutes for about three hours. At 4 am on November the 12 the parent came to feed the baby a couple of times within few minutes. The baby was very active and was flapping its wings energetically until it fell from the railing. The parent was not around at that moment so I took the baby in my hands and walked towards the park. I found a low branch and I put the baby onto it, the baby soon started moving upwards on the branch flapping its wings and started begging again. Within a couple of minutes father flew on the tree followed by mother and after a few minutes, by the eldest sibling. The family was now reunited on the same tree where they spent the all day.

The subject of this story is the one on the left, just after reunification with family.
     At dusk I witnessed the first flight of the young bird I rescued, it was a very short one, maybe one meter branch to branch. Later at night I was out again to see the birds, I could hear the baby begging for food from a very high tree branch and the parent was hunting around. I was now able to watch very thoroughly the parent (the same that came to our veranda) hunting as he was not scared by me being there and the light of the street was providing me with enough light to see. Still I was not quite sure if the begging chick up in the tree was the one I rescued or the older sibling. I could not see any other young or parent around.

     The morning after on November the 13th, at 4.15 am, I was very surprised to see the young Tawny Frogmouth I rescued already able to fly tree to tree following the parent to get a feed. I was sure it was the bird I rescued because I found the older sibling on another tree not far. Some Noisy Miners and a Grey Butcherbird spotted the fledgling I rescued and started harassing it, the father came to defend it but didn't stay for long, the chick was then left alone being pecked by the angry Butcherbird who repeatedly hit the young Tawny Frogmouth. The father flew on the tree with the older sibling for the day roosting. I couldn't do too much as it was rather high on a branch. The harassing eventually stopped and the fledgling didn't seem to be much bothered. I had the impression that the parent didn't defend the young as much as he did on the veranda probably because he knew the young was now able to fly and could move if it wanted so, but this is just my thought. The mother flew in and perched on a higher branch and started calling the baby who flew up and snuggled by her side.

     At dusk, I could observe the parents waking up and starting the hunting and feeding routine and the babies begging and following the parents from branch to branch or tree to tree. I could observe this activity every day at the same time around 6.15-6.30 pm.

     The park in front of my house seems to be their territory, it is just a few hundred square meters of bush with different-sized trees generally big and high, there is a small creek and grass and a playground for kids. The park is packed with wildlife by day as well as by night.

This is a story of a straight and successful reunification, although not all cases are so straightforward, it is always worth trying reuniting a baby Tawny Frogmouth (or any other wild bird) with its family as its parents will always be the best parents. Human rearing should only be considered if no reunification is possible.
I felt very lucky and privileged to be able to witness such an intimate part of the life of these common but very secretive wild birds right in front of my house.

Fell free to contact me by email

Here are some tips to help you reunite the baby Tawny Frogmouth with its family:

1. Wait till dusk then take the baby back to the exact place you found it as soon as possible, the parents are probably somewhere close by.
2. Establish if it is safe (no dogs/cats/traffic) to put the bird on a low branch or a post in a sheltered leafy area.
3. At dusk, which is the moment they become active, watch the baby from a distance, it should call out for food and the parents should come and feed it every 15 to 30 minutes for the whole night.
4. If no parent come to feed the baby right away, just leave it out for the night and check if it's with a parent the morning after, if you believe the baby is being left unattended, it needs help, put the baby into a box, contact your local wildlife association, sometimes vets can also be helpful.
5. The best time to check if the family is together is at dusk and before sunrise.

If you found this information useful, I would love to hear your stories, please do not hesitate to contact me, every case is different and sharing information is always important to raise the knowledge. Thank you

Monday, 24 June 2013

Portrait of a Jabiru - part three -

Portrait of a Jabiru 3/3, watercolour on paper, 22 x 19 cm, © Matteo Grilli 2013

The following original artwork was selected among the finalists for the Lethbridge Small-scale Art Award and is for sale on their website:

Silent Encounters, 25 x 31 cm, watercolour on paper, © Matteo Grilli 2013

Monday, 15 April 2013

Portrait of a Jabiru - part one -

This is the first painting from a series all dedicated to the Jabiru or Black-necked Stork, Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus. I found its regal posture, slow movements and secretive attitude very charming.

New items in store:

Set of four printed greeting cards featuring a selection of some favourite Aussie iconic birds: Pale-headed rosellas, Crimson Rosellas and Kookaburras. Size of each card: 14 x 14 cm or 5.5 x 5.5'' Buy Now
Australian Nature Treasures, set of five square greeting cards. Size of each card: 14 x 14 cm or 5.5 x 5.5'' Buy Now
Imagine a walk in the Australian bush just after rain, there are many wet leaves scattered along the path and many of them have very attractive bright colours. Imagine the intense yet delicate smell of the Eucalyptus trees spreading all around, and the sound of your footsteps.

Take a little bit of that unique, simple beauty into your home with this set of forty loose printed leaves of Australian plants, Eucalyptus tree mostly. Each leaf has been cut out from a digital print on paper of my original realistic watercolor illustration.

You can use this special collection to give you home a taste of the charming Australian bush, following are some suggestions on how to use them, please feel free to contact me to share your ideas!

- You can decide to display them under the glass top of a table.
- You can arrange them in a display cabinet.
- You can mount them on a support and frame some of them and use the rest for something else, remember, they're forty.
- You can use them as bookmarks.

Colors may vary from real (they're actually much better). Buy Now

Friday, 15 March 2013

Meeting the Peewee

The Magpie-lark (Grallina cyanoleuca) is a very common suburban bird in Brisbane, it is often seen searching for food walking frantically across lawns, in pairs most of the times, if one is around usually the other is not far. I had the chance to study a breeding pair for a while and I was able to notice some very interesting things.

Male and female pair for life, different sexes have different colour patterns, females (above) have white forehead and throat, while males (below) have white eyebrows, black forehead and throat. Jouveniles have a mixed pattern with white throat and large white eyebrows, dark eyes and beak, audults have very light eyes and beak.

Both parents are very protective and won't hesitate to attack much larger birds which may be a threat for the nest such as crows. The nest is built with mud, grass and leaves. Male and female exchange nest duties approximately every 15 minutes, they both search for food so the babies can enjoy a constant food supply.

As the day gets hotter the parent stops sitting on the baby birds and stands over them with wings half open to provide shade to the nestlings.

Magpie-larks, also known as Peewees, are known to sing in duet to defend their territory. Each partner produces about one note a second but a half-second apart, so to the human ear it sounds coming from the same bird.

This beautiful bird has a very charming black and white plumage, which seems to be rather in fashion for Australian birds, their flying style reminds me of that of some bigger species of butterflies.
I hope you enjoyed reading about the Magpie-lark, until next time,


Friday, 15 February 2013

Capturing the Iridescence

Iridescence is a very fascinating feature of feathers in many species of birds from all over the world. Certainly the brightest and most varied examples come from the birds of paradise, yet this kind of feathers are also found in birds that live in a much closer contact with humans, like ducks and chickens.

The former owner of this pair of iridescent feathers was a Pacific Black Duck, Anas superciliosa, one of the most common species of ducks, it is found along every creek and in every park around Brisbane. These two feathers are part of the secondary remiges group, one from each wing and in ducks this group of feathers is called speculum. Each species of duck has a slightly different colour, according to the angle from which we look, we can see a large number of colours, from dull green, grey and brown to a bright emerald green, purple, cyan blue, dark blue, magenta and a warm yellow-green.

Feather iridescence is the right subject to use Phthalo Blue and Phthalo Green with little or no mixing.
Representing feathers' iridescence with watercolours is challanging, one has to rely on the transparecy of the pigments, applying a number of layers of colours making sure to blend them in the right way, at the right moment. For this, I noticed that outside weather conditions also have their part in the painting process. I found particularly difficult to work on this painting during hot and dry weather, while, on the contrary, it was much easier on rainy days, when outside humidity conditions slowed down the drying time. You can probably see the difference yourself, the upper feather was painted on a wet day, the lower one on a very dry, hot day.

A newly opened website about Birds of Paradise gives, among other things, a very clear understanding of how feather iridescence works. The website is also packed with videos and photographs that are truly beautiful and worth a visit.

 And this is a series of eight bookmarks that I just released. They are printed on a beautiful 300gsm recycled paper, you can see more details following this link.

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Botanical Studies, Markets and a Creative Exchange

During the past holiday weeks I decided to start working on some botanical sketches of leaves, just to start looking into the never-ending shades of greens and how to achieve them. I'm finding it very daunting yet fascinating. During the last year or so I started studying colours very thoroughly and in doing so I took out all the colours of my palette that didn't have the features I needed to achieve my goals. I ended up using a rather limited choice of favourite pigments which has been able to provide me with any colour I needed so far. I like keeping it simple to get the best and most varied mixes out of them. It worked, until I started mixing to match those greens... Any thought from the botanical artists who follow this blog will be much appreciated.

I started selling my art at the Bardon Community Market which takes place every Sunday 6am to 1pm in Baroona Road, Paddington, Brisbane. This was my very first time trying to sell at a market so my equipment still needs to be improved, my stall still looks small and rather flimsy, but there is a good choice of small-size prints, original artworks, greeting cards, bookmarks and origami. It has been a very nice and rewarding experience so far to be able to show my work to people outside the Internet and I'm very grateful to all those who stopped to take a look, ask questions, sign up for my newsletter, buy or just to have a chat about the local birds. By the way, there is a family of three Boobook Owls roosting inside the thick foliage of a big tree just in front of my stall, so, for all Brisbane residents who are following my blog, you are very welcome to come and say hi and take a look at those amazing owls. I'm planning to sell at the Bardon Market at least two Sundays a month, depending on the weather.

This is a beautiful sculpture I commissioned to the amazing sculptress/artist Harriet Knibbs, I have been following her blog for a while and I am in awe every time I take a visit. Her life-like sculptures of animals have a special effect on me as they remind me of my childhood, when I used to play and collect small toy figurines of all sorts of animals. Also, I have a soft spot for animal sculpture in general and I always thought that if I ever was to commission somebody a sculpture, that had to be Harriet. So I did, but what we ended up doing was a reciprocal creative commission, I asked her for a Common Pheasant and in turn, she accepted an original painting and asked for a Turtle Dove, which I painted for her with much pleasure. I chose the Common Pheasant because it is a bird I've been fond of for a very long time, and it is part of many good memories. I must admit that I miss not seeing it here in Australia. So there it is now, being a good totem on my desk, watching over my creative endeavours.

Turtle Dove for Harriet Knibbs

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