That’s a mischievous sparkle in your eye. And is that a smile I see curving around your beak? A deliriously happy black cockatoo is a bit of a rarity, so what’s the story behind the mural?
A mural decades in the making.
When artist Lee-Ann Handley was a little girl she was fascinated with her pet galah calling “hello gorgeous” whenever it wanted to engage with her.
Fast forward to early 2020 and Lee-Ann put forward a mural concept to Livingstone Shire Council on Queensland’s Capricorn Coast based on her childhood observations that would highlight the black cockatoos found around the picturesque Keppel Sands esplanade.
“The ‘hello’ aspect is also about wanting to engage the audience - art is moving away from the viewer being a passive spectator to an engaged participant,” Lee-Ann said.
She sought assistance from Rockhampton artist Kelly Dee Knight to collaborate on the mural design because Kelly’s work focusses on birds, flora and fauna, and together they painted the piece.
While the original concept called for only two cockatoos – one saying “hello gorgeous” on the front of the block and another around the corner, enthusiasm grew and the final result is a startling burst of colour and movement that showcases six birds. Retro-style rays of painted light connect each cockatoo, including two that now ‘inhabit’ the two entrances.
For Lee-Ann, this mural typifies what’s wonderful about being an artist. “Exploring your own creativity using a range of media allows you to develop an articulate awareness of yourself, your environment and your relationship between with the world in which we live,” she said.
Finding time to explore that necessary creativity is challenging, with the responsibilities of life, family, parenting, work and contributing to community each demanding attention. So Lee-Ann is disciplined in finding the time to commit to her art.
Her success in this regard relies in part on concentrating on the things she cherishes. “I have always loved landscape in an expressive and abstract form. It reminds me of looking up as a child and seeing recognisable shapes and objects in the clouds. We live in an incredibly beautiful country, and mother earth provides us with an abundance of beauty to portray in one’s art practice,” she said. That’s why she often uses burnt sienna and raw umber to mix and create earthy colours.
“Hello gorgeous” is no different in this respect, with its striking yellows. It, along with purple, was also used for the original Keppel Sands sign back in the 1970s, so she retained these colours.
This retro palette plays into Keppel Sands’ personality well. This is the kind of quiet beach hamlet that was common along the Australian coast in the 1970s, but a rarity these days. Keppel Sands is still a relaxing, quiet and peaceful fishing and beach village that has retained much of its yesteryear charm. It’s just the type of place where creativity thrives.
Lee-Ann can relate to that feeling.
She’s always invested time in developing her artist talents, but much of the past decade has been focussed on helping others develop their artistry skills through educational platforms. She is Head of Visual arts at St Brendan’s College as well as the coordinator of Youth Arts Yeppoon – an organisation she founded in 2017 which runs monthly workshops aimed at increasing youth engagement in the arts. Street art has been one of the topics covered, with local legend Martin Schlick co-presenting.
While Lee-Ann loves guiding others, she thinks that it’s now right for her to invest on rekindling her own artistic energy.
‘Hello gorgeous’ has helped. It’s breathed new life into a fond childhood memory and given Lee-Ann new vigour. The result? Her photography, studio painting and murals are all benefitting.
Lee-Ann’s photography can be found on the ‘Lee-Ann Handley Photography’ Facebook page while The Art Collection Facebook page showcases some of her paintings.
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