Medal of Excellence Artists for Conservation 2023
Natalie Jane Parker was born in Sydney on the 16th April 1971. At the age of 10, Natalie’s family made a tree change to a five-acre property in the Port Stephens, NSW. With bush surroundings and abundant wildlife, this in turn would be a major influence in her talent as a wildlife artist. “It really opened my eyes to nature. If my family hadn’t made the move then I don’t think I’d be a wildlife artist.”
Natalie excelled at art during school and completed an Associate Diploma of Fine Arts at Newcastle College. After experimenting with different styles and techniques it was wildlife art that Natalie felt the most rewarding and inspiring. “Wildlife art was not something offered at college to study, so I am basically self-taught, which I don’t mind, you find your own style that way. I am constantly being challenged with my art and to be able to reproduce Australia’s unique wildlife with paint and brush.”
Almost by accident, Natalie began painting some of her wildlife studies onto wood veneer. She spent some time helping her father build kitchens and rather than discard the left-over pieces of Tasmanian Oak veneer, she began to paint onto them. The variations of colour and texture in the veneer gave a perfect background for her wildlife subjects. Natalie used “Pencil, Gouache (pronounced gwarsh) and Watercolour”.
Gouache is an opaque paint and has a chalky texture unlike watercolour which is transparent. Using these mediums to her advantage, Natalie blended them to create softness making her objects stand out from the background on the timber veneer. Because the veneer was just 2mm thick, the paintings could be framed in the traditional way with border matts and glass to protect this unique artwork.
The next change occurred when Natalie started painting exclusively in Acrylic paint on both paper and board. An airbrush was introduced in her work for shadows and backdrops which in turn created a beautiful depth in her paintings. Other painting techniques she uses include sponging to get realistic rock and bark texture, fine liner brushes for fur in animals, leaves and spider webs.
Natalie’s very first solo exhibition was held in June 1996, at Morpeth Gallery. The exhibition consisted of 31 paintings, after preview night only three paintings remained unsold. The 4-day exhibition was a complete sell-out and 28 Commissions were received. This exhibition was to be the very first of the now annual Morpeth Gallery exhibition commemorating World Environment Week.
Natalie currently uses acrylic paint on clay coated board. The thin layer of clay on the board gives her the smooth surface she requires to use her fine brushes for painting. She does not mix the acrylic paint with water, but uses Air-brush medium to keep the original integrity of the paint. Before starting a painting, Natalie draws a number of drafts, substituting logs, posts, branches, positions of subject, until the right composition is found. As many as five drawings may be created. The finishing touch to most paintings is an ant or two. This has become an unofficial signature in all of her paintings.
Just twelve months into her painting career, Natalie had four of her paintings selected to be published into prints. Since these initial prints, Natalie’s commercial success has moved ahead in leaps and bounds, with her work being continually featured on numerous Calendars, Greeting Cards, Open Edition Prints, Limited Edition Prints and Jigsaw Puzzles. In 2002, she began working with Australian company Ashdene (now a brand of Ladelle Group), famous for their bone china coffee mugs, melamine trays, placemats and coasters. Almost twenty years on the range has increased to include travel mugs, tea towels and tea bag holders. Fabric company Two Green Zebras, have been launching collections of Natalie’s artworks on fabric panels, used by crafters to make quilts, tote bags, cushions, aprons, face masks, tablecloths, napkins, curtains and T-Shirts.
Her portfolio has broadened further when in 2003, Natalie diversified and created a character for a children’s book, (the story based on the adventures of an ant, Natalie’s well known trademark in her traditional paintings). Since then, Natalie has published over 37 children’s books. Most are nature based, but amongst the list, there are two series, ‘Kasey Kitten’ and ‘Marshall Mouse’, (named after her children) which are centred on the big moments in children’s lives.
Whilst most authors will write a story, many do not have the skills to illustrate the book or vice versa. Natalie has both illustrated and written a number of her children’s books. In many of these she has helped raise awareness the native animal that live in our bush and gardens and highlights the need to conserve them. They are also published in many different languages, Russian, Korean and Portuguese to mention but a few.
Natalie’s placemats, coasters, jigsaw puzzles, Ashdene giftware and Australian art gifts are available from Morpeth Gallery.