Art Down Under

With temperatures in the nineties you might just be wishing for the cool sensation of a winter day to break up the heat waves. Let’s make that happen with a trip to Australia this week where it’s winter weather all summer long. Australia, sometimes referred to as “the land down under” is located in the southern hemisphere of our planet, which is why the seasons are always opposite from ours here in North America. And did you know that Australia is the only country that is also its own continent? While we’re on our virtual vacation in the land down under, let’s make some works of art featuring some of Australia's best loved critters. Australia has very unique and diverse fauna including the red kangaroo, the world’s largest marsupial, the eucalyptus leaf eating koala bear, the flightless kiwi bird, the duck billed, beaver tailed platypus and the ancient reptilian crocodile.

Kangaroos are one of the most notable marsupials on the planet. Kangaroos have pockets or pouches where they incubate their young from birth until their joeys are old enough to explore the world on their own, which for the red kangaroo takes about eight months. In addition to their pouches, kangaroos possess another unique feature. I’m talking about their big feet which enable them to jump up to thirty feet high and run up to thirty miles per hour! They also use their big feet to defend themselves. When they feel threatened they pound the ground with their feet to issue a warning before kicking their opponents. Kangaroos also have very large, powerful tails which function much more like a fifth leg than a tail. Kangaroos not only use their tails for balance but to assist them in walking and jumping too, afterall, their tails have more than twenty vertebrae. At Gogh Arts we used paper art to capture the unique features of the kangaroo and we even added a joey!

Who doesn’t love a koala bear? They won the world’s heart in early 2020 due to the devastating wildfires that ravaged their habitat across eastern Australia. Koala bears live in eucalyptus tree forests and without these special trees koala bears can not survive. Koalas are herbivores with a very moderate diet, feeding predominantly on the leaves of the eucalyptus trees that they live in. Very few animals can digest, much less survive, on the leaves of the eucalyptus tree but koala bears have a specialized digestive tract that is capable of breaking down the harsh chemicals and providing them with not only the nutrients they need but also the moisture. As a result, koala bears drink very little water. Other than hanging out in trees koala bears haven’t much in common with other bears and that is because they are not actually bears at all. Instead these cute critters with their sweet round faces and fluffy gray fur are most closely related to the wombat. At Gogh Arts we captured the cuteness of the tree hugging koala bear in an acrylic painting and with a few simple colors and geometric shapes, you can too.

Another cute animal you can find in the Australian outback is the kiwi bird. Kiwi birds are not able to fly and they actually look as if they don’t even have wings, but they do. They have tiny wings that blend into their loose fur-like feathers. What’s more, the kiwi bird has no tail feathers either. The fur-like feathers that cover its body gives the kiwi bird a mammal-like appearance but it’s long narrow beak gives it away. Kiwi birds use their beaks to forage for foods including snails, slugs, spiders and berries too. Like most birds they are omnivores. The kiwi is the only bird in the world that has it’s nostrils at the end of its beak giving it an excellent sense of smell and making it very easy for the kiwi to find food. Adding to its uniqueness, the kiwi bird also has whiskers, which strengthen its prowess when hunting for food. At Gogh Arts we painted kiwi birds and incorporated dot painting in the style found in aboriganal art.

The platypus has to be one of the world's strangest creations. It’s a caboodle of animal parts arranged to make an adorable semi-aquatic mammal. The platypus has a bill like a duck and it uses its bill to gather its food from the bottom of its watery habitat. Though it has no teeth the platypus is a carnivore, feeding on shellfish, worms and insects. The platypus has a tail similar to that of a beaver and they use their tails in much the same ways. When swimming the platypus’ tail helps to steer. The platypus also uses its tail when building its burrow. The platypus has the body and fur akin to that of the otter. The dense fur enables the platypus to keep a stable body temperature even when the temperatures drop and this allows the platypus to remain active year-round. A unique feature that the male platypus possesses is its stinger on the heels of its back webbed feet. The stingers make the male platypus a venomous creature not to be tampered with. You can capture all of these unique features of the platypus in a fun way by making a paper bag puppet!

Another Australian creature that is not to be tampered with is the crocodile. Crocodiles are the largest reptiles on Earth and they have been living on Earth for over two hundred million years! They can be found living in all of the continents except Europe. Crocodiles have the strongest bite ever measured which is impressive, but what’s interesting is that the muscles used to open their jaws are actually quite small and weak. Could this be why they don’t chew their food? To compensate, crocodiles swallow stones that help to grind up their food and aid in digestion. Crocodiles can go long periods of time between meals. This is due to their slow metabolism, one of the features of being cold blooded. Crocodiles have about eighty teeth and each time they lose a tooth another grows in its place. It is estimated that a crocodile can replace a lost tooth up to fifty times. In Florida, we are more familiar with alligators. One important physical difference between crocodiles and alligators is the shape of their noses. While the alligator has a rounded nose, the nose of the crocodile is smaller and more pointed. At Gogh Arts we captured the essence of the crocodile in a miniature sculpture, pointy nose and all!