On sketching Malu / Kangaroos

January 20, 2011

If I lived in rural or remote Australia, instead of in a big city, I’d hate kangaroos with a passion and want them completely done away with as vermin. I’ve learned never to mention kangaroos in front of people who live in the countryside – it’s as if I’d sworn at the dinner table.

As for seeing malu (which I thought was a generic word for kangaroo across several of the First Nation languages, but I noticed was “kangaroo” in the Arendte language when I lived in Alice Springs), I’ve come across only four locations here in Sydney: the Taronga Park Zoo (as drawn, resting, by a Sydney Sketch Club colleague recently); the Euroka Valley camping site near the entrance to the Glenbrook National Park in the Blue Mountains; the Australian Wildlife Park at Calga near Gosford and a caravan park at Jervis Bay on the South Coast. The Zoo is the closest with Glenbrook also available by public transport, close to three hours by train all up if you include the walk from Glenbrook Railway Station. There may actually be a fifth location, the Featherdale Wildlife Park at Doonside.

Temporarily, I have settled for a DVD from the television series, Roo Gully. Filmed on a wildlife refuge in Western Australia, it unusually has lots of footage of the animals. It is less tightly edited than other nature documentaries which usually give you nanosecond shots of animals. I’ve sat in editing suites so I know the mania for unrelenting “pace” in the medium. In Roo Gully however, you get a real sense of the movement of the animals, the small movements of head and limbs in particular. Okay, so it’s not drawing from Nature or the real thing, but that will come, especially once I’ve gotten a handle on the anatomy.

This scan in graphite pencil copied from a newspaper photo is a first; in time, I’ll become clearer on the matter of species (being smallish, grey with black tails, I know they’re not Great Reds).

As a student of the University of New England Armidale (distance learning), I’m a big fan of their Deer Park which features a very large enclosure ( a good-sized hill) for deers and kangaroos. From my intermittent observation of them in the past, they seem to swap territories during the day. Sometimes the deer come to the fence near the carpark, alternating later in the day with the kangaroos. I note that their activity is concentrated at dawn and dusk, with resting in the midday sun.

I can’t recall exactly if I’ve copied kangaroo skeletons in the Australian Museum; I need to go back. Also I have relied on the Szunyoghy animal anatomy book in the past, but of course The Kangaroo is not one of his animals studied in detail.

References

The Roo Gully Diaries. 158mins. www.abcshop.com.au

Anatomy Drawing School: human, animal, comparative anatomy. Drawings by Andras Szunyoghy; text by Gyorgy Feher. Cologne, Konemann, 1996.

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