This is Sue!
Today, I've have found my way to art and illustration, combining my passion for the sea, and reigniting a dedication to animal protection, conservation and environment. I strive to help people discover Australia's most fascinating native animals from land, sea and sky through my art, and it's just one way I am working toward connecting communities so we can, together, ensure their survival, for future generations.
My illustration story
As a self-taught illustrator, I have established a style drawing mainly with black ink, grey markers, and sometimes, grey ink. Although I adore colour, it seems that my critters prefer to be monochrome! When I've tried to draw simply, my characters challenge that, wanting to be seen in their glorious complexity and detail.
I hope my illustrations spark curiosity and a yearning to know more about who these animals are are, how they live and the challenges they face to survive.
This is certainly what has happened for me. Every character I draw is a precious creation. I fall into curious fascination with their faces, structures, textures and movements in the process of studying and drawing, trying to stay 'true' to them. Some of the more complex animals are created over days or weeks over a few 2-3 hour sessions.
I find it hard to pick a favourite from all my ‘children’.
I discovered quite by accident that I have a hidden drawing ability. There’s no doubt that I’m a creative soul, it’s just that drawing wasn’t one of my known abilities! I'm known more for being an author and painter. Since self-publishing my story, Accidental Aid Worker, I had struggled to get back into flow with creative work.
Determined to unjam the writers’/creative block, I had been trying for more than six months to exploring new interests. I was determined to find new ways to reignite and develop satisfying self-expression through creativity.
Accidental discovery of drawing abilities and 'having a go'.
On the last night in September 2019, I randomly picked up an old ‘Sharpie’ pen and sketched the half peeled banana in front of me. Next, I cut a lime cut in half and sketched that. The results were not half-bad, but they were also not very good. There was however, a spark of hope that the pen might be a key to locking potential.
And try I did. I 'fiddled with the lock', sketching objects around me, every day for two weeks. It was only when I started to look for more inspiration and meaningful subjects that something 'clicked' and the world opened up for me.
Inspiration in the sea
I am a scuba diver. I have been diving since I was 23 years old, mostly in tropical waters overseas. More recently, I've been diving regularly in Sydney waters, filming my experiences and making short movies. I was not photographing with any great purpose other than to share my experiences as films with my non-diving friends. Since 2016, I've made and shared 100 short clips on Youtube and Facebook, and my friends have been astounded at the variety and beauty of the exotic sea creatures encountered just off shore.
By sharing my experiences, I've already been educating them about what's happening in suburban waters, with many fascinating sea creatures having a new audience of admirers!
It was natural for me to start drawing from my own experiences, and I am lucky to have the opportunity to study creatures like Weedy Sea Dragons and Seahorses I encounter on my dives, particularly in Botany Bay, Sydney.
These first sea dragons were intricate, detailed and I was excited by what came out of my pen! I started obsessively studying and sketching these sea dragons for a few weeks, then turned to their South Australian cousins, the Leafy Sea Dragons, to compare. This is how Wildcard-Sue began, with a few Sea Dragon drawings and a burned-out rotator cuff (shoulder joint) in the process!
November-December 2019: Becoming Wildcard-Sue and awareness turns to land and sky animals as bushfires rage
Six weeks after picking up a pen, I had established Wildcard-Sue as a Redbubble online store (print on demand/drop shipping). I bought a few lovely tops with my Sea Dragon artwork on it, and along with a set of artist cards and other hand-made items, to sell at Christmas markets.
In the meantime, bushfires raged across Australia. Along with everyone the world over, I watched in helpless horror, grieving the shocking loss of our unique and precious wild animals their habitats. My curiosity quickly came to include land and sky wildlife, as I was hearing about many animals I did not know existed.
As fires raged through bush and urban places, I contributed by donating, collecting and connecting with communities to volunteer assistance, and was compelled to do more.
I sold Koala and Sea Dragon cards and candles at my market stall, raising $200 for a Koalas in Care in Taree. This was encouragement to keep working toward build a nature-focused business, integrating my art and being at service to the conservation community.
Photos, image references and naming characters
Where possible, I ask to draw from photos taken by people I know. I’m surrounded by incredible diving photographers, ecologists, researchers, citizen scientists and enthusiasts who share a fascination for native animals.
It makes these drawings original, unique and personal, meaningful.
Characters are named after the photographer or, we often name our ‘children’ together. Some special characters have been named to honour friends or to remember loved ones who have passed away. It’s a lovely way to acknowledge and keep them close to heart and mind.
Each illustration has a creation collage and a short character profile. I hope to build upon these stories for future books and educational resources.
April-September 2020: developing 'powers for good'
During months of Covid-19 restrictions, I've been focused on diving to study sea life, exploring land and sky animals, conceptualising this art business, and building community connections. Combining my passion for creativity and community really satisfies my spirit and renewed a direction for purpose-driven passion.
Conservation really needs creativity and communication, and I'm thrilled to be working with dedicated professionals, citizen scientists and like-minded creative businesses for the good of conservation.
5% of our profits will go to conservation projects, in addition to other awareness and fundraising efforts for conservation collaborators.
I've completed over 60 unique illustrations in 9 months. There are plenty more to come, the inspiration and need is endless.
Accidental Aid Worker
Sue is the author of Accidental Aid Worker. Find out more at www.accidentalaidworker.com.au