Helen’s paintings often have native birds as their subject. There is something intrinsically wild about Australian birds. To hear or glimpse a Blue-winged Kookaburra silences you and makes you freeze, not daring to move a muscle in case the special moment passes too quickly and the bird flaps its plumage and disappears.Each of Helen’s paintings carries with it a story, a collection of memories or moments saved on canvas.
Helen’s paintings often have native birds as their subject. There is something intrinsically wild about native birds. To hear or glimpse a Blue Winged Kookaburra silences you and makes you freeze, not daring to move a muscle in case the special moment passes too quickly and the bird flaps its plumage and disappears.Each of Helen’s paintings carries with it a story, a collection of memories or moments saved on canvas.
“The first time I heard the Blue Winged Kookaburra’s call was when I was camping in Northern Western Australia with my family.
The five of us (including my Dad, husband and two sons, aged 3 and 1 at the time) were travelling the 7000km round trip up to Arnhem Land from Geraldton in a Troopy to run some art workshops with the Djiplin Artists in Beswick.
One night while we were setting up our camp next to a crocodile infested river (the park manager assured me that although the river was only 100 metres away and the crocodiles were deadly, that none had ever actually crawled into the camp before – a somewhat mild relief!) we heard a strange bird call and wondered what it was.
I had only ever heard the more well-known Kookaburra’s famous laugh (these Eastern State birds are actually not native to Western Australia and are considered by some to be a nuisance as they prey on smaller native birds) however this call was very different.
It took us a while to realise it was a Blue-winged variety – native to Northern WA.
A few years later this was the inspiration behind this piece.”Helen Ansell
“Measuring around 40 cm, the Blue-winged Kookaburra is slightly smaller than the more familiar laughing kookaburra.
Its call is more abrasive than that of the laughing, and it ends rather abruptly.
Found in family groups of up to 12 individuals, it lives in open savannah woodland and Melaleuca swamps, as well as farmlands.
The Blue-winged Kookaburra hunts and eats a great variety of animals that live on or close to the ground; mainly insects, lizards and frogs but also crayfish, scorpions, spiders, fish, earthworms, small birds and rodents.”Don Miller
Both Helen and her father, Don Miller, have lived in indigenous communities in the remote Western Australian desert. An appreciation for the wild flowers and plants that grow out of the red earth runs through their veins.
So too, the native birds and wildlife that visit Western Australia are familiar as old friends to Helen and her father.
“Kookaburra is a loanword from Wiradjuri guuguubarra. Their scientific name is Dacelo leachii and they are land based kingfishers.
The blue-winged specie’s distribution is from southern New Guinea through the moister parts of northern Australia, to the vicinity of Brisbane in southern Queensland across the Top End, and as far down the Western Australian coast as the Shark Bay area. However, it does not occur between Broome and Port Hedland.“Don Miller
The Blue-Winged Kookaburra is now available for purchase as part of the Helen Ansell Fine Art Print Collection.