ahead of the storm

copyright megan spiers

Magpie Geese (Anseranas semipalmata)

copyright megan spiers
Ahead of the Storm
oil on canvas, size 91 cm x 61 cm
SOLD – private collection, darwin, northern territory


I drafted this painting after several mornings hunkered down in long reeds at the edge of Woodford’s Lagoon near Darwin.

In the late Dry, this is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Many bird species start cramming into the last remaining water, jostling for space as the lagoon shrinks. Binoculars in hand, I watched the flocks of Magpie Geese gathering, keeping one eye on the water for saltwater crocodiles.

Some paintings take a long time to crystallise in the mind’s eye. Not this one. I sketched the geese onto the canvas first, then painted the cloudscape and reworked the bird positions until the balance felt right.

Clouds dominate here. Usually, I place landscapes in the lower third with clear sky or scattered clouds in the upper third. Oils are so responsive and colours so rich that it’s a pleasure to coax such an elusive subject to life. I liked this cloudscape so much that I nearly didn’t paint in the geese.

In the north, everything is influenced by the seasons. When the monsoon arrives, the sky fills with V-shaped patterns of Magpie Geese spreading out over the floodplains. Viewers of this painting say they can actually hear the geese and feel the rising wind as if experiencing the approaching storm.

I think perceived sensory immersion may be a big part of why the painting resonates with those who see it.

artist’s process

  • once the cloudscape is finished, I sketch the geese in burnt umber, reworking the composition until it balances
  • tonal values are blocked in and all proportions checked before I swap large filberts for finer brushes to work the detail
copyright megan spiers
artist at work – it’s painstaking, definitely not glamorous, yet very rewarding to see art come to life