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Doug Beckers at ArtworkWelcome to DougBeckersArtist.com where you can see it is possible to create terrific artworks using very simple techniques that will give you a lifetime of enjoyment on your walls, or the walls of your friends or clients.

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Recent Posts

How a Nora Nungabar painting opened my mind – a convergence of interests

Caution: This website includes images and names of deceased people that may cause distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Nora Nungabar

Nora Nungabar. Copyright Tobias Titz

I am convinced I was meant to become the owner, or maybe more correctly, the custodian, of a fantastic artwork by Martumilli ArtistNora Nungabar a Martu woman from Western Australia. Nora's country is in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia within the transition from the Great Sandy Desert to the Gibson desert. The painting depicts the living water (represented by the blue circles), the parallel sand-dunes which includes a ceremonial site, in and around the area with the burgundy line. A fire has recently passed through the lower section of the sand-dunes, and through the rest of the landscape at various times.

I assume the yellow circles depict spinifex grass circles which are very characteristic of the vegetation of the Pilbara Region.

Spinifex Circles

Spinifex Circles, courtesy Andrew Matthews, Flickr

I've always had a deep interest in the fire ecology of the Australian bush and how fire can be used as a tool to manage biodiversity. The way the paintings of Nora Nungabar, and her fellow artists, depict their traditional homelands provides a link between culture, art and the environment is truly remarkable. Nora was an elder in her community that practiced traditional land management, including burning, when she was in her early nineties. The land management of the Martu people has been studied by researchers from Stanford University who found that hunting with fire appears to benefit Australia's small-mammal populations, and hunting and burning increase Australia's desert biodiversity. The researchers were also able to quantify the benefits of Aboriginal Land Management to the Western Australian economy.

Nora Nungabar – ‘Pirrdari’

According to Martumili.com; "The Martu are the traditional owners of a vast area of the Great Sandy, Little Sandy and Gibson Deserts. Their country stretches from the Percival Lakes in the north, to Lake Disappointment in the south, and runs east, across the Canning Stock Route to the WA/NT border. Many Martu people ceased living a Pujiman (entirely traditional, desert) life only in the 1950s and 1960s. After spending some years on missions and stations, most Martu are now based in remote desert communities and regularly visit regional centres such as Newman and Port Hedland. The Martu are one people, encompassing Manyjilyjarra, Kartujarra, Putijarra and Warnman language speakers."

Approximate location of the Martu Lands in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia

Approximate location of the Martu Lands in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia

Nora Nungabar was born in c1920 near Lipuru, which is near Well 37 along the Canning Stock Route. Her language was Manyjilyjarra, (part of the Nyangumarta language group) and she did not have contact with Europeans until the 1960's. Nora's skin group was Karimarra, and she could only marry a man whose skin group was Panaka, and their children's skin group are Milangka.

Nora Nungabar was of the XX language group.

Nora Nungabar was of the Manyjilyjarra language. Image courtesy Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre

Taking a look at satellite images of the Pilbara landscape, it is not hard to see where these artists got their inspiration, the images show parallel lines of sand dunes covered in spinifex grass.

Satellite image of parrell sand dunes covered in spinifex grass in the Pilbara

Satellite image of parallel sand dunes covered in spinifex grass in the Pilbara. Note the scale bar.

Martu artworks typically show landscapes as shown from above. Very different to traditional European landscape paintings that typically show landscapes from the side rather than above, such as "A Field of Poppies" by Claude Monet.

A Field of Poppies - Claude Monet

A Field of Poppies - Claude Monet

Although Nora did individual artworks, she also collaborated with other artists to create fantastic paintings. I'd love to visit the area and do some paintings with some of these artists. What a thrill that would be!

Martumili Ngurra (2013) - Nora Wompi, Nora Nungabar and Bugai Whoyoulter.

Martumili Ngurra (2013) - Nora Wompi, Nora Nungabar and Bugai Whoyoulter.

Martumili Ngurra (2013), a work by Nora Wompi, Nora Nungabar and Bugai Whoyoulter, purchased by the Art Gallery of Western Australia, has been transformed into a Headsox design, a wonderful way to celebrate Australian artworks.

Martumili Ngurra (2013) used as a basis for a headsock.

Martumili Ngurra (2013) used as a basis for a headsock.

Bugai Whyoulter, Nora Nungabar, Nora Wompi

Bugai Whyoulter, Nora Nungabar, Nora Wompi. Image Copyright Tobias Titz

Nora's collaborationwith Nora Wompi, another wonderful artist and land manager was very special. They were best friends and painted together, sometimes collaboratively and sometimes sitting next to each other. They sang songs and told stories as they painted together.

Nora Nungabar and close friend Nora Wompi

Nora Nungabar and close friend Nora Wompi

Nora Nungabar passed away in September 2016, and I'm sure will be sadly missed by her community and the global art community as well. Vale Nora Nungabar.

Nora Nungabar 2012 - Image courtesy Araluen Arts Centre

Nora Nungabar 2012 - Image courtesy Araluen Arts Centre

Collaborative Artworks Are Fun

Everyone has some artistic ability which we tell visitors to our home when we ask them to help us create collaborative artworks just by adding some colour to an artwork in progress. We tell them that no matter what you do, what colour you choose, how much or how little you do, there is no […]

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Painting with browns – anything but common

This butterfly is known as a “common brown”, but browns are anything but common in this butterfly (Courtesy of John Tann, Flickr). At least 12 shades of brown, oranges and yellows occur and I’m sure I can find more. The earliest paintings were done with browns from natural ochre from the earth. The colours are […]

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Art, travel, recipes, yoga, bucket lists, lyrics. A journal for all occasions.

A journal covered in acrylic paints does not just have to be used for art doodling, although there are some very cool doodles that can be found while browsing the net. I had some ideas for a journal that I gifted to a friend recently, such as using it as a favourite recipes journal. Here is a […]

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Best storage for mixed acrylic paints

When creating new colours, if I am making quite a lot, I mix the colours in a small container that I can put a lid on, store the unused paint, and then use again later. The container selected needs to have a good seal so that no air can get in, and the container needs to […]

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Creating a personalised artist journal

When creating an acrylic painting, there is always some paint left over on the palette that can be put to good use rather than it drying out and being wasted, so why not use it to create a unique artist journal or notebook? It is easy to create a unique journal from leftover paint, it […]

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Men’s shed stuff, art or craft?

I initially did not ask my dad to make me an artist box, I was going to offer the opportunity to a year 12 Higher School Certificate high school student who made a fantastic table that I saw at The Lockup in Newcastle. However, my dad had just moved back to the Central Coast into

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Using guide marks to paint with acrylics

The painting technique I use, which I call “Strokalism” is a kind of impressionist like style that uses paint strokes to develop the artwork. Similar to the famous technique of Pointillism which uses paint dots to create an artwork, Strokalism uses

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Acrylic artworks, does size matter?

I’ve always wanted to do a large acrylic artwork, and now that I’m working on one that is 6 feet (180cm) by 4 feet (120cm), it has it’s own challenges. Learning how to paint with acrylics on a large canvas requires a decent easel to hold the artwork and I’ve been fortunate enough to

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Fifty shades of artist grey

I always thought the colour grey was just a mixture of black and white, however since I started painting I’ve realised that there are easily 50 shades of grey, and learning how to paint with acrylics using grey is essential. “Pure Greys” are indeed mixtures of white and black. The first greys used in artworks, […]

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