Using Natural Materials in Artwork

By |2020-06-09T09:22:10+00:00June 9th, 2020|Blog|

Violet’s original artworks are created using natural, recycled and/or sustainable materials. Her paper is made from recycled coffee cups to raise awareness about the 16 billion paper cups are used once and thrown away per year which means that 6.5 million trees have had to be cut down, 4 billion gallons of water used and enough energy to power 54,000 homes. She also uses charcoal created in her own fireplace.

For her coloured artworks she uses natural materials collected from the environment of her subjects, from betel nut to soil to yellow ginger. These organic materials create authentic, natural and environmentally friendly pieces of artwork.  Violet spends time with local villagers surrounding the national parks and wildlife areas to learn ancient methods of creating colours for dye.

Using live materials means embracing a state of change and evolution as the colours can change over time. By connecting us to the natural world, Violet wants to acknowledge that everything natural is in constant flux and celebrate the beauty in impermanence.

Original artworks must be taken extra special care of, they are not created with standard art materials but with materials that are alive and real. Therefore framing with protective glass and displaying out of direct sunlight is the kindest way to protect and enjoy the artwork.

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Turtles Nesting on Ras Al Jinz Beach, Oman

By |2019-11-22T11:48:21+00:00April 22nd, 2019|Blog|

During the long, silent and star-lit walk down to Ras al Jinz beach, the most easterly point of the Arabian peninsula, I felt the rumble from the waves pounding the shore reverberate through my body. Knowing this is a popular nesting place for the Green Sea Turtle, it was hard to imagine that a turtle can make it ashore under such hazardous conditions.

But the first hint to the surprising size of this prehistoric creature was when I saw the scale of the pits it makes to lay its eggs. Scattered across the beach and large enough for me to fall into, these craters can be up to 1 meter deep.

My first sight of a Green Sea turtle took me by such surprise. It took me a few seconds to process the vastness and solidity of the turtle, and then I was truly able to understand how it can weather the power of the waves. I had read many times the dimensions of this species in digits but nothing prepared me for the reality.

Part of the 3 hour long nesting process is the hatchlings dash to the sea. Tiny and delicate enough to tumble into the footprint made by our guide yet with an air of such determination that they almost feel credible and mighty. But the sound of the pounding waves close by, a consistent reminder of the drama that awaits them. My heart was in my mouth watching a new born scurry towards the water. And yet, when the time came, there was a normalcy and elegance to the way that the gentle post-break swell rolled up to greet the hatchling and sweep it away to its fate and fight against the unbearably low odds.

Surrounded by a crowd of more than 60 tourists, the air filled with the sense of the ‘me-first’ crowd mania, I was waiting to dislike the experience of watching green sea turtles nesting on the beach at Ras al Jinz Turtle Reserve. And I was chomping at the bit even more to dislike humankind for their ability to disrespect nature. But on numerous occasions I felt tears prick my eyes as I was shown how mankind inherently respects the natural environment. Our guides broke us into small groups and gave us clear instructions on how be respectful to the turtles. And to my surprise everyone remained silent, including small children, for the full two hours. There was not a peep from anyone while the search for a turtle went on for longer than anticipated – somehow understanding that nature doesn’t provide on demand. Something about this group respect for these prehistoric creatures made me feel emotional. It was like we were silently joining together in a connection to something deep and, possibly, something primal. Humans and wildlife can live together harmony with the right set up and education.

Am I getting up at 4am for the morning tour? Absolutely yes!

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A Portrait of Wild Oman

By |2019-11-22T11:48:08+00:00January 22nd, 2019|Blog|

A Portrait of Wild Oman

I had long dreamed of filling my days with the things that bring my soul to life: wildlife, art and travel. Following a bout of Lyme’s disease three years ago, I decided that the time had come to blend these three passions in a way that support the things I love so dearly.

So off I travelled in the name of conservation; putting charcoal to paper to capture nature’s most delicate creatures in places that constantly leave me galvanised.

When I was asked to visit Oman and create artworks to support the Environment Society of Oman, My mind instantly and excitedly raced with a kaleidoscope of imagery depicting the people, landscape and wildlife I believed were set to greet me.

And I wasn’t to be disappointed. From the moment I set down in the kind and remarkable nation, I found that something different was waiting for me at every turn. It was an artist’s dream; where inspiration followed you constantly and morphed into many forms. Each one even more distinct than the next.

Oman’s wildlife is celebrated yet endangered – and I was determined to honour it. My exploration took me to Jabal Samhan Nature Reserve and the home of the Arabian tahr, wolves, hyenas and the Nubian ibex.

I instantly became immersed in the landscape. As I travelled over the vast jabals and through the deep wadis, I continually kept watch for signs of life. Above all, I longed to catch a glimpse of the Arabian leopard – a cunning yet shy prowler of Dhofar’s mountain ranges. My hands always at the ready to seize my camera and goosebumps rousing my skin when I thought I saw one’s slender body shifting across the horizon. 

Next, we made our way to a steaming and rancid dump outside of Salalah. While not the most glamorous of locations, the area attracts an aerie of endangered steppe eagles. These incredible aviators – with wingspans of over 200 cm – were being tagged and tracked by researcher Mike McGrady and his team. To be able to get so close to them and to look into their focussed eyes – helped me study more than just their form. I suspected a warm nature was hidden beneath the angular, piercing aesthetics – and one we must protect fiercely.

I didn’t get long enough with the eagles; and I’m surprised to say that it was hard to leave the dump. But I was urged onto Rakhyut – a sleepy fishing village, where beautiful white cliffs sharply crash into deep-blue water.

The scenery was simply spectacular. However, out at sea, I could sense there was more to be discovered. There are many tales of encounters with dolphins, nesting sea turtles and the unique, non-migratory Arabian Sea humpback whales.

One of the most cherished parts of what I do is learning local traditions of making natural dye. I was introduced to a wonderful Jabali woman who used indigo dye to make frankincense incense pots. The dye is also used to colour the mask she is wearing – something all Bedouin women do. The mask didn’t stop us from communicating and I eagerly soaked up all the knowledge she had to offer. Considering the obvious limitations, we connected with such ease; sharing stories and articulating our experiences as both people and women.

As I left, she passed me a brick of indigo that was delicately wrapped for my travels. We shared warm wishes and I wandered away with early visions of my artwork streaked with this beautiful colour – another addition to the wondrous list of inspirations and life-long memories I had taken from Oman.

[footnote to article]

The Omani Wildlife exhibition will be held at the Ministry of Heritage and Culture’s Sayyid Faisal Bin Ali’s Museum adjoining the Natural History Museum in Muscat during the first two weeks of November. A percentage of proceeds will be going to the Environment Society of Oman.

Article written by Violet Astor for Steppes Travel Magazine

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Learning to create traditional natural paints with the Korafe Clan, Papua New Guinea

By |2019-11-22T21:36:33+00:00March 22nd, 2018|Blog|

‘Tapa’ is the name of traditional Papua New Guinean clothing made from beaten bark and painted with root juice.

I spend a few days in the Oro Province with local tribes learning their traditional techniques to create colour from the natural environment. The method is unique to an area along the north coast of Papua New Guinea, where each local clan has their own identifying design.


1/3 MULBERRY TREE BARK: repeatedly beaten and dried to become cloth

2/3 BLACK NATURAL PAINT: mix crushed soil and leaves from a wild creeping plant and a drop of water in a bowl made from coconut. Stir and paint using a twig from the palm tree.

3/3 RED NATURAL PAINT: boil bark from the foghae tree and a leaf from the yafuyafu tree in water for 1 hour until the colour is released. Paint on cloth using a pandanus tree nut.

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