Campus Wildscapes

Colouring books aren’t just for kids, as Stephanie Holm shares the wild influences behind her PhD and new book.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the mozzies around campus. You may have even spotted Sunny the Tree Snake basking on the bridge to Shortland. Callaghan Campus is home to a wide variety of native flora and fauna, including birds and other, less vicious, insects. But did you know that there are different habitats on campus: wetlands, dry and wet sclerophyll forest, even rainforest?

I’ve always been fascinated by the natural world. When I was a child I loved playing outdoors; climbing the Banksia tree in the front garden of my Grandparent’s house, swimming at the beach, searching for crabs along the lake’s edge and collecting abandoned cicada shells.

As well as camping, I also liked reading and colouring in. The patterned Aussie animals in Louisa Eddleston’s Arty Animal Outlines were a favourite. These interests stayed with me as I grew. I began to draw and colour my own work, swapping pencils for watercolours, eventually making my way to the University of Newcastle to study its unique Bachelor of Natural History Illustration.

In the degree I studied both field and studio courses. The field courses involved observing animals in their natural habitats. In the studio I learnt different illustration techniques from stippling to scientific drawing. I’m still learning new techniques, and learning about different plants and animals – I don’t think I’ll ever stop.

Hence, I’m sticking around to do a PhD. My practice-based PhD involves illustrating the campus bushland. I undertake fieldwork to gather information about the species on campus, observing their habits and using this to compose my illustrations. The completed works will be digitised to provide a visual resource, encouraging species identification.

My aim in illustrating is for the work to be engaging, and raise awareness of our fantastic fauna and flora. This desire has led to the creation of a new project; perhaps you’ve noticed the recent explosion of colouring books? Wildscapes: An Australian art therapy colouring book is my version.

In Wildscapes I’ve made an Aussie animal colouring book I would have loved to colour as a child, with detail, hidden elements and interesting scenes. Wildscapes features realistically illustrated Australian animals in their habitats, along with pretty patterns. Inside, you might discover your favourite Aussie animals, such as koalas, bilbies and cockatoos. With so many unique and interesting animals in Australia, it was very difficult to narrow down my choice of animals for inclusion in the book! In the end it came down to those I knew the most about, so NSW East Coast species feature predominantly. Some of the animals I observed on campus have even found their way onto its pages, like the nesting grey fantails.

I’ve included one of my illustrations for you to colour in yourself – a Willie Wagtail I spotted by the wetlands on campus. Click the pic at the end for a full-size version you can download or print. If you’d like colouring tips and techniques I’m posting a series of colouring examples on my Instagram @bystephanieholm, plus my Facebook is here.

Finally, if you enjoy colouring this page and want more, Wildscapes is available now at the Co-Op bookstore on Callaghan campus, or you can order it here.

Willie wagtail colouring by S.Holm