Our Guest Speaker for the KAS April 2017 meeting was Geraldine (Geri) Simmons
Thank you Geraldine for a very informative evening on the art of scratch boarding.
Geraldine started drawing at a very early age whilst sitting on her father’s knee. However,
when she left school, instead of attending art school, she chose a different career path and it
was only whilst recovering from a very bad cycling accident that she took up drawing again.
Geraldine has a great love of all animals, so it was natural for her to combine both loves and
join the Artists for Conservation which is the world’s top Conservation Art group. She has
witnessed Orang-utans in the wild and was surprised when one of the Orangutans took her
hand and looked very carefully at it.
Artists are able to use any sharp instrument to scratch the surface of the scratchboard
however, Geraldine prefers to use various sized Exacto knives, No 11 is the one she uses the
most, as it has a surgical blade and is very sharp, she uses steel wool for the wispy hair at the
side of the Animal’s face. Fibreglass pens are excellent for curly hair on koalas.
Ampersand boards come in a range of sizes, and are produced in America. They are made
with a Masonite base and a layer of clay covered with a final layer of black ink. The idea is to
scratch through the top black surface to reveal the clay beneath. If you make a mistake this
can be eliminated by using the special ampersand ink, don’t use India ink as it is too shiny. You
need to make sure the board is very dry before reworking the area. For adding colour to animal
eyes, use very watered down watercolour applied to the clay layer. All tools and fibreglass
brushes can be brought online at the Ugly Frog through EBay
Geraldine uses gloves with the fingers cut out to stop marks getting onto the board. She
advised us to keep our wrists relaxed.
Geraldine’s work was superb, and her feathers looked extremely realistic! Leonie Fisher
Geraldine Simmons has exhibited both nationally and internationally receiving many invitations to donate her works to well-known animal conservation groups such as Humane Society International, Sea Shepherd and Borneo Orangutan Society. Gaining signature membership to Artists For Conservation was one of her proudest achievements along with being the recipient of the 2010 AFC Conservation Artist Award for May of that year.
Some of her most notable local exhibitions include the Kenneth Jack Memorial Drawing Award, Warringah Art Prize and the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize. International exhibitions include the International Society of Scratchboard Artists annual juried show,Golden Turtle International Wildlife Art Festival, Moscow, Russia and the Art of Conservation International Exhibit of Nature.
The Artists for Conservation’s annual exhibit is the world’s top conservation-themed art show and Geraldine has had her artwork selected four times along with the companion hardcover coffee table book.
Geraldine is a member of Australian Guild of Realist Artists and International Society of Scratchboard Artists and has won a number of awards for her realistic wildlife portraits.
For the first 8 years of her life Geraldine lived in London, England and settled in Australia in 1968. As a child of parents who worked in the performing arts this led to spending many weeks and months away from home in boarding school, yet the two activities that made her feel more ‘at home’ and made her heart sing was drawing and riding her bike.
Time spent alone riding her bike inspired her love of nature and deep appreciation for all living things. At any opportunity and with wonder she would study things that caught her eye such as the unique patterns and texture of a tree trunk, the way the light shone through the leaves or the soft, velvety feel of a flower petal. These experiences helped enhance and develop her observational skills as well as the patience required to create detailed works for art.
Over time Geraldine’s love of drawing has evolved into the detailed real-life portraits of wildlife that she draws today in either mixed media or scratchboard. These mediums enable her to capture the true nature and essence that bring each animal to life. Through paying close attention to the eyes her mission is to communicate that animals are innocent, loving and sentient beings just like us.
In 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016 Geraldine’s artwork was selected for the virtual exhibit and companion hard cover book for the Art of Conservation- An International Exhibit of Nature in Art in conjunction with AFC annual festival in Vancouver, Canada.
AFC selects an artist each month for artistic excellence and extraordinary dedication to conservation. In 2010 Geraldine was awarded the AFC Conservation Artist Award for May.
Working from her home studio on Sydney’s northern beaches and living with her husband and two children, Geraldine feels so honored and blessed to share her art with others and make a difference for wildlife.