Thea Keatley - Ferny Forest Art

The Keatley family came to Australia from Switzerland about three years ago. Coming from a land-locked country, it should come as no surprise that the family loves Marine National Parks, with Noosa being a top favourite. Thea loves sunsets and the relaxing sound of waves as well as water-based activities. In fact, the family had just come back from kayaking in the waterways of the Sunshine Coast when Thea was interviewed. She particularly loves marine animals like whales, dolphins and turtles and has been to Hervey Bay for whale watching, being treated to seeing whales leap from the water as they breached. At Tin Can Bay, the dolphins came right up to them, though there are some rules about how to behave when these dolphins come in from deeper waters. These include not having the flash operate on a camera, and keeping phones set on silent mode. Technology and nature don’t always mix well, after all.

Thea and her family (parents and sister Arielle) have been visitors to Ferny Forest which was recently the subject of protests against logging of natural growth forests, some up to 600 years old, for power poles and landscaping logs. The locals banded together and successfully protected the blackbutt, white stringy barks, flooded gums, and grey gums that, among others, would have been felled had people like Thea and her family not spoken out loud and clear. It now remains prime koala habitat and home to 190 plant and 53 animal species that are listed as threatened.

In non-coastal National Parks or protected areas, Thea enjoys the birdlife and often draws birds imaginatively, creating her own artistic versions that are not true to life, but which capture the quality and nature of what it means to be a bird. One of these is a little like an Eastern Yellow Robin, the bird that featured in her entry for the QCC Art Competition in 2022. She loves their plump fluffiness. Unlike many other artists, however, it was not the bird that was the main subject of her painting – it was the forest itself. She loves the texture and shape of the forest itself. Walking in the forest, known more aesthetically as forest bathing, is a marvellous way to be rid of stress from school or work. The day the family walked in the forest until they found a lovely place to sit on a picnic blanket was also the first time that Thea saw an Eastern Yellow Robin and she fell in love with its cheeky curiosity and lively movements. Her art reminds people that birds cannot survive if their habitat is logged, or cleared for the beef industry, and Thea’s focus on the importance of forests is an important recognition of the relationship that must exist between creature and country.