"Being an artist isn’t just a “right brain” activity---you must use ALL of your brain, body and spirit to create. When the creation is done, the whole is much more than the sum of its parts… and so is the creator." - Lyrae Perry

Is that a Duck Billed Platypus In Your Bucket List?

Do you remember the SRA reading lab modules in elementary school?

SRA was a series of learning tools for reading, writing, arithmetic, social studies and science.  I was introduced to the SRA reading series in the 4th grade if memory serves, and in many ways, that learning tool changed my life.  I loved reading all the nature and science modules, and ripped through them as quickly as possible.  Those little card booklets transported me all over the world, to learn about geology, ecology, topography, animals and plants.  I learned things about microscopic worlds, the oceans and images captured by the farthest-reaching telescopes.  The SRA series more than anything else whetted my appetite for learning about the world around us, and I fell in love with nature.

SRA reading-lab-1a

One of the stories in SRA was about the duck billed platypus from Australia.  The first European scientists to see them thought the animals were a joke—that someone stitched a duck’s bill onto the body of a small beaver.  No one could believe that there could be an aquatic egg-laying mammal that looked like that for real.  After reading about the myth and truth about this little animal, I was hooked on the idea that I just HAD to go to Australia and see them for myself.  The more I learned about Australia, the more I wanted to visit that magical place that not only had platypus, but cockatoos, kangaroos, and Koalas too.  (More on the platypus later…)

Today, we have a name for that highly desirable experience…we now call it a ”bucket list” item.

Australia is on just about everyone’s bucket list…and for good reason.  It’s the exotic destination and vacation spot that has something for everyone’s taste.  Australia is a country roughly the size of the US and every bit as diverse in climate, topography, and culture.  It’s a super destination for Americans in particular because the Australians speak English, the food is great, there are few disease problems requiring vaccinations, and the Aussies actually LIKE Americans.  Aussies are fun loving, always up for adventure, good sense of humor and they are wonderful about taking care of their tourists.

My first trip to Australia was in 2001 and I stayed a month and traveled all over the tropical North of Queensland—by myself—and I had a blast!  Being there for an extended period of time, and having Aussie friends makes a huge difference in the quality of your vacation experience.  This is because you learn about places the US tour companies don’t usually know or talk about, and you get insider tips on food and getting around.  Because of my friends, my experiences in Australia were rich and enjoyable beyond the typical vacation, and I’ve always wanted to share that with my US friends and family.

My deepest connection with Australia is because of my life-long involvement with exotic birds.  My Aussie friends are also aviculturists –and because of this, Australia really is in my comfort zone for travel, and the first Paint Excursions, Inc. trip choice.

 What’s great about this destination…

As a wildlife or landscape painter, Australia is one of the best places on the planet to visit. One two-week trip will provide you with enough painting material and inspiration for years.  And your memories will last a lifetime.

Warning:  The downside to a trip like this is that your friends and family will probably be sick of hearing you talk about your adventures and how beautiful everything was—so prepare yourself, or take them along!

Back to my Platypus story…

There aren’t many places you can go see a real live duck billed platypus.


Dist Platypus_(Ornithorhynchus_anatinus)

The natural range of the platypus in is shown in red, and the areas where it has been introduced are in yellow.

Wild ones can be found in the Atherton Tablelands, but you’d be extremely lucky to see one.  The platypuses are small, brown and live in fresh water that’s often moving.   They swim really fast, they’re shy and hide in and around brown rocks where they  just disappear!  Even if you did find one, you’d better think twice about trying to catch it.  The males defend themselves with spurs on their back feet and they can inject a venom that’s quite painful if they are angry or frightened.


On my first trip to Australia, my friend Sue Williamson took me to a small local zoo near their home that had a young male in a display tank.  When we got there, I was told by the attendants it was not likely that I’d even get to see the platypus.

Undaunted, I went down the stairs to the underground viewing grotto by myself and sure enough, the tank looked empty.  I stood in front of the glass for a minute, peering into the dark corners of the tank and hoped to see the little guy. All of a sudden he popped into the water from the top and started swimming around the whole tank at a very fast pace, flipping over and around and digging in the bottom gravel.  He was pushing his bill into the corners between the rocks and all along the bottom looking for food morsels.  He put on an exclusive show just for me for a full 45 minutes!  This was absolutely the coolest thing ever and they are so danged cute.  Even the keepers were surprised when I told them about my experience, as they had not seen him actively swimming for weeks.

Watching a living platypus doin’ his thing was definitely a Bucket List-PLUS encounter for me. I got to fulfill a dream I’ve carried with me since childhood, and it made me feel young again…and that’s just one of thousands of reasons why Australia is such a magical destination.


More about the Paint Excursions, Inc. Australia trip…

The trip to Australia will be in May 2015—trip details and dates to be announced.

There are many reasons for going to Australia during this month.  For one thing the airfare from the US to Queensland is the least expensive as this is their autumn, and all the local kids are back in school.  Most of the tourists have gone home and hotel rates and room options are better—less crowds means a better experience for our group.  The weather is cooler, but not yet into the rainy season and best of all, the box jellies are not a problem in the ocean that time of year.  We’ll all have complimentary “stinger suits” on, but they are just an additional precaution.  I didn’t wear any stinger suit on my trip to the Great Barrier Reef on the first visit and there were no jellies in the water to bother us…so this is not a huge concern.

The trip is limited to the first 12 participants only. 

I want everyone to have a premium experience and NOT feel they are part of a cattle herd.  If you want or need help with photography or plein air painting, you’ll get the best and most personal attention from the instructors.  Keeping the group small and intimate is an important component for the Paint Excursions, Inc. trips.  As a small group, we’ll have better opportunities to see and do things that a larger group would not be able to do.  If we have time for extra excursions, we’ll be able to do that easily.

Our group will be painting both on location and in a classroom.   You’ll get valuable critiques from world-class instructors to help push your art and photo skills  to the next level.  Every excursion session will be different because we will be traveling and working in a dynamic environment.  For example, if it rains, we’ll move inside for painting until the storm passes.  Or if something special and magical happens, we may choose to stay longer to savor and enjoy the experience.

This trip will not be overly strenuous, and there will be plenty of activities for every level of interest and experience, however there may be significant walking at times, and in some cases there may be some hiking and swimming.   You’ll want to dress appropriately and comfortably.  I’ll be sharing tips on what to pack later on.  For the most part, you’ll want casual clothes and something a little dressier  for our farewell dinner.

We’re taking a catamaran to the Great Barrier Reef and will spend the day snorkeling— and scuba diving is an option.  A lovely and large buffet lunch will be served on the catamaran.  This will not be a painting day, but you may want to do some photography.  If you have the underwater equipment, you’ll get some spectacular photos.  If you want to bring the inexpensive waterproof cameras, they do a pretty good job too.

We’ll travel by train to the top of the Daintree rainforest, visit the beautiful little town at the top of the mountain, see the shops and butterfly encounter before traveling down on a sky rail. The view is spectacular with huge trees of planet earth’s  “mother rainforest”  beneath us, and giant waterfalls in the distance.   Our sky rail stops at two points on the trip down the mountain where you can get off and walk around in the rainforest itself.  We may do some painting there.   On the final leg of the skyrail trip you’ll enjoy a panoramic view of the ocean, gorgeous sunset sky, miles of uncluttered white beaches and a unique view of the Great Barrier Reef.  The day won’t end there—more on this later!

There are so many wonderful places we’re going to see and enjoy on this trip. I can hardly wait to share all the details with you…stay tuned!  If this is a trip you want to be a part of, send me a personal email.  I will put you on the list.  I’ll be posting trip costs and dates very soon.

Is Australia is on your bucket list?   I urge you to follow your dream and inspiration. It’s totally worth the time and money.  You just have to see and experience this place for yourself!


Too cute for words!

Thank you to the photographers who took these pictures for sharing!


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