Creating a bark painting is an intricate process, and has many stages. Here we explain the process from start to finish. The bark used for bark paintings are from the stringy bark tree (Eucalyptus tetrodonta). It is important that the bark is knot free without splits or termite damage. Which has to be removed from the tree between wet and middle of dry season. The painter cuts through the bark and tears off a rectangular piece. Once removed, the bark is rough and curled in the shape of the tree. One of the first steps is to make this smooth and flattened.
The artist cuts off the outer layer with an axe. Then they scrape it until it is smooth. Next they place the bark on the flames of a fire. This fire becomes the correct temperature by adjusting the twigs and leaves. The bark then uncurls. And most of the moisture is absorbed. This makes the bark slowly unbend. For several days the bark is weighten down. On either end of the bark sticks are bound with hand-spun local string. This minimises warping. And the painting can then begin.
The bark painters of Arnhem Land work from a limited palette. As a result a bark painting rarely consists of more than the 4 basic colours: red, black, yellow and white. The primary colours can mix to create other colours; pink, orange or grey. Red and yellows come from a variety of ochres including hematite, ironstone and limonite. White is generally gypsum or pipeclay. Whereas black is charcoal or manganese ore. The pigments are ground finely and mixed with water and vegetable fixatives. The most common natural fixative is the gum or resin from various local trees however, the artists more often use a commercial glue.
Ultimately, a bark painting is a unique piece of art. Due to the countless processes that each artist does in their own way. To explore our range of bark paintings click here