Colours

An aurora overhead and the wind turbine at Mawson station.
An aurora behind the wind turbine at Mawson. (Photo: Chris Wilson)
Painting 'Baying at the morn' - artwork of husky in Antarctic scene

In its own way, Antarctica is as colourful as anywhere on earth. Students will discover a vast range of colours that contradicts the stereotypical Antarctic white.

Jade icebergs, brilliant pink and orange sunsets, brown rocks, deep blue crevasses and subtle shades of blue amongst ice cliffs give the Antarctic many colours. A stunning source of colour in Antartica are the auroras.

The following are observations by two prominent Australian artists who travelled to Antarctica with the Australian Antarctic Division Arts Fellowship.

I think it's a lot more colourful place than I had imagined it. People used to crack jokes about it, saying "take plenty of titanium and flake white with you", that sort of stuff. But it's not that at all. There are fantastic colours and contrasts… Actually one of the difficulties I had was trying to get the colours not to look so tropical. But as you painted it you'd say "well that colour is there, therefore I'm going to note that and try to work that in"…

- Melbourne artist Jan Senbergs

The Antarctic is a visual delight. It is so clear and uncluttered that it is difficult to get any sense of perspective or distance. The landscape overwhelms all. Even the wildlife seem visually insignificant. I had never seen so many colours and shades of blue. Green is almost non-existent.

The experience of going to the Antarctic was a great inspiration, especially for my work in stamp design. It was such a rare privilege, and an undoubted highlight in my career.

- Graphic designer Janet Boschen

  • After viewing videos, or browsing pictorial books or the Parliament House photographic exhibition Aurora: Extraordinary visions of Antarctica, students could create an Antarctic scene that explores the colours of Antarctica.
  • Go to the Scott Polar Research Institute's site to see Edward Wilson's watercolours which were painted on Scott's Discovery and Terra Nova expeditions.
  • Students can attempt to create 20 different shades of blue either with paints or by using food colouring and freezing the examples in ice cube trays. Ask them to then come up with words to describe each of these 'blues'.
  • Students could create their own Antarctic palette by collecting paint strips from a hardware shop, selecting those that seem to be 'Antarctic colours' and then naming each of them with an appropriate Antarctic name eg. glacial blue, midwinter pink… They could also create a sub-Antarctic colour palette (lots of greens and greys) after examining images of Macquarie Island.
This page was last modified on July 1, 2014.