Speaking for those who can’t

By Lacee Froeschl

Standing up for what she believes in is easy for Buderim-based artist Veronica Spittles. But the way she shows it isn’t your regular social media post, public forum rant or inspirational speech – it starts with a slab of wood.

Using only a cheap soldering iron from Bunnings, Veronica harnesses the patterns and beauty of nature to create striking “burnt” drawings. As she gradually burns away thin layers of plywood or camphor laurel, yielding detailed shades and tones, she allows the physicality of her materials to lay bare the innate reality of wildlife and her love for conservation.

“Pyrography is the art of burning wood,” she says. “I grew up with this strong message of ‘speak for those who can’t speak’. I want to make a difference in the world and art has always been a fantastic way to make a stand and to make a message be heard, by letting it be seen.”

The link between pyrography and conservation transpired after Veronica’s music career came to an abrupt halt. While being stuck in a hospital and unable to move, she vowed to find another way to express her creativity and felt there was no better way to honour and continue her mother’s love of pyrography and blend it with her passion for helping the voiceless.

“I was a musician, and I collapsed,” she says. “They couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me for five years. My whole world changed overnight, and I couldn’t figure out what to do. My mum used to do pyrography… and once I started, I couldn’t stop. I just loved it so much. It made me feel so empowered, and it worked around my illness and gave me something that felt like I was contributing.”

Carefully pressing the soldering iron onto the camphor laurel, Veronica creates a beautiful possum drawing. Photo: Lacee-Ann Froeschl.

Her art offers a therapeutic sense of composure and adoration, connecting emotions through intricate details, crevasses and sub-realism. The many levels of subtle textures are layered by hand, sandpaper, lacquer and between 20 minutes to 30 hours of work, all of which goes towards making money for a worthy wildlife cause.

“The thing about wood burning is you can’t make a mistake because you can’t sand it back and the scar is still going to be there,” she says. “I think what I enjoy most about art is that you have something at the end of it… It’s a good way of changing people’s minds and I always make sure a percentage of profits goes to a wildlife conservation group.”

But her passion for wildlife didn’t come from just anywhere. After growing up watching and learning from one of the greatest nature and animal-lovers in Australia – Steve Irwin – Veronica became consumed by a spacious world of cute and fascinating creatures. Immersing herself in the culture of fauna for many years, Veronica quickly started to realise the extent of harm occurring, particularly with koalas in south-east Queensland.

“I’ve always been very passionate about wildlife,” she says. “And there isn’t enough being done to protect our natural environment. There are three koalas dying every week on the Sunshine Coast.”

Veronica warns the cuddly creatures will disappear from backyards within three years.

Veronica only uses pictures as references of colour – the drawings are completely free-handed. Photo: Lacee-Ann Froeschl.

Now working as a receptionist at Wildlife HQ and partnering with Koala Crusaders and Wildlife Rescue Sunshine Coast, Veronica instils a life of care and respect. But it is still her lines and colours that showcase the conflicts of the twenty-first century and the wild.

While she has already found the perfect medium to demonstrate her passion, she is preparing to open a gallery at The Greenhouse in Buderim dedicated to the parade of inspiring art and donate a portion of proceeds into local wildlife causes.

“[I was given the chance] to organise the Greenhouse Gallery,” she says. “It’s going to be a coffee shop and gallery for local Australian artists to display their work and raise money for conservation. We’re also trying to organise schools to come through… The kids are the ones who are going to save us.”

With a bit of luck, the exhibition will launch in September this year.

“I love what I do because it makes a difference,” she says. “It’s a visual representation of what we need. It’s a way of raising money to create a change. I have the perfect set up to get a message across; it’s not like a little blog. It’s saying: ‘Look at this. Isn’t it beautiful? Don’t you want it?”

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