Brilliant artist Wendy Jennings (pictured right) has seen the landscape in real life. She was a medical technologist working with a brilliant team representing University of Adelaide on auto immune deficiency – before it progressed to AIDS. It was virtually frontier days in the late 60s, until a move to pathology for seven years saw her working with surgeons and accepting the realisation our human bodies were merely machines that wore out with age. “So treat your body well,” she says. Wendy left her medical work behind when her husband Paul took on an amazing job as a ranger in the then newly created Danggali Consevation Park, two hours and 15 gates in thick mallee and black oak country between Broken Hill and Renmark. This was a frontier of a different kind; 26km to the nearest human – another ranger – and no telephone or electricity. For six years it was just Wendy and Paul, and for most part just her, a Blue Heeler named Nora and two chooks as Paul scoured the 253,000 hectare park. “I needed to become a surrogate park person to help Paul in some tasks,” Wendy said. “I learnt to do all sorts of things.” They were days when images of rare flora and fauna that had never been previously recorded were captured on slides and it was a turnaround of five or six weeks by the time they dropped the roll of film off, and collected it at a Renmark chemist. And at times when the photos didn’t turn out, the flowers and magnificent little creates like hopping mice had long vanished into the amazing sunsets. Wendy, who had dabbled ever so slightly in art years earlier, thought she would sketch them as a back-up. It coincided with the Renmark TAFE acquiring the local Ozone theatre and turning it into an art and craft centre; it heard about Wendy’s sketches and called upon her to launch the first art exhibition. “It was November and I was told I needed to have 20 paintings for the show by February,” Wendy recalled. Of course, she more than met the target, selling 26 paintings with another 23 on commission with a life of art emerging. This month Wendy and 491 other artists with their combined 1317 paintings of a wide variance of personal bests will make up the 36th annual Victor Harbor Rotary Art Show with local vehicle leader McIlroy Auto Group winning the naming rights. Since arriving in Victor Harbor in 2003 after 32 years on conservation parks across the state plus 16 of them with the NSW Parks Service, Wendy has entered our widely acclaimed art show, and each time has felt a wonderful sense of pride. Wendy said it had nothing to do with success, certainly not self-appraisal, but the simple fact the Victor Harbor Rotary Art Show was about artists of all levels of ability and each one of them should feel great about themselves because people would be looking at their work. “This art show would mean different things to different people, but to me it’s one of the few that little old ladies who might do only two paintings a year put their work into, children do too, and as do really good painters,” Wendy said. “It becomes a good sale for people who might want to buy something for $10, $100 or $10,000. It’s good because it encompasses all art. “I think it is lovely that there are a lot of older people here who do art for a hobby and put their one painting in for the year and sell it. It is about the pleasure of showing your work to other people. “As a competition, it is for serious art people, but that is a small part of the show. The rest is beautiful art, and the quality is just amazing. I hope people see this art and become inspired to unearth their own natural flair for art they may have yet to discover.” Wendy has earned acclaim having been awarded the coveted international Wendy Wickes Memorial Award for science communication in August. Incredibly, she painted a pictured of her hand, and superimposed Australian endangered wildlife. The name of her work was Their Life is in our Hands because she believes we are the ones who decide their fate; the quality of their habitat. The award attracts about 800 entries each year, but only two are chosen to enter two people’s choice awards. Wendy’s entry attracted a phenomenal record response of more than 6000 votes worldwide. Yet, for all this success, and other humbling moments of recognition along her adventurous life, Wendy has not lost that Danggali spirit that inspired her painting. Those days of loneliness are long gone, and with husband Paul, they look over parts of Victor Harbor in their lovely home that bears their journey with art pieces on the soft-toned walls. “My gallery is a reflection of my life experiences,” Wendy said. “To me, painting is great meditation. This wasn’t the reason why I started painting, but why I kept it up. “Painting allowed me to cope being alone for long hours at Danggali. The painting took that over, and I became oblivious to my loneliness. “It is still meditative. A Chinese artist that I brought out here told me that you need to be in a meditative state to paint well, and then your feelings will come through that painting. It is why I have concentrated on Australian animals; I like to tell a story about them.” Wendy, who is a member of the Wildlife Arts Society of Australasia, and a much in-demand art teacher for children and elderly, is still very much a person who cares for our wildlife. There was a day on the beaten Danggali track when she came across an injured wedge tail eagle. Magnificent creatures, they are. “In Danggali there were road kills or creatures that had died of heat stress, and because they were so beautiful I could not bear to see them just lay there and fade away,” Wendy said. So, from the early days here, Wendy called upon her medical technologist days when she learned to how to do taxidermy. She picked up this eagle and stuffed it so it would retain all of its splendour. Each day this eagle, and heaps of other wildlife that met a similar cruel fate on the road to the great black oak country, look down on her as she brings Australian creatures to life through her painting. It shows with every brush stroke.