A series of Seagrass paintings

A video link to watch the seagrass installation

Seagrass Project for the World Science Festival in Gladstone, March 2017

“Collaboration between the arts and sciences has the potential to create new knowledge, ideas and processes beneficial to both fields. Artists and scientists approach creativity, exploration and research in different ways and from different perspectives; when working together they open up new ways of seeing, experiencing and interpreting the world around us” (Australian Network for Art and Technology, 2008, p. 1).

Original Funding Proposal: Helen Holden and Dr Linda Pfeiffer from CQUniversity.

Concept Design: Margaret Worthington, artist, designer and Dr Emma Jackson, Research Fellow, CQUniversity

Display: Aluminium sculptures of five subtropical seagrass species, one leading light and a light measuring beacon, photographs, paintings, video and drawing projections.

An Arts and Science Project originally funded by QGC featuring aluminium sculptures projected with images of the life in seagrass meadows, capturing the beauty of these plants.

This project has been developed through collaboration between marine biologist Dr Emma Jackson and artist Margaret Worthington. This project provides an artistic presentation of local science drawn from seagrass restoration research being conducted at CQUniversity Gladstone Marina campus. 

Seagrasses are truly unique and valuable marine habitats which greatly suffer from not only being out of sight out of mind but also being labelled the ugly cousin to coral reefs! Through collaboration between artist and ecologist, aluminium sculptures projected with images of the life in seagrass meadows capture the beauty of these plants, whilst sending messages about their taxonomy, ecology and benefit to humans.

An important part of conserving and restoring seagrass is overcoming apathy about these bizarre marine flowering plants. Experiencing science through art opens up new avenues for appreciating, exploring and interpreting these important habitats that provide us with fish; offset our carbon footprint; capture fine sediment that would damage the Great Barrier Reef and feed the turtles and dugongs we care about.

. Dr Emma Jackson is a seagrass ecologist with over 17 years of experience, and over 50 research papers and reports. Emma’s research currently focuses on future proofing seagrass habitats through meadow creation, restoration and enhancement.

Margaret Worthington is a Gladstone Region artist and a former CQUniversity staff member. Margaret’s work is displayed at many CQUniversity campuses, often with an environmental context. Clive Rouse is a skilled metal fabricator. He has used aluminium for this project due to its relevance to the large aluminium smelter and refinery within the Gladstone Region.

Margaret and Clive work from their Calliope studio as artist and fabricators and produce a range of work both for sale and for commissioned projects.

Seven sculptures were set up on clever cubes and using two projectors a 10 min loop at different intervals was projected over the sculpture creating an installation with images and sound.

Photo Images used are by William Debois, Photopia Studio and Bill Watson.

Report on my  second trip to Shetland

In July 2015 I was artist in residence at Sumburgh Heads Lighthouse and Visitors Centre. I really enjoyed this experience. On leaving I felt that I had only seen, painted and experienced a small part of Shetland and I was keen to explore more of the islands.

In July 2016 I returned as artist in residence at Bressay.

Bressay Island forms the eastern part of the Lerwick harbour. I hired a car for five days, loaded up with food and caught the roro ferry to Bressay. My accommodation was about 4 miles from the ferry and as you drive up and over the final hill there in front of you is the Bressay Lighthouse. The lighthouse is now automated and the lighthouse keepers accommodation has been newly converted into an artists studio and two self contained flats that may be rented.The artist flat is ideal for one or two people it is compact but well laid out, comfortable and cosy. The studio attached to the flat is large, airy and spacious with a high ceiling, a good size table, ample seating and good lighting, a really excellent space to work in.

The site of the lighthouse is wonderful and in good weather I would take my morning cup of coffee out on the deck and watch the ships and birds using the entrance into Lerwick harbour. The ever changing weather and light provided lots of photograph and painting opportunities.

I had brought some bird sketches with me and I was hoping to find a space in Bressay to display these. I was given the contact for the Bressay School Development Group (BSDG) who had taken over the use of the school. Moira a local crofter and BSDG member helped me hang my watercolours on the School Café walls. We also made plans to run a workshop at the school.

I spent my time exploring and painting. Bressay Lighthouse is not visited much and is ideal for introspection and work.

For the community workshop we chose a picturesque area in Bressay and explored the old ruins and the wildflowers with a botanist and a historian. We then went back to the school where the area was set out for me to take a basic drawing lesson and from there the participants learnt how to paint the wildflowers using watercolours.

To quote the tourist information‘Bressay has almost everything that Shetland can offer the visitor, a ten minute ferry ride whisks you from the bustling centre of Lerwick to another world. You will find seabird cliffs, quiet bays, hill and coastal walks, a dozen freshwater lochs and a profusion of archaeological and historical sites’. For me other highlights of Bressay were- I enjoyed the wildflowers, lots of variety and the best, I saw an otter catch and eat an eel, nesting Curlews and Red Shanks and Red Throated Divers on the lochs.

Noss is accessed by a dingy ride from the west side of Bressay. It is a National Nature Reserve and is one of the must do Shetland bird sites. At the peak of the breeding season around 20,000 Gannets breed in the steep cliffs. This is a full days outing and it is spectacular. You have a long walk around the edge of the island as Great Skuas, the locally well named Bonxies, nest in the centre and they dive you if you get too near their chicks. Puffins were on the top edges of the cliffs where the gannets were nesting and you could sit quietly and watch their antics. Love Puffins.

After my month on Bressay I had painted two sets of six watercolour panels, one about Bressay and the other about Noss. I work in watercolours on Arches paper. Each set is my experience of the place. Having a whole month to concentrate on painting is a gift and after visiting the Lerwick textile Museum I was inspired to cut patterns based on Fair Isle designs out of each of the panels. This gives the movement of the light and mists that I wanted to capture.

From Bressay I spent a week at Fetlar called the Garden Island by the tourist literature. Didn’t see much garden! It has a bird hide near a reedy area for viewing of the breeding Red Throated Phalarope. I spent a few hours at this site. There were lots of snipe drumming and visible in the sedge areas. Fetlar has picturesque coastal walks with seals following me, just offshore as I walked along the beaches.

From Fetlar I went north to Unst and shared a studio with a sculptor who lives at Muckle Flugga outstation. This is the old lighthouse accommodation for the lighthouse keeper’s families that has been converted to four separately owned flats and the Hermaness information centre. It is a fantastic site to stay at nestled inside a deep bay and near the beginning of the walk to the Hermaness National Nature reserve.

The cliffs at Hermaness, the other must do bird site in Shetland, are much like Noss but a far bigger area with more birds. A board walk over the peat bog landscape takes you to the cliffs and once the cliffs are reached a turn to the left takes you to the cliff areas with about 100,000 nesting gannets and other birds and to the right takes you to the view of the Muckle Flugga Lighthouse the most northerly point of the UK. I wanted to walk the circular route back to the boardwalk however nesting Bonxies were on guard duty. I like the description I read of a Bonxie, a bird of brawn and brain! I also managed to sink knee deep in a peat bog on my return luckily help was at hand and I was pulled out. This was quite scary and for a while I watched where I walked ever so carefully.

Hermaness is inspiring and I painted a set of four panels about my experience at Hermaness.

Returning South from Unst I spent a few days at Yell in a quaint converted The Post Office B&B, enjoying home cooking, watching the ferries crossing to Yell and Fetlar and relaxing as I had had done lots of walking and experienced some wild weather.

I stayed a few days on my return to Lerwick to explore locally. Once you understand the local transport and the ferry connections it is possible to cover most of Shetland by bus and there are lots of wonderful walks.

I took many photographs and kept a diary and I know by experience that what ever I see and do is stored within me so I have lots of material for future work. I am also hoping to set up a dialogue between Gladstone and Shetland where this will go is unlimited.

Will I go back next year? There is the possibility of another lighthouse is being converted into an artist studio and well, maybe if it is ready and I am invited….I didn’t even start to paint the wildflowers!

I love Shetland, the land, the people, the wildlife, the wild weather, the sea mists and the many moments of strange encounters where you move into a magical space and various threads that you have accumulated through life all connect.


Boyne Island Tannum Sands RSL Monuments design

This concept design has evolved after discussions with Jim Staats and Mike Robbins as to their visions for this foundation project acknowledging that this may be the first in a succession of military themed sculptures at Sterling Park, Boyne Island.

A series of four monuments will represent each of the four services as documented in provided brief.

These monuments will be placed along the walkway leading to the Stirling Park Cenotaph.

Each design will incorporate one of the striking 1.2 metre by 300 millimetre solid aluminium billets kindly donated by Boyne Smelters Limited.

The concept design presented above represents the Airforce.

Working with the imagery provided by Jim Staats, a story is developed showing the progression in the airplanes used from very early planes through to the later jets and then to a drone. The panel shows a range of selected aircraft in flight to add movement and interest to the panel. This panel will be used as an education tool in future projects for a variety of clubs and schools with possibly the production of an explanatory flyer.

The shape of the base will reflect the imagery used, the panel in the concept design is about the Airforce and the base uses the patterning found on a jet engine exhaust.

A panel of lettering on aluminium and slightly raised off the aluminium billet with spacers will have relevant text and information pertaining to the choosen subject and the imagery used.

This concept design idea will be used over the four billets with each billet representing a different service and using images and text relating to that service.

Sumburgh Heads Artist in Residence

Imagine my elation in receiving an email from Angela Hunt, Operations Manager of the Sumburgh Lighthouse and Visitor Centre, Shetland which read “At the moment we have a vacancy in July. Your work is very relevant to what we do here, if you would like to be our artist in residence for three weeks before the next artist arrives in August. Let me know if this would be good for you”.One airplane ticket booked.

Sumburgh Head Lighthouse and Visitor Centre is located on the southern tip of mainland Shetland. In June 2014 the restored lighthouse and a new visitor’s education centre was opened to the public. A ticket provides access to the engine room, Smithy (Smiddy), Marine Life Centre and East Radar Hut. A RSPB office (the UK charity working to secure a healthy environment for birds and all wildlife) is sited within this complex with the whole area being a well established RSPB nature reserve.

The occasional keepers flat, the artist’s residence, had a well equipped downstairs kitchen with an upstairs bathroom, bedroom and lounge all with solar heating (well needed). Some artists work in the flat but I found the light in the visitors centre was much better for my bird paintings. As part of the complex and across from my flat there was self catering accommodation in the restored lighthouse keeper’s cottage, this may be rented. It was wonderful to live on site as you could wander around at any time and watch the birds.

The cliffs surrounding the lighthouse centre were alive with birds. July is the middle of the breeding season and Puffins, Razorbills, Guillemots, Kittiwakes and Fulmars were all nesting in and on the cliffs. Working in the Visitors Centre I was on eye level with Arctic and Great Skuas (called Bonxies by the locals) who patrolled the cliffs. Gannets skimmed the waves. A range of land birds were seen perching on the stone walls or foraging in the nearby fields, endemic Shetland wrens, wheatears, Blackbirds and many others. On the beaches were waders.I spent a lot of time walking the soft and spongy blanket bog landscape, studying the birds, admiring the flowers and taking photos. I sketched a range of images. As the summer days passed the sea pink flowers faded to be replaced by white daisies adding to my palette. Lichens and mosses grew on the dry stone walls.

The temperature was a steady 10-12 degrees.  Shetland is 60 + degrees north and the warm Gulf Stream keeps the islands habitable. However many layers of clothing were essential as wind and rain quickly dropped the temperature.

From the lighthouse I watched the constantly changing weather, clear days, cloudy and drizzle, wild winds and sea fog gave the landscape a hazy light reminiscent of a Turner painting. The sea was calm some days with the seals lounging on rock tops above the sea, other days sizeable waves pounded the cliffs shooting spray into the air.

Many tourists visit the Centre during these summer months and educational activities and tours were on offer. I held a class on how to paint birds in watercolours.

Puffins can be around the cliffs in big numbers one day and then they disappear for a few days. The poor tourists who had only allocated a short visit time often asked “where were the puffins”.

Within the Shetland area there were other great birding opportunities. Noss Island near Lerwick has a spectacular gannet colony and a boat trip takes you right up to the cliffs covered in gannets.

The northern latitude means it never really gets dark in early summer (known as the “Simmer Dim”) and storm petrels use this half-light to evade predators on their return to nest in the Mousa Broch.

I passed Red throated Divers in a reedy pool on a walk to the Eschaness Lighthouse.

Another birding opportunity is Fair Isle, visible from Sumburgh heads on a calm day. I spent six days at Fair Isle, our plane was the last to land before fog and wind isolated the island for four days.

The Fair Isle Bird Observatory is a purpose built accommodation and bird study centre. It was very comfy and the food was wonderful. Staff walk the island twice a day recording birds. Each morning they checked the large fixed bird traps and then banded the birds. Bird log is at 9.00 pm and over hot chocolate the daily bird sightings were discussed. Birds seen were much the same as on Sumburgh with more waders found on the shoreline. Fair Isle is the place to be during the migration season when rarities visit the island and twitchers hire planes to catch a glimpse of a particular bird. Visitors came from all over the world and the conversations were fascinating.

Being close to Norway, Shetland Islands offer a mix of Scandinavian and Scottish culture in this archipelago of more than 100 islands.

The people were very welcoming and friendly I got invited to fiddle recitals, BBQs and walks, there were many keen bird watchers and I learnt a lot from them. Shetlanders are interesting and colourful characters who enjoy the freedom and nature of these remote places.

As the season drew to a close the young chicks developed their adult feathers and the noisy colonies became quieter as the birds started to leave.

One night at 11.30 pm I watched young Guillemot chicks being coaxed, by their dads to jump off the rocks into the sea. The chicks, that cannot yet fly are then accompanied by their father, who moults and also can’t fly and together they paddle off into the Atlantic on their way to Norway.

As you can imagine a very poignant sight, the mighty Atlantic and two very small birds paddling out into the moonlight.

On Fair Isle there were only a few Puffins remaining and soon they too would disperse into the Atlantic where they would spend many solitary days and weather wild Atlantic storms before they began another season of communal rafting and nesting.

High above the Sumburgh cliffs the Bonxies remain.

Rainbow Valley Early Learning Centre Gladstone

Owl Circle Art Project

As a follow on from the Tondoon Botanic Gardens Owl Book Project and
in collaboration with Beat Architects design, fabricate and install a series of panels that delineate the Owl Art Space.
Work with the Rainbow Valley children and teachers and create a series of children’s images. These images are then cut out of the aluminium panels or etched and painted on the panels. The panels are then fixed to the uprights to enclose the Owl Art Space.
Link to a selection of images from Beat Architects

Barking Owls at Tondoon Botanic Gardens

 Barking Owls at Gladstone Tondoon Botanic Gardens will be put in the spotlight for the month of September.

A multi-layered Owl Journeys project will benefit from more than $17,000 funding from the QGC Sustainable Communities Fund.

Gladstone Region Mayor Gail Sellers praised the collaborative project between Council and QGC involving local artist Margaret Worthington and Council’s Young Peoples Librarian Bettina Nissen. “The project will encourage the community to experience the Gardens in a unique way and highlight the life of a common ‘resident’ of the Gardens, the Barking Owl,” Councillor Sellers said.

“Although you may not see them during a tour of the gardens, a family of Barking Owls has called Tondoon home for years.”All ages will be able to be involved in different components of the project, while learning about the Region’s native flora and fauna and ways to conserve and sustain our local environment.”

Art creations by after hour school groups are the basis of the Owls Journeys exhibition on display during September at the Gladstone Tondoon Botanic Gardens Visitors Centre.

From these creations, Ms Nissen and Ms Worthington will be creating a display of artistic panels and an illustrated story book that will link the work together.

“The picture book and panels will provide a real journey through the Tondoon Botanic Gardens offering in-depth information about the flora and fauna,” Ms Worthington said.


Musclemen Installation at Kalgoorlie Regional Arts Australia Summit

Photos by Bindi Waugh

Evolution of the Project

In February 2011, I was accepted by the School of Visual and Performing Arts, Launceston, University Of Tasmania and enrolled in their 18 month Master of Contemporary Art (MCA) course.

In deciding what subject to study I remembered that the landscape viewed from an airplane of Queensland Alumina Limited (QAL) in Gladstone, Central Queensland, had always interested me and I chose this as my subject as I felt it would be a fascinating and challenging project.

The viewed landscape is amazing, shapes and patterns of a world heritage site are seen in close proximity to the fifth largest Alumina refinery in the world.

The refinery is Queensland Alumina Limited (QAL); the South Trees wharf is within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

I contacted Allan Andrew and explained my thoughts to him and asked him to take some aerial photos of the area. He contacted me a week later saying that in the beginning he didn’t think much of my ideas but once he looked at the images he had, he became really excited about the project.

In October 2014, Alan and I choose a set of aerial images to be projected over a selected group of Musclemen sculptures, this installation and a 20×20 Pecha Kucha Powerpoint was presented at the Regional Arts Australia Summit, Arts and Edges Conference in Kalgoorlie 16 to 19 October 2014.

This is a comment from a viewer when looking at the images which I think sums up the combination really well,

“So visually interactive – all the visuals work so well together. The kind of visual overload doesn’t overwhelm, it actually gives life to the sculptures!” Nataly Fay.

This exhibition invites the viewer to become fascinated by the colours and ever changing patterns projected over the sculptures, The images shown are beautiful but it is waste material. The designs and patterns are striking. The viewers perceived ideas of Industry sited within the Environment will be challenged.

Design is the main thread of the presentation, the sculptures reflect the QAL ethos and environment, the aerial photographs have been taken with a sensitive eye for design.


Aerial photos by Allan Andrew

0400 632 494

Sculptures by Margaret Worthington

Fabrication by Clive Rouse

0421 345 271


January 26, 2013

Lots of lovely rain and a chance to be indoors and update my blog

I have an exhibition with Allan Andrew and Clive Rouse on at the Gladstone Regional Art Gallery and Museum until February 23rd 2013.

The opening was very well attended with a real buzz in the gallery. Tony McCray gave a very good introduction starting with a background to our working relationship and then he explained the concept behind the project. I thought he was the ideal person to open the exhibition as we have worked together for a long time and he knows my work, also he is a visionary as well as understanding the actual physical Queensland Alumina Limited site (QAL) that I based the sculptures on and the site Allan used in his aerial photographs.

Please follow these links to The Gladstone Observer coverage of the exhibition

This is the video

This is the photo gallery

The story

The Scrubbage project is aimed to promote SEVT -Semi Evergreen Vine Thicket or locally called scrub or dry rainforest to a different range of people using art.
These art workshops have been designed by Vicki Dart and margaret worthington and funded by the Boyne Calliope sub branch of the Fitzroy Basin Association. The workshops feature a walk in the scrub with botanist Neil Hoy and then an art workshop and a talk about the plants/birds and animals found in the scrub. Participants then do pencil drawings and move onto experiencing working with watercolours. Good quality materials are supplied.
So far have we been to Yarwun school where the whole school participated in the project, Tannum Sand Primary School where specially chosen students went for a walk through Canoe Point with botanist Joy Brushe, and two full day workshops for adults one at Mt Larcom Art Gallery and the other at Nagoorin School in the Boyne Valley.
A wide range of work has been produced drawings, paintings, woodwork and embroidery. The works produced have been collaged into 2 metre banners by margaret worthington and they are available for use at a variety of events i.e. ecofest to highlight and promote scrub.

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