Making Dusty Art
Once dust settles, artist creates incredible scenes
A SIX-WEEK build-up of dust, one paintbrush and three beers are all Peta Evans needs to create a work of art.
On the back of her dirty Toyota LandCruiser, the St Lawrence (south of Mackay, Queensland) local can carefully carve up incredible rural scenes – like a campdrafter coming around the first peg or ducks gliding on a wetland.
What started as a bit of fun has developed into an artistic venture.
Peta now has thousands of followers on social media and is booked in to host a workshop next year.
It takes about four to six weeks for Peta to get the perfect build-up of dust on her back window – she needs a special blend of dew and dirt to create the canvas.
“My son Luke needs to catch the bus at Clairview and we have 10km of dust to get him there,” she said.
“So you have dust that’s on the window, then in the morning you have dew on the dust, then going to the bus I get another fresh layer of dirt.
“After about four weeks you can’t see through it and it gets locked in. It’s thousands of layers and becomes much thicker.
“It gets to the stage where you can work the dust with your paintbrush. It gets lighter at a touch and if you work it, it gets darker.”
Despite the tricky texture, Peta creates intricate and detailed designs, and surprisingly, she said it doesn’t take long.
“I generally tell people it takes about three beers,” she said.
Peta realised her hidden talent thanks to a friend’s long-running joke.
“I have a beautiful friend, Vivienne Coleman, and whenever she saw my car – even if it was at her place, or in St Lawrence or in Rockhampton – if she went past my car, she would draw on it,” she said.
“I can remember going to town when rainwater was very scarce so no one was washing their cars and for two days I had ‘I love the Wiggles!’ on my car.
“Anyway, one day I was sitting looking at my car and it was very dusty, and I was thinking, you know, ‘I better wash my car’.
“And I touched it with my finger and it was very baked on and I thought, ‘that’s a bit of a canvas,’ so I started to draw a picture.
“It ended up pretty nice so I left the picture on there for a few days... and it meant I got away with not washing my car.”
As it’s fiddly work, Peta captures her work on her phone while she builds pictures. Those images have been uploaded to her Facebook page, Dusty Art, which has more than 4000 followers. Her pictures are a reflection of her rural upbringing. She was born in Tennant Creek and travelled around Australia with her family as her dad was a yard builder and fencer.
“I grew up as a nomad,” she said.
“I did pretty much the same thing until I settled to have kids. My work has been as diverse as a cocktail waitress to a rouseabout.”
Next year, Peta is keen to lead a workshop at the St Lawrence Wetlands Weekend.
She completed a demonstration there this year, but faced a dust artist’s biggest challenge: rain.
“Two days before I had four weeks’ of dust on my window ready for the demonstration, then we got 5mm of rain,” she said.
“I went to Vivienne’s place, wet it with the hose then drove up and down her bull-dust road. I screamed along it, hit the brakes and let the dust catch up – I just laid in it as long as I could.
“That’s all I had to work with.”
Without her usual canvas Peta said that birdlife drawing became quite “black and white”.
Some of Peta’s inspiration for Dusty Art steams from the iconic Jolliffe’s Outback cartoon books.
“I notice in the comments people will say ‘nice work on the Jolliffe’. It’s just beautiful that they recognise that,” she said. She also draws on inspiration from her St Lawrence community, which she describes like a “reef and beef” setting.
“This is where you see the mud crabs and barramundi living among cattle. Rural life mixes with fishing life.”
Search Dusty Art on Facebook to see more of Peta’s work.
SPECIAL TALENT: St Lawrence, Central Queensland, artist Peta Evans starts one of her Dusty Art creations.
A campdraft scene made from dust.
Peta needs a special build-up of dust.