Heather Moore paints, draws, and crafts silver and horn on her family’s remote cattle property in Queensland’s north-west.
Story + Photos Vicki Wilson
No matter where she roams on Strathfield, Heather Moore finds a constant source of creative inspiration, 38 years after it became
her home. The 28,320-hectare cattle station
25 kilometres from McKinlay, Qld, boasts an ever-changing landscape that shifts from downs country to channels lined with coolibahs and river gums, to gidgee scrub and rocky ridges covered in spinifex. Every season delivers new subject matter to explore and different tales to tell through her work.
“I love my landscapes and playing with different media to capture the colours, textures and feelings of a place,” Heather says. “I usually like to put a bit of life into my paintings to give them more of a story. There’s always a different beast or bird or person who can play a part.”
Heather lives with her husband David and the eldest of their four adult children, Donald, who works at home for most of the year. Art has always featured in her life and while she has won numerous awards and is most known for her paintings and drawings, she also enjoys photography, silversmithing and horn work. The men collect any decent-sized pieces of horn they come across for Heather to craft into cutlery handles or jewellery, and Donald recently delivered a giant pair of pig tusks for her to beautify.
Known in the art world by her maiden name, Heather Chandler, she grew up on the land close to Injune in south-west Queensland and recalls a near girlhood obsession with drawing horses.
A few years out of school she took the plunge and moved to Brisbane to work and attend night classes at the Flying Art School. It was during this time she grew close to David’s sister Margie, who invited her in 1978 to tag along on a three-month working tour of stations in the Gulf so that Heather could paint and prepare for her first solo exhibition.
“I resigned from my job and went to find a gallery that would allow me to exhibit,” Heather says. “The New Central Gallery in Queen Street in Brisbane said yes. It was incredible … I can still remember the man. I mean, here was I, very much an outback artist painting very realistically, not a modern artist at all, and he said yes!” This became a pivotal moment in Heather’s life in more ways than one. The exhibition was a sellout, establishing her as a professional artist and opening doors for commissions and further exhibitions in centres such as Inverell and Toowoomba in the years to come. She also got to know David as she and Margie had used his home at Strathfield as their base throughout their travels. By the end of the following year, she had married David and moved there permanently.
In between the duties that come with station life, Heather was able to focus on her art for a good three years before she and David started their family. She would often sketch and paint out in the paddock, but these days she prefers to take photographs first and then get into her “painting mood” with music in the studio, away from the heat and flies. Heather’s workspace sits opposite the meat house and a coldroom.
This story excerpt is from Issue #117
Outback Magazine: February/March 2018