Top End artist Marnie Jay has a special ability to strip away the science of her subjects and reveal their inner spirit.

Bush birds, quolls, whispering paperbarks on a backyard billabong, and a dingo dog rescued from a mountain pound. They’ve all inspired the works of the Northern Territory’s Marnie Jay in her 15-year journey from arts graduate to award-winning bush artist.
Over the past 10 years, Marnie’s vibrant acrylic renditions of nature at work and play, and her heritage, have gained popularity with fans around Australia, and specially commissioned works also hang in clients’ homes in New York and New Zealand.
Marnie graduated as an illustrator after completing a Bachelor of Arts (Design) degree at the University of Western Sydney (UWS) in 1995. She has since exhibited in a string of group and solo shows in Sydney, the Blue Mountains and, more recently, at the leading Territory gallery, Framed, and with the Darwin Visual Arts Association and Cross Cultural Art Exchange (CCAE).
“Marnie Jay has emerged in recent years as an immensely talented and popular artist,” CCAE director Paul Johnstone says. “Her paintings are infectious and everyone who views them ends up smiling. She has a special ability to strip away the science of subjects and reveal their inner spirit. Her subjects are bursting with life, colour and humour and she gives them each their own identity – a cheeky smile on a Tassie Tiger, a baby dingo learning to howl and even iconic heritage buildings with a lifelike character all of their own. Her portrayal of old Darwin, as depicted in her 2009 Framed exhibition, Life in a Northern Town, is nostalgic to the core and magnetises large crowds.”
Marnie will re-visit the ‘Old Darwin’ theme in August this year in a fresh exhibition at Burnett House, the historic Myilly Point headquarters of the National Trust.
Marnie was born and raised in Darwin and thrived in a childhood filled with multicultural friendships, travel and regular bush camping trips that honed her love of nature. “I loved growing up in and around this town, and desperately missed its warmth and charm when I went away,” she says. “Sadly, progress has caught up with Darwin and as she becomes more grand and sophisticated, lots of long-time locals feel she is losing many of the qualities that have made her so special.”
Enlightening high-school art classes set Marnie on the path to an arts career. She headed to Sydney at age 18 to begin her three-year course and emerged at the end of it with the UWS 1995 award for Best Graduating Illustrator. Head tutor Tony Oliver was a well-known illustrator of Australian Geographic bird calendars. “We called him ‘The Birdman’,” Marnie says. “He would go on bush trips to study, sketch and then paint his native bird subjects.
I dreamt of one day having a job like his. He was an inspiration.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #69

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2010