Using watercolours to get back onto the PhD productivity highway


The last time I wrote here I was recruiting volunteers for the last fieldwork experience. I was lucky, I met wonderful people, from ANU and other universities, who wanted to gain the experience of talking to Australian farmers and travel in country New South Wales.

Now, a couple of months later, I have finished my data entry (finally!) and am ready to run the econometric models. A PhD is a roller coaster, and sometimes to get back up on the ‘highway of productivity’ you need to do some creative but ‘unproductive’ stuff.

I have chosen to go back to watercolour this year.  I am exploring simple but powerful colour combinations, using Australian rural landscapes,  to remind me of my fieldwork, my data and the  beauty of all of it.  Watercolours have so many meanings to me. First, they are a pathway that I have never given a proper chance to explore but that I admire dearly. Second, as opposed to oils, they do not have a strong smell, and they seem adequate to an ‘on the road’ life like mine. Third, watercolours are not forgiving, if you messed up, you messed up, period. They provide me the chance to experiment,  to learn and explore.  As I do watercolours, I think about my own learning and experimentation personally and career wise.  Finally, by painting Australian landscapes, first using plain pictures and tomorrow, life outdoors painting, in my head, I can absorb and feel my research in a different way.

Below are a couple of the early paintings this term, let’s see what comes out by the end of winter, both paintings and PhD wise 🙂

Yellow cadmiun cricketer by Sandra Velarde, 2013

Yellow cadmiun cricketer by Sandra Velarde, 2013

Australian shed in Googong, NSW by Sandra Velarde, 2013

Australian shed in Googong, NSW by Sandra Velarde, 2013


About sandravelarde

Peruvian Forest Engineer (UNALM) and PhD in Environmental Managemeng and Development (Australian National University). My background is transdisciplinary in Ecological Economics (University of Edinburgh, UK) and natural resource management, adaptive governance, socio-economics and evaluating the trade-offs across different land uses: biodiversity, carbon,and profitability (FAO, ASB, ICRAF). My passions are planning and capacity building, using participatory methods, like Future Scenarios (CIFOR, ASB, ICRAF, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment). Currently working as Economist and Associate Research Leader (Economics and Governance) at Scion - New Zealand Forest Research Institute.

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