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What is a Bark Painting?

Bark paintings using ochre are the original portable paintings of the Aboriginal Artists as it was their natural pallet of painting materials.

These painting were done on the bark of the Eucalyptus trees in Northern Australia.

The bark is carefully cut at the top and bottom all around the tree. Then a vertical line is cut down between the upper and lower cuts.

A wedge is then forced in between the hard surface of the tree and soft outer bark.

With a little pressure the bark is separated from the tree.

The problem with this method of securing a painting surface is that by taking the section of bark from the tree is that the tree dies because the nutrients of the tree travel up and down through the bark which has now been removed.

The bark section which has been removed is then flattened by means of pressure and the use of hardwood sticks placed across its grain.

The grain being the natural way the tree grew which was vertically.

The bark sections may be wet from time to time to help in removing the natural curve of the bark section with pressure of stones to facilitate the flattening.

When dry they are scraped smooth on one side with rocks which will then be painted with ochre.

The problem with this is, that the bark emits an acid which eventually repels some of the ochre paint if the bark is not left to cure (dry out) long enough.

Ochre bark paintings are much sought after because so few Aboriginal Artists paint in this medium today.

The style of painting is cultural to the region. It is cultural events, events tied to water creatures and various natural things from the water or drinking at the water. There are two major styles of art from this region X-ray art which shows the internals of an animal or sea creatures and Rarrk or cross hatching.

The three things needed are the painting medium which is ochre, the dried and flattened bark section and the story design from the artist in his regional style within the region.

Ochre bark paintings are much sought after because so few Aboriginal Artists paint in this medium today.