About Philippa

Philippa Nikulinsky’s career focuses on a lifetime fascination with the flora and fauna of the arid lands of Western Australia.

Philippa was born in Kalgoorlie in 1942. She started work as an illustrator of natural history in the mid-1970s, specialising in plants from harsh environments. Her illustrations have been included in many books, scientific journals and magazines Notably, from 1990-2012 she produced the cover artwork for local journal Landscope, while her work has also featured on the cover of Curtis, the magazine produced by the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. She is the author or co-author of books on plants, animals, and their environment.

Philippa’s career focuses on a lifetime fascination with the flora and fauna of the arid lands of Western Australia. Philippa has travelled throughout the enormous state of WA to record, draw and paint its phenomenal natural history.

Philippa has made contributions to Flora of Australia. She is the author of monograph Banksia menziesii (Firewood Banksia), provided illustrations and text to Life on the Rocks (with Stephen Hopper), and a large format art book called Soul of the Desert.

From 1990 to 2006 Philippa painted the cover illustration of the quarterly magazine ‘Landscope’ for the Western Australian Department of Conservation and Land Management. In 2004 Philippa was commissioned to paint leschenaultia for the May 2004 edition of ‘Curtis’, the magazine produced by the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, United Kingdom.

Much of her work illustrates the ecological relationships of the primary subject, and are noted for possessing high levels of detail while still maintaining a sense of spontaneity. The work from Philippa’s book, Cape Arid, focuses on one of Philippa’s favourite national parks. It includes paintings by her husband Alex Nikulinsky and is owned by and displayed at COMO The Treasury Hotel in Perth. As with other botanical illustrators, she works primarily in watercolour.

From 1995 to 2005 Philippa was commissioned to design and paint Australian plants and animals for use on dinnerware produced by Australian Fine China.

In 2011 Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Perth for the meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM). During the visit, the Premier of Western Australia presented the Queen with a gift of Philippa’s limited edition publication ‘Wildflowers of the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia’.

Philippa was awarded Member (AM) in the 2016 general division of the Order of Australia, "for significant service to the visual arts as a botanical painter and illustrator, to professional associations, and as an author."

Philippa had a big year in 2019. Her survey exhibition, Nikulinsky Naturally, at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery recorded over 28,000 visitors. The monograph, Nikulinsky Naturally: An Artist’s Life (edited by Ted Snell) sold out during the exhibition. It has since been republished by Fremantle Press. Philippa also had a new art book published towards the end of the year. Nikulinsky Unfolded: Xanthorrhoea (Fremantle Press), is a 4+ metre concertina book that unfolds through time to show the elegance of unburnt leaves, and in contrast the stark drama of bushfire-wrought sand dunes.

Philippa was also awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Western Australia, and delivered a graduate address in mid-2019. Her work is reproduced on a range of Australian-made greeting cards and other products by studio Nikulinsky.