Each Christmas gets curiouser and curiouser. This year was shared with my painter friend, Jane. Rather than a traditional Christmas, we ate BBQ sausage sandwiches and painted and drank. Trying to get back into some semblance of order post-Christmas and cleaning up the studio a tad, I decided to show my daughter my Christmas painting (as I had dubbed it).
Declaring to her “This is my Xmas painting.” I realised I had painted it primarily red and green. Maybe the result of too many Xmas mojitos, the heat and lamb and rosemary sausages but I can’t remember the original subject. Jane’s subject was the lake where we had walked the day before and I’m guessing mine had also originated from the same area. I do remember referring to a sketchbook. But the colours certainly aren’t relevant.
I had also lost a day in the midst of a week and fortunately collected my daughter from the airport on the right day (just!). So now I’m getting back into order, righting the chaos and so this painting is now half done, red and green, unwrapped but needs to be finished. I just don’t know what I’m finishing.
I had not made plans to go with the Picknick Painters this week but things changed last-minute and they were going to Killalea. I thought that I may not be able to do this again for a while because of other commitments, so I threw my stuff in a bag, a book on Philip Guston for Kaye, some book binding notes and my sketchbook. It looked pretty black towards the south so I wasn’t expecting to stay long. Killalea had its own plans for me.
It’s beauty never fails to amaze, pushed to the edge by McMansion after McMansion just a small mottled concrete barricade to stop the grey roofs from spilling in on the green hills. To the east, Bass Point, a quarry and the constant rumble of trucks on dirt that disappear behind the hill. To the west vivid yellow-green hills and escarpment hem us in even further. For me it’s the view northwards that tugs at my attention and draws me away from the natural beauty.
The stack sits embedded in a finger of coast, surrounded crucifixion like be a scattering of smaller inconsequential chimneys. Mum always said -”I know I’m home when I see that stack.” Each time I look at it, it conjures childhood memories in some form. Scanning out to sea eastward from the stack, the five islands off Port Kembla float amongst the shipping containers like large bags of jetsam. The last page in my sketchbook contained notes on jellyfish within the lake. Images and sketches sometimes merge and I found myself humming “Five Jellyfish sitting on a rock…” meanwhile I sketched my thoughts. A tanker towing the island and in turn the island towing the jellyfish. It made me think of the dreaming stories associated with the local Wodi Wodi people of the starfish and the whale.
I couldn’t decide whether they were heading ashore or out to sea but it made me think of the red suitcase, a symbol of my need to run, to escape.
Each time I work it feeds more and more into the lake series which is becoming stronger in my mind through my experience in this landscape. I feel I have opened the suitcase a little more, perhaps feeling more ready to settle.
I arrived at Killalea just to sketch today, I had a bit on – a funeral of a young boy, voting and shopping. I didn’t realise that it would all matter. Killalea was especially beautiful today – I found it in rusting baskets to keep wood and barbeques. I did a few small sketches, took some photos and took off my shoes so my warm pink toes could feel the grass – the impending funeral made it seem even more relevant just to take the life in around me not rush to get it in paint. I had birthday cake with my painting friends and then went to vote. I had sort of decided what to do -I like to keep on top of things in local elections but not really with a passion -I saw a man in a straw hat with “Save Killalea” on his Tshirt -I knew the morning had mattered -I decided to ask each candidate questions on their thoughts, something I never do -I made a confident decision and felt that it mattered.
Today I have to make a decision on work or art – it all matters. I wish there was a man in a straw hat and a Tshirt to help me.
The Farm was a familiar term growing up with a surfer brother. When we arrived at our painting site today there were two guys, greying with boards on their racks checking out the surf. They never lose their love of … Continue reading →
Not only was it oppressively hot, grey nomads with grey lives felt compelled to comment on our painting technique. The next time I see them backing a caravan into a tight spot I might take it upon myself to offer advice or tell them that they “really don’t have to be that good” or “that must be soOOO relaxing”.
How do you explain abstraction to the uncoverted caravaners? Thier vans are constructed and composed, arranged in rows (almost like these synchronised swimming seagulls), you would have more success with the campers who throw their canvas tent to the ground Pollock style to maximise view and capture morning sun and light.
Don’t mistake the Picknick Painters for a sweet ladies plein-air group. A palette knife can prove a useful weapon against ignorance.
This work is in gouache -the rockpools at Shellharbour had pipes -the corrosion made for some great colour and the solid shapes from the assemblage made really interesting contrast against the organic forms of the rocks.
The 3 Sue’s came from 3 points of the compass, Sue 1 from the south, Sue 2 from the north and Sue 3 from the west. We gathered at the shore to the east and displayed our tools of worship. We donned our headdresses, gathered rocks. The art-god replied with howling gusts of salty breath. We feasted on golden fingers of oily potato and plump red melon, spoke in tongues for great length and left in fleeting white chariots back to our 3 corners. Our devotion was rewarded with humble examples of art.
We were reminded that picknick painters should gather in greater numbers, names other than Sue were accepted in the eyes of art-god and we should continue to paint more than eat and talk.
Yesterday was a day that I was glad I was a painter. The weather was perfect, the location beautiful. Rockpools and smiles glistened. The blue of the sea pool was blindingly bright. Morning tea was ripe red juicy strawberries and lunch fish and chips surrounded by anxious seagulls. The four of us spread out – Kaye arranging lurid pink barbies like swimsuit models, Sue melting and melding her oily canvases, Andrea delicately observing the first swimmers of the season. I was mesmerised by a semi-submerged drainage pipe, brilliant blue and rusting in a pool surrounded by velvety black periwinkles. Kaye braved an icy swim. It was a holiday in a day.
This week the picknick painters were just 3. We decided to meet at the Bev Whitfield seapool -with views to the north of the steelworks and close by caravans and rockpools. We tried our best against blustery conditions but the sun and scenery made it bearable. Wonderfully steely blues in the sea and distant steam clouds from the stacks made me break out the gouache and play with colour once again. I had become addicted to the felt tip during the week so it was good to do some paint-rehab.