It’s not that hard to imagine the paradise Eugene Von Guerard in the 1800′s. Winding up Macquarie Pass there is still remnants of that forest. Huge tree ferns, flame trees, cabbage palms and gum trees to park a horse inside. What is hard to imagine is the persistence of painting. The light coming back from Canberra on the tips of the gums reminded me of his scenes I had just looked at in the National Gallery Canberra. It was bitterly cold outside and the last light when it is optimum for painting. I tried to imagine how he worked, a stool? a french easel? a board?
I went to a talk at Wollongong City Gallery by Dr Joseph Davis on works surrounding Charcoal Creek. I arrived a few minutes late so didn’t catch who he was. It was later revealed by Google he is a cultural historian. That would explain it. He was passionate and knowledgeable. The talk centred around works by those colonial painters. I have been desperate in my attempts to capture the areas in a contemporary way, drawing on the same works and vantage points of those artists so this talk couldn’t have been more apt to my work. On the way to the NGA to see the Eugene Von Guerard and Indigenous Triennial my head was fresh with the works Dr Davis had talked about.
The exhibition in Canberra didn’t have the same punch, it was that dis-connection to the landscape but useful all the same as I could see where he began and how he arrived at Charcoal Creek. I felt a little flush of pride when I saw the flame trees and the brilliant cadmium red flashes in amongst the thick ferns.
Dr Davis had said that Von Guerard had referred to them as blaze trees – maybe wishful thinking whilst he was in the cold depths of the forest floor. Maybe they gave him a little warmth.
I worked in a touristy gallery for a short time and the average tourist loved paintings of pelicans. I can’t fathom their attraction, is it because of their huge beak? their huge frame? Maybe cause they waddle. Or their ridiculously huge feet that act like brakes at touchdown? I think it is because of their big eyes. They look almost cartoonish and happy. Yes, they definitely have happy eyes.
I got a call just after 7am, “There are pelicans en masse at Boonerah Pt! Get down there!” I knew there must be something out of the ordinary so I chucked in the equipment. binoculars, camera, sketchbook, pencils,pens and jumper. No breakfast not even coffee.
There were over 100 pelicans gathered on a small strip of sand.
It was very low tide, the sky was still morningly soft and a wisp of cloud still sitting low in front of Mt Keira in this distance. I scribbled out sketches and notes. Looked at fluffy, orange-beaked birds rummaging around the feet of pelicans. I have no idea what these birds were, some had yellow beaks and they were quite nuggety.
I even got some more sketches in for the cormorant boat and it was definitely worth missing that morning coffee, it was a great heart starter.
If you go to Bungendore today you’re in for a big surprise, for every bear that ever there was is hanging or nailed on a gum tree. I can’t remember when I first saw these bears, maybe the early 80′s. I knew instantly the macabre associations and bleached colours were something special. It would develop into some sort of series. Each trip with other people I would point them out, I would “Google” them and take photos and sketches. After clearing out the storage shed my bear sketches appeared like the old favourite toy, Woody in Toy Story. I don’t know when the paintings will evolve or if they will. There is always so much to paint and never enough time.
So after being inspired by David Hockney and his IPhone paintings I have decided to embrace the use of technology and blog about the Bungendore Bears for now. I decided to share some of the work in photos and sketches, in their own special place, nailed to the net as well as beneath the trees where nobody sees. So gather there for certain because todays the day the Teddy Bears have their Blog.
Somewhere between then and now my thumbnails have fell off. Painting back at the river felt like I had come full circle – it was quite a while ago since we’d been. In between there was specatacular vistas of coastline, waterbirds and the discovery of fluro paint. There was only a few of us missing too. We talked about Barbies, Cy Twombly and Ildiko Kovacs over banana cake and home grown mandarins then got down to business.
I started with a small sketch eastward on the river toward the bridge and a man fishing at the boat ramp. Arthur Boyd’s territory. The last couple of paint trips I’ve gone back to using small thumbnails- my largest works always had this basis. I don’t remember them falling off but I know the finished work was definitely more complete, stronger.
Robert Juniper was a great early influence. I think he taught me a lot about colour and relevance of spatial areas within a work.
In the early days I’d sketch my influences, make studies of their particular works and then turn those into my own compositions. The snap of Robert Juniper I chose first, then I pulled out a sketchbook at random. These sketches date 2002. It’s hard to believe it’s that long ago, I still feel I have such a way to go. It seems like yesterday -I use to play Artist Roulette – scan the library bookshelf until something twigged. Lesley the librarian had a love of art and an old MG so even though a small library it had a wonderful stock of art books, especially Australian art. I have her to thank for ordering in treasures from other libraries for me.
I remember a painting I did from this thumbnail – it was a tiny cropped area from one of Junipers works, I always had scribbly notes around it -where to adjust, what colours. I think I’ve been neglecting this lately.
The shot of Robert Juniper is from one of my favourite books “Painters in the Australian Landscape” by Robert Walker. It was a book that I took out regularly -one in Lesley’s Library. I was lucky enough to pick one up in the Lifeline Book Fair -it was signed! It was destined to be mine!
Minnamurra was the choice for the Picknick painters this week. I’ve always wondered what was there. The old highway used to wind around the bends with mangroves following the river. Uncle Ted used to fish there. But for some reason I had never ventured down the road that cut through the golf course. I was first to arrive but not the only one there. The kayakers were setting up, the fisherman were there and a guy living out of his wagon. It took me about 5 minutes to drive there. You never know what is in your own backyard. The scenery was stunning, reminding me of a windswept hill in Scotland. I left with only a couple of small sketches and a ruddy complexion from sun and wind. Sometimes you don’t need to come away with wet paint. Standing on the cliff top was enough and taking in my own backyard.