We Are All the Flocking Same



Killalea Headland sketch

My sketch Killalea headland




Killalea pan


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 surfing -any conditions, any age. Today was the first time I saw The Farm up close. I hadn’t realised that Killalea State Park held this sacred surf spot on the coast.

I love that trot that surfers break into – board clenched under their arm, leg-rope dangling, hair dripping, their sleek wet-suit uniform dense against the green. They canter, the cold from their wrinkled wet feet protection against the gravel.

We cooked sausages and onions on a wood bbq at lunch time- it felt like summer today. There were so many different flocks and types of birds -black cockatoos against the blue blue blue sky. I painted with gouache on paper with memories of my brother Michael. I wondered if any of those greying surfers were Little Mick, or Tightarse, or Brooksy – all those older surfers who I use to lust after as a teenager, who called me Grub.

As a final note when we left later a parade of older vintage cars rolled along the road where the surfer had run back to his car earlier. The vintage Jag and MG had no roof racks for boards, no dusty wagons for paints and easels but glistening rims and chromish mirrors.

We’re all different flocks

This was a re-post of an earlier blog, after a recent sketch trip back to The Farm.


The Red Case and Killalea

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.

Cannibal Eaters and Helicopters

Thursdays painting trip with the Picknick Painters was doomed from the start. It was overcast, I was late and I had decided to take Bella the dog.  We had decided to meet at Black Beach Kiama – never  good location, it’s always windy. No-one was there, I got Bella out and wandered past the fish shop. The wind had whipped the water into an angry grey and then a dull thud,thud,thud and a helicopter appeared. It came in closer and closer until it dropped down next to me in the car park. The water was even angrier than the dog and the sound was deafening but I ran for the car…..not to take shelter but to grab a sketch. I had done the same when a navy ‘copter had landed on Pulpit Rock doing manoeuvres.  By the time I got a quick shape in and a note on colour, it lifted unsteadily and took to the south s quickly I could only hear it in the distance and it was lost.  I went over to where it had been there was nothing to suggest it had been there – just a small white post with “All police are canibal eaters”.

Maybe the navy had heard about the police in the area eating cannibals and were sent in to help. I went home wet but I did a sketch, just in case I have to submit evidence at a later date.

Don’t Let Your Thumbnails Fall Off

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.

Today it All Mattered

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.

We Are All the Flocking Same

            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. … Continue reading

Parma, Paints and Plum Tarts

It’s been ages since I went painting with the Picknickers and despite being an hour late nothing was going to stop me today. Painting at Parma Farm at Julia’s was a great treat. Julia had helped me years ago with a great tip about the wonders of a shot of brandy, today it was the plum tart.

Julia poured tea and and as we ate around the kitchen table she talked about her first years in the home with a wood stove, children and damp wood. Today the fire was roaring when we came in with our works. Outside a grandchild who hadn’t made it to school sat outside under the giant jacarandas drawing fields and cows and trucks with Julia’s art stuff. She talked about her artistic children, talented grandchildren and it kind of reminded me of Boyd and his generations of creativeness. She said it was a wonderful home to raise a family. I have no doubt during that time more than a few shots of brandy would have been taken by that fire of a night.

Anne under the Jacaranda

Anne took on a huge piece of paper and pencils, Kaye persisted with her paring of shapes and compositions, Andrea took on the interior by the fire and caught glimpses of outside through huge timber windows. We talked about the old faithfuls, Bonnard, Matisse etc who used this view so many times.

Gumtrees, Rembrandt and Fruitcake

Today the Picknick Painters returned to Seven Mile Beach. Reiko wanted to finish her oily work. Cobalt skies and bird sounds gave me the breathing space once again. The last day had been one continuous ring tone, official letters and very unartful. Today was clarity. I set up in a sunny spot and began with just a drawing with graphite -trees and sky. We were excited by Anne’s return and squealed when she pulled up spouting brochures of galleries and museums in London and Amsterdam. Andrea had made a wonderful fruitcake and I offered the usual cupboard reject food- Beetroot Corn Chips – they would have made better paint scrapers than morning tea. It made me think of the trip to New York and that feeling of return. The bush. The blue.

What’s in the Backyard?

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.

High-Viz Landscapes


Seven Mile Beach is spectacular when you round that bend and catch that first glimpse. I always feel a sense of inadequacy when I realise I will be painting the landscape. Will I do it justice? What will I do? How can I share the passion of what I see? I sort of had a general sense of something coming. I had experimented last week with fluro bases. I wanted to take this further, see what happened to colour. I returned to my nest of banksia babies, still untouched, set up the gear and got down to the business. The beautiful subtle greys and umberish colours over the fluro seemed a travesty but for me it was the discovery of colour and edges. The gradual intrusion of fluros is everywhere -signs, vests, cyclists. It needs to be dealt with – the same way Corot dealt with industry in landscape, it’s there and rather than ignore it, work with it. Sue had brought pikelets, just warm with jam. Maybe my colour solution is as simple as pikelets -use everyday ingredients to come up with a treat -colour.