Plein-air painting is not all beer and skittles. Rocks can be cold, ill-placed and tracks not easily negotiable. This week three of us have broken out the gear and headed inland. The Shoalhaven River once again provides a haven for painting.
We spread ourselves out along the river bank and take in what we can while the light and the conditions are good.
Carla broke out the binoculars looking for birds, Jane threw ink at a scroll using a stick and I perched on a pinkish rock and broke out the sketch book.
Once again the old mill as a base was perfect and of a night still lives flickered in firelight and pools of mellow red and gentle jazz.
There are times when it all comes together and this week has been magic. The weather, the company, the wine. With any luck we will all go home with a few more works and know a little more about painting and a lot more about the river.
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.
Returning to Bundanon after 5 years was like going home. I’m comfortable in that landscape, just paint me in. I didn’t feel the need to paint, draw, photograph-just to breathe. Jane unrolled the scroll and created an ink-river across the stark white paper in Whiteley movements, bending and dipping. I watched the weather bend and dip in synchronicity with Jane’s brush -sun, rain, mist and a rainbow over Pulpit Rock. The walk back to the homestead wound through wombat-holed tracks watched by a sleepy mob of kangaroos, black suspicious cows and ignored by intently grazing buffalo wombats. There is no other place in the world like it and no other place I would rather be.
No excuses, the oils are unpacked. I threw in a small set, gouache in case I chickened out and charcoal – because it’s charcoal. We met on the north side of the river this week. God I love that river! It flows oil colour, this photo is cow poo floating downstream at Bundanon- even shit can look good in that river. Surely I can paint it? Once again a lot of talking, Sue even managed to ice a cake on site-she handles icing like paint. We exchanged fruit and veg from the gardens – a fresh apple from the other Sue’s tree!
My first oily experience back in the saddle resulted in something that you would find floating down the river.
At the base of Pulpit Rock on Shoalhaven River is a conglomeration of rocks. It was here that Arthur Boyd fell back in love with the Australian Landscape and I fell in love with paint. A residency at Bundanon for over a month meant I had time, let Arthur and the landscape seep into me. Daily, hour by hour the river would change colour. I wiggled my stump-easel into place, tied the canvas and painted till dark. All these works were based on the configuartion of just four rocks to the very left in this photo. Thank you Arthur Boyd and the Boyd family.