In late September we packed up the camper trailer and headed towards the west of New South Wales, to camp on the banks of the Darling River, one of the great rivers of Australia. This year has been severely dry, and the vast majority of NSW was declared to be in ‘extreme drought’. The river was very low, mostly pools rather than a healthy flow. In summer you expect to see parched landscape but usually at this time of year, in spring, there is some green to be seen, but not this time. Even the big gum trees are pale, the colour sucked out of them. This also means there is little wildlife, the birds, kangaroos, even the big lizards seem to have gone searching for food elsewhere. The only animals we saw a lot of were goats, and even they were looking tired and thin. So searching for things to draw was not such an easy task. Plenty of bones, and some hardy plants and trees but little else. This sounds depressing, and in many ways it was, but the landscape is still magnificent and has an ancient power to it. We camped with friends, then met a group of people who have the same camper trailer as us, made some new friends and enjoyed the old ones! I’m doing this post on my phone, so quality control could be an issue, so forgive me for any oddities!
The forms in this drawing are inspired by butterflies that I found massed on the ground in Coral Bay, Western Australia. In death they remained connected to one another as they were in life. Their shapes are now transformed, but continue to connect with one another by fine filaments and tracery, still flying.
Drawings in my travel sketchbook were the starting point for this drawing. The basic forms were drawn in very loosely with a straggly brush using watery Liquid Pencil on Yupo paper, with no real attempt made for accuracy, it was more about finding fluid forms. Once the Liquid Pencil was dry I started drawing in to the shapes, intensifying the curves and adding body to to them, creating linkages and form. There are plenty of stories to find within the details.
Below are detail images – please excuse the colour, photographing monochrome images is a little tricky. The paper is very white and the Liquid Pencil is sepia, so the brown tones are correct. I drew in using an 8B graphite pencil and a Staedtler omnichrom pencil, which is quite sticky, and takes well on the shiny surface of the paper. The paper size is 59 x 42 cm.
Twelve drawings are now complete, so the next stage will be working out how to put them together in a book. I think it will be a concertina, as this gives the opportunity to see the sequence of the images.
See the previous post (here) for more background to where the imagery for these postcard-sized drawings comes from. Below are the final six.
For almost 20 years we have travelled through Australia, top to bottom, all around and through the middle. To the wild and remote places that most people never go. On every journey I take a sketchbook, waterproof pens and a travel watercolour set and I document our journey, in words and in drawings. The drawings are mostly of the objects I find, feathers, shells, leaves, bones, occasionally a bit of landscape. I take photos too, but it is the sketchbooks that really keep the memories fresh.
The drawings are also a resource for works that I create later. I redraw loosely from my original drawings, sometimes altering them a little to suit my new purposes, but the essence remains. My present project is using drawings from a 2009 trip that went up through the centre of Australia, through the Kimberley, down the Western Australia coast and home to New South Wales via the Nullarbor Plain between July and September.
I cut sheets of watercolour paper to postcard-sized rectangles 150 x 105 mm and started, choosing images that worked with the shape, and adding the handwritten notes that I put in my sketchbook. The intention is to make these into a book, possibly a concertina that will show the progression of images, but that will evolve later. I’m not sure how many drawing I will do either … so far I have completed 6 and one is in its pen and ink stage, before I add the colour. I have included it to show how they begin.
During my recent visit to Tasmania, we were given the opportunity to stay in a beachside ‘shack’ for a few days. Nestled in the Freycinet National Park, a short distance from the beginning of the Wineglass Bay walk, close to Fisheries Beach, it was a delight to settle in there to enjoy the peace and scenery. It was an opportunity to read, walk, relax and for me, to draw. (See my previous post for more of the sketches.)
As a small thank you to the owner of the shack (actually a very comfortable house!) I have made up a drawing using my sketches from the local area, adding little annotations of names and places. Hopefully it will remind her of the peace and quiet of Freycinet when she is far away.
It is drawn using pen and ink and watercolour, on Arches Aquarelle 300 gsm paper, hot-pressed, 26 x 36 cm.
In the middle of December I flew down to Hobart to join my partner who had taken the car over on the ferry a couple of weeks before, as he had work to do at the University of Tasmania in Hobart. After a few days there, of course visiting the wonderful MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), we spent a week in a friend’s beach ‘shack’ in Freycinet National Park, one of the most beautiful places in Tasmania. We walked – one walk that we HAD to do was a climb up to look down at Wineglass Bay, then down the other side, a long loop across a marsh, another beach and through the bush back. About 11 km it took us 5 hours and was a good workout, but worth it!
On other days we drove to walk on the Friendly Beaches – the sea intense turquoise blue and sand white, with rock pools at the water’s edge, The Gardens with the same coloured ocean and sand, but massive boulders covered with orange lichen … and numerous others. In between we relaxed, read and I drew. From Freycinet we moved up the coast to St Helens, a small fishing town in the Bay of Fires, then camped at Policeman’s Point a bit further up the coast, still in the Bay of Fires. A beautiful spot for bush camping and walking on the beach until it rained … but we weren’t daunted and took ourselves to Bridport on the north coast. An unexpected delight, the coastline composed of numerous small beaches bordered by rocks. And the sun shone again!
Our last stop was Launceston, another pretty small city, hilly like Hobart, with elaborate Victorian architecture. We watched the New Year fireworks from a park by the Tamar River – a delight to be so close and walk back to our hotel in a matter of minutes, very different from Sydney! On the ferry back to Melbourne we had a very comfortable cabin, the Bass Strait was a millpond, so a simple and uneventful (thank goodness, I am a very bad sailor!) trip. Then towards home, catching up with friends along the way.
I only had time to sketch between Freycinet and Bridport, but took every opportunity I could, walking around with my eyes on the ground looking for any attractive little object!
After a month in Stirling we took to the road, heading west. Above is Stirling Castle, overlooking a field of Highland cattle. Our first stop was Oban, including a day trip to the Isle of Mull (don’t sing it, it never goes away …) then to Skye via a small ferry. After a loop around Skye we continued north, hugging the coast all the way. This meant travelling on single lane roads over mountains and along the coast, avoiding sheep and Highland cattle wandering the roads oblivious to any danger. Then across the top, down the east coast and back into England. We were blessed with the weather, mild and sunny nearly the whole way.
There were many highlights – breathtaking and unexpected scenery, a variety of castles in all states of repair, from ruined to still inhabited, a guitar festival in Ullapool, seeing stags and does late one night, and hearing the stags roaring in the night … we stayed in regular B and Bs, Airbnbs and even a castle, which happened to be in the right place on our 35th wedding anniversary. The photos below were taken on my phone, so please excuse any quality issues, and are just a selection of a great many!