Looking down from the window of our flat on Sydney Harbour I could see several of these extraordinary trees with their sinuous grey trunks and above ground roots. They are incredible to look at and I never ceased to wonder at their magnificence.
Many days were spent in the Botanical Gardens. This tree was extraordinary in its power and strength – dark black against the light of the Australian atmosphere. There was no threatening presence in its hugeness – just a mightiness! I sketched this quickly with a large pencil and strong marks to try to capture the grandeur.
In contrast to the powerful presence of the trees were numerous Ibis – large graceful birds with long beaks. I used a pen to capture the flow of continual movement and found that the simplest line could convey meaning.
Beyond the Blue Mountains is the old mining town of Sofala. It has two main streets with some of the remnants of old dilapidated buildings. I stood on the corner in the warm spring sunshine and sketched some corner buildings – trying to capture the ‘rawness’ of the scene.
This was an interesting exercise! I wanted to capture the bleached tones of the Australian landscape but found that I did not have the colours I needed. The greens of the pencils were blue/green and that colour does not appear in the natural Australian landscape. I would like to have explored this new palette – so different to England.
The grey whiteness of the huge branches of the Australian gum was not easy to capture. This was the view from the garden in the Blue Mountains. The branches are completely smooth and their whiteness gleams in the sun. They have a mighty reach, twisting and curling and are like huge sculptural structures.
The birds were a constant source of delight and wonder and I never tired of watching them. The colours were magnificent and seemed to be in such contrast to the harsh dryness of the Australian landscape.
An extraordinary scene in the main street of this old mining town. It seemed to be frozen in time. I wanted to try to express the feeling of dilapidation and rawness so I continued to work on this image in the following two sketches…
There is no doubt that taking time out to experience new views and wider horizons gives new life to the creative process!
Three weeks spent in Australia has been an unforgettable experience for me and for my inner life as an artist. It has produced an amazing mental sketchbook of images, colours, compositions, creative ideas….not to mention sounds, conversations, impressions, childhood memories and the rediscovery of a loved country. All of this has effected me in several ways-
– firstly, on an image gathering level. My head is full of new ideas gathered from the experiences and sights I encountered. There was some time to record these in the sketchbook but the pace of the days made it difficult to spend long hours with the pencil. But having the time to simply look and absorb whole experiences was enough and with the help of the camera, I feel able to revisit these images now and they are real and very close to me.
– On a deeper level, the experience of returning to the place of my birth and childhood has revealed a connection which I was unaware of. There is a raw honesty in the Australian landscape and in its people. The colours are of the earth and are bleached by hot sun and continual bushfires. In contrast, the fierce uncompromising colours of the birds in basic primary intensity signifies an independence and freedom of spirit. Perhaps the early experiences of childhood, mentally and visually, provide a connectivity which shows itself in the creative process. This is something to think about at greater depth.