When I was in my early twenties I drove past the Western Macdonnell Ranges (“Western Macs”- west of Alice Springs) on my way to Hermannsburg Mission. I gave a few art classes there and returned to Sydney. I was intending to spend a few days on the return trip, doing drawings and paintings of the ranges near the road, but the bloke I was traveling with was in a great hurry to get back to Sydney… something to do with the flies as I remember, so I thought; never mind, I would come back later…
Back in those days I was quite happy to “Do a painting of….” That is to say, show what a certain view looks like. The trick lay in the way I painted it.
Now in my mid seventies I need to do more with a painting. For a start the view need not exist; neither geographically, nor in memory. Nor need it be a view; not “out there” anyway.
But when I finally got back to the Western Macs a few months ago I found the scenery to be quite astounding enough for “doing a painting of…” At first anyway.
Actually the first task is to learn how to draw and paint hills and rocks. To some extent these early ones are exercises; and I’m wondering what to do with horizons, which are so insistent in the desert.
Maybe few tweaks…I cannot control my urge to tweak, and if a megafauna seems to become visible; well, I am not one to stand in its way…but the first four paintings I have done are more or less my reactions to the geology, botany and geometry of these strange protruberances from the desert plains. No need at this stage to insinuate any further issues. Unless…
Wattle and Corrugations
October in the Western Macs after a damp winter and wildflowers blooming.
A certain species of wattle played its yellow note in a minor chord of other yellows…ochres, oranges, siennas, pale olives.
While the left hand was playing umbers, violets, dark olives…
And those corrugations going on for miles and miles reverberating through the whole countryside.
All of this dotted with spinifex clumps and blooming bushes. Not of this planet.
Mt Sonder Perentie
Geology. The layers of sediment from the bottom of a sea millions of years ago; compressed into rocks and pushed up …
Drawing hills and rocks. How to make the top look like I’m looking up, and the bottom looking down. How to make the horizon infinite, definite and illusory (all of which it is). How to give the hills and rocks volume and weight; and their relentless, slow dynamics, and the underlying anatomy of the geological skeleton and muscles which need to express feelings and emotions and memories: Thinking of Michelangelo.
How to manipulate paint to create the illusion of rocky texture. How to make rocks look amazing, or at least undreary.
Can one make a painting that recreates the feeling of standing out in the desert beholding this range of hills?, or does one insinuate more (or less) into it?
So I had a lot of stuff on my mind with this job.
And the gigantic goanna that seems to be sunning itself…
Geology…Stratas flipped on edge, eroding unevenly. Waves of rock walls to the horizon in both directions. And billions (not millions) of spinifex tussocks. I found myself (as always) thinking about the landscape as it was in prehuman times.
Wattle and Blue Daubs
I love the dots of mulga and other shrubs on distant hillsides, They are not haphazard. They actually draw the volume of the hill.
Certain stratas on the hill slopes are composed of rocks that make soils that are more compatible to stands of mulga, and at a distance they take on a range of blues, violets…in waves.
Prehuman megafauna appear spontaneously in these landscapes.