Monthly Archives: January, 2023

January 2023

January 2023

One year since my last post.

I turned 80 this year.

In February I did a trip to my son James’ place at Wallagoot near Tathra on the south coast. It rained quite a bit which provided opportunities to do lots of drawings and photos of drenched treetops.  There were fine days too.

The biggest difference between Big Bush (where I live) and Wallagoot is the height of the trees. South coast trees are at least twice the height of Big Bush trees.

 Back in my studio paintings began manifesting…

Top Half

Oils on canvas 122 x 92cm

At first I believed I could somehow fold up the tree trunks so we could behold their tops overhead and the insertion point of trunk with earth, and all in between without compromising the literal breathtakingness of the tallness of the trees.

I tried several tricks on paper but so far I have not contrived it. (Neither has anyone else to my knowledge, but I still believe one day I will do it.) (Maybe William Robinson has come close.)

So for the first painting I simply did the top half. The point directly overhead the viewer is top centre, a bitdown from the top edge of the painting. From this point the leaves (appear to) hang outwards; up, down, left, right.

 Then you have to remember that the trunks extend the same length beyond the bottom edge of the painting before they reach and burrow their roots yet many more metres into the soil.

This painting took quite a long time and I wrote many pages of notes in my studio diary; a sample or two follow:

“…The scale of the foliage presents diverse opportunities to play exquisite tricks. Ie not a “problem” Only losers have problems…”

“…20,000+gumleaves hanging down. Too much detail? Only if I cannot handle it. If they are all part of my system, that unifies them into one entity. Eventually there is only one entity and that is the Cosmos…”

Cirrus and Crowns

Oils on canvas 122 x 92cm

This one has cirrus clouds behind the leaves overhead. Trying to make things difficult for myself I suppose.(Showing off?) This one can be hung vertically or horizontally to the left. Two paintings in one.

Spotted Gums in the rain.

122 x 153cm Acrylics on canvas

A large job. 4ft by 5ft.

James took me to a forest of Spotted Gums; Corymbia maculata in Mimosa Rocks National Park. It rained very heavily all day. Difficult to get out my sketch book but I managed to get some shots with my phone straight up from under my trusty umbrella. Somehow.

There was a 2 or 3mm film of bubbly water running down the spotted tree trunks and showering in jets from the leaf tips. Looking straight up the water seemed to be spurting outwards in all directions.

Back in my studio I spent months on this one, and sometimes got pretty cranky with it, and myself…

“…Aug 1st. Another look at Spotties.  Its pretty shitty. Perhaps scale of spots and dots. The slightly larger shapes are unrelated and sketchy…”

“…3rd Aug. So far mostly it has been “drawing” ie making it look “real” ie recognisable for what it is; what I experienced there.

Now comes designing, which is more a matter of manipulating and choreographing shapes, dynamics, colours, tones, gradations, textures in an abstract sense to convey what I want this painting to communicate…”

 “…Intuition is revealing its shortcomings: Whereas nutted-out mechanical procedures seem to get a bit closer to how I remember that event with the pouring rain coming down in streams. Its esoteric, elusive: I cannot say it in words (like nearly everything I do or try to explain)…”

The painting ended up looking unlike anything I’d done before. I still get a bit of a shock when I behold it.

 Then came a trip to Bendigo (and Woodend) to get my left eye lens implant, to match the already done right eye “cataract” surgery.  

Successful!  Now I don’t need spectacles except for reading and closeups.

While at Woodend we visited Hanging Rock but got turned back by a downpour. Nonetheless a painting was generated by this event.

Hanging Rock or Somewhere…passing shower.

122 x 92cm Oils on canvas (started in acrylics)

8th Aug.”… Still frigging around with acrylics trying to discover something I want to get involved in.

So it’s a bunch of asparagus with rain retreating and sunlight catching a few details.

I’m expanding the rock surface right to the bottom edge RHS and a bit of a cave (for that little picnic girl to disappear into).”

“….I’m finding effects and sensations that I want to play with. A semantic approximation would be finding closer and closer similarities and relationships between cloud, sky, rocks, moss, foliage bracken…as suggested by the Buddha and quantum physics.”

Eucalypt crowns in the rain.

Oils on canvas 122 x 92cm

“21st Sept : One of the traps of early days is the neat broad impasto brushstrokes that can carelessly occur and they may even look good and raise one’s spirits and encourage energetic application etc.

However the time comes when these bright optimistic invincible brushstrokes must be superseded by more thoughtful deeper processes. So I leave them as markers for as long as I can; but eventually I am using sideways circular motions with runnier paint (for example) that is nearer to the heart’s desire… so Adios bold beginning! Here come progress…and annihilation…”

10th Oct. “…What’s this? LAZINESS??!!

I am getting messages:

“Keep this one as a study”

 “Finish it off soon.”

The urge to “finish” (abandon) comes when one’s own limitations are becoming evident.

Incompetence is peeping at me over the fence.

Fatigue happens. We have to cope. A cup of tea is good.

“Give it a miss!”

“Don’t waste any more time on it”

“Less is best”

This is the devil speaking.

The devil is a laziness inciter.

Towards the end of this job I went back to the pencil drawings I did on James’ verandah in the rain. Sometimes what inspired the original artwork gets supplanted by an adventure between me and the painting. The original idea may or may not make a comeback in the closing sessions. Doesn’t matter whatever way.

Myall Creek Cape Tribulation

Oils on canvas 122 x 92cm

One of the many little creeks that crosses the road to Cape Tribulation. You can always stand on a bridge or crossing for a good view up or down these creeks, but watch out for Jolly Swagman 4WD tourist buses.

Gap Creek Conversation

Oils on canvas 122 x 92cm

Gap Creek runs for a few km beside the road from Bloomfield to Cooktown. Steep rainforested hillsides. Mt Finnigan to the south and the coastal range behind Cedar Bay to the NE.

 Sacred land. Rapid waters. Lots of boulders.

28th Oct: “…Dialogue between all the components: Rocks (above and below water), ripples, foliage overhanging creek, Maybe eventually they will sing like opera.”

3rd Nov. “…so I’ve just been making a few points ultra clear; that were a bit vague before. I think its finished.

Pieter Botte above Gap Creek.

Oils on Canvas 122 x 92cm

Ngalba-bulal or Alpaboolal was called Mt Pieter Botte by Captain Owen Stanley comparatively recently.

Probably best to go to Google images of “Mt Pieter Botte Queensland” to check that I’m not being vulgar here.

You get doubletake glimpses of this confronting geological spire travelling around the Cape Tribulation/ Bloomfield area in north Queensland.

I am glimpsing it here above Gap Creek in a Turnerised landscape.

Mt Sorrow Cassowary.

Pastels on Canson paper  75 x 55cm

“… I’m working on a pastel now – a Cassowary with a plum in its beak and forest characters straining this way and that way as if constipated. I don’t always enjoy pastels, especially in the beginning, but they always come good with a bit of persistence…”

Pastels should be, for me, an adventure; or at very least a “venture”. Something unusual, enlightening, “beautiful” that snatches the attention away from mundane pre-occupations.

It can be simply a realistic rendition of something that benefits from interpretive close scrutiny. It might only depend on tonal rendition that goes a little deeper. Or it might clash together unlikely images or ideas. Or anything else.

 Above all, pastels deposit their pigment on paper, especially tinted paper, in a way that is alluring and compelling.

Gap Creek boulders and foliage

Pastels on Canson Paper  70 x 50cm

Demonstrating how exquisitely soft pastel pigment performs on tinted paper.

Gap Creek Torrent

Pastels on Canson paper  55 x 75cm

Boulders above and below rippled water.

Gap Creek Tributary

Pastels on Canson Paper  75 x 55cm

Little soaks coming out of the hillsides to feed Gap Creek.

Gap Creek Scribble

Pastels on Canson paper  75 x 55cm

The devil kept whispering:  “Less is Best” so I left a bit of scribble on the RHS

And so, dear blog perusers, we emerge out of 2022. It was an exciting year for me, and one event in particular fills me with hope for the possible future of this country and this planet and its lovely creatures and plants; and the humans too, I suppose, now that they seem to be recognising certain problems that we have to deal with…