There is nothing like a collection of old sketchbooks, diaries and journals to fire up the imagination and generate ideas. This article examines these often neglected resources.
Sometimes things just fall into place. Soon after agreeing to a workshop with the ASOC in Canberra, I received an email inviting me to a Canberra High School reunion – 5 days before the workshop.
Catching up with school friends from 45 years ago was amazing. Appearances had changed but personalities were just as they were way back then.
After the workshop and reunion we headed over the mountains west of Canberra and down to the high country and Kosciuszko National Park
Driving down the New England Highway there are some very prosperous towns and others in slow decline. Back when these towns were established, being a days ride from the next town guaranteed their future. Today they are quickly passed through and forgotten. Here are the remnants of a few of them.
Coolah Tops is a great National Park with sweeping views across the Liverpool Plains. I have never seen the country so green and cant believe the government would consider allowing a coal mine in, what must be some of the worlds best agricultural land.
We left Canberra and headed out through Brindabella to join the top end of the Long Plain Road. We were told the road was closed in winter due to snow, then re opened each October.
We drove in to find a locked gate leading to the National Park. As we were about to drive back a farmer, whose property the road runs through, turned up. After chatting for a while we were about to head off and drive the long way around when he kindly offered to unlock the gate and let us through.
Twenty kilometres down the track we were stopped by a fallen tree. Not being able to go back through the locked gate and unable to move the tree, our only option was to somehow get over it.
We built long ramps of logs and rocks to give us plenty of clearance. Unfortunately, as we descended the ramp the right hand front wheel sunk into the soft ground, hanging us up on the log. After four hours of jacking, packing and digging, all we managed to do was sink deeper into the soft ground.
It was getting dark when we gave up digging so we spent an uncomfortable night camped at thirty degrees.
The ground was too soft for us to lift the heavy truck so, in the morning, we contacted the National Park Office by satellite phone and explained our situation. They were fantastic and had a ranger up there with a chainsaw within a couple of hours.
As it turned out, National Parks were sending a tractor up to clear any fallen trees later that day. If only we had known. We could have saved 4 hours of hard work and camped on level ground! Coolamine Homestead was built in the late 1800’s when they used to run horses and cattle in the high country.
Today the cattle have all but disappeared but wild brumbies are breeding up.
I spotted this mare laying on the ground way off in the bush above the plains. When I walked up I discovered she had died giving birth. Her head was resting on a log and her eyes were still open, looking out across the plains.
The Kosciuszko High country is stark and beautiful, and the weather always unpredictable. Overnight temperatures were below freezing and, in spite of the sun, seven or eight degrees was as warm as the days would get – and this was late spring!
After a great week in Cinque Terre we wound our way up over the mountains and on to Lucca to do some painting, then it was off to San Gimignano for the rest of the workshop. We painted in the the old town and also in the hill town of Volterra. We also managed a day trip to Florence to see the city and the Uffizi Gallery. We had good weather most of the time in San Gimignano, which was great for painting. The couple of wet days made the town look amazing with reflections, umbrellas and spectacular skies.
The last day of the workshop we were treated to a typical Tuscan feast – plenty of Beer, Wine and Food and lots of stories of the adventures from the past two weeks.
Certificates were presented…
…and, of course, selfies taken to remember what was a great workshop.
A week in Cinque Terre is a great introduction to an Italian workshop. Great food and wine, beautiful scenery and friendly people. We spent our days moving between the villages painting and sketching. Villa Adriana, where we stayed for the week, provided excellent meals – although Antipasto, Pasta, Main and Dessert were more than most of us could handle!
What I thought was an ideal place to paint in Riomaggiore turned out to be the only place wide enough for delivery vans to turn around, so lots of juggling easels in between washes.
Blue Umbrellas – Vernazza
The towns and villages of Puglia are similar in style to the villages of Northern Italy, but the earthier colored sandstone and marble is replaced by lighter, often whitewashed surfaces. The most obviously different architecture is found around the town of Alberobello in the Itria Valley.
Our workshop in Cinque Terre doesn’t start for 10 days, so we flew from Rome to Brindisi then caught a train along the east coast to Polignano where we met up with Amanda and Gordon for a week by the Adriatic.
Polignano is built on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the Adriatic
We were luck enough to coincide our visit with the Red Bull world Cliff Diving Championships. These towers are almost 30metres above the sea.
Competitors jump from the towers, perform a series of twists and somersaults to slow their decent, then land feet first in the water at over 80 kph.
Water entry can shatter bones and damage organs if not done correctly, so there were a lot more spectators than competitors.
Fishing Village just out of town
Small black snake catches a lizard
Following a great workshop in Calgary, we spent a few days with friends John and Lyla. We did a road trip up to Canmore and through the Rockies to Jasper. The scenery was spectacular and John, being a geologist, gave us a great insight into the landscape we were traveling through. He also arranged for bears, mountain goats and rock hopping mountain sheep to be spread out along our route! What a treat.
The three small dots on the white line at the bottom left of this glacier are huge 6wd buses.
Mountain Sheep shedding their winter coats.
Peyto Lake and matching Jacket.