When I travelled to the John Wilson workshop in Katoomba last February, I had to devise a plan for bringing wet paintings home in my luggage.
I made two wet-panel-carrier boxes from plywood, using balsa wood for the divider strips, but I also needed something for paintings that were too small for the boxes.
After fluffing around with various ideas using timber strips and elastic bands – ideas that failed, I might add – I came up with the idea of making small corner spacers that could be held on with clips.
These would work for paintings in a variety of sizes as long as I had a pair of same-size boards to clip together.
I videoed the making of them and have finally edited the footage and uploaded it to Youtube.
While the process looks a little cumbersome in the video, that’s largely because I was trying to orient everything for the camera as I worked on just one widget (and also because some of the balsa proved very difficult to cut, even with a sharp knife!)
In reality, it took less than a couple of hours to make 32 of these little spacer widgets – enough to carry 16 small wet paintings. It took me far longer to make the two box carriers.
I would only use these on small paintings, up to around 10″x12″.
I haven’t tried yet, but it might be worthwhile to make some straight widgets to clip to the centre point of each edge, and this might make them more practical for slightly larger paintings when combined with the corner widgets.
Last year my son Michael and I climbed a number of local mountains. One of those climbs was the walk to the top of Bluff Knoll, the highest point in the southern half of Western Australia.
To the east of Bluff Knoll lies a mountainous wilderness known colloquially as “the ridge walk”. Requiring serious bush-walking, navigation and climbing skills it is, by all accounts, a magnificently hellish place to experience.
It’s on our list.
It’s not near the top of the list, however.
For now, I have to console myself with photos of the region, taken from the ground or from Bluff Knoll.
This painting, showing the view to Ellen Peak at the eastern end of the ridge, is based on photos I took from the top of Bluff Knoll.
The photo references were taken mid-afternoon last September. I hope to take another look once the cooler weather settles in later this year. Early morning or late evening should be spectacular.
John Wilson is an artist with a worldwide reputation. Based in the Blue Mountains, a couple of hours drive from Sydney, John has built a career on capturing the region in oil paint and last month I was lucky enough to find a spot in one of his 10-day masterclass workshops.
It was an amazing experience as John gave students his recipe for “peaches and cream” and “apricot” and explained his use of foundational warm and cool greys. No questions went unanswered as John shared the knowledge borne from of his years of professional experience.
Of the 10 days, three involved painting en plein air in some of the most beautiful places on earth. We painted from the Megalong Valley to the Capertee Valley and it was easy to see why so many artists are drawn to the region.
I ventured out on my own, before and after class every day and on the weekend in the middle of the course, snapping hundreds of photos. I also managed to do a few of my own paintings on the edge of the Katoomba cliffs.
One of my more-successful attempts was painted one morning from a cliff face not far from the Sky Rider motel where I stayed.
One thing you quickly learn here is to pay attention at the start and to cement the image in your mind because the light can change dramatically even in the short time it takes to do a small painting like this one.
And here is the “proof I really was there” photo.
As you can see in this photo, the dramatic shadow cast by the distant mountains in my painting was almost completely gone by the time I put down my brushes, less than one hour after I began.
One evening I went to a small lookout just before sunset and decided to challenge myself to see just how fast I could paint something.
I set about capturing the Three Sisters, arguably Katoomba’s single-biggest natural attraction, as the light shifted rapidly with massive thunderhead clouds building all around and changing from bright fluffy white to rich, deep shades of orange and purple.
The final painting took about 30 minutes, after which there was no sunlight on the cliffs and it was too dark to tell what colours I was mixing.
As a painting, it leaves a little to be desired but as an exercise, I absolutely love it.
Thanks John and Cecelia, and everyone who attended the workshop, for an inspirational two weeks with some great people. I hope to do it again soon.
My apologies for all the political cartoons lately. If you’re not into politics, then please bear with me while I get this out of my system.
It has been announced this week that our already-slow NBN is to be scaled back even further. This is apparently because, at a time when the rest of the world – even New Zealand!!! – is moving toward download speeds of 100Mbps (megabits per second) and higher, Australia, we are told, doesn’t even need 25Mbps.
For people who require the internet to do business, this might prove a little bit frustrating. For people who thought this was going to be the “Innovation Nation”, I can only assume this must be a little bit confusing.
As the Census fiasco rolls on…
And with somewhere less than half the expected Census forms submitted a week after Census “Night”, the saga seems set to continue for quite a while yet…
Hopefully I won’t have to make too many more of these things (though there are more in my head).
…and another one…