I’ve just come back from Fowlers Gap, but first as I live close to Byron Bay and try most years to attend the Byron Bay Writer’s Festival, I’ll fill in some of that experience. It is a great way to get a variety of really interesting opinions on topics of interest to me as well as catching up with friends and buying books and other bits and pieces. As a bonus there is always some unique sculpture, good people watching and an opportunity to just ‘chill out’. 

I have my sketchbook along and draw, write and muse. This year I attended only on the first day, Friday because of my painting trip to Fowler’s Gap via Broken Hill and a need to leave home on the Sunday to be in time for the train which leaves Sydney on Monday and takes 12 hours to get there!

First up at the Writer’s Festival was an interesting topic “The Writing Process – The Agony and the Ecstasy’ which featured John Marsden, Isabelle Carmody and Karen Foxlee in conversation. 

John Marsden had a fascinating way of describing the writing process, the says there are four types of authors;

The Architect – the work is planned out.

The Watercolorist – there is no plan

The Oil Painter – it gets fixed at the end

The Brick Layer – who corrects each sentence as it is written

Isabelle Carmody wants to ask questions to inform her work;

Why do people do the things they do?How does the world work?

How do people work together?

Karen Foxlee commented that you must have self belief and own your own work and to find stories by just starting to write.

A rather confronting session was ‘The People behind the Internet’ with Claire Evans and Ginger Gorman. I realised that there is just so much that I don’t know about the hidden (and not so hidden world of the internet). Ginger has been seriously trolled – scary stuff and has written and been targeted about it – she told us that much that she knows about this she learned from one of her trolls with whom developed a relationship and even friendship over time.

Claire explained that the carbon footprint of the internet is huge (bigger than airplane travel) and is quite hidden – food for thought…

Then ‘The Craft of Illustrating Books’ with Bronwyn Bancroft, Tony Flowers, Alison Lester and Georgia Norton Lodge – see pictures above.

The Sydney Stopoff en route to Broken Hill

I had booked an artist retreat/workshop/holiday for myself in Fowlers Gap – the Arid Zone Research Station of UNSW, which is 110kms north of Broken Hill in Far West NSW. This meant quite a journey: fly to Sydney from Ballina and stay overnight to catch the 6.18am train to Broken Hill (a 12 hour train ride), stay overnight in Broken Hill and meet up with sixteen others and our tutors and tour leader and travel by bus to Fowler’s Gap the following day.

This meant that I had half a day in Sydney to myself, so I took in the exhibition of Michael Armitage’s Art Works at the Museum of Contemporary Art. This artist is half Kenyan and half English and has produced works on lubugo cloth – a traditional bark cloth of the Buganda people. It is rough, joined together with stitching and has holes. These imperfections are incorporated into the artworks which have a strong message about current events, political and social in Kenya and are intricate and vibrant using strong yet subtle colour.

Jo Bertini’s work has always been a fascination for me and I have enjoyed doing some workshops with her. Knowing she had an exhibition on in Sydney, I took myself there too. Sadly the gallery was closed but I was able to see the works through the large windows onto the street. Fabulous use of colour and form.

So, what about Fowlers Gap?

We were truly in the outback and it’s astounding vast landscape – overwhelming really. We were allocated to rooms in the Shearer’s Quarters and a Cottage. Basic but all catered and with marvellous lessons from our tutors, Idris Murphy and Ross Laurie, both veterans of the outback and of abstraction. Was I out of my comfort zone artistically? Yes, a little, there were so many really talented artists along who had much more experience of abstracting the landscape than I, but I did learn a lot.

We had classes on mark making in the landscape, a great deal of discussion of artists and artists who had shaped contemporary art like Picasso and Matisse. There were an enormous number of art books to study and our tutors were supremely generous in sharing their knowledge.

We painted on top of a ridge at ‘Two Tanks’ – very rocky, walked down the creek close to ‘home’ – dry of course, but wonderful trees (my love affair with trees went up a notch!) and sandy and eroded banks, we painted at The Dam and the X Box, the Ochre House (a shed with drop toilet and shower) and a waterhole nearby. Four wheel drive mandatory of course. There were wonderful coloured rocks, goats, stones and more rocks – and more wonderful gnarled trees. We were fed three times a day and had classes most evenings with critique and suggestions throughout. On our last day was a ‘Show and Tell’ – a bit nerve wracking!

The most challenging thing about the whole adventure at Fowlers Gap was the freezing cold, especially in the morning – barely above freezing – and the icy wind. Finding a place to paint out of the wind was a constant challenge. Thankfully the showers were hot and snug in bed under three layers of blankets and a doona!

28/29 September – Studio weekend at Christine’s home studio.

In a rural setting – come and paint en plein air or in the studio – 9.30 – 4pm each day (glass of wine and cheese to finish!)    

There will be a variety of art activities including;

Saturday 28th

Sunday 29th

One day $110.00, full weekend $220.00

And a reminder that my exhibition of my travel sketches opens at Lennox Arts Collective on 30th August at 5.30pm and runs until 12th September. I am also conducting a workshop on creating a travel diary on 7th December 2019

You can see the works on display at my exhibition here………

Categories: Art Retreats Travel

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Byron Bay, Sydney, Fowlers Gap and more…

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