The green, green grass trees of home

Hi everyone, fun to be checking in for the first time on WBHDII and thought I’d post about what I’ve been working on for the last couple of months and where it’s headed. Actually, I don’t know where it’s headed… 02AWFebGrassTreeSite

These beautiful plants are Australian Grass Trees (Xanthorea species – I’m not sure what kind yet) and they cover a hillside about 100km (62m) from my home. There are some closer to home but not in such numbers as this site. They push up a tall, straight flower spike and remind me in some ways (if you squint and move back about a mile) of the Yukka I saw at White Sands in NM.

03AWFebGrassTreeSketches I’ve been sketching and painting these for a few months in preparation for a show in Brisbane in July, but also to see where it might all head for my WBHDII pieces. Sketching has been pretty minimal as the Australian summer makes for very unpleasant times. I went to the site 2 weeks ago and once I’d swatted away about 300 mosquitoes, then swallowed some flies visiting from adjoining cattle paddocks, the sun emerged and before I blacked out I made a vow to come back after summer.

So, some squiggly compositions did emerge and whilst none of the larger pieces are finished, there is some colour going down and I’m working through some ideas. Below is where I work, listen to bad tv and good music, drink lots of coffee, and talk to our dog. 01AWFebStudioGrassTrees


Sketching in paddocks

011_AW_13The 4 day sketching trip to Theodore was a really great break. Outdoor sketching always makes me feel more connected to my subject. I can be as messy and freed-up as I like as I’m not trying to make finished pieces, though sometimes there are little surprises worth hanging.

I have a basic kit that I can carry away from the car, and I like to stand when I work so the metal easel comes too. And a thermos. And some snacks. And cake. No point suffering…


This cattle property was just covered with enormous bottle trees, they show how much the farmers love them when every other tree species is gone. On the ecosystem maps I’m referencing (with colour), these trees would be in a ‘white zone’, and here they’re marching up the hill toward a protected ‘pink zone’.

Using gouache on Arches cold pressed 300gsm, I laid down colours that referenced the maps – magenta, green, oranges and then painted over this with white acrylic. Gouache is so perfect for quick outdoor sketching as it dries fast.

013_AW_13It does feel like something is happening with this little sketch, there’s a bit of whimsy. And a prickly pear in the foreground – what an interesting link to New Mexico and the region!

So, out of the paddock and back in the studio I’ve laid down some really light oil bases in those colours, letting it dry and will see what emerges over the next couple of weeks.