As a child I’d had dreams of being an artist/painter when I grew up. The fact that I became a painter (albeit mostly in my retirement, with a 2016 RAS Retrospective and a very positive review by John McDonald) is close to a minor miracle. Painting is not easy, for all art is a coupling of insecurity and self-belief, and each work is mountain to be scaled. And to paraphrase Flaubert (who had been talking of poetry) one’s paintings are never ‘finished’, only ‘abandoned’. The following is a chronological list of significant art works produced in a lifetime:
Studio, Ernest Place, Crows Nest (2009 – present)
2020, my big ‘artistic’ project for the year is to try to pull together an electronic update of Stardust Painter-Poet, to post on this Website, put on hold during the Coronavirus lockdown (when I switched focus to doing two more paintings for this projected publication, ‘Hard Quiz’ and ‘Orchids & I’).
Paintings commenced (2020) in my studio:
2020, in January I stippled the face, arms and hands of ‘Long-Distance Poet’, aiming to submit it to the 2020 ‘Lismore’ Portrait Prize in February (but changed my mind and submitted ‘Gallery Talk’ to the ‘Lismore’ Portrait Prize instead), and made good progress with more complex stippling of ‘Mullumbimby Dreaming II’.
2020, in March I commenced a painting entitled ‘Hard Quiz’, of myself holding the Hard Quiz Big Brass Mug (received February 2020), as a projected ARchibald entry for 2021. My special topic had been ‘Australian Native Epiphytic Orchids’, having been an orchid nut at Mullumbimby at a child. I had originally requested ‘The Poetry of Edwin Wilson’ (tongue-in-cheek, saying I was an authority on this subject), being prepared to suffer a degree of ritualistic humiliation in an attempt to try to raise my profile as a Poet and a Painter, but was happy to settle for the orchid theme. The program (listed as Series 5, Episode 34), has been rescheduled to go to air on ABC TV, for the evening of Wednesday 18 November 2020.
2020, in April I commenced a painting of a flowering plant of Dendrobium Edwin Wilson in my Hard Quiz Big Brass Mug, entitled ‘Orchids & I’, last painting projected for inclusion in my Stardust update.
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2019, the month of January was subsumed with work on the electronic compilation of my third book of Poetic Memoirs, Long-Distance Poet: a Portrait of the Poet as an Old Fart, and the painting of a portrait of the same name, to double as a 2019 submission to the Archibald Prize and a cover for my proposed third book of poetic memoirs. By early February the painting was photographed (for the book cover) and work proceeded in stippling highlighted areas of the face, hands, arms and spines of books to improve its ‘texture’. The book (of limited print run of 100 copies) was received at the end of February, before our bus-tour holiday in the South Island of New Zealand.
Paintings commenced (2019) in my studio:
2019, worked all January on a self-portrait with spines of my books down RHS, entitled ‘Long Distance Poet’, as projected cover for my third book of Poetic Memoirs of the same name. The painting, as used for the book cover, was more in the fauve style of colour, toned-down for projected 2019 Archibald entry. There was a spelling mistake (in one of the book titles, in the cover of Long-Distance Poet, received February 2019), corrected for the 2019 Archibald submission (AGNSW, 4 April 2019), that could well make the first edition of Long-Distance Poet more of a collector’s item (as flawed stamps are always more valuable). If nothing else, with a print run of 100, it will certainly become a rare book. The colours of the face, hands and arms of my painting ‘Long-Distance Poet’ were then toned down considerably .
2019, second half of March, on my return from New Zealand I purchased a quality canvas and started to grid up a copy (19 March) of an Eric Wilson Streetscape of Rue Norvins, Montmartre, Paris, 1939 (original, oil on board, 75.3 x 54.0 cms, Art Gallery of South Australia), as shown to me by Philip and Julie Brackenreg, Artarmon Galleries. My homage to Eric Wilson, 2019, is being done 80 years after he painted his work. Enjoying this process very much, and hopefully learning as I go along, as the Eric Wilson painting (detail below) is a most beautiful composition.
2019, April, after another Archibald rejection from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, I started a composite portrait to be entitled ‘A Portrait of the Poet as a Child/Young Man/Old Fart’ (to be in-line with my three books of poetic memoirs). A savage review of the 2019 Archibald by John McDonald (SMH 26 May 2019), caused me to abandon this one.
2019, June, started another version of Orchid (‘Orchid II’). Health problems caused me to ‘pause’ on this one too.
2019, August, still having health issues I had not attended the 60 anniversary of the class of 59 at Murwillumbah High School, and had diverted all my energies into a ‘reconstructed’ painting of the rooves of the old city of Arles (southern France), from the higher platform near the old Roman Colleseum, with wheat fields in the distance where our guide told us Van Gough had walked each day to paint. Painting to be called ‘Wheat Fields Beyond Arles’.
2019, September, still having health problems, and prior to a 60th anniversary (October) of the class of 59 (of Mullumbimby High School, having been there from 1955 to 1958), with a prospective ferry trip up the Brunswick River, I started a painting under the working title of ‘Upper Brunswick River’, then ‘Mullumbimby Creek’, and finally ‘Mullumbimby Dreaming II’.
2019, November, after my cancer diagnosis I went straight to a small portrait of my last grandchild, Cooper, in New York (as the last of a series of four).
2019, 7 November, opened Small Treasures exhibition (artarmon Galleries), with three of my small paintings hung in exceedingly good company.
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2018, most of January was taken up with the production of the electronic layout of my ‘Art book’ of poetry, entitled Synthesis, being a selection of my earlier poems set to all my pencil drawings of the late Elizabeth McAlpine. After my 2017 pneumonia scare I was very pleased to get back to painting in 2018, after a holiday in western Tasmania (in the footsteps of Oliver Bainbridge in 1899). During the year my ‘Boogarem Falls’ was hung in the Salon Des Refuses, S.H. Ervin Gallery, 2018. In late October I had an email from Chrisine Feher, Secretary, Royal Art Society of New South Wales, to say I had been elected as a Fellow of the Society. Really choofed, considering my late start to become a serious painter (somewhat in the ‘Grandpa Moses’ style) on my retirement from paid work (in 2003).
Paintings commenced (2018) in my studio:
2018, March, started two paintings to do with the creative process, projecting to use in ‘Long-distance Poet’.
The first one was ‘Calliope’, of a naked daemon muse of poetry (after the style of MDM, as seen in a dream many years ago), with dagger raised, and my green Olivetti portable on the table beside my bed. Submitted, AGNSW, for the 2019 Sulman Prize. Not accepted.
The second one was ‘Angel at Longueville’ (after the style of CLT, as also seen in a dream at a bad time in my life), of a luminous angle seen hovering above the back patio when we lived at Longueville, who had held out her palms to me and said ‘forbearance’ (that was soothing at the time, and kind of ironic as CLT is no angel).
2018, May, started three more heavily-textured paintings of Mount Warning.
The first one, to the called ‘Wollumbin’, of a more realistic ‘commercial’ painting of the mountain and clouds structure, trying to apply all the theory of obliques as taught to me by Robin Norling, with a hoop pine in the front LHS, and a king parrot as a focal point in the middle RHS.
The second one, entitled, ‘Stormbird’, was a more atmospheric painting of Mount Warning with green clouds and a lightning strike on its summit, and a Channel-billed cookoo (‘Stormbird’) lower down, flying from left to right.
The third of the series, under the working title of ‘Twin Peaks’ (became ‘Heartland’), was a non-realistic juxtaposition of Chincogan and Wollumbin, the two mountains of my childhood, with some ‘bluies’ and ‘greenies’ flying from left to right, and a dotted image of a pensive self (from Rowan Fotheringham photograph in Synthesis) within Wollumbin and above Chincogan looking down over the heavily forested landscape. For the record I had started these three paintings before I had seen the excellent David Preston Exhibition at Rochfort Galleries (on the Pacific Highway not far from our place), and his paintings had influenced my clouds.
2018, September, a smaller square dot painting, entitled ‘Australian Currency’ was started and abandoned, then pulled together in 2010.
2018, passim, continued the laborious task of turning ‘Yellow Girl’ (from John Currin’s ‘Honeymoon Nude’) into a dot painting, to give her more three-dimensionality and texture, now under the working title of ‘Flaxen Girl’.
2018, October, elected as a Fellow of the Royal Art Society of NSW, and Jon took a photo of me working in my studio.
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2017, most of early 2017 was taken up with the production of the electronic layout and index of my Oliver Bainbridge book, Lord Nelson, Uncle Oliver and I: the Life and Death of Oliver Bainbridge, received June 2017. Contracted pneumonia in France (in May), and was too sick to paint until July.
Paintings commenced (2017) in my studio:
2017, January, started two new paintings, ‘Mangroves’, and ‘Gallery Talk’ (from a still from the video by Paul Sheaffe), but the Oliver Bainbridge book took a higher priority. ‘Gallery Talk’ was not finished until early 2020, and submitted electronically to the ‘Lismore Portrait Prize’.
2017, distressed that Robin Norling, my painter friend of five decades (and important art mentor in my retirement from paid work), died suddenly at Taree (20 January 2017). Had met Robin when he first worked at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (in the 1970s), and worked with him on joint programs when I had a similar job at the adjacent Gardens (Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney). He had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, but was still able to paint, and we all thought he would live for many more years.
2017, April, with the electronic layout of the Bainbridge book starting to consolidate, I started a painting, ‘Tahitian Girl’ (from a Bainbridge photographs of a young bare-breasted Tahitian girl in a sarong and ‘come hither’ look leaning up against a large rainforest tree), and completed the basic composition before our holiday. Exhibited RAS.
2017, started a larger copy of John Currin’s ‘Honeymoon Nude’ (from the Scottish Galleries Collection that had come to Sydney), before I went overseas, under the working title of ‘Yellow Girl’, and let it lapse at a certain stage, then started turning it into a dot painting in 2018, not finished until 2019.
2017, early May, started a square-based painting to be called ‘Angophora’, more a simplified ‘compositional’ painting of negative shapes, of a gnarled old Sydney Angophora growing out of a sandstone rock with a Banksia integrifolia in the bottom RHS, and water behind, after the style of one of Margaret Preston’s linocuts (with a high horizon, as used in ‘Mangroves’). Mid-May, Cheryl and I went for a holiday to France on signing off on the colour proofs of the Bainbridge book. Unfortunately I picked up a virus while in France, which when mixed with a bacterial infection ended up with a stint in a Singapore hospital with Pneumonia. Since my return have had to pace myself, sending out Promotional/Review copies of the Bainbridge book (received mid-June) on the basis of one task a day, with no stamina to get back to painting until July. Came back to this painting towards the end of 2018, and managed to pull it together. Submited, North Sydney Art Prize, with earlier photograph. Unsuccessful, with more installation-type works it would seem. Exhibited RAS Autumn Show where it received a ‘Commendation’.
2017, July, started an essentially A4 format portrait of our granddaughter ‘Abby’ (Abigail) in New York (gridded up from a photograph) in the style of my (2016) portraits of ‘Evie’ and ‘Charlie’, and have signed now after two weeks.
2017, August, received an email from Lani Jensen, of Mullumbimby, who had lived as a child out Mullumbimby Creek, near where I had collected Dendrobium kingianum (as described in The Mullumbimby Kid). She had seen my ‘Kingianum’ cards at the local Orchid Show, and wanted to know if she could buy my Kingianum painting (‘Pink Rock Lily’), from which the card had been derived (that I had swapped with Paul Sheaffe for his video talk of my 2016 RAS Gallery Talk). Attached to her email were a series of photographs, including one of her in the exact place as described in my book, giving me the idea to paint a long-format ‘composite’ (of orchids, rocks, rock obelisks, escarpment and waterfall), now called ‘Boogarem Falls’ (with Mount Warning on the horizon in the extreme left, and Chincogan (as seen from this perspective) on the extreme right). My step-father, Henry Forbes, had told me these falls had been named after an old bullocky, whose logs had been bogged/caught between trees up on this range. After trying to extricate himself several times he had cut his logs free in exasperation, claiming ‘Boogarem’ (or bugger them), and thus the mountain had achieved a name. The pink rocks in this painting were inspired by the escarpment to the west of Nimbin. Submitted 2018 Wynne, and hung in 2018 Salon Des Refuses, S.H. Ervin Gallery.
2017, October, have been working on a copy of my painting ‘Pink Rock Lily’ (for Lani Jensen, to be called ‘Pink Rock Lily II’), with the profile of Chincogan as it would have been seen from where these orchids had been collected when I was a child.
2017, November, Silver Birch, copy of painting by Gustav Klimt as an exercise in colour and composition.
2017, December, my (mostly hardcover) Creative Journals, 1966 – 2017 taken by State Library of NSW, for general access ten years after I have died.
2017, passim, over-painted portrait of Phil Spence in his laboratory.
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2016, the first three months of this year were spent preparing for my April RAS Retrospective, with January dedicated exclusively to painting the edges of stretched canvases (using fast-drying medium), to give them a chance to dry. Smaller works had been progressively framed by Phillip Brackenreg at Artarmon Galleries. Glamour jobs towards the end were the application of stronger D-hooks (to large stretched canvases), the writing of my Gallery Talk and the compilation of the RAS Catalogue. The Retrospective received good press coverage, with a feature (and pic) in the Mosman Daily, a mention in The Planner, Visual Arts, ‘Spectrum’, and a review by John McDonald in his column in Spectrum, Sydney Morning Herald. Because of the John McDonald connection/review the Retrospective was a critical and financial success, making a small profit after covering the substantial costs.
Paintings commenced (2016) in my studio:
2016, January, commenced small painting of our new cat, ‘Miss Lily’, with her sitting on the bed upstairs (last painting hung in my Retrospective, sold to Christine Feher, Secretary RAS). Continued to work on ‘Cape York Dream’ (exhibited RAS Spring Exhibition, 2018), and ‘Farm Cove’ in the lead-up to the opening of the Retrospective.
2016, April, took my Nelson-researching cousin Sister Pat to lunch after an exhibition inspection, and showed her a Creative Journal entry (17 March 2016) in which I had indicated an interest in painting her portrait (from a photograph of her holding a double camellia on the back of her last book of poems). Another of her cousins (in Canberra) had been inspired to paint her head from this same photograph (in yellow and purple) and it was really good.
2016, May, commenced my own portrait of Sister Pat, giving a lot of thought to its composition. On the top LHS behind her head I had constructed an aboriginal ‘landscape’ grid (representing her aboriginality in the appropriate colours of black, white and red and yellow ochres) creating a series of Celtic crosses, with a shamrock (representing her Irishness) in the middle of the central cross. On the top RHS I included a ‘Cross of Saint Joachim’ (as worn by our purported common ancestor, Horatio Nelson, see out joint publication, Oliver Bainbridge: Lord Nelson’s great grandson?). When I rang her to arrange for a critique of the developing composition she had said ‘I am not an oil painting’, to which I had replied ‘you are an acrylic undercoat’. It was a no-brain-er that this painting would have to become a dot painting; this laborious task, projecting for completion in 2017, was started in May. Exhibited 2017 Spring Show, RAS.
2016, meanwhile I was distracted from this by a request from Rachel to do a couple of essentially A4 format portraits of our grandchildren, ‘Evie’ and ‘Charlie’, and agreed to do them as a 40th birthday present (in August) for Rachel, and commenced them in May as a top priority. Rachel had originally wanted them to be dot paintings, but given their size this would have been very difficult. They evolved in the style of my Modigliani Imitation, ‘Girl with Red Hair’, gridded up from photographs, with a reasonable likeness achieved. Paintings were completed and given to Rachel and Ted in August 2016.
2016, from July (inclusive) following on from the Retrospective I decided to focus exclusively on doing a substantially new ‘Oliver Bainbridge’ book, incorporating all the additional material found on ‘Trove’ (the digitisation of old Australian newspapers project by National Library of Australia, New Zealand and other countries), under the working title of ‘Lord Nelson, Uncle Oliver and I’. Book received June 2017, after our return from France.
2016, from December I revisited my portrait of ‘Sister Pat’ and ‘Synthesis’, turning them both into significant dot paintings (‘Synthesis’ exhibited RAS in 2017 and submitted for 2017 Archibald, and both paintings used in Lord Nelson, Uncle Oliver and I), and continued to work on ‘Cape York Dream’ and ‘Circular Quay‘.
2016, our daughter Rachel asked me to over-paint the print on canvas of ‘Harbingers of Rain’ I had given her. I had initially resisted this as I knew it wold be a lot of work. I brought the painting back to my studio in December, with the intention of improving the colour of the sky, an trying to ‘fix’ the overall painting with a series of glazes, essentially an Edwin after Edwin, started before Christmas, and not finished until several months later. Then Cheryl wanted me to over-paint the smaller version, which I did (for our front room, downstairs, at home).
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2015, the first three months of this year were consumed with the electronic compilation (under the sub-headings of ‘Early Works’, ‘Mesozoic Era’ and ‘Late Flowering’) of a proposed glossy Catalogue (of my paintings and my poems) under the working title of ‘Stardust Painter-Poet, Edwin Wilson: Paintings and Poems’ (which was retained). The main aim was to get this work to the printer (in Hong Kong) before Cheryl and I went on a trip around the UK in a tourist ship (achieved).
This year was chosen to compile this work as it was the 40th anniversary of the death of James, the 40th anniversary of my Stegomobile (art) construction (as part of the Dinosaur Appeal at the Australian Museum), and the 40th anniversary of my marriage to Cheryl.
This necessitated a blitz on unfinished paintings (required to be photographed for the ‘Stardust’ projected publication), with the main focus on ‘Spring Festival’, ‘Roche Mouton’ (in vertical brush strokes, then dots, and still unfinished at time of photographing for the book) and ‘Wardell Dreaming III’ (after the style of Mondrian, completed in time for photographic session).
Paintings commenced (2015) in my studio:
2015, Nefertiti (‘sister’ painting to ‘Nubian Princess’ and ‘Lotus Buds I and II’).
2015, ‘Dendrobium Edwin Wilson’ (study, last painting to be included in the ‘Stardust’ Catalogue).
Post ‘Stardust’ (1915)
2015, April, commenced my next (last?)’Big Heads and Books’ painting, entitled ‘Synthesis’, with hands clasped before my face (derived from a photograph by Christopher Georgiou, taken at Patonga with Robin Norling and Jocelyn Maugham), and titles of books down the right hand side, and a flowering Dendrobium Edwin Wilson (adapted from ‘study’) in the top Left hand side. In May 2016, after my RAS Retrospective, I started the laborious task of turning this work into a dot painting, to try to increase its overall impact.
2015, May, Cheryl and I went round the UK on a cruise, stopping off at various places along the way.
2015, June, commenced a series of four Landscape (Seascape) paintings inspired by our UK trip, two of Tobermory, Isle of Mull, Scotland, and two of the old harbour of Honfleur, in France (all four paintings not finished until 2016, and exhibited in RAS Retrospective): consisting of square paintings Tobermory I (donated to 2016 RAS Ballot, obtained by Peter Lubrano), Tobermory II (donated to 2018 RAS BAllot), Honfleur I (donated to 2017 RAS Ballot), and longer format, Honfleur II.
2015, June, ‘Farm Cove’, initially inspired by my two Honfleur paintings, was originally to be called ‘Sydney Angophoras‘, a painting of the city skyline and Farm Cove (as seen from the grassy hill in the middle of the traffic island of the northern loop of Mrs Macquaries Road), with a reduction of the vegetation towards the front left hand side, except for the old Angophora with a distinctively gnarled base that is growing there, and another Angophora on the right hand side, growing lower down, to balance the composition. This painting took a long time to compose. The title had only gelled in mid 2017, when I was struck with the similarity of the angle to a painting by Conrad Martens (National Library of Australia) as used on p. 15 of my Poetry of Place. The only building in the Martens painting is the Stables (Conservatorium of Music), and apparently closer to the viewer. On reflection I was quite amazed to think that all the tall buildings in my painting had had been built in my time in Sydney, as the first AMP building was more to the right hand side of the frame of this work). Worked on this painting for three years, and submitted to AGNSW, for the 2019 Wynne Prize.
2015, November, commenced nude dot painting, ‘Miss Stardust’ (exhibited in RAS Retrospective), painted over earlier painting of a potential Australian ‘flag’, with a yellow central sun and red and blue halves (along long axis). An earlier version of this painting had a circular saw metal blade in place of the sun.
2015, November, started a more ambitious painting, ‘Cape York Dream’, inspired by Paul Gauguin’s ‘Three Tahitians’, first viewed in the Scottish Travelling Exhibition ‘The Greats’ (unfinished at time of RAS Retrospective, and took some time to complete). Submitted 2018 Sulman. Unsuccessful. Exhibited 2018 Spring Exhibition, RAS.
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2014, most of January was taken up with the electronic production (for Hong Kong printing) of my publication Mullumbimby Dreaming, a compilation of Mullumbimby-themed paintings and poems (plus images of some other paintings), to double as an Exhibition Catalogue for the Tweed River Gallery Mullumbimby-themed painting exhibition (8 August – 12 October 2014), entitled ‘Edwin Wilson – The Mullumbimby Kid’ (to hopefully link in with, and help promote my first book of poetic memoirs (The Mullumbimby Kid) in my Heartland of the far north coast of New South Wales).
2014, February, the Yve Close portrait was exhibited at the Royal Art Society, as part of the Teachers’ Exhibition at the Lavender Bay Gallery, and given to me (December 2014).
Paintings commenced (2014) in my studio:
2014, a square-format ‘Pink Rock Lily’ painting (‘sister’ painting to ‘Rock Lily’, with Chincogan in the bottom right hand side), was started in January as requested by Penny Fox (to sell as cards at the Spring Show of the Byron District Orchid Society). The ‘Pink Rock Lily’, Dendrobium kingianum (I prefer to retain the old nomenclature), is native to the Brunswick River valley (extending south to the Hunter River). Cards were produced and passed on to Penny at the August launch of my painting exhibition, and doubled as my Christmas Card (for 2014). This painting was ‘swapped’ at my RAS Retrospective with Paul Sheaffe (son of my Mullumbimby orchid-growing mentor, Percy Sheaffe), in return for him producing a video of my RAS Gallery Talk, 10 April 2016).
2014, commenced a smaller ‘remembered’ version of a painting, ‘Road to Lismore’ (first done in 1954, when I repeated sixth class), of Percy Sheaffe’s old bus travelling the back road to Lismore (from the time we went to Lismore to see the Queen). In the earlier version I had the road zig-zagging up the painting (in portrait format) in an almost abstract way, with the bus in the bottom left hand side, and luxuriant vegetation growing beside the road cuttings. In this version I have introduced vistas of Chincogan and Mount Warning in the top of the painting, with a Channel-billed cuckoo flying in the opposite direction to the bus.
2014, started a 9×5 (9 inch x 5 inch, painting, the dimension of the lid of cigar boxes used by an earlier generation of artists for painting on) of a non-dot version of ‘Lotus Buds’, entitled ‘Lotus Buds II’. Exhibited at the RAS Christmas Exhibition.
2014, total revamp over many months of my earlier (2004) Self-portrait with spiral galaxy and books down the side with daemon Muse on top of books (using hemispherical dots, projecting for an Archibald submission in 2015), now to be called ‘Stardust Painter-Poet’ (and a detail of this painting was used as the cover image for my 2015 Art Catalogue Stardust Painter-Poet).
2014, at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, where I worked from 1980, I’d instigated the Spring Festival, ‘Spring in the Gardens’, in the early 1980s, and managed, developed, and built it up over many years until 1994 (when my old job was restructured, and the Festival then collapsed after 1995). On one occasion, I think it was in 1993, I was standing near the small bridge down from the Gardens Restaurant. It was a Sunday, the peak day for the Festival. The wisteria around the Restaurant balcony was in full flower, when I saw a masked procession of musicians, jugglers, clowns and stilt walkers come around the corner, and walk towards me in slow motion time. It was as if I was in medieval Florence, and this was something I had been responsible for, and how I’d wished I’d had a camera on me at the time. Then recently, when thinking about this day I thought I’d try to recreate the scene in a painting. Because of compositional reasons I moved the scene to the Spring Walk in the Gardens (south of the sandstone wall), and pulled together a number of images from the Internet to construct my ‘collage’ of procession characters, in a painting to be called ‘Spring in the Gardens’.
2014, July, have been in my studio for five years now, a significant time, on the eve of my Tweed River Gallery exhibition.
2014, August to October, the Tweed River Exhibition received very good local press coverage, with large crowds visiting the Gallery (to see the incredibly popular Margaret Olley ‘Installation’, of a recreation of a couple of rooms in her Paddington house) who walked past my exhibition on the way in and on the way out. Two paintings (‘Earth Mother’ and ‘Rainforest Poet’) were sold, plus a good number of Mullumbimby Dreaming (Catalogues), and copies of The Mullumbimby Kid.
2014, August and beyond. In anticipation of ‘withdrawal symptoms’ at the end of this exhibition I came back to Sydney with ideas for a series of north-coast inspired paintings, to give me something beyond the exhibition to focus on, and worked on them all virtually simultaneously, in a five-month burst of creativity:
* The first of these north-coast inspired post-exhibition paintings was a square-formatted ‘Murwillumbah Townscape’ (after the style of ‘Mullumbimby Dreaming’, projected to finish in early 2015). At the Murwillumbah High School reunion (of 2009) I had stayed in the Murwillumbah Motor Inn (Econo Lodge Murwillumbah), with a spectacular view out the window of part of the town showing typical-style Murwillumbah houses, with Mount Warning and the mountain range beyond. At the time I had thought it would make a really interesting landscape painting, with the house immediately across the road having been lived in by Barbara Taylor, a student in our class of 1959, but I had been distracted at the time by all the reunion activities. So when I was arranging accommodation in Murwillumbah (for the exhibition) I booked into the same hotel, specifically asking for a room with views of the townscape and Mount Warning, and was given Room 30. On the Saturday and Sunday (of the opening weekend) I did a series of sketches (supplemented by photographs), including an old lady dressed in her best clothes who walked past at the time of my Sunday sketching (a once-was-teenager from my time at school in Murwillumbah). The first thing I did on returning to Sydney was to purchase a good quality (122 cm x 122 cm) square canvas of Belgium linen (for this projected painting) from Parkers at the Rocks, and launched into this work, adjusting the perspective slightly (as in ‘Mullumbimby Dreaming’) to make the mountains larger (to create impact) and the houses smaller.
* Another Post-exhibition painting was ‘My Father’s Stone’ (portrait format), of my father’s headstone and marble urn (containing a Christ Thorn plant) at the Wardell Cemetery, with an inset of the flannel flower illustration (from the cover of New Collected Poems) in the bottom left hand side of the painting. Flannel flowers (and other heath flowers) once grew in great profusion at the Wardell Cemetery, before the area was more consistently mowed back. The Christ Thorn in the marble urn had been growing there for many decades. I have painted it as it appeared when visited (at the time of the exhibition), looking white and diminished, and without leaves, and a few flowers (their last flowers most probably before dying).
* Another post-exhibition painting was ‘Chincogan and Mount Rushmore’, (landscape format), developed from a photograph of my face in the left-hand-side of a view of Chincogan from McLeods Chute/Shoot. My father always stopped at this place when travelling north (to admire this panoramic view from Byron Bay and the Julian Rocks through to Chincogan). As a child I had wondered how people from Sydney would react to such a view (now lost with the opening of the new tunnel on the northern extension of the Bangalow bypass). Visitors to this region had obviously liked what they saw (given the spectacular development of the far north coast in the last fifty years or so). To try to get the craggy ‘Mount Rushmore’ look to the face and bring it forward, this part of the painting was created from dots (while the rest of the painting was built up from overlapping glazes).
* Another post-exhibition painting was ‘Saddle Road’ (extending on from my ‘Road to Lismore’ painting), of the Saddle Road (landscape format), the first road that had been cut into the Big Scrub of hinterland from Brunswick Heads (a road I road on when I was a child).
* Yet another post-exhibition painting was ‘Sugarloaf’ (portrait format), a more decorative landscape of sugar cane growing in the veritable shadow of Mount Warning, with a strip of earth across the bottom of the work. Sold to lady who came to Stead Foundation talk, as part of (2016) RAS Retrospective.
* The last of my north-coast-themed paintings, a more ambitious work that will not be finished until next year at the earliest, was my ‘Roche Mouton’ (Vache?), (portrait format), of a reconstructed and partly-imagined view from the Tweed River Gallery, with the rock-sheep/cattle/pigs (rocks with horns and legs in the grass outside the Gallery) as a feature in the foreground, was commenced in October of that year, revisited in 2020 with more dotted texture in the middle ground.
2014 An abandoned (currently titled ‘Dragons’) painting (of two dormant dragons inside the Mount Warning ‘profile’ (commenced earlier in the year (2014) and then set aside to face the wall), was then selected for resurrection, when I had the idea to use the ‘scalloped’ shape of trees on the mountain (as developed earlier in ‘Harbinger of Rain’), to link in visually with the dragon scales, with these shapes repeated in the vegetation at the front of the painting. An inferior painting, not exhibited in my RAS Retrospective, and put aside until 2018, when I started to turn it into a dot painting.
* Another (non-north-coast-themed) painting was ‘Spring’, of two young lovers meant to be myself and young Anne, adapted from a cover photo of Lizzy Caplan and Michale Sheen for ‘The Guide’ (Sydney Morning Herald), Monday 22 September.
* Another revamped (non-north-coast-themed) painting from this period was my ‘Lunch on the Grass I’ (2003, landscape format), my ‘Dejeuner sur L’Herbe’ (after Manet) in St Leonards Park. The colours of the original painting had been far too sharp, and were toned back with a series of glazes. As part of the colour-balance/composition an A-380 Qantas Airbus was painted into the sky (on the top LHS). The more central kite (flown by the young boy) was removed from the painting (as it had not been particularly well-placed), and a dog (Dalmatian) was painted beside the boy instead.
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2013, the first part of this year was taken up with the production of the ‘Oliver Bainbridge’ book. In May I received confirmation of a Mullumbimby-themed exhibition of paintings to be opened in August (2014) at the Tweed River Gallery (Murwillumbah). Since then I have been ‘tweaking’ paintings for this projected exhibition, including my square-format ‘Mullumbimby Dreaming’, ‘Since I Desired ‘, and ‘The Stilt Walker’. A meeting (regarding this exhibition) was held at the Gallery on 9 September. Rowan Fotheringham was commissioned to take digital photographs of the next batch of paintings (27 November).
22 September, sat for a pastel head drawing by Yve Close (protege of Joshua Smith), the first stage of a projected seated portrait in oils, holding my New Collected Poems in my hand, which was progressing well (in October 2013), after Yve’s six (regulation) sittings. 26 November, Yve came round to take photos in my back yard to help create the background to the painting.
Paintings commenced (2013) in my studio:
2013, a square-format ‘Rock Lily’ painting (using the Sydney form with smaller pseudo-bulbs for compositional reasons), with Mount Warning in the bottom left hand side, projecting for my Tweed River Art Gallery Exhibition (in 2014). An image of this painting was used to produce my Christmas Cards for 2013. Sold to Kay Robinson, (2016) RAS Retrospective.
2013, following our (July) holiday in Darwin I have commenced an aerial view painting of the region of the original Wilson farm at East Wardell, entitled ‘Wardell Dreaming’. This painting has now morphed into three potential paintings, the first a more realistic representation from Google Earth with colours approximating reality, the second an aboriginal-inspired dot painting of the same composition (with more varied colours), the third a more abstracted version after the style of Mondrian. The first two have been worked to almost-completed form, the half-finished Mondrian version has been held over at this stage.
2013, copy of Modigliani portrait of a young girl with orange hair and brown eyes, exhibited at RAS Summer Exhibition (December/January 2014).
2013, landscape-format painting of red-tailed black cockatoos flying over Mount Warning, now to be called ‘Harbinger of Rain’ (sold RAS Autumn Exhibition, 2015, to Diane Sandjejko).
* * *
2012, in this my 70th year the initial focus was on producing a second edition of The Mullumbimby Kid and bringing together my New Collected Poems (with revised index and composite notes, plus all my new poems since the publication of Anthology (2002)).
Paintings commenced (2012) in my studio:
2012, a square-format Rainforest Painting, tentatively called ‘Blue Harmonies’ (of rainforest animals and plants, including flowering orchids, with Mount Warning in the background), now to be called ‘Lace Monitor Alert’, was started in November, inspired by a visit to the Tweed (Regional) Art Gallery (in Murwillumbah), and to be included in the Tweed River Gallery exhibition (of 2014).
2012, ‘Egyptian Lady with Lotus Buds’, turned into a dot painting called ‘Lotus Buds’, donated to Royal Art Society ballot fundraiser (2014).
2012, ‘Nude and the Moon’, composite adaptation from Godfrey Miller and Modigliani, turned into a dot painting. Sold to Rebecca Bedwin at (2016) RAS Retrospective.
2012, adjusted the book cover in the hand in ‘The Mullumbimby Kid I’, large painting (portrait format), on producing a second edition of The Mullumbimby Kid, using a detail of the larger painting (of the boy in the landscape) as the cover design (like the cover design on the old packet of Uncle Toby’s Rolled Oats, with the boy kissing the girl, a smaller version of this design carried on his back), a feature painting for my .
2012, ‘Annie and Fox’, a study for a larger painting (donated to RAS Fundraiser, retrieved 2016) of my publishing friend Bruce Welch’s daughter Annie playing her violin with their dog ‘Fox’ sitting on the lounge chair listening. Given to family.
2012, ‘Girl with Violin’, larger version of the above, donated to the Royal Art Society ballot fundraiser (2013). Returned 2016.
2012, ‘The Tree Of Life’, a larger more ambitious composite dot painting, incorporating the design of Gustav Kilmt’s ‘Tree of Life’ and ‘my best synthesis of all my earlier versions of ‘Perception and Magnitude’ and related themes. The overall composition, started on 17 January 2012, has taken six months to properly come together (working with acrylic paints). The first oil paint dots were applied on the 1 July 2012 (with carbon tax most probably non-applicable).
* * *
2011, the highlight of this year was being a featured writer at the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival and having a joint painting exhibition at Artarmon Galleries with Bruce Herps. The first half of the year was spent polishing a range of paintings for this exhibition.
Paintings commenced (2011) in my studio:
2011 – 2013, ‘Frangipanis’, square painting, turned into a dot painting. Sold to Bernice Walker at (2016) RAS Retrospective.
2011 -2012, ‘Dot portrait’, study for larger painting.
2011 – 2012 Large Dot Portrait’.
2011 ‘Miss 1974’, nude, dot painting.
2011-2012 ‘Circular Quay III’, large night-time (earlier aborted) version of this painting (with fireworks behind the Dinosaur Harbour Bridge and the Opera House as plates draining in the sink), turned into a dot painting. Held by Artarmon Galleries.
2011 – 2012, ‘Blue Woman’, Balinese woman (after Arthur Fleishmann), turned into a dot painting.
2011 – 2012, ‘Two Women’ (‘Girlfriends), two Balinese women (after Fleishmann), turned into a dot painting.
* * *
2010, on our way to Canberra in January to see the Exhibition from the Musee D’Orsay, I was inspired to do a painting of the old Anglican Church at Berrima (which became my ‘Church at Berrima’), which went on to win the first prize (Medal of Distinction at the RAS Annual Spring (Painting) Exhibition). Held by Artarmon Galleries.
Paintings commenced (2010) in my studio:
2010, ‘Church at Berrima’, in Van Gogh style, after his ‘Church at Auvers’, with a Colonial lady on the pathway instead of a peasant woman as in the Van Gogh painting. Medal of Distinction, 2010 RAS Spring Show. Retained by Artarmon Galleries.
2010, ‘The Mullumbimby Kid II’, a ‘brother’ portrait with clasped hands and books on table, after the style of ‘My Brother Jim’, retitled ‘Who am I’.
2010, ‘Anthology: A Collection of Flowers’, landscape portrait with books and flowers and clasped hands (as above).
2010 – 2013, ‘Bombs Away’, a painting of religious and cultural symbols falling from the sun to earth (after the style of the original cover concept for an abandoned novel of the same name). Turned into a dot painting.
2010, ‘Modigliani nudes’, two copies of a Modigliani nude, one with tattoos of small animals.
* * *
2009, another significant year. Following the knock back from North Sydney Council for a painting studio on top of the garage, I purchased a one-room apartment in Crows Nest to act as a painting studio, available from the middle of the year.
Student paintings (2009), Lavender Bay Gallery, ‘life painting’, teacher Leyla Spencer:
‘Natasha’, reclining pose, commenced 3 February 2009.
‘Adrienne’, red dress, red painting, commenced 24 February 2009.
‘Ai V’, seating pose in yellow tones (with her name written in Japanese in painting), commenced 17 March 2009.
‘Ai VI’, a second version of this painting (square format) in blues and orange with persimmons as a feature in the lower left hand side was finished on 7 April 2009 (and hung at the RAS in June 2009 under the title ‘Fruits of Love’).
‘Jenny’, long -format painting, commenced 28 April 2009.
‘Adrienne’, one day quickie (19 May 2005). Painted over.
‘Sarah’, two week pose, commenced 26 May 2009.
”Ai VII’, seated pose, commenced 9 June 2009 (one week only), unfinished, broken by Murwillumbah High School 50-year reunion, after which I left art classes to concentrate on painting full time in my studio.
* * *
59 Burlington Street Crows Nest (1995 – 2009)
Additional paintings commenced (2009) at home/in studio:
2009 – 2012, ‘Mullumbimby Dreaming’, square format, the first serious painting commenced in the new studio.
2009, ‘Henry Lawson’, painting of Lawson statue in the Sydney Domain. RAS Ballot, 2010.
2009, ‘Beach Girl’, Manly Beach, from photo in The Melancholy Dane (painted over American girl, Stacey, sitting on a chair). Given to Anne Butt.
2009, Large Portrait with study with bookcase behind.
2009, smaller version of above.
2009, ‘Chincogan’, Mullumbimby landscape of Chincogan. Given to my sister Cathy on her 60th birthday.
* * *
2008, a significant year, in which I was elected as an ‘Exhibiting Member’ of the Royal Art Society of New South Wales, and won the ‘Engine Room Prize’ at the Student Exhibition at the end of the year. Following my election as ‘Exhibiting Member’ I had plans drawn up for a painting studio on top of our garage in the back yard at Crows Nest (objected to by two neighbours) and knocked back by North Shore Council at their last meeting at end of the year.
Student paintings (2008), Lavender Bay Gallery, ‘life painting’, teacher Leyla Spencer:
‘Monica’, reclining nude, commenced 29 January 2008.
‘Sarah’, reclining, commenced 19 February, 2008. Painted over.
‘Ai I’ (pronounced ‘I’), Japanese girl, half-standing half-seated pose, commenced 4 March 2008. Did a copy (stencil) of this painting to work on during the second week, and it won the Engine Room Prize at the Student Exhibition at the end of the year. The first version of this painting (‘Ai II’)was developed later. I also started a profile of this pose (‘Ai III’) as well (on 18 March 2008 – 2011).
‘Ole’, seated pose, commenced 25 March 2008.
‘Jenny’, back on, acrylics, commenced 22 April 2008. Painted over, second painting of ”Monica’ (27 May 2008). Second painting of Jenny (oils) standing, commence3d 6 May 2008.
‘Monica’, seated pose with hand on foot, commenced 13 May 2008. Retained. Second painting (from the other side of the room) commenced 27 May 2008.
‘Edwina’, ‘flatter’ finish inspired by visit to Japanese exhibition at the Art Gallery, commenced 10 June 2008.
Missed two weeks overseas.
‘Sarah’, back on, commenced 29 June 2008.
‘Rita IX’, seated pose, clothed, wearing a red top, commenced 5 July 2008.
‘Juliette’, clothed, one week only (2 September 2008), in which I had painted her to look like Henry Lawson with a mustache (as I was very stressed at the time of Jim’s final illness).
‘Zan’, one day portrait, 7 October 2008. Painted over, ‘Irish Oak’ (‘Heather on the Hill’).
‘Ole’,one day acrylic (14 October 2008), followed by a one day oil painting (21 October 2008).
‘Natasha’, seated nude, commenced 18 November 2008.
‘Ai IV’, nude standing (showed her earlier portrait hanging downstairs) , commenced 25 November 2008.
* * *
Additional paintings commenced (2008) at home:
2008, ‘Heather on the Hill’, painting of an Irish Oak from a photograph taken on our Irish holiday of a gnarled old tree at Ladies’ View. Retained by Artarmon Galleries.
2008, ‘Hand and Mind II’, larger version, after the photograpy by Rowan Fotheringham.
2008, ‘Hand and Mind I’, smaller version, thin portrait format with dark background.
2008, ‘Jim’s Trees’, painting of the two gum trees that grew outside Jim’s place at Chair Valley Bay North. Retained. Appears to have lost from the Storeroom during my 2016 RAS Retrospective. Assumed in had been stolen.
2008 – 2011, ‘Song of Lebanon’, painting of my poem of the same name built up from a series of composite images (sister painting of ‘The Green Line’).
2008, ‘Nevermore’, copy of the Gauguin nude as seen in London.
* * *
Student paintings (2007), Lavender Bay Gallery, ‘life painting’, teacher Leyla Spencer:
‘Meridith’, reclining in a blue dress, commenced 30 January 2007.
‘John’, pointillist painting in raw colours, commenced 20 February 2007. Painted over, ‘Honey I’ (8 May 2007).
‘Cecily’, large brush treatment, did in one sitting (13 March 2007). Second painting in Gauguin style commenced 20 March 2007).
‘Honey I’, only one sitting (8 May 2007), on my return from the UK. Turned into a dot painting (2012). A second version of this painting was executed, ‘Honey II’, as provided for the RAS Ballot (2012).
‘Katrina’, young honey blonde, seated pose, commenced 15 May 2007. A second version of the same pose (as painted from the other side of the room) was completed in the one session (29 May 2007).
‘Tara’, blonde girl,one week only (5 June 2007). Painted over.
‘Grace III’, clothed, quick drawing with charcoal and wash-like application of paint, commenced 12 June 2007.
‘Sarah’, one week portrait, 26 June 2007. Destroyed.
‘Mandy’, well proportioned painting, commenced 17 July 2007.
‘Sarah’, semi reclining pose, commenced 28 August 2007. Painted over.
‘Lia’, young girl in a blue top and ochre pants, commenced 4 July 2007.
‘Margaret’, commenced 9 October 2007.
‘Rita VIII’, quickie in green and pink.
‘Ole’ (‘Ollie’), commenced 30 October 2007.
‘Natasha’, commenced 20 November 2007.
* * *
Additional paintings commenced (2007) at home:
2007, second portrait of ‘My Brother Jim’. Given to Anne Onslow.
2007, second portrait of ‘Rachel’.
2007 – 2012, ‘Poet at Point’, family group of myself, Cheryl and Rachel (and others) at Mrs Macquaries Point (after the style of ‘The Bathers’ in the National Gallery, London). Retained.
2007, ‘Icarus’, small Icarus (in St Leonard’s Park).
2007 – 1012, ‘Large Icarus’ (‘The God Patricle’ (2012)), with electron shells and Homonculus. Retained.
* * *
Student paintings (2006), Lavender Bay Gallery, ‘life painting’, teacher Leyla Spencer:
‘Cherie’, woman with dark hair, painting of her back, commenced 31 January 2006, (2006 – 2011).
‘Mia IV’, back view, with her dog ‘Petal’, commenced 21 February 2006. Commendation at Student Exhibition.
‘David’, Anglo-Indian, commenced 21 March 2006.
‘Rita V’, clothed and wearing a little hat, commenced 24 April 2006 (plus a smaller ‘Rita VI’, nude, in the same pose).
‘Adrienne’, finished 6 June 2006, having missed some time when my mother died.
‘Jemima’, young girl with auburn hair, commenced 13 June 2006.
‘Elizabeth’, commenced 18 July 2006. Painted over.
‘Rita VII’, with a basked of fruit, commenced 8 August 2006 (plus pencil drawing of Rita during this session), and ‘Rita with Turban’ done about this time as well.
‘Kate IV’, standing pose, one week only, missed a week with my mother’s ashes up north (12 September 2006).
‘Cecily’, naked on top with blue trousers, reclining in a ‘Matisse’ style. Painted in the one session with wet rags on a white canvas (19 September 2006). Not a bad painting but painted over later on.
‘Meridith’, young girl with dark hair in a provocative pose, commenced 17 October 2006.
‘Adrienne’, commenced 24 October 2006. Painted over.
‘Grace II’, clothed, commenced 7 November 2006.
‘Jacqueline III’, in sinuous lying pose, commenced 28 November 2006.
* * *
Additional paintings commenced (2006) at home:
2006, Jenni Mitchell painted my portrait (early March) in Melbourne, as part of her ‘Portraits of Australian Poets’ series. Hanging in my study.
2006, ‘The Rose I’, after Elizabeth McAlpine.
2006, ‘Norah Jones’, from a photographs.
2006, ‘Angophoras‘, at Berry’s Island, after a visit with Paul and Susan Roberts. Purchased by Anne Butt at (2016) RAS Retrospective.
2006, ‘Rachel I”, first portrait of Rachel in back yard at Crows Nest (with Japanese lantern as a feature).
2006, started a painting of my mother in a Mullumbimby back lane (the background adapted from a painting by Karen Wynn-Moylan). Given to my sister Helen on her 60th birthday.
* * *
2005, after an incredible creative burst over the last two years, my aim from here on in was to paint less, but hopefully better paintings.
Student paintings (2005), Lavender Bay Gallery, ‘life painting’, teacher Leyla Spencer:
‘Kerry’, seated nude, commenced 1 February, gave to a tradesman at our house one day who had admired her.
‘Cecily III’, commenced 22 February.
‘Mot’, an old stout reclining lady, dressed. One day session (15 March 2005), painted over.
‘Adrienne’, painting of her back, commenced 22 March 2005).
‘Rita III’, reclining pose, commenced 26 April 2005.
‘Mia II’, blonde girl, ‘nude seated pose (having painted her clothed in Judy’s class) with checks in the background, commenced 17 May 2005.
”Mia III’, commenced second nude painting of Mia in the same pose (24 May 2005), without the checks in the background.
‘Kerry’, for one week only, 7 June 2005.
‘Adrienne II’, dark background painting with overlapping lighter tones, commenced 14 June 2005.
‘Michaela’, buxom red head, commenced 19 July 2005.
‘Elizabeth’, clothed (three weeks as Michaela not available) commenced 26 July 2005.
‘Michaela’, second session on earlier portrait, finished 16 August 2005.
‘Rita IV’, acrylic, two weeks, commenced 23 August 2005.
‘Stacy’, curves and straight lines painting, commenced 6 September 2005.
‘Tania’, commenced 11 October 2005.
‘Margaret’, commenced 1 November 2005.
Second portrait of ‘Margaret’, commenced 15 November 2005.
‘Michaela’, more ambitious painting, larger format wit a ‘Matisse’ background, commenced 22 November 2005. Painted over for second portrait of ‘My Brother Jim’ (2007). Given to Anne Onslow after Jim had died.
* * *
Additional paintings commenced (2005) at home:
2005, ‘Leyla II”, second portrait of Leyla Spencer (in grey dress and dark coat), painted on weekend workshop, 17 April 2005. Unfinished.
2005, finished ‘Girl with Frangipani’, from Lord Howe Island drawings, and input from Leyla. Painted over.
2005, portrait format, larger, more ambitious ‘Mullumbimby Kid’, with the child in a Mullumbimby landscape, and hands holding up mirror and copy of The Mullumbimby Kid, 2006 – 2011). Part of this painting (containing the child) was used for the cover of the second edition of The Mullumbimby Kid (2012), necessitating an upgrade of the cover of the book held up in the painting (2012).
2005, painted over ‘Poetic Genesis’, creating a large self portrait comprised of overlapping glazes of different colours with all my books spines down the right hand side.
2005, second larger ambitious less-cluttered ‘Mullumbimby Pastoral’, (2005 – 2011)
2005, ‘Paul and Susan Roberts’, after the style of Modigliani. Given to Paul and Sue.
2005, ‘Secret Garden III’ (‘Cat with Clivias‘, painted over ‘Rita’).
* * *
Student paintings (2004), Lavender Bay Gallery, ‘portraiture’, teacher Judy Pennefather:
‘Jasmine’, young blonde in (sitting) yoga pose, commenced 28 January 2004. Painted over (Sister Kathleen, 21 April 2004).
‘Sandy’, lady with yellow hair. Painted in one day (25 February 2004) with orange and black background.
‘Man in Blue Singlet’, finished 17 March 2004.
‘Jacqueline’, girl with long blonde dreadlocks sitting in a chair. Finished 31 March 2004.
‘Sister Kathleen’, one day only when model did not turn up (21 April 2004). Painted over ‘Jasmine’ and gave to Sister Kathleen.
‘Benedicta’, black African lady, stylized painting, commenced 28 April 2004.
‘Rita I’, nude, painting of her back (painted over portrait of David sitting on a chair), commenced 12 May 2004. Painted over, ‘Secret Garden III’ (‘Cat with Clivias’).
‘Joe’, painting of Joe Penn (RAS) with baseball cap, finished 9 June 2004.
‘Kerry’, girl in orange dress with red hair, finished 23 June 2004.
‘Donna’, black African lady (from London) with a black top, commenced 14 July 2004.
‘Donna’, one day painting of Donna (28 July 2004), better than the one before.
”Juliette’, old lady in role of ‘Ophelia’, commenced 4 August 2004 (the only subject for a painting I hadn’t completed the year before). Once more I was not inspired.
‘Luke’, painting of our dentist classmate as our model (Rita) had not turned up, completed in one session (17 August 2004). Gifted to him on the day.
‘Alex’, painting of a young man, commenced 8 August 2004.
‘Ruth’, painted in one session 20 October 2004.
‘Zelman Friedman’, painting of older man, two portraits, finished 3 November 2004. Both painted over, one used for Kate (24 November 2004).
‘Kate I’, with shawl draped over a shoulder, exposing a breast. Finished 24 November 2004.
‘Mia’, a portrait over two weeks, finished 8 December 2004, followed by a luncheon for the retirement of Judy Pennefather.
* * *
More student paintings (2004), Lavender Bay Gallery, ‘life painting’, teacher Leyla Spencer:
‘Vanessa’, nude in early ‘Picasso’ style with orange and purple , commenced 27 January 2004. Retained.
‘Margaret’, large lady with red hair, commenced 24 February 2004. Painted over
‘David’, completed 22 March 2004. Painted over.
‘Stacey’, American lady, reclining nude, commenced 30 March 2004.
‘Stacey’, as above, continued for three weeks. Retained.
‘Nubian Princess’, nude portrait of Benedicta, black African lady sitting on chair, commenced 11 May 2004.Over the four weeks of this pose I developed an elaborate and more ambitious Egyptian background. This painting was sold to Ondene Richards at the student exhibition at the end of the year (given back to me (in 2014) after Ondene died).
‘Cecily’, a one day study painted without lines on a day when Benedicta’s daughter was sick (18 May 2004). Painted over.
‘Benedicta II’, a second, smaller painting of Benedicta with a yellow background (1 June 2004).
‘Cecily II’, second painting of Cecily (with orange frangipanis), commenced 8 June 2004.
‘Rita II’, sitting in a chair with yellow background, with lilies painted in later on, commenced 13 July 2004.
‘Jacqueline’, (had painted her reclining in a chair in Judy’s class) a standing pose, with Cymbidium introduced in right hand side, commenced 3 August 2004.
‘Jacqueline II’, second painting of Jacqueline, same pose, but from the other side of the room, commenced 17 August 2004.
‘Tania’, art teacher at another venue, with a scarf around her head a feature of ivy leaves, commenced 31 August 2004.
‘Samantha’, reclining, dark-haired girl, commenced 5 October 2004.
‘Lyn’, composition in browns of a young girl with brown skin, completed in the one sitting on 2 November 2004. This painting was done by covering the whole surface with a brown ‘background” painted over a lighter shade, and rubbing back with cloth to expose the highlights.
‘Kate II’, a second painting of Kate (having painted her before in Judy’s class), blonde woman in sitting pose, commenced 9 November 2004 (with a Margaret Preston lino-cut added to this composition later one). Retained.
‘John’, painting in blue-greens and yellows, commenced 23 November 2004. Painted over.
‘Kate III’, third painting of Kate lying back with one arm back over her head, commenced 7 December 2004. Accidentally damaged in my new studio (with a tear in the canvas).
* * *
Additional paintings commenced (2004) at home:
2004, ‘Self-portait of Poet'(with pile of books on an adjacent desk’, and later addition of orchid flower), commenced in March.
2004, ‘Mullumbimby Orchids’, square format. Painted over (‘Lunch on the Grass II (2004)’).
2004, ‘Lunch on the Grass II’ (‘Dejeuner II’), square format.
2004 – 2014, ‘Shirley Hazzard’, young and old in the one painting (2004 – 2014).
2004 – 2011), ‘Poetry of Place’, painting derived from an etching of the Sydney Gardens used on the cover of The Poetry of Place. Sold at (2016) RAS Retrospective.
2004, ‘Rainforest Poet’ (‘Contemplation in a Rainforest’), from a photograph of myself when young in a thoughtful post up against a large fig tree (as published in The Mullumbimby Kid). Sold at Tweed River Exhibition (2014).
2004, ‘Portrait of my Brother Jim I’, first portrait of my brother with barramundi and beer with the young Jim looking over his shoulder and a portrait of our father in the top left hand side. Given to Jim and Anne, then replaced with a second portrait (2007). This painting was given to Jim’s boy, Karl Onslow at my (2016) RAS Retrospective.
2004, ‘Self-portrait’ (with Collected Poems and Chincogan in the background and ‘botanic verses pattern in the sky’.
2004, ‘Thistle Dreaming’, a larger ambitious self-portrait (based on above) with plough and weeds in lower left hand side and portrait of our father in top left hand side. Painted over with ‘Poet at the Point’, family group at Mrs Macquaries Point (2007 – 2012).
2004, Large ‘Self-portrait’, dot painting, within a spiral galaxy of stars, with a daemon muse holding herself up upon a pile of published books.
* * *
2003, this my first year of retirement was a very productive year. I threw myself enthusiastically into learning to paint, attending classes at the Lavender Bay Gallery (run by the Royal Art Society of NSW), and turned the front upstairs room into a painting studio. A large number of paintings were commenced in 2003 (many of these were worked on for many years as my technical proficiency improved). After our kitchen had been renovated I turned the front room upstairs (with a northern aspect and good light) into a painting studio, and purchased a CD player and painted to music. As well as attending classes at Lavender Bay, my friend Robin Norling and his partner Jocelyn Maugham (at the Bakery (Art) Gallery, Patonga) gave me critical feedback and tuition over the next few years. This was the year I purchased the Paul Pulati inside/outside painting, looking out of his house at Quarrobolong towards the Wattigan Mountains.
Student paintings (2003), Lavender Bay Gallery, ‘portraiture’, teacher Judy Pennefather:
‘Nude with Green Eyes’ (with a red background), my first painting in retirement, commenced 5 February 2003 (three weeks). Retained.
‘Mary Anne’, petite young lady in a seated pose, commenced 26 February (painted over later on).
‘Jeanette’, knitting lady, commenced 12 March 2003, painted over (3 December 2003) in anticipation of last painting session of the year, portrait of Leyla Spencer, 10 December 2003).
‘Harold’, negro with blue-green shirt, commenced 2 April 2003.
‘Claudia’, lady with blonde hair, commenced 30 April2003.
‘Opehlia’, old lady with plastic flowers, commenced 21 May 2003. Never finished. Painted over, ‘Man with Green Cap’ (25 June 2003).
‘Back of a Man’, commenced 4 June 2003. Painted over, ‘Marina’ (3 September 2003)
‘Man with Green Cap and Sunnies’, commenced 25 June 2003.
‘Ricarda’, Germanic lady in sequins, commenced 23 July 2003.
‘Miles’, young Afro-American (performance poet) reading Moby Dick, commenced 13 August 2003. Painted over.
‘Marina’, dark-haired girl in red dress, commenced 3 September 2003. Painted over.
‘Joshua’, young man with a saxophone, commenced 17 September 2003. Painted over.
‘David”, young male, sitting on a chair, commenced 15 October 2003. Painted over, Rita, female nude, back view (12 May 2004), itself painted over to become the third in my Secret Garden series, ‘Cat in Clivias‘.
‘Stacy’, American female, nude, sitting on chair in ‘Christine Keeler’ pose, commenced 5 November 2003. Painted over, became ‘Beach Girl’.
‘Madeleine’, young female, nude, in ‘Olympia’ pose on lounge chair, commenced 19 November 2003. Painted over, ‘Edwina’ (24 June 2008).
‘Leyla (Spencer)’, art teacher, commenced 10 December 2003. One week only. Retained, and liked her personality so much I resolved to enroll in her classes the following year as well.
* * *
Additional paintings commenced (2003) at home:
2003, ‘Secret Garden I’, inside/outside painting looking out at my front garden at Crows Nest, inspired by discussions at Quorrobolong with Paul Pulati.
2003, ‘The Green Line’, a ‘word’ painting from my poem ‘Song of Lebanon’, with the last words of both stanzas straddling a ‘Green Line’ with blood splattered all about.
2003, ‘Dragon’s Blood Tree’ (thematically linked to early painting at Teachers’ College shown to Wal Placing), adapted from the drawing by Elizabeth McAlpine (for the cover of The Dragon Tree), but too symmetrical in the bottom half, so introduced a Paul Pulati-type mountain skyline behind the tree.
2003, ‘Iris’, naked girl with iris flowers, the first of a potential series of ‘Girl with Flowers’ paintings.
2003, ‘The Red Book’, nude on a lounge chair reading a book, originally conceived as another ‘Nude with Frangipani’. The flower (behind the lounge chair) was later changed to a Bird of Paradise.
2003, ‘Pumpkin Girl’, painting of Lucian Michalski’s ‘Pumpkin Girl’ concrete statue in a bed of nasturtiums (with flowers drawn from the Herb Garden, Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, used as cover of Pumpkin by Anne Butt).
2003, ‘Since I Desired the Secret Heart’, self-portrait (from Rowan Fotheringham’s photograph on the cover of Anthology), with an extract of my poem ‘Since I desired the secret heart …’ across the painting, plus aspects of my life (Chincogan, sugar cane, Coolamon tree, orchid, Mrs Macquarie’s Point, Eureka flag and the Opera House). Reworked and hung in Tweed River Gallery Exhibition, 2014.
2003, ‘Poetic Genesis: The Girl with Orange Hair’, large painting, landscape format, a rehash of ‘Perception and Magnitude’ with a Dragon’s Blood ‘Tree of Life’ and a central couple (Cheryl and I) with book covers radiating from my mind, and many of the earlier elements. Commenced April 2003. Painted over in 2005.
2003, ‘Lunch on the Grass I’, landscape format, my ‘Dejeuner sur L’Herbe’ (after Manet) in St Leonards Park, after the drawing commissioned (by Elizabeth McAlpine) in Banyan. This painting was too wide to be hung in the North Shore Art Prize so I later painted a more complex version in Square format (2004).
2003, ‘The Secret Garden II’, portrait format, painting of my front garden at Crows Nest from the balcony (inspired by a ‘balcony ‘painting seen at the Bonnard Exhibition at Canberra in May of that year). Cheryl with a green watering can was later painted in (February 2004), as a balancing of the composition and a scale object.
2003, ‘Paul Pulati Portrait’ (A Portrait of the Artist in his Habitat), from a photograph of him in a colourful shirt (designed by his daughter Sienna), plus some sketches done at a time staying over at his place (when they were pulling up the floor for our new kitchen). Paul did not like the short hair (as taken from the photograph) as he felt it made him look too old, so a painted in longer hair at some later stage.
2003, ‘The Stilt Walker’, large painting, landscape format, originally inspired by a photogaph in Sydney Morning Herald (25 June 2003) of ‘Landscape at Krumah’ by Egon Schiele. My uncle Jim (Smith) had died and I did a series of sketches of Mullumbimby buildings (banks, churches, courthouse etc) when I went up to his funeral (on 16 July 2003). This first of my large Mullumbimby series of paintings was probably too cluttered, with all sorts of symbols thrown into the mix (set in the year c. 1955), and over-painted and simplified over several years.
2003, ‘Parrot Trap’, portrait format, another Mullumbimby painting with orchids in the foreground and a pair of parrots in the middle part of the composition, around a cob of corn set in a tree branch with attached fishing-line snares, with a simplified landscape behind.
2003, ‘Chincogan Grid Painting’, portrait format, grid painting of Chincogan from different angles (from sketches done in July 2003), with internal ‘fire’ elements, and female breasts, and ‘inverted dachshund bitch’. This painting was unfinished and damaged at one stage.
2003, ‘Portrait of young Cheryl Lillium with Liliums’, portrait format.
2003, ‘John Carey Tiger Poem’ (commenced 30 July), portrait of John Carey with part of his ‘Tiger Poem’ in the background (with thematic links back to ‘The Green Line’).
2003, ‘Portrait of Phil Spence in his Laboratory’, as part of his orchid breeding program, started September. Given to him and hung at his mother’s place, lost after his mother died and her house was cleared. Turned up 2017, have over-painted/refurbished for projected use in electronic version of ‘Stardust’.
2003, ‘Stardust Kiss’, in Homage to Klimt, commenced December (later painted over in the style of ‘Life is a Veil of Soul-making’, turned into a dot painting (2011)).
2003, ‘Girlfriends’, in Homage to Klimt, commenced December, and turned into a dot painting (2012).
2003, ‘Modigliani Nude”, portrait format, commenced December, soon after meeting up with my brother Jim.
2003, ‘Circular Quay II, square format, commenced in December.
* * *
2002, Susan Roberts produced a painting of a ‘Literary Nude’ for me as a 60th birthday present.
2002, continued with a series of paintings in the lead-up to my retirement (in 2003):
2002, Self-portrait (from Paul Pulati photograph) with covers of some of my books in background.
2002, ‘The Mountain and I’ (became ‘The Village and I’), a Mullumbimby painting based on my 1973 lino cut, with the face of a child in the clouds looking down over the mountain (Chincogan) and the village. The darker blue line was added at a much later stage.
2002, ‘Earth Mother’, an extension of the above painting with a female head painted into the mountain (Chincogan) and the adjacent hills becoming breasts, with a female cleft in the landscape of the foreground. Sold at Tweed River Exhibition (2014) to a lady from Lambton, Newcastle.
2002, ‘Orchid I’, a centrally-located orchid bloom arising from a testicular underground ‘tuber’ (thus the derivation of the very word), with the flowers morphing into dancing naked ladies (common name for the Oncidium genus), from an earlier sketched concept developed some years before.
2002, ‘Circular Quay I’, a happy painting of Circular Quay (Sydney) featuring a Kentosaurus (picket fence Stegosaurus) as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, with the ‘Toaster’ and a pile of plates draining on the sink as the Opera House, two yellow ducks representing Charlie Rosman’s ferries, some balloons in the air, and lollies in bottles for North Sydney, surrounded by ‘all the smarties on the North Shore”. Alex Fisher’s store at East Wardell had boiled lollies stored in large glass jars. In my mind I’d always seen Sydney as a kind of lolly or cookie jar, and place of ‘opportunity’ (turned into a dot painting in 2012). A square version of the painting at night (with fireworks behind the dinosaur) was later produced, and a much larger dot painted version. Sold to Diane Sandjejko, the lady who purchased ‘Harbingers of Rain’ at (2016)RAS Retrospective.
* * *
2001, ‘The Pool II’, I had returned to painting in the lead-up to my retirement (having spent time talking to Paul Pulati and Paul and Susan Roberts), working with water-based oil paints in my study. My first painting of this new era was of two girl swimming in a rainforest pool (a revisiting of an earlier theme), used as the cover for Cedar House. Sold at my (2016) RAS Retrospective.
* * *
1996, had my portrait painted by Judy Cassab.
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1995, on moving to Crows Nest the ‘Perception and Magnitude’ painting (that had been nailed to the ceiling of our garage at Longueville) was broken up, with only the Homonculus, the half-painted section of Cheryl and I, and the sun fragments being retained.
60 Kenneth Street Longueville (1976- 1995)
1984, Robin Norling painted ‘Flowering of an Author’ (draft concept plan below), oil painting, as an Archibald submission (on the publication of my second book, Liberty, Egality, Fraternity!), hung in the Salon des Refusees. My third book, The Dragon Tree (1985), was added at a later date. Over the years Cheryl had complained about my piles of paintings stacked around the house and the laundry, resulting in a mass burning of old and unfinished works (at a time not yet specifically established).
* * *
1982, produced my ‘self-portrait at 40 years’, a pencil drawing (published in the first edition of The Mullumbimby Kid p. 254), and used by Elizabeth McAlpine to produce the illustration used in some of my poetry books.
* * *
1981, having commenced work at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney in 1980 I met Elizabeth McAlpine in our new Gardens Shop (in 1981), and commissioned her to my ‘Banyan’ cover illustration, and all the subsequent illustrations used in my subsequent books of poems (up to Asteroid Belt, (2002)).
1981, I commissioned Rowan Fotheringham (whom I’d met at the Zoo where he was an Education Officer) to take the photographs for the projected new Guide to the Gardens I was editing (or what became known as the ‘Blue Book’, Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney (1982)). Rowan went on to take photographs for Discovering the Domain and became a friend.
* * *
1977, met Robin Norling, Senior Education Officer at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and had special previews and Guided Tours of all new displays at the Art Gallery (as part of our Museum Group). Not long after this I started another rainforest painting on a newly plastered wall in our house at Longueville, unfinished, and removed when the extensions were done in 11980
1977, went on a fully-paid tour of selected Museums and Art Galleries in America, Canada, London (England), and Leningrad (St Petersberg) and Moscow, including a whole week at a conference in the Hermitage Art Gallery.
* * *
1976, moved to Longueville on the birth of our daughter Rachel and did not paint for the next twenty something years, as my time and energies were totally subsumed by work and family, but managed to juggle time to write my books (a separate list of books published over thirty years since 1982 may be seen on this Website). A more detailed list of my publishing activities may be seen in the Chronology and Notes of New Collected Poems (Kardoorair Press, Armidale, 2012). While working at the Museum I had the opportunity to go to Museum and Art Gallery Conferences and art-related lectures and exhibitions in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart, Perth, and overseas (see 1977), and visited Museums and Art Galleries in all these places.
‘Loretto’, 8/4 McDougall Street Kirribilli (1972 – 1976)
1975, James Richmond Wilson, child of my first marriage was accidentally hit and killed (2o January) by a car at Redland Bay. Cheryl moved in to live with me. I tried to ease my grief by throwing myself into work (with the very successful Dinosaur Appeal), and poetry, and edited and re-typed the third significant draft of my novel in just six months (before the days of Personal Computers). Cheryl and I married (September 1975) and raised three children.
1975, produced my simplified ‘Banyan’ lino-cut as projected cover for my first book of poems (replaced by a more detailed commissioned drawing by Elizabeth McAlpine, 1982).
1975, met Paul Pulati, leather-craftsman, musician and artist, who was working at the Drop-In Center at the Museum and we became friends. Some years later he built a stucco house/studio at Quorrobolong (in the Hunter Valley), which became a bolt-hole of sorts from the city life, where I sometimes escaped to dream and talk about art and literature (until 2005, when he went to live in London with his new wife Anne, see www.pulati.co.uk/paul/ and www.pulati.co.uk/anne/).
* * *
1974, commenced a mural on my bedroom wall (in February) of a Pan in a forest, A.D. Hope’s sonnet to Baudelaire, a flock of shitting ducks flying into a black moon, and seven naked dwarfs (with erections) carrying a naked ‘Coal Black’ (as a ‘Snow White’ reversal).
1974, drew a baboon (looking a little like my friend Warren Wigram) contemplating a naked woman on the living room wall (after the French artist Tremois, from an illustrated book of poetry called The Book of Love).
1974, when visiting my friend Andrew Bray at his boat building site near the old North Sydney gasworks he introduced me to a ‘mad pot-smoking artist’ called Brett Whiteley, who had a studio just up the hill adjacent to Andrew’s boat, who invited me up to inspect his developing works (as described in The Melancholy Dane, pp. 255- 256).
1974, soon after the Whiteley meeting I met Cheryl Lillian, who came to the flat one day with a small tin of red paint, so I could adjust the hair colour of the woman in my large ‘Perception’ painting. I drew her lying on the floor, to make her the girl in this painting and roughed her in, but never finished at the time. My recent ‘brush with genius’ (in the Whiteley studio) had left me slightly stunned. How could I possibly compete with that as a ‘Sunday Painter’, which was effectively what I was, holding down a demanding full time job? That was the time I virtually gave up any prospect of ever becoming a painter, and shifted focus seriously to my verse. This particular drawing of Cheryl was later to be incorporated into another work when I seriously started painting again, called ‘Poetic Genesis: The Girl with Orange Hair’ (2003, overpainted)). Cheryl had later objected to this ‘rude’ painting being hung in our house when we had married and moved to Longueville (in 1976). It was ‘hung’ from the roof of our Longueville garage for nearly 20 years, until we moved to Cows Nest in 1995. Cheryl strenuously objected to me taking the painting with us at this stage, and played her ‘divorce’ card, so to save the marriage the painting was broken up and transported to the Lane Cove tip. Had I been a greater artist I would not have compromised on this unfinished work. I did not have the heart to throw it all away however, and kept a couple of fragments, including the couple in the grass (lower middle, to the RHS) and the Homonculus (lower RHS). This framed Homonculus fragment was later presented to the Royal Art Society of New South Wales, as my ‘Fellows Painting’ (9 November 2018) on my being elected as a Fellow of the Society.
* * *
1973, changed the working title of ‘Atoms to Andromeda’ to ‘Perception and Magnitude’, and it was essentially finished at the end of the year.
1973, started my second series of lino-cuts (with better quality lino mounted on five ply blocks). My ‘Chincogan’ linocut was used for the cover of the first edition of The Mullumbimby Kid (as this design was later to be incorporated into a couple of Mullumbimby paintings).
1973, drew my second naked angel flying round the (naked) light bulb on the ceiling of my bedroom ( as included in The Melancholy Dane).
1973, drew a monkey contemplating a skull (from a sculpture at Glenn Hunt’s place), used on a T-shirt for the Museum Education Group.
1973, made progress on my redrafted novel.
* * *
Later in 1972 I purchased a two bedroom unit at Kirribilli and left the dump at Florence Street, about the same time I commenced work at The Australian Museum (in College Street in the city), and my life improved considerably after that.
1972, commenced ‘Atoms to Andromeda’ (later changed to ‘Perception and Magnitude’, 1973), my most ambitious oil painting to date, on a very large piece of primed Masonite (2m x 4m) mounted in the lounge room of my flat, inspired by the conversation in the Uralla pub (as outlined in The Melancholy Dane, pp. 236 – 240, with photos of various stages of its development in The Melancholy Dane). This was my ‘life’ painting, of a couple making love in the grass under a ‘tree of life, with an Homonculus thrusting as a spirit child from the couple towards to right hand side, an eagle in the tree, pollution for factories and bombs raining down. The painting developed and softened over time, with the couple being observed by a brush-tailed phascogale looking over a log, and surrounded by all the orders of magnitude from the atomic world through to the curvature of the earth and a spiral galaxy in the far top left hand side in distant space, and later I’d painted a ‘female eunuch’ sun in the top right hand side (not in the image as reproduced (on pp. 58 and 59) in Stardust Painter-Poet, but used in some subsequent paintings (including ‘Icarus I and II’ and ‘Tree of Life’)
1972, two ‘Banyan’ editions of 8 October and 8 November produced.
1972, purchased both a ‘primitive’ (more angular) and a ‘classical’ Madonna from Lucian(now in the internal courtyard at Crows Nest). Lucian gave me a cast of the Jesus wall hanging which I mounted above the fireplace at Kirribilli (now on the ground floor wall near the stairs at Crows Nest), and a happy fat Slavic man being led by his dick by a naked fat Polynesian woman (now in our garden at Crows Nest).
12 Florence Street Cremorne (1972)
This was certainly my ‘garret phase’, after my marriage failed, during which time I started to write the exceedingly first rough draft of my first novel, under the working title of ‘The Car’ (which went on the become Liberty, Egality Fraternity!). During this time I also wrote ‘An Easter Story’, after an experience with Margaret Mitchell in the main pub at Uralla, met up with musician and writer Bill Pryor, and drastically culled ‘Banyan’, and worked on the Sonnet form (inspired on re-reading the Sonnets of Shakespeare) .
1972, modeled a clay head and shoulders of a young girl at Lucian’s place, hollowed it out and let it dry (but did not have it fired, as I fired Lucian’s clay head of Margaret in the kiln at Epping Boys High School), and gave it to Bill Pryor. At the same time as this Lucian produced his wall hanging of Jesus, using my face as a basic template (with a bump in the nose from the accident in a hokey match as a student at Armidale).
45 Rockvale Road Armidale (1969 – 1971)
Here in the Poet’s House (so-dubbed by Gwen Kelly, colleague in the English Department at the College who went on to become a friend), I commenced to plant the Armidale Botanic Gardens on both sides of a little creek beside our chapel-like house, set well back from the road. The soil was terrible and a large percentage on my trees died after I left the property (in 1972), but enough survived to give the garden a basic structure of now mature trees. As part of the house design a small attic had been added on top of the kitchen, accessed by a ladder on the side of the hallway wall from the higher split-level, to act as a painting studio. Unfortunately it was too cramped an area in which to work, and without adequate insulation (because of budget constraints) it was freezing in winter and boiling hot in summer. The poetry still flowed in moments of still grace in busy days, as poetry was something I could more easily carry around in my head (without having to set up a palate etc. and clean up all the mess at the end).
1971, my fifth edition of ‘Banyan’ (24 January 1971) had been divided into three sub-sections, Grass Green Days, Petal, and Banyan. By the sixth edition (30 September), the work has been considerably reduced and culled.
1971, I had produced a line drawing, ‘Life is Line’ (Life is Ephemeral) as a bookplate for Barry Richardson, who also worked as a colleague in the English Department at the College. The drawing consisted of three books, a candle, and a skull, with an ivy on the outside lower half. The three books I had chosen were the Bible, The Oxford Dictionary, and Darwin’s Origin of the Species.
1971, commenced a painting (in acrylics) of three young girls dancing in a rainforest on our bedroom wall (unfinished after the marriage bust-up and painted over).
1971, when Margaret left I drew two naked angels on the bedroom ceiling flying round the light.
* * *
1970, picked up the sculptured heads of Margaret and I from Lucian. I retained my concrete bust (currently under a bench of my orchid house at Crows Nest). The concrete bust of Margaret was destroyed after a disagreement with Margaret (on the phone) in 1996, when we lived at Crows Nest, as recorded in my poem ‘Meditation on a Concrete Bust’. The clay original of the Margaret bust had not been destroyed in an unfired state (as intimated in Liberty Egality, Fraternity!), but fired in a kiln when I worked at Epping Boys High School (early in 1972), and hidden as per clues left in Anthology and New Collected Poems (as a form of literary detective quest, to be claimed by the first person who may wish to do so, which will be then recorded on this Website).
1970, constructed my abstract concrete statue (pushed into bird wire stretched around a metal scaffolding held in a concrete block) in the front garden at Rockvale Road, inspired my Lucian Michalski (with a photo in The Melancholy Dane, p. 208). This rather distinctive sculpture, reflecting the lines of the house and adjacent gum tree, remained for many years, to be subsequently destroyed by the second lot of people who bought the house (who did not appear to recognize its artistic merit).
1970, produced other (smaller) sculptures on the other side of the creek, including my abstract pine tree, consisting of a twisted rusted metal form with protruding iron ‘needles’ (some pointed and some square at the ends) set in a square concrete block.
1970, this was the year in which the first ‘collection’ of my poems was typed out. The second edition (23 March 1970) had been called ‘Banyan’. The third edition followed (28 May 1970), with the fourth completed (30 July 1970).
1970, started three paintings, ‘To Catch a Greasy Pig’ (from a drawing of Margaret and her sister copied from a photograph at their home), a ‘Margaret at Lord Howe with Hibiscus’, and a Modigliani nude. All abandoned.
1970, started a portrait of Tim Boutsis and cigarette, with our orange hessian curtains behind him and a small Lord Howe Island banyan in a terra cotta pot. Burnt at Longueville. I’m really sorry now as it had the potential to be a good painting. A pencil drawing of the original composition has been retained.
1970, ‘Land of the Animunculi’, a story for children, initially started as a joint effort with Margaret (and later developed by me in Sydney). First draft finished August 1970 (second edition 14 October 1971).
1970, James Richmond Wilson born 20 November 1970.
* * *
1969, finished my sculpture of Margaret (with her hands on her head) from the camphor laurel stump. It was not very good and was burnt in a bonfire at Rockvale Road with a whole pile of other material on my our first separation.
1969, ‘Frangipani’, oil painting on primed Masonite of the naked head and torso of a woman with a frangipani in her hair. Hung for a while (as part of a creative staff initiative) in the College Staff Room (as part of the Howard Hinton collection). This painting was still hanging when Queen Elizabeth II came into this very room (but she didn’t stop in front of it to have a special look). Lost.
1969, ‘Prelude’, oil painting. Retained but lost in subsequent moves sometime.
1969, ‘Chincogan’ (Mullumbimby), oil painting, destroyed, but prelude to the later ‘Chincogan’ lino-cut (1973).
1969, Wooden Sculpture II of a pregnant praying woman, carved from part of the stem of a large conifer that grew in front of the Catholic Church, started in the absence of Margaret. Although rather ‘clunky’ it was exhibited as part of the Armidale Art Show of that year, and swapped for a sculpture by Bill Boon (an intense, religious student at the College at the time) called ‘Geovanna’ (inspired by Joan Pavan), a wooden abstract ‘female’ carving from a piece of pine wood with a couple of strategically placed knotholes. Retained. Currently in the back room of our house at Crows Nest.
1969, ‘Dichotomy of Love’, oil painting, unfinished and ultimately discarded.
1969, Lucian Michalski did some drawings of Margaret (one of them in The Melancholy Dane), in preparation for doing her sculptured head and bust (in clay, later to be cast in a high grade cement).
Lievesley Farm, Filtration Plant Road Armidale (1968)
This, my first year of marriage and first year as lecturer at Armidale Teachers’ College was an incredibly busy year, and totally unproductive (as far as painting was concerned without anywhere to work), but a serious year of poetry. I also enrolled in Philosophy I (at UNE) where I met John Norris Davies (painter), who became a friend. We met at the Bowling Club on a Friday night to discuss art and literature.
1968, series of pencil drawings form Lord Howe Island.
1968, series of pencil drawings of Margaret, including one entitled ‘Margaret Pounce and Little Pounce (our cat)’. Retained.
1968, started my first series of lino-cuts, projected to illustrate my first book of Poems (now entitled ‘Banyan’),some of which I have retained. Mabbs George, invisiting Armidale at the time had said it was ‘a very country think to do’. Unfortunately this process was not as effective as I’d hoped because the lino had small bubbles in its surface, and did not print so well.
1968, Lucian Michalski worked on a cast concrete sculpture of my head, taken from a clay mannikin which he destroyed.
1968, commenced my own sculptured bust of Margaret (with her hands on her head), carved from a camphor laurel log collected from the property her father share-farmed at Terranorra, near Tweed Heads.
C-107 Phillip Baxter College, University of New South Wales (1966 – 1967)
During this time I lived on UNSW Campus in a room with a working bench and a small balcony (C-107, but the numbering system of the various rooms was subsequently changed).
1967, early that year I went in search of a piece of Masonite (on which to paint) with a neighbour, Alan Cronk, to the Tweed Heads West rubbish dump, where I found a discarded photograph of a young man with his beautiful bride, c. 1900 (which became the genesis of my first ‘adult’ poem, ‘A Photo on a Council Tip’). Our landscape-painting expedition was a dismal failure,as if I’d expected perfection far too soon. My discarded work was left behind, and nailed unsigned to a handy tree (showing at least that I had the artistic temperament).
1967, ‘Margaret Mermaid’ (on rocks at Greenmount Headland near a pandanas palm), oil on primed Masonite. Inferior work, destroyed (see image of this painting hanging on a wall in Stardust Painter-Poet, p. 32.
1967, ‘Reflection in an Enchanted Forest’, oil on primed Masonite of a boy and girl in a rainforest. Destroyed.
1967, ‘Sunday Afternoon’, oil on primed Masonite, lovers in an Armidale landscape. Destroyed.
1967, ‘Portrait of Margaret’, oil on primed Masonite. Interesting colours. Retained, see Stardust Painter-Poet, p. 38.
1967, Second portrait of Margaret, oils on primed Masonite. Destroyed.
1967, ‘What Do You Think II?’ (unfinished)
1967, ‘Life is a Veil of Soul Making’, oil on primed Masonite, on miss-understanding a quote from Keats (ie ‘veil’ instead of ‘vale’), from having read The Painted Veil by W.S.Maugham. This was a painting of a kissing couple floating in space, with a foetus floating in space as well and attached (externally) to the female with an umbilical cord as an astronaut to a space station. Destroyed, but a concept sketch of this work had been retained (see Stardust Painter-Poet, p. 87), and it was ‘redone’ as a dot painting (see Stardust Painter-Poet, p. 87) over a copy of a Klimt ‘Kiss’ painting, and entitled ‘Stardust Kiss’ (2003).
1967, produced a whole series of Harmonographs, using twin pendulums after discussions with Donald Macintyre (see photo of my machine in The Melancholy Dane), one of which was later used as the cover for Cosmos Seven (1989). Also see Stardust Painter-Poet, pp. 32 and 33.
1967, I also attended Life Classes as an evening student (with Mabbs George) at Randwick Technical College (series of drawings retained, see Stardust Painter-Poet, pp. 30 and 31.) but have to give my drawing classes up as the year progressed as I was overwhelmed with a double major of Chemistry Practical Classes and part time work.
* * *
1966, ‘Girl in a Forest’, oils (painted over ‘The Chess Player’), of a girl (inspired by a holiday romance with Patricia Dolan) in a forest setting built up from a pattern of squares (in the style of a similar painting that had been shown to me by J.A.S. Sutherland at Armidale Teachers’ College). Retained, see Stardust Painter-Poet, p. 29.
1966, ‘Kiss Me’, a series of drawings/paintings after Patricia Dolan, and the walled garden/archway being constructed at Phillip Baxter College at the time. Painted over and later burnt. Some drawings retained.
1966, ‘The Flower that has Bloomed Forever Dies’, a collage of a ground orchid found in the Blue Mountains (in 1962) and an in-scripted poem (in code) from Omar Khayyam (reflecting on my doomed relationship with Patricia Dolan, because of the great religious divide). This painting was sold to Professor and Mabbs George (Physics Department, UNSW). I bought it back in 1968, as I could hardly bear to part with it, to burn it later at Longueville.
1966, ‘The Pool I’, inspired by my meeting with Margaret Macintyre, and a short story by W.S.Maugham (of the same name). This painting, which I considered to be too stark, was later destroyed, but was the prototype of my cover for Cedar House (‘The Pool II’, 2002).
1966, ‘Forms Falling Off Into Space’, a direct take from Casimir Malevitch (with memories of drawings of planes dropping bombs drawn in primary school). I had been studying the History of Fine Arts as a humanities subject towards my science degree (High Distinction). This design (with acknowledgements) was ultimately used as the cover for my Poetic Handbook, Falling Up Into Verse (1989).
1966, ‘Enigma of the City’, oil on primed Masonite of topless girl of the year 2,000, with oval in the middle of her form. Misplaced during a subsequent move.
1966, purchased a sheaf of Baudelaire translations from and old hippy in the Sydney Domain for 30 cents (having read that Picasso like reading Baudelaire, and even though I’d studied French at school this work had been inaccessible to me). Worked on these poems (in the style of Robert Lowell ‘Imitations’ for more than 30 years.
1/18 Churchill Crescent Cammeray (1965)
1965, ‘Egyptian Theme’, oils on primed Masonite. A more ambitious painting of dancers and musicians from ancient Egypt, copied from a painting from a ‘Life’ series. This painting was later cut up, except for a central octagonal section which I retained, and was later burnt at Longueville.
1965, ‘Self-association with Nature in a Forest of Pine Trees’, multi-coloured futuristic oil painting (inspired by Godfrey Miller’s ‘Nude and the Moon’) on primed Masonite of a woman with a third eye, surrounded with concentric circles cut with lines radiating out from her third eye, and a pine tree (Deodar) in the central background, adapted from one growing in a churchyard at Neutral Bay. Destroyed. Photo Stardust Painter-Poet, p. 27.
1965 was not a productive year for painting, as I was being consumed with long hours spent in second year chemistry practical classes, as par of my on-going part time studies. In 1965 however, while visiting a friend of my surfing mate Warren Wigram, I met up with Lucian Bruno Michalski, Polish sculptor, who went on to become a friend and important creative mentor in my life (as outlined in The Melancholy Dane).
276 Sydney Road Balgowlah (1962 – 1964)
At the so-called Balgowlah Hilton (owned by Hylton Mace, a teaching colleague, flatmate and friend) I lived in a room at the back of the garage. From 1963 I was tutored by Geoff Tyndall, art teacher at The Forest High School where I worked, who gave me lessons of colour theory and composition.
1964, ‘Water Carrier’, oil painting on primed Masonite of of a nude with a water container on her head in a desert setting, more of an exercise in the human female form (see Stardust Painter-Poet, p. 19), purchased by Karl Onslow at my 2016 RAS Retrospective (after which I gave him my first version of ‘My Brother Jim’).
1964, ‘Girl with Flowers’, oils applied with a palate knife onto primed Masonite as an exercise for Geoff Tyndall in green-purple harmonies (adapted from a drawing from life classes). This was a breakthrough painting and I would have loved to push these ideas further at the time, but I was into my second year of part-time studies (at night) at the University of New South Wales on four nights a week and Saturday mornings), on top of a full-time teaching load. The bottom section of this painting was later cut off, as it had been rejected from an art show as being too explicit at the time (see Stardust Painter-Poet, pp. 20 and 25)
1964, ‘Green-eyed Girl’, oil on treated paper, of a girl with green eyes and dark hair. Lost. Image in Stardust Painter-Poet, pp. 20 and 21.
1964, ‘Convent Garden’, oils. This was a moody painting of a child with a limp (with echoes of my Wilson great grandfather and cousin Lorraine (Rippon), and a metaphor of an AS childhood) clutching an orange ball (that jumped out of the canvas), while being excluded from play by two other children in a walled garden near an almost plastic tree. When Geoff Tyndall saw this painting he exclaimed, ‘A bloody Convent Garden’, thus the name. This painting was sold to someone in the Psychology Department (UNSW) at the College art exhibition c. 1967. An image of this painting (along with part of ‘Girl with Flowers’, ‘Water Carrier’, ‘In Search of Truth’, and ‘Green-eyed Girl’) may be seen on p. 52 of The Melancholy Dane, and pp. 20 and 21 of Stardust Painter-Poet.
1964, ‘What do you Think?’, a futuristic oil painting on primed Masonite of a girl in a space suit with pointy breasts, near a tower,with a tree growing through a hole in the raised footpath (see photograph in Stardust Painter-Poet, p. 21). This painting was later cut up and only the tower retained (to be burnt at Longueville).
1964, ‘Gold Burgundy’, an oil painting of Dendrobium arundle (yellow with a red lip, grown by Hermon Slade at Manly) in a glass of red wine with a smoking cigarette in a glass ash tray nearby (with memories of taking Toni Tyndall to a ball). Lost. Preliminary sketch in Stardust Painter-Poet, p. 18.
1964, ‘Two Faces and the Rain’, oil painting of an Asian girl looking at her reflection in a window (from a photograph I’d seen somewhere), an image of which may be seen in The Melancholy Dane, and Stardust Painter-Poet, p. 24. This painting was given to Heather Piper (a student at The Forest High School where I taught) on hearing her play the piano.
1964, ‘Topless Swimsuits’ (on Manly beach), oil on Masonite (one of these part-covered paintings can been seen lying on its side in Stardust Painter-Poet, p. 20). Destroyed.
1964, ‘Two Harlequins’, oil, after Picasso. Lost.
1964, ‘Lord Howe Island Self-portrait’, oil, with self lying on the sand with Lord Howe landscape in the background (the lower part of this painting can be seen in Stardust Painter-Poet on p. 21). Showed this painting to my friend Geoff Webster’s uncle, Geoffrey Keith Townsend (who taught at the RAS). He was quite grumpy on the day and critical of the foreground so I destroyed this painting, retaining only my hat with a red hibiscus flower in it lying in the sand, and sent it to Anne Higgins in Geelong.
1963, following advice from Geoff Tyndall I started to do a number of studies of faces, feet and hands, and some studies of muscles and underlying bone structure, and went with Geoff to my first life drawing classes on the corner of Oxford and College Streets in the city (see Stardust Painter-Poet, p. 18). Met Paul and Susan Roberts at work. Susan had studied Art at College and gave me some pointers and encouraged me to paint.
1963, my sixth oil painting, ‘In Search of Truth’ (dubbed ‘The Brothels are Closed’ by my flat mate Tony foster), was adapted from a kitsch print of two boys in a fishing village in my aunty Lexi’s place at Coffs Harbour, placing the boys in a Surry Hills-type city slum environment. In hindsight this was an almost psychic painting, as my brother Jim had lived in Surry Hills and had been looking for me at that time. This was a good painting, sold to Joe Cassidy (Phillip Baxter College) at an art exhibition held at the combined Colleges (University of New South Wales) c. 1967. A preliminary drawing for this painting had been retained, as published in The Melancholy Dane, and the second edition of The Mullumbimby Kid (also see Stardust Painter-Poet, pp. 20, 21, and 23).
1963, my seventh oil painting was called ‘Orange Blues’ (or ‘Gidgit’) painted at Balgowlah on the night of my 21st birthday (I hadn’t told my flat mates I was turning twenty one, so as not to put them under any sense of obligation to have a party). It was a painting in orange-blues, of a Manly surfer girl with her board leaning up against a Norfolk Island Pine (retained for many years and burnt at Longueville). Image in Stardust Painter-Poet, pp. 22 and 37. From here on in I am not so sure of the order in which the following paintings were executed, apart from the year.
1962, my fifth oil painting, ‘Expectations’, in Renoir-esque style (before I came under Geoff Tyndall’s influence) was another dark-eyed young woman with a hat with flowers in it, and essentially far too white, and later destroyed (photo Stardust Painter-Poet, p. 18). Also did a pencil drawing (from a photograph) of Anne Butt, entitled ‘Beach Girl’ (and prototype of the 2009 painting of the same name, see Stardust Painter-Poet, p. 141).
32 Margaret Street Tweed Heads
1962, completed my fourth oil painting in January before receiving my teaching appointment, a self portrait in College track suit on treated paper (retained), as published in The Mullumbimby Kid and Stardust Painter-Poet, p. 16.
Room 51, C.B. Newling House, Taylor Street, Armidale (1960 -1961)
1961, at Armidale Teachers’ College I took Art (Mixed Media) and an Elective with Wal Placing in 1961 (Distinction).
Pottery: A number of pieces of pottery were made that year, including a cup later given to Anne Butt. The rest were destroyed.
Sculpture: Tired seated scout (abstract in clay/destroyed)
Peanuts (the dog) and Charlie Brown (both done in clay with fired coloured glazes). Photographs of these may be seen in The Mullumbimby Kid. Charlie now lives in my orchid house at Crows Nest. The dog was accidentally broken and thrown away.
Easter Island Head (carved from plaster of Paris block, with a photograph in Armidale Teachers’ College Anthology, 1961). Destroyed.
‘Mermaid’ with long snout (clay with fired coloured glazes). This started off as a head of my flat mate Jack Hill which was then squeezed and twisted out of shape). This may be seen in the top LHS of the photo of my sister Helen and I in front of my orchid house at Tweed Heads (The Mullumbimby Kid). It was buried in a deep drain that ran along the fence line (on the canal side) of our house when I dismantled the orchid house in the 1970s.
Human skull (clay with fired white glaze). This was thrown into the small dam (south west of the garage) at Mrs Nickson’s place, Filtration Plant Road (later Arundle Street) Armidale, c.1968.
Head of Artie Smart, our Education Lecturer (done from sketches done in class). Given to him when I was a lecturing with him Armidale Teachers’ College, c. 1968.
‘Masai Dreaming’, negro head with separate long body (clay with fired black glaze), with photograph in The Mullumbimby Kid and Stardust Painter-Poet, p. 15. The body was accidentally broken and thrown away. The head resided in my orchid house at Crows Nest.
Wooden back scratcher (carved from a willow stem down by the creek, avoiding indoctrination sessions at a weekend Christian camp, having gone there to be close to a dark-eyed young lady I was keen to accidentally bump into,who pledged her life to Jesus that weekend and not to me). The bent fingers later broke (because of the grain in the wood), but I have retained the handle (somewhere in a box of tricks).
Drawings: Drawing of the dark-eyed young lady (inspired by Derain), as published in the Armidale Teachers’ College Anthology, 1961, and in The Mullumbimby Kid.
Paintings: Painting of the silhouette of some African plant (Dracaena or Aloe or the like) against a steep hill with a sunset behind (lost). I had shown this to Wal Placing one time when he was in his garden, who lived opposite our student accommodation (of Newling House), along with my back scratcher. He said the painting was too cliche and the colours a little too muddy, but he liked the back scratcher, and would I like a cup of coffee (and this was the start of a life-long friendship). Wal Placing was part-Danish. My great grandfather had been Danish, and Wal was the first Danish person I had met to that stage in my life.
1961, (My first College) Watercolour, of the close row of pine trees near the archery range in the playing fields down behind the College (lost).
1961, (My second College) Watercolour, of the row of poplar trees south of Newling House on the way to the railway line where I shot and skinned rabbits.
1961, ‘Still Life I’. My first (ever) oil painting, of Cotoneasters and daisy-like flowers and pine needles. It was love at first sight, to squeeze the buttery paint from the tube and apply it to canvas paper. A fragment of this painting has been retained and was published in Stardust Painter-Poet, p. 16.
1961, My second oil painting (ever), on a piece of primed Masonite, ‘The Chess Player’, with an extreme perspective of chess pieces on a checkered board in front of a girl’s face (inspired by a game of chess with Helen Placing). I can still remember the sense of excitement at conceiving and executing this work. Unfortunately it did not turn out quite as wonderful as I would have expected, so I later painted over it (with ‘Girl in a Forest’).
1961, My third oil painting (ever), and attempted portrait of my sister Catherine (done in the holidays on the back of ‘Still Life I’, with rather horrible yellowish skin (as no one had ever told me how to mix skin tones at that stage). Part of this painting has been retained on the verso of the above fragment (as published in Stardust Painter-Poet, p. 16).
32 Margaret Street Tweed Heads (1959)
1959, unfinished landscape of the Tweed River at Murwillumbah.
37 Argyle Street Mullumbimby (1948 – 1958)
1957, won the Senior Dust Cover for a book design, of a painting of Huck Finn with his hut on a raft floating down the Mississippi River (painting lost). In retrospect this was virtually a dry-run for designing books in later life.
1955, Art was not available as a subject for boys when I went to High School (1955). I purchased a box of water colours with crab money (for 8/- (8Oc), much to my mother’s chagrin), and kept on painting. A series of works from this year salvaged from my exercise books for history, including a caveman painting a bison on a wall, a man attacking game with a hand-held stone axe,castle and bridge fighting, Greek soldiers, and Queen Boadicea with flaming red hair and swords extending from the axle of her chariot. another painting from this period (saved by my great aunty Nina Shore at Grafton), was of a medieval knight in his coat of mail, and a vase of flowers on the table of the kitchen of our house in Argyle Street. About this time (1955) I won 10/- (one dollar) in a colouring-in/drawing competition being conducted by The Courier Mail, in Brisbane (drawing lost).
1954, I had repeated 6th class (primary school) in 1954, and sat up the back of the class and painted virtually all year (using school material, with dreams of becoming a painter when I grew up): of Chincogan (including the time of the famous black outline), old fashioned sailing ships, aeroplanes (including my beloved Spitfire), and views from aeroplanes dropping bombs (the war baby had been heavily influenced by Newsreel images of bombs dropping down from planes), and going to Lismore in the bus on the back roads to see the young Queen this painting was ‘reconstructed’ from memory, 2014, as the ‘Road to Lismore’), and my (profile) portrait of the Queen (with her orb and scepter and crown, as placed in the window overlooking our neighbour Mary Anne Tulk’s place), the funeral mask of the young Tutankhamen, and many others, now lost. My only surviving painting of this period was my ‘Optomistic Boat’, as painted in Helen Alidine’s autograph book others (instead of a childish ditty), given to me in 2010.
At the end of that year (1954) I went to Wardell Public School. Two paintings from this period have survived (also kept by my Wilson grandmother), one of a European setting with boats near some steps, the other a copy of a painting on the wall at East Wardell (of a sailing boat in what was probably Milford Sound, New Zealand), painted by a local artist called Leeson, and won in a raffle.
1953, After a visit to the Queensland Art Gallery so inspired me that I came back with a strong desire to want to try to learn to paint. An article by Candide Baker about William Robinson in ‘Good Weekend’ (18.6.16), said 1953 had been the year of the Landmark Exhibition, ‘French Painting Today’, to the Queensland Art Gallery. I cannot be sure one way or another, except it is a real possibility that this is the exhibition that had seen.
Pacific Highway, East Wardell (pre-1947)
Pre -1947, childhood drawings (pre-school) on the farm (including a series of war drawings, pre-1945) as retained by my Wilson grandmother (including army ducks and jeeps on a rough zigzagging road (Pacific Highway) outside our house, a cat with earthquake/grave, a car and a plane with bombs falling into another hole in the ground, and a squadron of double winger aircraft (with perspective, RAS Webbsite) coming from the airport at Evans Head towards the farm), as published in The Mullumbimby Kid.