Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Namatjira Country art Tour

I have just returned from the most wonderful art tour - following in Namatjira's footsteps in the MacDonnell Ranges, Central Australia. The incredible contrast of the rust red earth and the intense turquoise blue skies was just amazing.

I took a group of 11 artists (of all levels of ability) and some of the work they produced was exceptional. Everyone's work and colour mixes improved dramatically throughout the week as they sketched at some unique locations. Among them were Simpson's Gap and Ormiston Gorge as we passed through Namatjira country. The scenery was forever changing and the history of the land formation was fascinating.

One of my highlights (along with two other workshop participants) was a helicopter ride from Glen Helen Homestead over Goss Bluff and the 'Caterpillar dreaming' rock formation.

'Caterpillar dreaming' rock formations
The West MacDonnell Ranges are some of the oldest land on earth. The sedimentary formations are exposed as the movement of the land throughout millions of years has risen up and exposed the underlying layers of the rock below.

'Caterpillar dreaming' is an Aboriginal dreamtime story. Yipirinya means 'caterpillar' in Arrernte and the region was created by giant caterpillars in the story. These creatures became the stunning ridges I viewed from the helicopter were row upon row stretching as far as the eye could see. As you move through this beautiful country, the landscape you see is the unfolding of the Dreamtime stories in the exposed hills you pass through.

Goss Buff
Tnorala (Goss Buff) is one of the most significant impact structures in the world. It was probably formed by the impact of a large comet, meteorite or ball of calcified gases, about 142 million years ago. Travelling at a rate of about 40 kilometres per second, it slammed into the earth's surface just out from Glen Helen Homestead, where we were staying, and tunnelled 6 kms underground in a fraction of a second before detonating in an explosion that would dwarf the most powerful nuclear bomb.

Tnorala Conservation Reserve is a registered sacred site and is a place of great cultural significance to the Western Arrente Aboriginal people, as well as one of international scientific interest. This crater is the largest of its kind in the world.

The Tour
Below are some images of the tour participants sketching in various unbelievably beautiful locations.

Old Telegraph Station outside Alice Springs

Majestic Ormiston Gorge

Ormiston Gorge with incredible mirror water reflections

Desk at Simpson Gap
Some of my sketches
When beginning my sketches and taking in the glorious intense colours around me, I discovered I needed to use a different palette colour palette. The rock and earth colours changed with the light, and went from a dull rust red to a magenta and a bright orange. Indescribable beauty. The greens of the eucalypts varied from a golden green to a dull blue green.

So I now have a separate palette and colour mix chart for Central Australia.

The red cliffs at Glen Helen Homestead, near Glen Helen Gorge

Namatjira's famous tree for many of his paintings

Simpson's Gap, where the colour changed dramatically with the light

West MacDonnell Ranges

Panoramic view of a scene from Ross River Homestead
This was a very special tour to a very special and spiritual place, where the land formations, vegetation and colours varied constantly.  We all bid Central Australia a fond farewell and I am sure it will not be the last visit.

My next Australian Tour
My next tour within Australia will be to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia on 15-23 October 2018, with Aussie Redback Tours.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Sketching Central Australia 2017

I am thrilled to be taking an art group sketching to Central Australia in the first week of July 2017. This is somewhere I have always wanted to explore, and to be able to experience the incredibly red earth, the unique flora and to explore the gorges is going to be magic!

Here is some information:

1 - 7 July 2017

Sketching Central Australia with Leonie Norton

Capture some of Australia's most stunning landscapes and natural features on this amazing tour of Namatjira Country. Sketch and paint the majestic gorges, rolling hills and mountains, crisp white gum trees and much much more!  Flights, accommodation and most meals included. Optional balloon flight over the MacDonnell Ranges and a helicopter flight over Glen Helen Gorge.

For more information, brochure and Itinerary:

New web page for Central Australia in progress

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Plants & Pollintors Workshop in Canberra

Last weekend I taught a workshop in Straithnairn, Canberra ACT on Plants & Pollinators. 

The weather was absolutely glorious and the spacious studio/workshop provided ample room with the sun streaming through the windows and the viewlooking on to the rural scene and distant mountains.

The lovely group was all very enthusiastic and I am sure they were inspired by their subjects. In Canberra the artists will focus on the local native plants and pollinators which can be often found in their gardens.

I get quite excited when I see the subjects they are painting, and often wish I could pick up a brush and also paint. The group is very motivated and I am sure they will now begin to create more works including pollinators. I personally find it enchances a painting by adding further information and interest and it also stretches their abilities and encourages them to think outside the square.

Enjoy these photos from the workshop.

View from the workshop/studio

Another rural view

The colour study, part of the process

Helen painting a Monarch butterfly on a callistemon

Colour study of a Eastern Spinebill

Jann's painting of a Eastern Spinebill, sourced from her own photographs

Colour study with notes for a Fisheye Finch

Drawing and Colour Study for the Fisheye Finch

New Holland Honeyeater chick on a grevillea

Mature New Holland Honeyeater drawing and colour study - on a grevillea
 This was an excellent workshop. I enjoyed myself asmuch as the students. Jean made the most incredible morning and afternoon teas. Orange and poppy seed cake, moist and moreish, chocolate fudge slice, orange and almond muffins, a cheese platter and much more......


A-Z Travel Sketching Part 3

Here are a few pages from my current article in Australian Artist magazine - Part 3 of the A-Z of Travel Sketching.

There is much more information in this article, on the Rule of Thirds when sketching, more sketches, top tips, perspective and how to actually create a sketch with comprehensive compositional information.

It is now available at all Newsagents. Next month is the final issue in this four part series.

Friday, 29 July 2016

A-Z Travel Sketching Part 2

Australian Artist magazine has published Part 2 of my 'A-Z of Travel Sketching'.

It is now available at all newsagents.

Below are pages 1 and 2 of the article. The step by step demonstration continues on the following page.

Enjoy. For more information on my Sketching travels and tours, and the Travel Sketching Distance Learning Course, see

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

A-Z of Travel Sketching article

My new article for Australian Artist Magazine is out now at newsagents. If you subscribe to this magazine you should have your copy now.

It is going to be featured in following issues with more information and sketches.

Here are a few pages from the article and some sketches from my recent Fiji trip where I took a group of enthusiatic participants to Koro Sun Resort in Savusavu.

Page 26

Page 29
Bulikula Beach - Savusavu Fiji
This was sketched from the workshop room I used while at Koro Sun Resort, Savusavu

The pattern on the cover of one of my Fiji Sketchbooks represents the traditional handmade tape cloth of Fiji. These are fun ways to decorate your sketchbooks from various destinations.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Fiji - Painting in Pardise

Just back from an incredible week at the beautiful Koro Sun Resort in Savusavu, Fiji. I had a group of 11 participants for Botanical Art in the mornings and Travel Sketching in the afternoons. Some of the group became so engrossed in their botanical paintings they also spent the afternoons in the Workshop Villa. It is actually the Seaside Restaurant and the hotel gives it over to me for the week. It is the best location I have had for my workshops - a 180 degree view and ample room.

These are some views from the workshop villa.. It is a wonder we get any work done. What a unique space to be in.

Each morning at 10.30am precisely, a delicious morning tea was provided. A chef was appointed to prepare some delicious treats for us each morning, and these arrived still warm from the oven.

Some of the group enjoying morning tea

The group consisted on both absolute beginners as well and experienced artists, and I was amazed by what was produced. Most people explored the gardens and rainforests of the resort to choose their plants. Even though Cyclone Winston hit the resort in April 2016, the staff had worked tirelessely to have it back to standard for new guests. Nature did its part for us, and the trees that were ripped bare were making up for lost time by blooming profusely. Some of the gingers were produing up to five flowers from the top of the main stem.

Here are a few of the botanical paintings done in the week.


The resort is set between the rainforest at the rear and the lagoon and sea at the front. It is the epitomy of 'tropical' and I love every day I am there. This was my tenth year teachng workshops at Savusavu and each year I find new places to go. or to just relax in some free time and soak up the atmosphere.

It is extremely rewarding to be with such wonderful participants and to see what they produce for the week.

The resort spa. Enjy a massage while listening to the sounds of the waterfall

The infinity pool with sunken bar - just the place to watch the sun set.

We were so spoiled with the quality and presentation of the food in Koro Sun. Every meal was an absolute adventure. The chef's creations were not only totally delicious, but the menu was so well considered, that they was always something for any palette or even food intolerance (which seems to be more common these days). What we all appreciated was the serving sizes were not huge, and we always found space for dessert or a refreshing sorbet after mains.

So now I am back home and into my routine, which is working.........

Before I go I will leave you with a few images of the some of the group sketching in the rainforest, and the beautiful Mela, who does the best massages in the Spa, and is also an expert  on the medicinal properties of the plants on the island. She takes a Herbal Walk where she explains about the plants and their uses in traditional medicine.

So perhaps I will see some of you in Koro Sun next year - May 2017, for another extraordinary week. It is certainly hard to settle down to an 'ordinary' life..