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.