Draw on the Mountain, Blue Mountains. Day 2

September 29, 2013

draw on the mountain 3

 Page 4. A4 Draw on the Mountain sketchbook, 90gsm. graphite pencil H.

Blast Furnace Park, Lithgow. Only in Australia could one find an archaeological site devoted to a factory built in 1907; it speaks volumes about the relationship Australians have with their past. Lithgow is a small country town west of the Blue Mountains and east of Bathurst, the first inland city; it is primarily a mining town built on coal and iron, so its chief tourist attraction these days is the remains of a blast furnace. I visited the town on a Sunday when  there was hardly any sign of human activity, save the sound of singing at the local Anglican church.

I forgot my Albertian veil and made the fatal mistake of starting to sketch in medias res. I lost my head,  attracted by the striking shadows on the building facade. I had the misfortune too of choosing a very high vantage point with a biting westerly wind. It’s obvious that even though it’s a very warm early summer, nothing “heats up” till after midday. At the railway station, there are signs warning about slipping on ice and snow.

draw on the mountain 4

 Page 3. Thumbnails.

Stopping around midday, I acquiesced to moving around to find different viewpoints. I could have spent all day trying to find the “perfect” vantage point. I wanted a looser interpretation and something different in scale to the sketch on the other side of the double-page spread. I was so tired and affected by the fierce wind, I lost it with the perspective, but was careful not to work below the gaping arch.

I am extremely unhappy at this stage with the huge physical and psychological effort involved in getting down just a small amount of sketches. I am constantly balancing the ‘original’ and ‘innovative’ (stated criteria of the sketchbook challenge) with the somewhat tawdry character of the mundane. Trying to find aesthetic nuggets in the Blue Mountains and Lithgow was always going to be a struggle! Life on the mountains has always been far from easy and so everything about them is chiuso in se stesso. Twelve kilometres of walking yesterday resulted in just two pages and having crawled all over Lithgow, including sussing out Eskbank Museum and the Lithgow Court House, only another two single pages today.

The sketchbook has 22 pages or 11 double-page spreads. At six days of sketching, that’s at least two double-page spreads a day. The criteria are obviously about creating interesting Scenic Views or Tourist Views, very similar to the imperatives governing the early work of English watercolorists J.M.W. Turner and Thomas Girtin. Their market was manufacturing interesting scenic views for their clients. The iconography these artists created was instrumental to tourists and fellow artists who came to ‘view’ the scenes from the same vantage points. Similarly today, we have a conditioned “image” of that symbol of the Blue Mountains, the Three Sisters, given that we (almost entirely) see them from the Echo Point lookout.


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