The Georgian era ended in 1837, according to the people who decide these things. This means the bridge at Ross in Tasmania is just Georgian, as it was finished in July 1836. If it had been made a year later it would have been Victorian, and presumably would have been festooned with carvings of cherubs, grapes and such, and would have been made out of cast iron. As it is, the bridge is austere, elegant and touched with Georgian grace.
Perhaps it is the sight of Queen Victoria dressed in black and looking glum, but I have always thought of the 19th century as a gloomy, black and white sort of place. There is, however, plenty of evidence to the contrary. This simple stained glass window in an insignificant colonial building in Launceston shows that people cared about colour, proportion and harmony. The patterns are not just decorative, they repay contemplation. I find that tracing out these patterns, and recording them in simple sketch, can be meditative and calming. Sort of like colouring in for adults.
Apparently Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park is one of the 10 best beaches in the world. On the day I saw it, it was also one of the coldest. But there was no problem keeping warm by scaling the many granite knuckles surrounding it. The landscape is sheer.
I suffered from a lack of paint this day, so I had to use Textas to do most of this vertical landscape. I haven’t used them for years, but I found them surprisingly versatile and fun to use.
Did I mention there seem to be lots of spires in Launceston? Here is another one, as seen on Charles Street as the sun set into a backdrop of moody clouds. When I unpacked this picture I realised I’d left the top of the spire slightly wonky. But I think it’s important to preserve first impressions and the freshness of a quick sketch, so I left it alone.
For a small city, Launceston has a remarkably large number of church spires. They are all over the place. I don’t know why. Perhaps for the early European settlers living at the very edge of the world they knew made them more religious. This is a Baptist church spire as seen from a petrol station in Charles Street. Thank you to Richard and my brother for simultaneously suggesting the title to this post.
It is possible to see the Aurora Australis (or Southern Lights) from Tasmania. One night in a small country town I thought I did see them. Turned out I was looking at the glow from the local football field.
The only Aurora Australis I saw was the Antarctic research ship of that name, docked in Hobart. It is owned by P&O Maritime, and is a ferociously functional boat that is built for serious work rather than comfort. It does, however, have a jaunty P&O flag logo painted on its side. It is a logo I associate with tropical islands and drinks with umbrellas in them; turns out it also has a long and close association with icebergs and the following winds (in ascending order of scariness): the Roaring Forties, the Ferocious Fifties and the Shrieking Sixties. I assume they don’t play shuffle board at these latitudes.
Plein air painting can be very uncomfortable and inconvenient. Insects seem magnetically drawn to wet paint, and there is always the risk of a passer-by wanting to look over your shoulder at what you’re painting. I discovered the perfect solution: stay in a cottage with an interesting view out of the back window. You can sketch from real life, without having to leave the fireside.
This is the Callington Mill in Oatlands, as seen over the back wall of the cottage I was staying in. It was a quick sketch, as the light was shifting fast.
I just spent a little while in Tasmania. Each day I set aside an hour or so to paint a quick picture of something I’d seen that day. I will post these sketches over the coming days. Most days I painted things that were big and outdoorsy, but one afternoon in Oatlands I painted the sun streaming through my cottage window. This is what it looked like.
Condemned prisoners used to be publicly hanged just outside the main gates at Oatlands gaol, pour encourager les autres. Most of the gaol was long ago demolished and replaced with a public pool, which is much better than a public gallows.
Lake Dulverton is very close by and reassures us that nature can be beautiful, no matter what people are getting up to nearby. This is the Lake in the late afternoon, with a winter storm approaching.
The Aurora Australis is an Antarctic research ship. It is painted vermillion so it won’t get lost in the snow and ice. I am told that the crew climb off it to play golf on the sheet ice … using a black golfball.
In the southern winter temperatures in Antarctica can drop to -89.2C and katabatic winds at the edges of the continent can reach over 300kph. That is why the Aurora Australis is currently docked on Princes Wharf 1 in Hobart, right next to the Winter Feast at the Dark Mofo festival.
Dark Mofo is pretty great, and the Winter Feast is truly remarkable. However, I think the vermillion guest looming over the Feast is the best bit. This is what it looks like from the dock entry. I imagine it will head to Antarctica when the summer comes.