Monday, May 25, 2009

The Middle of Somewhere

This time next week, we will be painting on the land that Annabel (Bella) has painted above in her recent painting: Headwaters at Bottle Corner. For some time, she has been working on a series depicting the topography of Bunginderry. The works are quite large - sometimes as big as 2m. by 1.5m. You can see more of Annabel's work on her website:

Annabel and I met at our first Artists' Camp which was run by the Flying Arts Schools at a wonderful place called Bingara, owned by Peta Warner and her husband,Shane, west of Eulo, which is about the same distance west from Brisbane as Bella's place, but in a slightly more Southern direction in outback Queensland. I always used to say places in the outback were: "in the middle of nowhere". And Bella said to me one day. "The middle of somewhere, Noel". People live here." So, these days I say- Bingara "in the middle of somewhere". It's true. I hadn't thought about it until Bella pointed it out.

So, twenty of us, mostly city or regional people, but with a smattering of country people, came together with two tutors for a week to paint with and learn from each other. One tutor was the amazing Mandy Martin - who taught us how to use found ochres and natural pigments. The other tutor was Michael Pospischil, who taught us the use of oil glazes. Both of these techniques and media were new to most of us. I still use both techniques extensively in my work.

Now the reason that Annabel and I got to know each other well is a good story. We all stayed at the shearers' quarters at Bingara. A huge place that could easily accommodate the thirty people, including twenty artists who were there. The quarters are good but pretty basic. The walls are a single sheet of corrugated iron. Only a thin sheet of iron separated our heads along the rooms as we slept. You see, the point of this is that I am a snorer. After the first night, Bella told me she had a bad night's sleep as I had kept her awake all night with my snoring. Her bed was in the room next to mine. "Bang on the wall," I said. Then I wil roll over and stop. And bang she did. So for the rest of the week we both had bad nights as I woke her up with my snoring and she scared the hell out of me banging on the corrugated iron. It is so hard to sleep in a shearer's iron bed which has a big dip in the middle without kinking your neck and snoring loudly. So, from then on when we have camped out in the bush on painting trips, Bella has set up her tent as far away as possible so as not to be disturbed by my snoring. (My partner, Craig has a lot of sympathy for her).

I can hear you thinking that it might not be such a good idea to come to our Artists' Camp. What if you are next to a snorer? The solution is to save your ear plugs from your next air trip. And anyway, the walls are lined on both sides in the shearers' quarters at Bunginderry. The soundproofing is a lot better.

That first Camp was such a wonderful time and we made some great friends that we still keep in touch with today. Peta Warner's work is great to see. Go to:
Mandy Martin has an exhibition coming up in Canberra. She is an amazing artist and a real Australian character. Look at her work on There is another painter whose work I really love. Her Grass Series began at that Camp west of Eulo. Her name is Yvonne Mills-Stanley. See her at Fireworks Gallery in Brisbane:

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