Arkaroola, Flinders Ranges, South Australia – Landscape Painting

May 2012

Into the wild again. It is easy to forget the great distances between places in Australia when driving rather than flying. The drive from Adelaide to Arkaroola (600 kilometres) with stopovers at Willow Springs and Grindells Hut made it very clear. Still, worth it for the stunning landscapes in the Flinders and Gammon Ranges.

My first expedition to the Flinders Ranges, my first attempt in painting with acrylics in the field, and I was ill prepared for what was about to unfold. We spent too long after lunch at the Sevenhill Winery in the Clare Valley. This meant night was falling as we drove further into the Flinders Ranges. It was pitch black as the four wheel drive made its way gingerly down a steep winding track to Willow Springs. Sheep were continually caught in the headlights traversing the rocky steep terrain. At least the camp fire was burning and dinner had been prepared, some hours earlier, when we arrived. But, oh the horror, sleeping bags for some had not been packed and they had to spend the night in the shearers’ quarters. Day broke and what a strange landscape to behold. Arid with pine trees. Surrealists’ landscape.

Rauschenberg would have been right at home with the creative possibilities of the remains of old machinery lying around the shearers quarters slowly rusting back into the ground.

After two days at Willow Springs, where there are no willows, and day trip to Wilpena Pound, drove further north into the Gammon Ranges and set up camp at Grindells Hut. Arid, stark landscape with a dark history. Grindells Hut namesake murdered his son-in-law, for cattle rustling and death of Grindell’s mule. On the run from the law, he set himself up deep in the Gammon Ranges. The law did catch up with him eventually in 1918.

After a couple of nights at Grindells Hut, just as the goat shooters were arriving, drove further north to Arkaroola.

Stretched out in a swag gazing at the clear night sky and the Southern Cross. It was great to be back in the outback. Away from city light pollution, the night sky can be savoured, imagining what it must have been like navigating by the stars.

This expedition even included some intergalactic experience with a late night visit to the observatory in Arkaroola. For most of us, a first close encounter with our galaxy through a powerful telescope left us amazed and stunned into silence. Seeing Saturn and star clusters for the first time has that effect, even after several glasses of wine over dinner around a campfire.

Many excellent painting locations. My first attempt at painting with acrylics in the field and the local crows seemed to know it. While painting en plein air I did get a bit pretentious one day in a dry river bed and shouted ‘sacré bleu’ at a crow for shattering the peace. The crow seemed encouraged and kept objecting to my white paper scroll flapping in the wind or, more likely, my naïf attempts at painting the overwhelming. The crow followed me around most of morning and didn’t shut up, probably trying to warn me about the hazards of being out there. The crow was probably right as I was also aware of other silent and stealthy fauves, fauna, and feral critics constantly on watch, ready for the right moment to pounce on anything edible.

Willow Springs
Wilpena Pound
Grindells Hut
Rock Pool, Arkaroola
The Pinnacles, Arkaroola

Sense of place


Willow Springs 16/5/2012


Willow Springs 16/5/2012


Wilpena Pound painting location 16/5/2012


Sculptural remains from bushfire, Wilpena Pound 16/5/2012


The Cazneaux Tree, a lot healthier than in 1937, on the way back from Wilpena Pound 16/5/2012


View from Grindells Hut late afternoon 17/5/2012


Grindells Hut painting location 19/5/2012


Local crow critic third branch from the left, Arkaroola 20/5/2012


Waterhole, Arkaroola painting location 20/5/2012


The Pinnacles, Arkaroola painting location 21/5/2012


Leaving Willow Springs 23/5/2012


Sketches in ink and acrylics


Wilpena Pound16/5/2012


Grindells Hut 17/5/2012


Grindells Hut 17/5/2012


Grindells Hut 7/5/2012


Rock Pool, Arkaroola 20/5/2012


Rock Pool, Arkaroola 20/5/2012


The Pinnacles, Arkaroola 21/5/2012


Foothills, The Pinnacles, Arkaroola 21/5/2012


Willow Springs 23/5/2012