Tasmanian art challenge My wife, Tanya, and I sought a new challenge and Don the ﬂy ﬁsher invited us to see Tasmania for ourselves. We felt the pull of Tasmania immediately and decided to migrate, making a permanent move to the Tamar Valley. A group of friends agreed to commission a portfolio of artworks about Tasmania’s Central Plateau, its moods and its ﬂy ﬁshers of trout. This book is the result of their trust in an artist who captures Tasmania in a colourful creative celebration. Enjoy Tasmania too.
Tasmanian art assignment The Tasmanian art book assignment is an especially complex one to do. It’s drawn from an amalgam of extreme places inhabited by exotic types who endure crazy weather and harsh terrain. Tasmania is a concept, a vibration felt by many and I am attracted to blend with the mix. The moody artist gets right into high mood when introduced to the Central Plateau Highlands. Don said he thought I’d like Tasmania as an artistic challenge. He lives on the banks of renowned Brumbys Creek and the highlands are a distant mauve tier. “Come and see the Tasmania I especially enjoy,” he urges. “See the trout ﬁshing and the highlands lifestyle during ﬂy-ﬁshing season.”
T H E F LY F I S H E R
By the northern lagoons, past a bend of willows of the Brumbys Creek overﬂow, lives a ﬂy ﬁsher. You can walk from the house down a gentle incline to the reed and sedge lined lagoons. The creek runs away towards the east past the ﬁsh farm to ﬂow with another river. Trout cruise the lagoon shallows and rise at dusk for bugs on the water surface.
The artist as illustrator Have you ever wondered about illustrators? What do they do? Who are they? The illustrator is an artist who depicts ideas visually to the storyboard concepts narrative. An illustration may take a complicated story concept and simplify it. Something that is difﬁcult to describe in text might be easy to understand as a visual. An illustration can entertain, as in a greeting card. It can be book cover art, or interior art for books and glossy magazines. “The Artist & the Fly Fisher” is an art book with supporting remarks. Illustrators – old and new Illustrators display their versatility by creating artwork in many mediums. Until recently the old style drawing materials dominated. Today computer programs continue to change the industry and are used to produce or enhance many commercial illustrations. However, traditional illustration techniques including freehand oil painting, pastels, graphite pencils, crayons, brush and ink are used to produce the art for this book. Each illustration in these pages is a faithful reproduction of my original artwork, made possible by utilising the latest in digital publishing technology.
THE BRUMBYS CREEK
A fly fisher immerses A ﬂy ﬁsher immerses himself into the landscape, alert and fully engrossed. Polaroids posterize the colour ﬁeld of the shimmering water, extracting the elusive trout in its spotted camouﬂage. Clever technology against clever evolution; a fake tempting ﬂy is brushed aside by the survivor, a dorsal ﬁn, a ﬁnal tail-wave, a contemptuous bubble. Goodbye. An artist delves An artist explores the landscape. He deliberately unravels the whole structure into manageable ﬁelds on the canvas. Critical focal points draw his attention. He leaves out another part. He rearranges the elements. It is courageous to erase superﬂuous material. Sometimes the artist will see differently and add them in again. But for now delete freely. A fishing term ‘Polaroiding’ Polaroiding trout is the essence of the Tasmanian ﬂy ﬁshing experience. Seeing clearly through the glare into the world of the trout is an amazing experience. Polaroid sunglasses reduce the effects of glare on the water surface providing a better view of trout in the water. Sight ﬁshing for trout is practiced throughout Tasmania’s clear water environment. An adventurer The artist is a born adventurer. His explorations are rewarded by the discovery of beauty spots unmentioned in the guide books. With tireless curiosity he will come upon remarkable scenes of interest, like at Brumbys Creek (see following pages).
Brumbys Creek Brumbys Creek is a highly regarded waterway. The excellent water quality encourages an enormous food supply to support the thriving brown trout. Early season sight ﬁshing is popular when brown trout show dorsal and tail ﬁns while foraging the shallows in search of snails, scud and other tasty morsels. Tempting trout with tiny weighted nymphs through the weedy creek channels brings a good result. In foul weather the ﬁsh will often smash a wet ﬂy. When warmer, a plethora of insect hatches and falls bring about some classic dry ﬂy ﬁshing. Stoneﬂy, caddis, mayﬂy, damsel, dragonﬂy, beetles, grasshoppers and ants prevail at Brumbys. “Caddis activity is common on warmer evenings,” the ﬂy ﬁsher says. “It is astonishing to watch a large brown trout jump clear to catch damselﬂy midair.” Brumbys Creek is a challenging ﬁshery and the trout are usually in very good condition. They can really ﬁght too.
MAKING A SPLASH
To catch a trout – brief overview To catch a trout by ﬂoating a dry ﬂy on the water’s surface is looked upon as an art. To mimic a dying insect’s travail captures the imagination of ﬂy ﬁshers from around the world. “A late afternoon insect-hatch is a major anticipation for all enthusiasts,” say the ﬂy ﬁshers. When they get together following such events, the stories are an art form too. Fly ﬁshers decorate their hooks to tempt trout. There are dry ﬂies and wet ﬂies to fancy the ﬁsh. Dry ﬂies ﬂoat to imitate a freshly hatched ﬂy, an egg-laying ﬂy or wind blown insects landing on water. A dry ﬂy can represent any of a variety of insects found perchance on the water of ponds, lakes, streams or rivers. Wet ﬂies sink to imitate those natural insects in the water, small ﬁsh and nymphs, and drowned insects. Usually a wet ﬂy mimics those immature aquatic insects found beneath the surface of any body of water. The patient art Trout ﬁshing is a patient art, like the painting of a picture. It’s of the hands, but also of the mind. You must intuitively know what a ﬁsh is doing as you are bending your wits to catch it. The artist’s quick wit catches that ﬂeeting but special moment when the light is right. Such a captured split second of the ﬁsherman at his sport requires an artistic endeavour and good fortune. It takes patience for both the ﬂy ﬁsher and artist; waiting for the right moment to arrive.
THE CREATIVE SEASON
Modern messages Today’s subliminal messages bombard us from all over and a slower more leisurely lifestyle may appeal to you. It is time for a hobby to pursue, so why not take up drawing as an activity of leisure? Fly ﬁshing and drawing work well together I think. The suggestions in this art book may inspire you to great effort. A few tips often stimulate the primal urge of a sketcher. Endless possibilities will come to you when ageless and accepted methods of drawing well are pointed out. Drawing will capture your imagination full time. Ahead is a busy time of practising your drawing style, sketching those many moods which confront you. The angling season extends from August to May, with the best ﬁshing between October and April. The drawing and painting season never ends. Good luck!
THE HIGHLANDS ARTIST
Translating the visual In the highlands of Tasmania the artist is confronted by many splendours. It is a powerful and awesome place and the right tools can convey an extraordinary message of beauty. With conté, graphite pencil, charcoal and brush the artist can suggest to the viewers those marvellous moments experienced by ﬂy ﬁshers. “An important part of the creative process is to select what is special and discard what is not essential,” my father the art teacher said. “It is a test of your courage to leave things out.” How then does an artist translate into visual terms the many sensations and feelings he ﬁnds up here? What can be left out? The ﬂy ﬁshers’ inner feelings are important to the artist and determine his own reaction to the subject matter. Then your visual renditions can convey meaning to the viewer. Think about it. Lock in a couple focus points. Ditch the rest. Elusive atmosphere “An artist can see things in the landscape that go unnoticed by others.” So my father taught in his art lectures. “We all take for granted the changing colours in the light.” He insisted that the artist break up atmospheric details into their colour parts and that the light is treated like a quivering screen. “Look!” He pointed. “You stand at a distance and the shimmering makes you squint a little.” He claimed that by squinting and looking through our eyelashes you see a fusion of tones. Suddenly the mood of the artwork is revealed. To capture outdoor lighting effects, especially the ﬂickering, shimmering qualities of sunlight on the water, the breaking up of the colour is ideal. Broken colours can be exploited to vibrate with the cross-hatching technique. Then the atmosphere is not so elusive to capture.
THE WESTERN LAKES
An inexpressible idea Artists paint to tell an idea that is inexpressible in words. How can it be possible to say those many feelings confronting the ﬂy ﬁsher at the lagoons of the Western Lakes on the Central Plateau? And a photograph is not up to the task because the moods rapidly change during the course of the day out ﬁshing. Only a painting can fuse together all the processes and the elements of the uplands. Nineteen Lagoons You will feel the true isolation of the highlands on entering a remote section of Tasmania’s enchanting ﬁshery at Lake Augusta. There is a network of lagoons and lakes, each with its own individual characteristics. Fishermen know the lagoons have a varied food supply due to their individual character and geography. They may be rocky, shallow, deep, or with sandy bottoms. Healthy wild populations of mainly brown trout are stalked on bright, blue-sky days. In the clear light conditions these special lagoons are conducive to unparalleled sight ﬁshing. “Often extensive weed beds hide a surprise or two for the angler,” says the ﬂy ﬁsher. Wild trout cruise the scene with casual aplomb and sip down your dry ﬂy. From dun hatches and beetle falls on a highland breeze these lagoons are extra special for the ﬂy ﬁsher. The artist should consider a ﬁeld trip to see what a very special place it is. Within easy reach of Miena, artists seeking a scenic challenge might ﬁnd the nineteen lagoons quite daunting. I think it an overwhelming place.
Fluent drawing Any drawing qualifying as a convincing illusion of existing form does so by rendering light on the form. Tasmanian light is very bright and such brilliant light produces well deﬁned half shadow and shadow. The drawing tonal range is abrupt. On days of diffused light the effect of softness and subtle graduations of light to dark must be considered. The grey tonal values will be closer together. Open mind A painter should keep an open mind and sketch and paint what he feels, not necessarily what he sees. Keep it simple “Try to keep the light effects in your picture uncomplicated,” continues the lesson. “Sometimes detail sidetracks the overall idea and you get bogged down. Then you risk missing the magic of the artwork.”
Break those composition rules A constantly changing Tasmanian Highland Plateau frays the emotions. The artist latches onto an idea and often a ďŹ‚eeting change comes moments later. A straightforward composition suddenly calls for a new interpretation. It can all get a bit demanding, so letâ€™s dump the old formulas for producing acceptable images and open up to a wildly challenging Tasmanian power show. Nature loves to show off in Tasmania. Allow the subjects to speak and expand those compositional boundaries. The conventional ways do not count here. Be free. Be unconventional. Break a rule or two. Think about your feelings and look at the subject a little bit longer. What are you trying to say? What is Tasmania asking you to say?
THE GREAT LAKE
GREAT LAKE COLOUR
Polaroid colour As you see the world through your Polaroid lenses you begin to long for a way to capture it. So you snap a photograph to freeze that special moment. Unfortunately the photographic print isn’t at all how you remember it. The camera failed to make the transition of the sights and sounds and smells. You will have to transfer and to translate, to make a work of art. Photographs are handy reference material but your memory and feelings are much better. Polaroid glasses do colour your world though, and certain things are more clear. Cultural context Your response to a painting is often affected by its cultural context. Stalking ﬁsh is an experience to the sportsman which can be transposed to canvas. The artist captures the ageless moods and in a modern sense you remember the primal feelings of your predacious spur. Your reference point is as a participant in a sweeping landscape seen through the Polaroid lens of the ﬂy ﬁsher. Art triggers those fond memories and begins to mean something more. Art becomes your memento of a very personal ﬂy ﬁshing moment. Fly ﬁshers have a language to describe their intimate world of trout and lures. Artists have a visual language of recognisable ideas and moods - that’s if you are tuned in to the cultural context of the artwork. Picturesque terms Fly ﬁshers for trout have many colourful terms to describe the happenings of a ‘rise’. There are ﬁsh that are ‘snatchers’ and ‘sippers’. Some are ‘suckers’ in a ‘head and shoulders’ rise. Then there are ‘tailers’ and ‘sharks’.
GREAT LAKE LIGHT
A morning glory The light is clear. A cold light. A Great Lake light that is unwelcoming to me. The water is solid grey as old pewter. The Beehives rocks glistening black, the hills green grey with sienna gold ticks among the broken mauves. It is all so capable of a strangely changing melancholy in the morning glory of another highland day. Then, abruptly, we are out in a brightness I have never seen before. The sky is a pale haze of blue, clear of cloud. The rugged hills tier upwards covered by an agony of twisted Cider Gums with purple heather sun-touched orange. The land falls away to the shining diamond ﬂash of the lake water. I imagine that I am in a primal solitude. There is only sky and the water and the harsh, alien beauty of the hills. And everywhere there is the coarse heather with the grey green mosses among the scrub planted by the ancient elements in a vast tumble of stones. The weather changes. The light softens in the afternoon haze. Foggy days On foggy days of mufﬂed moods there is wonder in the highlands. The light is soft then. No direct sunlight separates light from shadow. Everything appears washed and bathed in a middle tone. Keep your tonal range narrow for the softness of the light. Go against the light. Deﬁne for the viewer a point and another one as a vanishing point. Appreciate the effective softness of the remaining spaces by the crosshatch blending harmony style. Remind yourself that mists will blur forms into simple silhouettes. Tick them in contrasting colour for the highlights.
GREAT LAKE MOODS
Light for effect Light is always there. No artist can escape from it. The effect light creates must be evident in all your drawings and paintings. Light effects occur in many forms providing an inﬁnite scope to use them. See how sunlight dapples on the scene you are capturing and turn its presence to your advantage. Light patterning affects all aspects of your picture. Use the different ways light falls on subjects to depict them in varying moods. Give your picture a greater sense of structure by cross-hatching the patterns created by falling light. This will often improve its composition. Look around you for patterns and shapes created by light. Build up a picture in which these rhythms are the main aspect. Choose the treatment of light as the main character in a picture. Spotlighting an object makes for more drama in the theatre of your artwork. Here moods are different The weather changes suddenly. The new mood adds a different light, a scurry of cloud, a hurrying shadow-scape, a wrap-around and surprisingly chill blow. That’s highland life - a daily surprise to make you feel insigniﬁcant in the grand scheme of things. Great Lake experiences Sight ﬂy-ﬁshing from a boat is a ‘must-do-one-day-soon’ experience. Such an exciting visual ﬁshing experience is not to be missed according to the ﬂy ﬁsher, a long distance Polaroiding afﬁcionado. It’s an art experience too, full of variety and moods to capture on canvas.
GREAT LAKE IDEAS
Spawning the ideas Fly ﬁshers have many wondrous insights into their world. Some are well regarded for having strong feelings about their sport. They empathise with those who long for another chance to go ﬁshing. They see things and wish to capture every moment of wonder and awe. To achieve a convincingly painterly work of art requires insight, feelings, empathy, and a working knowledge of materials to use. Sketching the moment and the place is deﬁnitely on the must-do list of the intrepid ﬂy ﬁsher. As a ﬂy ﬁsher be open to the larger idea and the effects of all the smaller subtleties you ﬁnd in the visual world. Think about the feelings you entertain for the subject. How do you feel for the land and the creeks, the mountains and the pools in the valleys, all the lakes? Go outside and go beyond the literal truths. Depict them all from your imagination. A likeness in art is never just about capturing a photo-real depiction of every feature. Sympathetic insights, your insights are so very much an inclusively important need for representational art to succeed. A convincing realistic artwork is an illusion on canvas or paper. It includes unique characteristics to show your feelings. Liawenee Canal To see trout swimming upstream on a spawning run, attend the Liawenee open weekend during the winter. Spawning trout can be seen in pools of streams and the canal ﬂowing into the Great Lake.
A F LY F I S H E R S K E TC H
The passion Fly Fishing is a passion that attracts a diverse range of people who enjoy the sport in the pristine highland lakes of the rugged Central Plateau Region. Mono-mania Fly ﬁshers are a mono-manic bunch I think, a clique of fanatics who prefer to be alone in the extensive loneliness of the highlands. They accomplish an air of mysticism as they can endure days and weeks without women, on erratic food and interesting drinks. They revere mostly solitary places; distant dark lakes and mountain streams and hidden lagoons. They are jealous of their private shrines and apt to be hostile to intruders. They measure deliverance by the pound and kilo, and a man’s worth by his skill with a ﬁghting ﬁsh, to bring it to hand and add to the daily weight in total. You will recognise them by their burnt complexion and their faraway eyes, and some coloured ﬂies stuck on Velcro and netting pockets. They are often silent and secret and they discipline their newcomers to ﬂy ﬁshing with a constant ribbing admonition and not infrequent humiliation, as I can attest. Some of them comment the distant poaching days when a poacher could be exiled to the faraway colonies for taking a trout from another man’s water – which is how it all started in Tasmania in the ﬁrst place. Showing the special ﬂy Showing off his own personal ﬂy called the ‘dunny brush’ , because it looks like one, is Julian Brown (left).
F LY F I S H E R ’ S TA S K S
Fish ﬁllets After the trout are hung to set overnight they are ﬁlleted to be vacuum wrapped and frozen. Jim Allen is a deft hand at ﬁlleting the ﬁsh.
THE FISHING GUIDE
Little Pine Lagoon On the Central Plateau is Little Pine Lagoon, the renowned ‘ﬂy-ﬁshing only’ trout water. It is shallow and well suited for wading when tailing trout are a highlight early in the season. Tussocks and heath land, with grassy shorelines, marshes and excellent weed growth, surround little Pine Lagoon. “I personally like to put a red tag to tailing ﬁsh,” said the ﬂy ﬁsher. “When they are on the cruise, showing both tail and dorsal, they are usually cooperative. Sometimes, when the trout are challenging, I persist with a suspended nymph to do the trick.” ‘Little Pine’ is famous for its dun hatches. From early December hatches are often in isolated pockets, but sometimes they happen over a large area, such as on February 2, 2006, when thousands of emerging duns appeared (even in quite windy conditions). Then the drama of the occasion makes for a memorable ﬁshing experience. The Little Pine Lagoon ﬂats Little Pine Lagoon has vast shallow “ﬂats” growing much weed. The trout feed on these ﬂats and are often visible to the angler and the artist, presenting opportunities for a great day. Crustaceans in Little Pine Lagoon migrate into the shallows to breed during springtime. This produces some of the most exciting ﬁshing in the highlands with trout “tailing” feeding on the crustaceans. Dry nymph and wet ﬂy can be successful and Polaroiding ﬁsh in the shallows often produces some phenomenal ﬁshing, claims the ﬂy ﬁsher. “But at Little Pine Lagoon trout ﬁshing can be extremely frustrating as well.” Artists should keep a wary eye on the weather as it changes often.
DRAMA AT LITTLE PINE
The dun hatch Little Pine Lagoon is situated on the Marlborough Highway, about 10 kms from the highland village of Miena. The lagoon was formed in the 1950s and it enjoys the reputation of being the premier ﬂy-ﬁshing water in Tasmania, according to (un)biased views of ﬂy ﬁshers. The lagoon supports a huge mayﬂy population. From late November to mid March “The Hatch” is a daily occurrence. The duns will hatch in a variety of weather conditions including snowstorms and strong wind. Mild overcast conditions produce the best hatches, like on that extra special day in February, 2006, when a profusion of duns popped up on the surface of the lake, an event to challenge the artist. An art relationship When a painting is sincerely a ﬁne work of art it can reproduce itself. All of its constituent parts are affairs of bewitching forms in your mind. There is a thrumming of compelling mementoes that comes to your mind unbidden. Nothing else can as suddenly evoke the smell, the feel, the mood of the highland lakes in the privacy of your mind. Fine art is then elevated to a relationship and you are deeply, passionately in love, just like the ﬂy ﬁshers elevate their glorious moments on the water during a dun hatch. Fly ﬁshers live inside a work of art which envelops them all.
OF MOUNTAIN LIGHT
Isolation - a state of separation A solitary object in isolation can be lonely, tranquil, ancient, bent, insecure… A beautiful idea in closeup. An exclusive detail to share because you wish to emphasise its beauty, its moodiness and its atmosphere ﬁnely blurred… Guarantee an attention grabbing perspective by looking down from a great height….soar with your imagination. Frame an idea with a window. Montage a series of your ideas. Find those many curiosities to tell tales within the wider scheme of things. Once again, remember the many “other” ways to express your feelings effectively because the Tasmanian landscape demands your attention. Using a large empty space is a balancing trick to emphasise the overall mood. “Look over here” asks the painting. “See my centre of interest”. Tasmania presents to the artist ideas to revolve around. Objects were put here by primal upheavals waiting eons to be discovered by artists of today. The spaces are arranged in such a fantastically crazy way so as to challenge, and you need only add the ﬁnal touches. Composing with light “Light is a compositional device to bring about balance in a painting,” said my art teacher. “Patterns of light create strong visual rhythms that guide a viewer’s eye.” Against-the-light designs called ‘tegenlicht’ became a constant topic of conversation in our atelier when talking about the Impressionists. The ﬂy ﬁshers often comment on the mountain light, its sharp, cutting white searing effect that requires 30+ sun block cream to stay the burning.
THE TASTE FOR TONE
A distinctive style of low-toned atmospheric landscape painting called ‘Tonalism’ developed a sizable following among Dutch artists in the 19th-Century, 1860-1890. The tonalist artists broke loose of the prevailing academic schools. The School of Den Hague’s taste for a more intimate, rhythmical, and communicative style of landscape art relied on soft-edged broadly painted tonalities to communicate emotion. Painters used a neutral palette of predominantly cool grey colours, delicately modulated to produce a dominant tone. This was called the cross-hatching technique. Tonalism was a restrained, reﬂective, and spiritual landscape art. Artists preferred scenes of dawn or dusk, rising mists and chasing clouds, and pale moonlight reﬂections with meditative and evocative atmosphere. Domesticated landscapes were bathed in light with forms picked out and blurred too. Impressionism
Impressionism also concentrated on landscape that included the ﬁgure, but employed high-keyed colours and broken brushwork to capture glittering sunlit effects. Both styles were not exclusive and artists freely borrowed concepts from one another. The thrust of The Hague School artists was to depict realism as seen in nature. Their early fascination was with light and atmosphere, and the grey tones inﬂuenced American Tonalism.
A fantasy land The Tasmanian Highland Plateau with its many lakes is a fantasy land of potent magic, a ‘Peter Pan’ land of ﬂy ﬁshers ﬂeeing conventional pieties of the distant cities. Every day the winds bring a mixed draught of aromas so incredibly pure it cancels out any lingering urban whiff. Fly ﬁshers breathe the freshest air on the planet up here in their direct encounter with true wilderness. Be an angler too and experience a surging predator-animal reawakening when you are stalking trout. Be an artist and draw a distinction between this raw landscape and the urban-scape of your other life. There is magic up here in this fantasy land. Popular lake Arthurs Lake is considered to be Tasmania’s most productive and popular trout water by many ﬂy ﬁshers. Wild brown trout thrive with the abundant food supply in the weed beds, wood debris and surrounding native bush. Tailing trout chasing frogs, tadpoles, shrimp and caddis in the shallow grassy and weedy areas are a highlight of the early season. Polaroiding opportunities occur on bright and calm days. The artist may discover inspirational material and views from any number of access roads to Arthurs Lake’s boat ramps. Fly ﬁsher notes In calm and cool weather trout often rise to reliable midge hatches. These are washed into windlanes that are a feature at Arthurs Lake. A regular natural event at Arthurs Lake is the proliﬁc mayﬂy hatches in the warm spring and throughout the summer months. In autumn the beetle, jassid and ant falls provide trout food.
ARTHURS LAKE MAYFLIES
Summer mayﬂy hatches The most anticipated event in the Tasmanian trout-ﬁshing calendar is the summer mayﬂy hatches in the Central Highlands. The tiny aquatic insects called mayﬂies hatch in huge number all through summer. Arthurs Lake is renowned for mayﬂy hatches during this period. The highland duns emerge in November and continue through until the end of March. Fly-ﬁshers witness the most consistent hatches of duns during January and February when swarms of sexually mature duns called black spinners are ever present. The ﬂy ﬁsher says that on calm warm afternoons they frequent the surface and large accumulations of spinners can occur if conditions remain favorable. Then ﬁshing can be really exceptional. Large fertile shallows covered with water grasses and weed beds provide ideal breeding grounds for extensive mayﬂy populations. Caddis, stoneﬂies, midge larva, molluscs and shrimp ﬂourish in the shallow bays at Arthurs Lake, the most productive areas to ﬁsh. Most bays and the extensive shallows surrounding the islands experience good mayﬂy hatches, the perfect places for an artist to sketch the goings-on.
Quick critical questions & comments Ask yourself some quick critical questions. What does the scene express? Does the subject exist in the right space? What elements of the background make the image arresting? Is it good light? What shall I include and exclude? Will I make the subject exist in a large space? Shall I exclude distractions in the image? Consider the subject in the space around the focus point Do I want to convey a feeling of isolation? Will moving away from the subject help compose a wider angle? Will I be surprised by sketching the subject and can new ideas be found? Experimentation is worth the effort Try different positions and views. Consider the micro view too. Zoom in on action and blur the background like in the artwork on these pages. Remember that cross-hatching is a great blending technique.
PENSTOCK ART MAGIC
Penstock Lagoon Penstock Lagoon is surrounded by forest with grassy and rocky shorelines. Scattered marsh areas before open water offer excellent shore and boat based ﬁshing opportunities. It is ﬂy-ﬁshing only trout water. Penstock is highly regarded for its ﬁne trout, according to the ﬂy ﬁsher. He says that their good rate of growth is due to an abundant food supply, especially through the weed in the shallow areas. Penstock’s shallow and weedy water has early mayﬂy hatches. In clear and calm conditions tiny mayﬂies provide some exceptional still water dry ﬂy ﬁshing. Damselﬂy is on the menu of trout from the onset of summer. During evening trout rise to caddis and mudeyes for our entertainment. The population of good-sized brown trout (average 1 - 2kg) is supplemented with adult Great Lake trout by the Inland Fisheries Service management.
On realism and art The term “realism” is elusive in meaning and the uncritical use of this word has had signiﬁcant outcomes. Realism is an art trend which aims at conveying reality as closely as possible and strives for maximum representative truth. We call realistic those art works which we feel truthfully depict life. A point of view If you cannot quite come to grips with the viewpoints, remember that ‘realism’ may depict the aspiration and intent of the artist; i.e., a work is understood to be realistic if the artist feels it as true to life. Also an art work may be called realistic by the viewer when that person judging it perceives it as true to life. In the ﬁrst instance the artist evaluates on an intrinsically personal basis. In the second case the viewer’s individual feeling is the decisive factor. Whether an art work is realistic or not is ascribed to the individual and local points of view. Attitudes Your attitude toward an artwork may not be shared by someone else. Your view and appreciation of realism is not necessarily the perception of another viewer, yet the artwork remains a realism piece fulﬁlling the spectrum of life truths. As you explore the wide world of the ﬂy ﬁsher up in the highlands wonder at the breadth and the expanse ﬁlled with endless art possibilities. We are only just beginning to explore all of the magniﬁcent ways of expressing the full range of human emotions with beauty, poetry, and grace. A modernist ploy is to say, “It’s all been done before. There’s nothing new in it”. More importantly you can say, “I haven’t done this art before now and I have never seen such sights before this time. It is newly revealed to me and I enjoy the experience and the challenge of expressing today’s discoveries realistically.”
E N J OY YO U R S E LV E S
Joy of achievement When I venture outside the studio comfort zone I am often exasperated by the harsh conditions of Australiaâ€™s wild places. Painting and sketching out of doors is a very personal pursuit to me. It can produce intense reactions of discomfort, vexation, and disappointment. These feelings are expected and not unusual. The sooner I get out and about the quicker I attain the joy of achievement from being outdoors. I regard sketching as an investigation by the artist. Probe deeper and more points of view are discovered. The sketchbook is the artistâ€™s best friend. Use it to develop your own sketching habit and add authority to your knowledge. Many feelings are revealed to you inside deft sketches. Discoveries are retained in the sketchbook to help trigger the imagination. Sketch for pleasure. Be swift and of slight execution. Pick out a detail of the larger whole. Explore the potential pictorial value of the scene. How do you feel about the view? What can be left out?
A conversation with Michael Youl “The ﬁrst attempt to transport live salmon ova to Tasmania was by Mr. Gottlieb Boccius in 1852,” said Michael. “No provision was made to protect the living ova from injury or the water temperature by the use of ice. Large wooden bowls were slung with gimbals amid-ship to prevent water spillage. The water warmed as “Columbus” sailed south from London, the ova dying in these conditions and the water became putrid causing total loss.” Michael Youl’s great grandfather, Sir James Youl, succeeded in shipping live ova all the way from England to Australia, the ﬁrst to do so.
Sceptics Mr. Robert Ramsbottom, who was highly regarded for his skill and care in supplying ova in the best possible conditions, doubted the Youl experiments would resolve the issue. Writing of James Youl efforts he said; “He may as well try to fetch Australia to England as to carry spawn to Australia in living moss.” Ramsbottom was of the view that Salmon spawn must be either hatching or dying from the moment it leaves the ﬁsh and no man can carry living ova to Australia in any way. “You can send young ﬁsh that is all,” he said. Some years earlier Ramsbottom was carrying three bottles of fertilised ova, one of which he dropped. All the ova in that bottle failed to hatch. Ramsbottom believed the long, and at times, rough sea trip would cause the ova to die. Youl’s approach “James Youl became interested in the transportation of ova by clipper from England to Tasmania,” Michael explains, adding, “At ﬁrst he said he knew as much about the subject ‘as a wagon horse’.” Michael Youl continues, “He succeeded in the transportation of live trout ova by rejecting accepted ideas and employing a systematic and scientiﬁc approach to the many problems. James Youl studied the artiﬁcial propagation of salmon and the transport of their ova. He concluded that the retardation of the development of the embryos beyond the average natural period must be governing principle. The distance to Australia and the travel time required dictated terms of reference.”
Persistence Undeterred by the negative views of his contemporaries James Youl continued with his work at Crystal Palace. These experiments were of considerable importance and he travelled to Ireland and France, gaining information and new ideas on transporting ova. “James Youl, carried out many ova retardation experiments at the Crystal Palace over many years in the 1850’s and early 1860’s, but experienced pisciculturists failed to support his theories at the time,” explained Michael. “Then Mr. Edward Wilson, president of the Victorian Acclimatisation Society, became interested in James Youl’s work. Wilson and some inﬂuential colonists raised 600 pounds for a trial, which was to be conducted solely by Youl, and this was the beginning of a series of systematic efforts.” Reward On 9th February 1859 the then Colonial Secretary of Tasmania submitted certain questions to the Royal Society “relative to the introduction of salmon into Tasmania”. The payment of a Parliamentary reward of 500 pounds was agreed to, provided living salmon and not spawn were introduced to Tasmania. After three failed attempts James Youl proved that transporting live salmon spawn was possible.
The ﬁrst attempt The Tasmanian Government set up a Fisheries Board with Dr. Ofﬁcer as chairman. The ﬁrst attempt to ship 30,000 salmon ova, collected by Robert Ramsbottom from the Dovey River, was shipped in the S. Curling, Liverpool, 25th February 1860. A 15 ton ice-house consisted of two rooms, one within the other, lined with lead, having an interspace of 175 mm ﬁlled with powdered charcoal as a non-conductor and ﬁtted with drain pipes to carry off melting ice. A water tank was erected over the ice-house with a pipe leading into and passing twice around it, emerging above the place devoted to the ova, allowing a gentle and continuous stream of cold water to pass over them as they lay on gravel in swing trays with a incline of 63 mm to the foot, thus simulating as far as possible natural conditions. Mr Black was in charge of the shipment. The 15 tons of ice lasted 68 days. Most of the ova had died before all the ice melted; temperatures had risen to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Failure was blamed on ova disturbance when removing the dead and the rough sea passage.
Ongoing experiments Michael continues, “James Youl believed more ice was necessary and the ova needed more protection against the ship’s motion. Private enterprise had furnished both the funds and the work for the ﬁrst shipment. Now the governments of Tasmania, Victoria and Southland (N.Z.) became extremely interested and voted 3000, 500 and 200 pounds respectively and delegated the work and total control to James Youl. “Youl continued his experiments at Crystal Palace, and travelled to gain more knowledge, to prove that ova could be retarded from hatching for at least 140 days. Once when showing interested gentlemen some ova stored for 120 days James Youl commented, ‘His little friends were alive and all very healthy’.” The Tasmanian Government Fisheries Board became extremely active building breeding ponds adjacent to the Plenty River, a tributary to the mighty Derwent River which has many lakes above 900 metres providing cool water for spawning salmon.
James Youl determined to solve the problem of exporting ova safely.
William Ramsbottom (son of Robert) was in charge of the 80,000 salmon
He experimented by placing a pinewood box of inch thick wood, about
ova, a job he carried out with great skill and care. The heat of the tropics
12 inches by 8 inches by 5 inches in size, perforated at the top, bottom,
was so great that the ice had all melted by the 17th May, 74 days out.
and sides to allow free passage of water. The box was to be packed with
William Ramsbottom found the pine box which he had forgotten about.
300 ova in living moss and placed in the bottom of the ice-house.
Some of the ova were still alive eight hours after all the ice had gone.
A small steamer, The Beautiful Star, was chartered and in ﬁve weeks
“Much disappointment was felt by those who had watched the result of
more elaborate apparatus than for the S. Curling shipment was ﬁtted,
this shipment with anxious and perhaps too optimistic expectations,” said
also increasing the ice supply to 25 tons.
Michael. “The media at the time severely criticised the failure its cost.”
Beautiful Star sailed from London on 4th March 1862. The voyage was ill-fated, ﬁrst delayed by bad weather then returning to port for repairs.
The cost The preparations of the ponds at Plenty for the expected salmon and this experiment together had cost 1410 pounds. James Youl had contributed his own money and given his time in perfecting details of which the commissioners perhaps would not have seen the necessity. He was abused by the majority of the colonists and the colonial press and accused of having wasted public funds. It was evident from the commissioner’s report that dissatisfaction was felt generally and they failed to see the signiﬁcance of the pine box of ova which had outlasted all the other. “But the principle of the box and the survival of the ova packed in moss did impress James Youl who had decided to work in the future with private means rather than incur further obloquy,” said Michael. Another try Dr. Ofﬁcer (later Sir Robert), the chairman of the commissioners, realised how nearly they had been successful, and he with a few others appreciated the difﬁculties of the task. The Tasmanian government awarded the conduct of another trial to the Australian Association, who in turn handed over the responsibility to Mr Youl, which he accepted on condition that he should have supreme authority. Convinced there was much to learn James Youl continued his work in the Crystal Palace vaults in London, using ice from Chicago supplied by the Wenham Lake Ice Co. He needed to prove that salmon ova could stay healthy and survive with little water, air or light for up to 120 days in the pine boxes placed at the bottom of the ice stack. Melting ice would be the only water ﬂowing through the boxes with very little air or light present.
Retardation success William Ramsbottom was brought to London again to help at the ice vaults, and later packing the ova and to sail with the precious cargo. The test proved successful and retardation could be safely carried to 120 days. “Youl was now convinced live ova could be shipped to Tasmania,” said Michael. “He then turned his attention to shipping. In January 1864, just at a most suitable time, Messrs. Money Wigram and Sons offered a space of ﬁfty tons by measurement in the ﬁne ship Norfolk, declining the 100 guineas which James Youl offered on his own account. They wished this to be their contribution to an undertaking of so much scientiﬁc interest and commercial value. The Norfolk was set to sail on the 20th January but due to difﬁculties in obtaining good salmon ova Youl persuaded Money Wigram to delay sailing until next day.” The ova were packed in pine boxes 12 x 8 x 5 inches with the sides perforated. The packing system was to ﬁrst spread a layer of charcoal in small lumps, then a layer of crushed ice then a nest of fresh carefully washed living moss with roots attached and on this springy cushion the ova were carefully placed without touching one and other. Over them a thin layer of moss then a double handful of crushed ice and the lid screwed down. The day before sailing, Messrs Francis Francis and Frank Buckland presented James Youl with 3000 trout ova from Admiral Keppel’s water. Mr Buckland had collected ova from the famous Itchin River and the other ova came from the Wey. Youl, who always believed that trout were more aggressive and would attack young salmon, accepted this gift of excellent ova packing them in the same manner as the salmon. By late p.m. on the 20th January 1864 100,000 Atlantic salmon and 3000 trout ova were packed in the 181 pine boxes and placed on the Norfolk in a 50 ton ice house and locked.
The Norfolk sailed next day “James Youl consigned all the boxes to Mr Edward Wilson, Melbourne, where the Norfolk docked on the 15th April 1864,” Michael explained. “Wilson had cleverly arranged that Victoria’s only warship Victory transport the ova to Hobart. He was the president of the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria and with other members boarded the Norfolk to inspect and open one of the boxes containing salmon ova. To the great joy of the anxious observers the ova were in a sound and healthy condition.” Edward Wilson kept 11 salmon boxes for Victoria to be hatched, as insurance. The other 170 were loaded with approximately 12 tonnes of ice on Victory which steamed for Hobart on the 18th April arriving at 3 p.m. on the 20th April. Crowds gathered with great excitement. Dr Ofﬁcer and Morton Allport led the welcome.
Arrival The small river-steamer Emu was waiting with a barge to transport the ova boxes in ice to New Norfolk, and then to the Plenty Salmon Ponds via row boats and overland. The ova were carefully placed in their new hatching ponds and the remaining ice was used to cool the water ﬂowing at the ponds. Messrs W. Ramsbottom and Allport who skilfully placed the ova in their new homes estimated some 14,000 salmon and 300 trout ova were alive and healthy. The ﬁrst trout hatched on 4th of May and the next day the ﬁrst salmon. By June 8th nearly 300 trout and several thousand salmon had hatched. The success of the Norfolk shipment caused great excitement. Salmon and trout had arrived in Tasmania. The trout excelled. The Derwent river system provided ample food and excellent spawning facilities. The large ﬁsh seen and taken in 1867 and 1868 were thought to be Atlantic salmon. It was only after 12–15 years that it was realised these ﬁsh were big brown trout (S.fario). To this day the Atlantic Salmon (Salmo Salar) has not been able to establish itself in our Tasmanian waters.
Acclimatisation Society’s Ofﬁce, 80, Swanston Street, Melbourne, May 26th, 1864. Sir, I have the honour to bring under your notice the following resolution, passed unanimously by the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria at a meeting held on the 25th inst. “The Acclimatisation Society of Victoria takes this opportunity of recording its sense of the deep obligation which not only the Society, but the whole of the Australian colonies are under to James A. Youl Esq., for his constant and undaunted determination to introduce the Salmon to these colonies; and in congratulating him upon the brilliant success obtained from the experiment made on board the Norfolk, the Society wishes distinctly to ascribe that success to Mr Youl’s persevering, enlightened, and patriotic efforts. I have the honour to be, Sir, Your most obedient Servant, Geo. Sprigg, Secretary. To James A. Youl, Esq., Waratah House, Clapham Park, London.
(material in support of the conversation sourced from the Youl library)
1864 - 1874
The following decade 1864 - 1874 In the decade following the arrival of live trout ova in Tasmania in 1864 adventurous artists in France were experimenting with bright colours by painting outdoors. These artists, with an eye on the passing moments of light, spontaneously captured its actions on the everyday sights. Their outdoor efforts culminated in a decisive turning point in the history of Western Art with the 1874 exhibition that was subsequently the start of â€˜Impressionismâ€™. They challenged academic rigours and stodgy expectations by assaulting the senses with bright complementary colour applied in a loose technique. Such new art ideas and freedom arrived in Australia shortly afterwards. It was now all right to paint rich buttery and gorgeously soapy vibrant colours saturated by sunlight, our sunlight. It helps to draw well too.
(part letter quoted here is sourced from the Youl library)
The aim of realism The aim of realism is to give a truthful, objective, and impartial representation of the real world based on the meticulous observation of contemporary life. There is no critical art rhetoric that deﬁnes realism so there are many different points of view. There’s an awful lot of intensive wafﬂing about ‘isms’ in the world of art, but enjoy your own viewpoint most. Art should express the richness of life and of life that’s happening before us. How you participate in the art scene is up to you. How you see it is your affair too. The one thing an artist doesn’t have to try to be is contemporary. An artist is contemporary by the mere fact that he or she is working in these times. So, to work exclusively in order to express a contemporary, avant-garde point of view is not reason enough for being an artist. Focal point The main thing is to have focus, a primary idea. Without that focus to build on the artwork is jumbled by the things in it, unsure of the point you are trying to make. The focus of attention should hold our interest. So you want to be true to the view out there in the wilderness. But have a thought for a moment of the moods you can feel. Squint to see a blur of the outlines and the many spaces. See the sights through your eyelashes and blend it all together in a tonal mush. Why not aim to capture those things your psyche sees in the half light? That is realism too. The camera cannot do that for you.
S E E I N G D I F F E R E N T LY
Luminosity Wilderness areas are open to experiences on many levels. The ﬂy ﬁshers see it through special glasses that colour to frame trout to stand out from everything nearby. The artist refers to the luminosity of the place, an enhanced feeling which is special and noticed. Signiﬁcant colours may radiate high in tone and vibrate. It is not unusual to see a vibration ﬁeld around objects that happen to be in the luminous space, inheriting the energy of the aliveness around them. The experience can freak you out if you are not alert to the possibility. Such spaces are isolated in oceans of ennui and indifference. Paintings of the special charged places convey a message of the energy found there, energy that is inwardly attractive. Such wild places of energy are sacred spots open to you. If you are someone of the old rigid secular school your mind may well lock out their reality. Your open mind helps to add extra ﬂavour to rational discernment when touched by the Tasmanian high country. Clutter The spaces of any artwork beg to be ﬁlled and I realise it is so tempting to add things to a bursting point. But resist temptation! What impact are you attempting to make with your painting? Rather than adding ideas to it, you might consider strengthening the impact of the artwork by erasing stuff. Take out the clutter and noisy bits and pieces. There is no need to value all those things at the expense of your central ideas. Think of the picture as an expression of a single concept, a simple worthy notion that you really do want to get noticed. If you must add those extra bits and pieces make them less deﬁned. Play with them in a fog so as to retain the main focus sharply.
Tonal values of colour Every colour has a value; its allowance in the spectrum when made grey. Think of grey in a scale of 10. White at 10 and black at 0. Take a red colour and squint to reduce it to greyness. Its value would be a 5 or a six. It takes a bit of time and imagination to get used to the values of colour as they vibrate and play on a canvas. Eventually you can judge values as a matter of course. Take a digital photo and convert to greyscale. Practice the value scales and youâ€™ll become quite handy at it. Remember to squint to view. It helps to blur the edges and see tonal values in the moods of the artwork. The art game How light falls on objects and how the weight of shadows helps bring focus on them all is the great game. Find the balance of the spaces and use your imagination. Begin bravely and do not hesitate to process photographic reference material. Then be bold and dump the lot. Reliance on heartless reference materials makes for poor art results. Return to the point of realism versus the impression of your ideas. Hopefully you will compose your artworks ever mindful of the moods needing a focus too. How does a painting read? Our natural inclination is to appreciate an artwork from left to right. You are trained from the start to read that way. From such a core observation you advance ideas. Notice the left and right hemispheres, horizon line and two vanishing points. The basic methods all start out the same. As you progress it gets a bit more intricate, but the starting points remain the same.
THE GREAT ART GAME
The Hague School group During the 1870s a group of artists came together in Den Haag (The Hague). The name “Hague School” was ﬁrst used by art critic Van Santen Kolff. He described a new way of seeing and depicting things with intent to convey mood when tone takes precedence over colour, and the almost exclusive preference for the grey atmosphere of bad weather effects. Den Haag had maintained its semi-rural character and became the centre of the new school of painting. Here artists drew their inspiration from the nearby coasts, polders and dunes. The period between 1870 and 1885 is considered the grey period of The Hague School. Artists restricted themselves to the use of sombre colours, mostly brown and grey. After 1880 more colours were gradually introduced to their works. Reduce details to minimum The Hague School artists preferred to reduce details to a minimum. Their subjects merged with the surrounding landscape and appeared to be isolated from the rest of the world. The grey palette contributes to this mood of alienation. There is great pictorial beauty in stark simplicity. Renewed interest Enthusiasm for the early Dutch Impressionists was evident in the 1960’s in the ateliers where my ﬁrst lessons commenced using the bold crosshatch rhythms with broad brushes. ‘Enter the Clowns’, featured opposite, pushed the technique of crosshatching into triangulation designs. The painting area is divided into 12 equal squares for the entire area. Eight squares are made to reﬂect on the blue spectrum colours, three squares come to us from the reds, and one square echoes a range of the yellow hues. The dapper weaving of the crosshatch is a startling result asking to be noticed by the viewer.
The Dutch Impressionists’ atelier During the late 19th century ‘en plein air’ paintings swept aside the stodgy established conventions of the art market, replacing it with art from artists who painted outdoors with a free ﬂowing style. The Dutch Impressionists captured the tonal moods of the land and its people.
ART ATELIER DAYS
Early days in the studio In my early atelier days I saw large tin paint tubes labelled ceruleum, swart, engelse rood, kraplac, madder brown, cremsler wit, cadmium geel, schevenings blauw, etc. radiating around a central blob of lead white-in-oil, a paint that was worked with a spatula to a creamy consistency. The white paint came in heavy tins and the lead white mix was made warmer by adding some ochre. An oily pong of linseed oil and terebene mingled with the chewing tobacco in a heady pungent reek. Good times In its heyday the Den Hague artists were regarded favourably and much sought after by cashed up Americans and Scottish merchants. Although the tonal paintings fell from grace early on in the 20th Century, a few ateliers continued to practice the art form, and it was in one of these ateliers that I learned the techniques which underpin my work today. A revival in 1965 featured a large retrospective exhibition in the municipal museum at Den Haag. Mass produced for the market It was all a fascinating and an infuriatingly repetitious mass production studio that my father visited on a casual basis. This atelier made six large canvases per week for a Rotterdam art dealer with an American contract. My father was the sky painter and his tasks were shared with others who all attended to various layers in the process of mass producing oil paintings after the style of the Brothers Maris, especially Jacob. The skilled painter in control was affected by a slow lead poisoning and he had a problem with drink-n-smokes of a bohemian dimension. I was very young when I tagged along and remember the studio smell with the chewing tobacco spittoon odours permeating everything.
E A R LY A R T I N V E S TO R S
The connoisseurs The ‘Dutch Barbizons’ delivered a spectacular return for connoisseurs between 1890 and 1913. The Maris brothers, painters of moody ﬂat canal scenes and hardy Dutch peasants, sold paintings for £300 in the 1880’s, £1000 in the 1890’s and by 1905 certain artworks on canvas peaked in the £6000s. A landscape with windmills (like that opposite) by Jacob Maris soared to £6930 in 1913 with enthusiastic investors from Scotland purchasing canvases from the lowlands. Here I use the style of the Hague School to paint Liawenee Canal with the bridge at the crossing to the Western Lakes, Central Highlands. The colours in both the oil sketches on these pages are the same. The tonal values are changed to suit Tasmanian conditions. Open air artists In the 19th century landscape painting gradually came to be seen as important. There was a growing realisation that artists could learn a great deal by working directly from nature. Representations of the everyday world began to enjoy high status. Realism emerged with the innovation of going out into the countryside to make oil paintings in the open. Sketches from that time are attractive for their spontaneity – a quality sometimes lacking in the ﬁnal works of art which were often completed in an atelier. Light and atmosphere The Hague artists were fascinated with light and atmosphere and their colours were mainly grey tones. They were tonalist and later their palettes lightened under the inﬂuence of French Impressionism. The Hague School is credited as a major force in American Tonalism. Visiting Australian artists in Europe were also inﬂuenced by the Impressionists and were motivated to work outdoors too.
GREAT ART JOURNEY
The artist’s journey The artist’s journey to the high-altitude painting places traverses the boulder ﬁelds and the out-cropping rocks where pencil pine trees occur. From Deloraine the winding road passes through the tree ferns of the southern rainforests. Then there’s a breakout into tiered bluffs and escarpments, the battlements of ancient fortresses. Among the millions of boulders spilling off the mountain ridges are aged pines standing in heath lands. A little further, ﬂy ﬁsher shacks mushroom and a large body of water extends beyond the horizon. Then you enter the Central Highlands Plateau. Every time ﬂy ﬁshers travel up to the mountain shacks at Breona and beyond they pass over the waterway featured in the artwork on this spread. Painting “en plein air“ Even though it’s not common, the scene of the artist at work out-of-doors is picturesque. Painting “en plein air” has a certain charm and novelty to it. You don’t see it too often; it’s an obsession requiring enthusiastic dedication. The advent of painting outdoors in the late 1800’s caused art to adjust. Paintings became smaller. Fleeting glimpses of landscape became known as impressions. Easels were made portable and paints were produced in tubes. It was possible to have a studio in a palette box. An artist had to learn to paint fast, capturing the reﬂected light quickly.
PAINTING FOR ALL
“Plein Air” and Impressionism “En plein air” painting is an outside activity. The perception that Impressionism has only to do with landscape painting is mistaken and other subject matter is “fair game”. Impressionism evolved out of plein air painting, and the act of painting out-of-doors goes back to the Barbizon school in the mid 1850s (Barbizon is a small French town in the Fontainebleau Forest). Trying to capture ﬂeeting light is probably easier and better when done out on location, but Impressionism is not and was not limited to landscapes painted outdoors. Impressionism is prompted by nature that’s ﬁltered through the artist’s vision onto canvas. Form is suggested to the viewer from the reﬂected light on elements in the composition and the shadows of objects. Convenient and bright “Impressionists painted smaller canvases,” said my father over a drink in the studio. “They had to lug stuff around. On location they also worked fast and furiously to capture ﬂeeting moments and ideas.” “An important but signiﬁcant detail,” he noted, “is the white surface the artists then used to paint on. Over the centuries artists painted on coloured grounds, but the Impressionists wanted the light shining through the paint and the prepared white canvases became popular. The local ateliers used lead white in oil.”
Figure and ground “In art you will ﬁnd positive and negative space,” said my father as he described the relationship of ﬁgure (subject) and ground (background). “It is impossible to have a subject without a background.” He taught that the function of the background is to provide a way to deﬁne the subject by giving it a context in which to exist. The process of ﬁgure/ground selection varies from person to person. A ﬂy ﬁsher wades a creek and sees the trout. At ﬁrst the creek was the attention point, the ﬁgure in the creek ‘subject’ in a landscape ‘background’. Then the trout ‘subject’ comes along the creek ‘background’ in a landscape that recedes in importance. The artist watches the ﬂy ﬁsher in the creek and the landscape. The light ﬁlters through the scrub and gums and makes the ‘subject’ point. The landscape is the ‘background’ and the ﬂy ﬁsher is an incident in the narrative of the artwork. The artist watches the ﬂy ﬁsher ‘subject’ hook a ﬁsh splashing in the water ‘background’ and the larger landscape blurs. The landing net brings the ﬁsh ‘subject’ in a ﬂurry of ‘background’ water spray with all other surroundings blurred. There is a continual changing of ﬁgure/ground relationships. The ‘ﬁgure’ is seen as having form, contour, or shape while the ‘background’ has focus too, like in this scene from the Macquarie River at dusk with a diminutive ﬂy ﬁsher in the middle distance.
Colour systems The ﬂy ﬁsher sees his world through the Polaroid lens. It’s a richly monochromatic result when the dramatic ﬁshing moments splash in an array of colour value of one hue only. The Impressionist artist’s eye sees form in complementary colour. The opposite colours in the spectrum come to play on the canvas. Vivid ideas are promoted by setting one colour against its opposite. The idea is to be optically dynamic and thus create visual adventures; illusions of the lust for life. Analogous systems of colour convey mood. Closely related colours are now crosshatched adjacent to each other in subtle and softly transitional areas to convey moods and atmospheres of the School of Den Hague genre. The ﬂy ﬁsher in his element can feel the moods of the highlands. The artist captures these moods in a commotion of paint, like in this scene of a Macquarie River pool. Feeling with colour “Stamp your mark on an art work with reﬂections of your feelings about the subject,” said my father. “This is the most exciting and rewarding aspect of painting.” As a teacher he strongly emphasised, “Why not use colours which express the mood you want to convey?” So once you relax you allow those feelings to take over. Sometimes it is good to reject the colours you see in front of you and use tints and shades that more accurately reﬂect your emotional response to the scene. Endless colour schemes offer possibilities to relate your emotions. A sense of compositional structure is achieved by cross-hatching colours so that they weave rhythms. Balance bright hues with neutral zones to enhance the mood.
THE PRACTICED EYE
Capturing a moment in time Photographs are a mechanical electronic printing of a moment in time. An artist sees differently. Artists transmute days, weeks and even months into a “ﬁeld of feelings” on canvas. An artwork can be appreciated for its clarity, a distilled clearness that’s detached from every distraction of the ﬂux of life. The everyday ways of seeing are perceptions for interpretation to the artist. Sometimes a visual artist might transcend reality to assert an ethereal existence; then art goes to a lofty spiritual dimension. The artist’s view of the world can pass the individual’s vision, allowing viewers to come on a journey of signiﬁcance to them too. Working with photographs It is practical to use photographs as a reference source. Photographs give you captured information to use creatively in your work. A collection of photos can be brought together and remade into a wonderful picture in your own style. A careful artist is aware that photographs can portray misleading illusions. Often colours are saturated and ﬁgures look odd and out of perspective. Even though photography is a great artist’s tool it does sometimes bring problems to the composition. Only long practice in drawing and sound compositional understanding will save the artwork from looking dreadful.
WORLD HERITAGE AREA
Roof of Tasmania Many sealed roads go to the roof of Tasmania. As you climb sharply ever upward you see prominent escarpments rising impressively. Suddenly you are confronted by the glaciated landforms of a tumble of rocks upon more mountains of spilling boulders. Here is where you ﬁnd the most extensive alpine plateau in Australia – the renowned Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area with its echoes of primordial turbulence from volcanoes and monster glaciers. The place was made by an artist. Colour temperature The temperature on the highlands is usually cool to cold and at times freezing. It can snow during the Christmas Holidays. Conversely, the contrary weather can bring summer heat and the sun sears to hurt. The colours reduce to a harsh monotony then, only alleviated by seeing it through the Polaroid lenses that ﬁshermen love to wear. The tonal hues extend into myriad grey colours of an extraordinary subtlety. A ﬂy ﬁsher is surrounded by colour. White canvas syndrome The most awful thing for a painter is the white canvas on an easel. How to get started? It can be a daunting and a confronting challenge to face up to. Every artist’s nightmare is to suffer creative block. The magic trigger to inspire you to go out and to have a go may well begin right here. Artists are surrounded by colour in Tasmania.
Friends of the artist I want to thank Don Urquhart of Cressy (Tasmania) for inviting me to come to Tasmania, and suggesting preliminary outlines and ideas to follow. I am grateful to the commissioning friends; Mr and Mrs Peter Hay of Dadswell’s Bridge (Victoria), Mr and Mrs Daryl Foulis of Mundulla (South Australia), Mr and Mrs Byron Harﬁeld of Mount Gambier (South Australia), Mr and Mrs Len Laslett of Mount Gambier (South Australia), Mr Peter Boag of Melbourne (Victoria), Mr and Mrs Michael Youl of Devon Hills (Tasmania), Mr James Allen of Melbourne (Victoria), Mr and Mrs Andrew Urquhart of Holbrook (New South Wales), Mr Michael Grant of Westbury (Tasmania), Mr Barry Clark of Mount Gambier (South Australia), Mr Jean Jacques Lale-Demoz of North Melbourne (Victoria), Mr and Mrs Don Urquhart of Cressy (Tasmania). Some project material sourced from OffShore Productions Pty Ltd with kind permission of John Haenke, Peta Walter and Peter Morse (Qld). Project assistance by Owen Tilbury, AT & M printers and Northern Tasmania Development at Launceston. A special thanks to Peter Rollins of Miena for the ﬁshing trips. Finally, I want to thank my wife, Tanya, for her companionship, her enthusiasm in our migration and studio life, and her proof reading.
A Tasmanian memento The Artist and the Fly Fisher is an evocative book of ideas and impressions. The artworks celebrate the choice made by many ﬂy ﬁshers in Australia and from overseas to explore an extraordinary place. They are touched by the unique wilderness of the Central Plateau of the Tasmanian Highlands. Such wildness tests the skill of the artist too. First sketcher Tasmania is among the oldest of lands; with some areas dating back 700 million years. For all those eons was the timeless land weathered by wind, rain, snow and sun, unseen and unpainted. Abel Tasman was the ﬁrst Euro-centric sketcher of Tasmanian coastlines on his epic journey in the 1640s AD. He recorded the
Pieter is a painter of people. His repertoire includes portraits
rugged proﬁles of the land and mountains in his logbook, calling
of ﬁshermen, hunters, sportsmen, and persons of all ages and
it Van Diemen’s Land. 200 years afterward he was honoured with
backgrounds. He enjoys a busy studio life. “I love a good story.
the renaming to Tasmania of the land he sketched.
It is what I do as an artist. I tell a short story about someone and, ultimately, about ourselves.”
Abel Tasman came from the Frisian province of Groningen, not
The ateliers of Europe and Australia are Pieter’s formal training
very far from the hamlet of Skraerd where the artist of this book
stage, but his real education as a painter is the world around him.
“On assignment the Impressionists are prompters and start the creativity urge rolling. I know what to do to reveal the subject on canvas and to add the extra moods of the moment, the indescribable something else.”
Ancient lands Tasmania, Australia’s island State, is one of the world’s ancient lands. About 11,000 years ago the rising waters of Bass Strait submerged the land bridge between Tasmania and mainland Australia, creating a unique island environment. Here are found rugged mountains, unexplored rainforest, rolling ﬁelds bordered by green hedges, myriad pristine trout ﬁlled lakes, and countless rivers, craggy coastal headlands, dazzling white beaches, busy cities and towns and quaint tiny dreamy old-world villages. Tasmania is a place of striking contrasts in scenery to challenge the artist’s skills. High up on the Central Plateau there is enough space for the creative spirit to ﬂy free. Close to Heaven “Everyone is an artist,” said my father in his atelier one time. “Everyone is capable of being deeply moved when they view things felt. The art of projecting your feelings into paintings lies in things felt. Express your innermost feelings and the art will move deeply.” Such ideas come from my days as a student and they are pertinent to this study too. Touch these art pages of the highland life in Tasmania and respond to the burning emotion coming from the artist’s experiences there. Feel the passionate shapes and textures of the lonely lakes in extensive landscapes that are close to Heaven.
The following links are recommended:
Mount Gambier Art Book Website: www.mountgambier.zaadstra.com.au Zaadstra Art Studio & Gallery Website: www.artgallery.zaadstra.com.au The Artist & the Fly Fisher Website: www.artistďŹ‚yďŹ sher.com.au The ZaadTrek Website: www.zaadtrek.com The eDigimag Website: www.edigimag.com
The Artist and the Fly Fisher is an evocative book of ideas and impressions. The artworks celebrate the choice made by many fly fishers in A...