Today we went southeast on the eastern bank of the river, past Mt Mackenzie, to the area known as ‘the flats’, where the river spreads across the valley and creates pockets of marshland, perfect for water birds. As we arrived we saw a flock of Canada geese swimming in the shallow waters. The geese eventually took off and flew on to another watering hole. There were also herons – gigantic ones, with necks as long as the Australian egret’s. We were surrounded by mountains, but the ones I am used to seeing across the river from the township, Mt Begbie and Mt Macpherson, looked very different as we were much closer to them. The weather was overcast, which meant the rock faces and forests on the mountains were for once quite clearly defined.
In my last post in my companion blog, Touchpaper Drawing Tips, I talked about the materials that I usually take with me on sketching holidays. My final advice was to take more than you need, but if you forget anything, don’t stress – just experiment with what you have. Well today I remembered my paints, palette and sketchbook – but forgot my brushes and pencils! However I did have my set of Manga pens – a fine, super fine and extra super fine plus a brush pen – so I decided to imagine I was preparing to do an etching or engraving in the Old Masters tradition.
This is an interesting example of a topographical engraving of a glacier, but I don’t know who the artist was.
Before photography, artists had to record every detail on the spot. I had started to do this, and my little sketch had already taken 25 minutes, but the weather was turning nasty – those cumulus mammatus clouds in my sketch signified heavy rain or even hail, and the thunder in the air was promising dramatic accompaniments. So we beat a hasty retreat, and I finished the sketch later using my photos. I had to enhance the contrast in the photos and turn them into grayscale, but surprisingly they still didn’t show as much detail as I had observed on the spot.
This is still just the top of Mt Begbie. There are many more forests and rock faces to the left and right and I could fill three more double page spreads till I got to the bottom of the mountain. The whole mountain would take me about five hours to draw using this method. I would add more to the sky if I were to develop this image, to show the threat of impending rain.
I looked up some more artists who love painting mountains. John Ruskin and J M W Turner are well known for their dramatic mountain scenes, but Petar Tale is new to me.
This video compares Turner’s work with Petar Tale’s.
We actually didn’t get the heavy rain that was threatening, so we went a little further afield – V showed us the cliff that they go climbing on, which is thankfully not halfway up a mountain, but it is still a scary way down from the top. No, I didn’t try climbing it. On the way we saw a sobering reminder of the dangers of winter in these parts: a swathe of pine trees on either side of the road had been chopped in half by an avalanche in a previous winter, just metres away from a farmhouse.