Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour sketch of Burke & Wills monument at the Bendigo Cemetery done in Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook (14.0 x 21.6 cm)
On Sunday I went to the Bendigo Cemetery to search for the second time for the memorial to Burke and Wills expedition. The first time I had no idea where it was located or how it looked, so after walking around the biggest landmarks and few gravestones I had to give up. I expected something grand and impressive looking, but upon checking found out that the monument consisted of “a Corinthian column mounted on a foundation stone and topped with a Grecian urn draped with the Union Jack”. You’ll notice that my sketch doesn’t have the urn, which you can see in the photo at the Burke & Wills website. I wondered if I managed somehow to miss a whole part of the monument while sketching, but the check of the photos that my husband took proved that it is gone (I wonder what happened to it).
The story of Burke & Wills expedition is tragic and full of the mischances. I still remember reading about it as a teenager back in Russia and being captivated by the story – at the time I had no idea that I’ll end up living in Australia only 30 minutes away from Castlemaine, where Burke worked as a Police Superintendent.
There are two young cherry trees at the front of the house. They produced a handful of cherries, which the kids ate excitedly. I loved seeing their happy faces and thought that I should buy a wider variety of fruit, some of which I perceive as being expensive, for them more often as a special treat. Why do sugary cakes, biscuits and lollies often tempt me instead?
Like most Russian families when I was a child we had a dacha where my parents grew vegetables and fruit. So while fresh fruit and veg weren’t available all year around, there were parts of the year when they were abundant, but cakes, biscuits and chocolates were rarely bought or made. I miss that seasonal abundance of fruit and vegetables.
My kids are growing up being able to buy many types of fruit and vegetables from the supermarket at any time of the year, but they haven’t experienced the cycle of caring for the plants to be rewarded with the huge crop, of being able to gather the cherries or apricots or apples and eat as much as one wants and have plenty left over to be shared with friends and to be preserved for winter.
It is a different kind of abundance from the supermarket one – an abundance enriched by work, by intention, by the connection to the land and the nature and the seasons. Somehow I need to get my kids to spend more time outside with me gardening and learning about this land and this climate.
Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour sketch in Moleskine watercolour sketchbook (Landscape 21×13 cm)
After looking in the post office and the various stationary shops I finally found exactly the type of Australian-themed Christmas cards I was looking for at the St Paul’s Cathedral Christmas shop. Now I just need to sort through my address book, ask few people for their new postal addresses, write the cards and take them to the post-office.
According to the date on this sketch the cards were bought days ago. With the skies being bright blue, the sun shining down fiercely and everything growing and flowering, it is hard to believe that Christmas is only a month away and to feel the urgency to get the cards out to their international destinations. I better start on it tonight and maybe next year I’ll get around to making my own cards.
On Saturday I made it to the Melbourne Urban Sketchers meetup at the Royal Botanical Gardens. I haven’t been for over four months and I was missing the group: the comradeship; the sharing of the ideas, experiences and knowledge; the ease and comfort of sketching in public with others. The turn out was huge – maybe due to the warmer weather or maybe due to the current “Urban Sketching in Boroondara” exhibition attracting new people. As usual it was fascinating to see what everyone choose to sketch and how different everyone’s work was, even when they tackled the same subjects.
I sketched Fern Gully Rest House with another lovely lady, who works in IT – so we had something else in common to chat about.
Afterwards I took a slow walk towards the city, stopping at the National Gallery to look at some new exhibitions: the humorous and thought-provoking “David Shirley: Life and Life Drawing” and colourful, sparkly and fun “Express Yourself! Romance was born for kids”. (I’ll have to come back with my kids – I’m sure they’ll enjoy it as much as I did)
During the two hours train ride back home I was reading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” and relating it back to how I feel while I paint. I love painting, it makes me happy – simple admission that took me a long time to recognize and accept.
White potato creeper
Pandorea jasminoides or Bower vine
Philadelphus ‘Virginal’ (?)
White rose bush at the front of the house that made me fall in love with the house while looking through the rental listings.
Some of the roses have jut a tiny bit of pink blush.
My quick attempt to paint a white rose
And my much slower sketch of another white rose in pencil
It’s been a year since we left London. Few months of travel and visiting family; six months of adjusting to being back in Melbourne and enjoying catching up with the old friends; another period of adjustment as we moved to Bendigo four months ago.
Around our second month in Bendigo I reached my lowest point: feeling jaded by constant changes, socially inept, resistant to exploring new place and making new friends. I was missing London: my amazing, talented, beautiful friends; the museums, art galleries and theatres; knowing that this vast, old, vibrant city will always be full of surprises to stumble upon. Without me noticing, London seeped into my bones. The images come unexpected, bright and precious – riding a bus across the heath, walking along Thames past the colourful sea of tourists, drinking tea at the friend’s kitchen table. They hit me with the full force of longing and I miss London with my whole body.
However, two months ago there weren’t any fairy godmothers around to wave a wand and magically whisk me back to my old life in London. Days kept on passing, new friends were met, new routines were established, new places were discovered. Spring came bringing gorgeous blue skies, explosion of flowers, abundance of bees and birds. I love Australia – I feel more relaxed and confident here. It feels right to be at this place at this time – providence brought us here to learn what we need to learn. For now I wish for stability, for staying in one place, for using the energy for the inner-transformation instead of the physical journeys. The future will unfold itself in all its intricacy and beauty and take me where I meant to be.
Wednesday was a public holiday thanks to the horse races, so we decided to visit Sovereign Hill before it gets too hot and too crowded with the summer tourists. Sovereign Hill is a village recreating the life during the 1850s goldrush. There are mines to explore, period buildings to see, costumed staff and volunteers to chat to, food to try out, a tent camp with a stream in which one can pan for gold, etc.
Last time I was here was probably about 15 years ago and my most vivid memories were of the candle-making and the tall wooden mine tower.
My daughter visited Sovereign Hill quite recently on the school excurtion, but wanted to come back to try out some boiled lollies. So while the kids were enjoying their lollies I had my chance to do some urban sketching, but I wasn’t fast enough and had to rush at the end to avoid being “helped” by my son.
I got confused by all the buildings on the left, so ended up with the empty space, which I later used to journal about the trip.