A Proper Holiday

A few weeks back we went to Central Australia for a fortnight. We’d chosen the destination because: a) I wanted a proper holiday not sightseeing tacked onto a work trip, b) we wanted to see the Field of Lights, and c) travelling locally appealed more than venturing into an increasingly crazy world.

Since we don’t enjoy hot weather, timing it for winter seemed wise. It was colder than I expected, though. While it was 19 – 22 degrees during the day, it took a while to get there when it was windy or shady there was a definite chill in the air. Still, I’d rather that than 46 degrees in mid-summer!

Because my back can’t cope with long hours in a car, we flew there rather than drive, and took ‘hop on hop off’ and tour buses to Uluru, Kata Tjuta, King’s Canyon Resort and the canyon itself, then to Alice Springs. Once in Alice we hired a car to explore the MacDonnell Ranges.

It was a great little trip and though we never restricted our meal choices all the walking meant that, for once, I returned lighter than I left. As I said to Paul, we could eat whatever we wanted normally so long as we did this much exercise… which simply isn’t possible when you have to spend time working.

I always do a bit of sketching when on holidays – just some watercolour and ink in a book. This time I wanted to get a bit more serious. What I really wanted to do was take my portable oil painting box. However, it’s made of wood and we were doing to be doing a lot of walking. There were also the issues of not being able to take turps on a plane, and oils needing a long time to dry.

To deal with the weight issue, I hit on the idea of using unstretched canvas you can buy in pads rather than boards. I went shopping for a plastic container, and found the perfect one in Daiso, with a compartment the right size for brushes and spatula, and room in the lid (once I’d carved the compartment dividers flat) to hold a painting in place without it touching anything. It just required a piece of card to support the painting, and two cable clips to keep it in place.

The turps and drying time problem was solved when I had a brainwave and remembered that you can get water-soluble oil paints. No need for turps, and they dry faster – and even more rapidly if you use “fast drying medium”.

When everying arrived from Senior’s Art, I squeezed paint into a pill dispenser (also from Daiso) that just happened to fit into one of the smaller compartments, and decanted some of the medium into a squeezy bottle from my silk painting days.

Here’s the complete kit:

For a palette I took a pad of tracing paper that fit into the other small compartment, thinking I’d just rip off a page when I’d finished a painting. This was the major failing of the kit. I simply didn’t have enough room to mix the colours I needed. Eventually I replaced it with a fast food container lit about the same size as the kit, and painting instantly became much easier.

The first painting was quite simple, to allow me to get used to a newish medium and the local light and colours. I wasn’t all that happy with a painting until I got to the fourth, and I realised that if I was to do a trip with the sole intention of painting I needed to allow myself time to familiarise myself with a location.

I’d also take a seat or at least a pillow. A sunhat is not barrier enough between my butt and icy cold rocks at 7:30 in the morning!

I could have done another painting on the last day of the trip, but I decided not to because I was too tired, and a little tired of painting to be honest. Overall I enjoyed the challenge and I’m glad I did it, and happy my lightweight painting kit performed so well. It would be great to take it on more holidays, or on day trips.

Which will probably be within Australia. It was so nice not to have to deal with long flights, jet lag, customs and security queues, adapting to very different languages and customs, carrying passports and power point adaptors. I’m keen to organise another trip, and see more of this great country.

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