Plein Air Wanderings

The main aim of our recent holiday was to visit friends in Adelaide. I wasn’t keen to risk the chaos of unreliable flights and understaffed airports, yet my back wasn’t going to stand up to long hours of being a passenger in a car. So we planned to take a meandering route there and back, staying two nights at each location in case I had to lie down for a day to heal.

We stayed in the Euroa campground first, where a bunch of our friends had arranged a weekend away. It’s a nice spot. A pretty creek winds through the place. People were fishing or kayaking, walking dogs or riding bikes down the path alongside. Paul and I stayed in a cabin, and I was so keen to get painting that I did this not long after we arrived despite a cranky neck headache.

The next morning I took a little longer to paint one of the bridges.

On the Sunday we bid our friends goodby and headed to Boort in central Victoria, where Paul spent most of his childhood. I didn’t paint anything as it was only a one-night stay, but if I’d had the time I’d have painted the lake.

The next day we headed to Mildura, managing to catch only the leftmost edge of a storm as we left, then later just missing the top of a long ribbon of rain. There was a little extra blob of rain on the weather radar that didn’t look substantial, but when we and it reached Mildura at the same time it turned out to have grown into a full-on thunderstorm with torrential rain and large hailstones that had me seriously worried our car would be damaged – as mine had been in a storm several years ago. Fortunately there was no damage and we made it to the campground.

We had arranged to stay in a cabin on the river, and it was a lovely spot. The next day we went for a walk around town and the riverbank and stumbled upon the art gallery of the local artist society, where I was told I could buy art supplies from a local hairdresser. (I needed some linseen oil.)

That afternoon I did a painting of riverboats from the cabin. The sun kept going behind cloud, so it was easier to paint something that was in the shadow of trees.

Our next drive was to Adelaide. I’d noted that our windscreen had hardly any bug splatter on it, and I hadn’t seen many birds so far – mostly carrion-eaters. Now there were no bugs and no birds, and the roadkill lay bloated by the side of the road. Perhaps it was because were were passing through the fruit fly quarantine area, and all the bugs were being sprayed out of existence.

We also noted people were jumping fences and trampling canola fields to take photos, and figured farmers might not be too keen about that. Sure enough, this week there was an article about the biosecurity risks and nuisance it causes. Filing that under “The stupid, inconsiderate things people do to follow the latest Instagram trend”.

Once in Adelaide the only painting I did was my daily art. We stayed with friends, visited friends, had dinner at friends’ places, and spend many hours chatting with friends.

When the time came to farewell our friends we headed south, following the coast to Robe. Just before we arrived we learned a couple at one of the dinner parties had Covid. So we spend the rest of the holiday staying away from people – eating takeaway rather than going into restaurants, not going to touristy attractions where we’d encounter people, and cancelling visits to two friends living in places on the route home – and monitoring ourselves for symptoms.

Which we never manifested, thankfully. I did a painting on a Robe beach, but it was terrible and went in the bin after a failed attempt to fix it when I got home. The next stop was Dunkeld at the southern end of the Grampians. The day we arrived the weather was good but the sun was in the wrong position and my back was not happy. The next day it rained. The day after it was sunny, but we were heading home. Before setting forth, however, we drove around to take some photos, and when I saw the view from the Arboretum I had to stop and do a final painting. And I’m glad I did.

Despite the near-brush with Covid, it was a lovely break. There were moments when my back did get cranky, but nowhere near as much as I’d feared. We saw our friends, I got some plein air paintings done, and really benefited from a break from routine and familiar surrounds. It had been four years since our last trip, and I’m glad we travelled locally rather than set off overseas. I’d like to do more trips within Australia. Maybe next year.