The Weekend Australian - Travel - - NEWS - Deb­bie Mackin­non

I love pre­par­ing to head off on a paint­ing trip; new hori­zons beckon and there’s joy­ful an­tic­i­pa­tion of un­known land­scapes to explore. The trav­el­ling artist al­ways packs an­other tube of paint and more brushes in­stead of ex­tra shoes. Clothes must stay min­i­mal to make space for more sketch­books, and my favourite back­pack ac­com­mo­dates my largest draw­ing pad.

I am a land­scape pain­ter and in the past year I have vis­ited some won­der­fully di­verse, far-flung places. Walk­ing is the best way to dis­cover new land­scapes, gen­er­ally away from the madding crowd, to al­low soli­tude and time to both look and think. In the west of Eng­land, the coastal foot­paths of Devon and Corn­wall led me along flow­er­filled clifftops, where I could paint se­cluded aqua-fringed bays backed by in­tensely green fields. Sit­ting and draw­ing by a shel­tered dry stone wall, with a mag­nif­i­cent view out to sea, I sud­denly be­came aware I wasn’t alone. A cow was at­tempt­ing to eat my wa­ter­colours box, which I had left open on top of the wall. I res­cued it and car­ried on, with the cow qui­etly chew­ing nearby.

I have also spent a month paint­ing on the Greek is­land of Ke­falo­nia, a place of myth and his­tory and with the most won­der­fully clear water. Ke­falo­nia and nearby Ithaca are re­puted to be the home of Odysseus. Wan­der­ing was a daily delight, know­ing the sun would hit the sea at a cer­tain time to cre­ate thou­sands of tiny di­a­monds on the sur­face and that early evening would bring a vivid in­ten­sity to the blue­ness of the water. Oh, the chal­lenge of how to match that blue in my paint­ing and the plea­sure of work­ing in the shady court­yard of our ru­ral shepherd’s cot­tage, with the scents of thyme and lemons in the air.

A visit to Western Aus­tralia to explore the coun­try­side and coast­line around Yallingup and Mar­garet River showed me Aus­tralia in its most stun­ning colours: the com­ple­men­tary com­bi­na­tion of or­ange rocks and deep­est turquoise ocean, along­side the whitest sand. And the an­tic­i­pa­tion of lunch ahead at a nearby win­ery. Late last year I was in Thai­land, on Koh Yao Noi, a world away from the nearby bus­tle of Phuket, where af­ter­noon storms dark­ened the skies, to con­trast with emer­ald seas, and lit­tle chains of rocky is­lands ap­peared over the hor- izon. I ex­plored by long­tail boat and the driver was happy to an­chor so I could fin­ish paint­ing the tow­er­ing cliffs of those rocky is­lands close up, loom­ing above the boat.

All cool and beau­ti­ful, I spent a win­ter week on Bruny Is­land, off Tas­ma­nia’s south­east coast. Ar­riv­ing by ferry, I was wel­comed with huge skies and rain­bows. I walked along pris­tine beaches to draw and paint with just seabirds for com­pany. In­cred­i­ble clouds and mag­nif­i­cent skies, re­flect­ing in the still water, were the chal­lenges I faced with my paints. There is noth­ing quite as good as be­ing in the flow, and the af­ter­noon can speed by while you bat­tle with your paint­ing and the chang­ing weather con­di­tions. Wind is not the out­door pain­ter’s friend. I have lost more than one pal­ette blown into the water and I have ended up lit­er­ally “wear­ing” a paint­ing that blew back at me off the easel.

But what­ever the weather, off I go again, un­daunted, to find new chal­lenges en plein air. My next ad­ven­ture awaits in the moun­tains of An­dalu­sia in south­ern Spain. Now, how many rolls of can­vas can I fit in that suit­case?

Deb­bie Mackin­non’s lat­est solo show, Ocean Sto­ries, has just opened at Sydney Road Gallery in Seaforth and runs to Septem­ber 3. More: syd­ney­; deb­biemack­in­

Artist Deb­bie Mackin­non; one of her Koh Yao Noi sketches, above right

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