There was a landscape painting workshop on at Harden and I was lucky enough to get a position in it.  It was run by a well-known artist and at the same time his wife was running a  portrait painting workshop as well.  There were about 24 of us altogether and it was a great weekend.

The first thing Joe told us when we were all assembled was “You must draw every day for ten minutes”.  He kept reiterating this as the day went on.  “It doesn’t matter what you draw, just draw every day.  Ten minutes is nothing.  Just do it.”  He did a lovely demonstration for us to begin with and told us that when he first started painting he used to stand and watch his artist friends for hours at a time, seeing their techniques, just watching the brush strokes, taking it all in.  He said you can’t watch other people enough.  You must watch and it sort of happens almost by osmosis.   It is vitally important to see how each person achieves what they do.  We watched and watched.  So simply he works with just one brush and a palette of nine colours, oils with no medium, just oils.  He cleans up with soap and water and has no trouble at all.  Mainly he cleans his brush as he changes colour just by wiping it on a cloth.

He had many photos for us to choose from and we pored over them (trying to find the least difficult) and then tried to get going.  I had acrylics which he doesn’t like in any case but I laboured on, trying to get something on the canvas.

I remember playing golf years ago in Bourke.  The fairways were mostly black soil with cracks sometimes big enough for a ball to be lost down them or, when it rained, sticky enough for the balls to get covered in mud and your shoes six inches higher than they were when you started.  When the rain dried up the wild flowers would come up, little white flowers everywhere so you couldn’t see the balls anyway.  Then they brought in irridescent pink and green balls which made life easier.  Not that my balls travelled that far anyway but every now and then in a round you would hear thwack and it was the most beautiful sound.  Music.  Your feet would float across the ground until you heard the next one.  Sometimes there would be three in a round and you knew heaven was right there with you.  I would count them one, two, three.  Bliss.  

As you can tell, I was not much of a golfer but those sounds would last me all week until the next game and I would go out again and try to get more.  The horrible thing I have to confess is that I come from long lines of wonderful golfers and tennis players on both sides of my family.  Needless to say I have never played either golf or tennis with any of them.  They wouldn’t believe it for starters.

Tennis is the same.  I love it and play every Thursday with most of my positively brilliant winners coming off the wood, even the wood on the handle!!!  But when I hear that thwang  and, knowing that the ball was hit fairly and squarely in the middle of racquet (never mind the fact that it sails right on to the middle of the back fence) it just brings the biggest smile to my face and I count - one.  Sometimes there are a few and I lose count but usually there are just enough to fit on one hand.

Well, Joe was right into brush strokes.  “It’s just the brush strokes.  Make them as if you mean them.  Make them say something.” 

I was painting away, concentration full on when someone from behind me spoke.  I turned around and flicked my brush somehow and leaned forward to catch it as it hit the canvas.  I sort of bumped it up against the painting and as it fell away there was the most beautiful brush stroke.  What a wonderful feeling.  It almost brought tears to my eyes.  One.

The ladies in the Arts Council were wonderful and food was laid on in great style as only country women can lay it on.  They did it so happily.  Everyone brought something and added it to the table but it was a treat.  Even the ladies who weren’t doing the courses brought food and then washed up and cleaned up after each meal and morning and afternoon tea.  They were so sweet and were just happy to be part of it and enjoy the camaraderie .

On Saturday night we all went out to a local restaurant and enjoyed each other’s company some more as you do with just a little wine to add the spice.

Sunday morning saw us all there bright and early again and Joe, before beginning his next demonstration, turned around to us and said “Well, who did their drawing this morning?”  He was met with blank faces, jaws gaping open.  “We didn’t think you meant this morning.” we bleated almost in unison.  “Every day.  Every day.”

Unfortunately I didn’t get to count two or three with the brush strokes.  That one stands out on my first painting like a flag that waves to me and says “You can do it.  Look what you just did.”

I need to do some more watching.