Experience the thrill of releasing the fire from stone and learn about Australia’s national gemstone at hands-on workshops at The Polished Opal.
Each visitor receives three opals to polish under the guidance of opal polishing expert Sonja van As, as well as a small display case in which to take them home.
Opals are the Leura artist’s latest obsession.
More specifically, the roulette game of polishing them to discover hidden treasure and release the iridescent fire – and value, within a gem of rare bank balance-boosting proportions.
I think I've found my nirvana – this is all my loves in one,’’ she says.It’s the damn colour. I just need to capture iridescence, that three dimensional depth. I don’t know why – I’m in love with rainbows maybe.’’
Opal polishing is like
chasing the rainbow’’:It’s like gambling, very exciting.’’
Van As’ artistic journey began “the day I was born’’ in Rotterdam, Holland, in 1962.
“I think every Dutch person has a famous artist in them somewhere in the past,’’ she says.
Her grandparents were artists, her brother, father and grandfather were photo lithographers.
“I just always loved to draw and create. Everybody else would be outside playing and I’d be drawing my hands or feet in every possible way.’’
After earlier dropping out of art class when her children were babies, van As achieved a TAFE fine arts diploma in the 1990s and was introduced to the whole gamut of mediums.
In 1999, she was one of 15 sculptors involved in the Blue Mountains Council Wentworth Falls Sculpture Project using local sandstone to create seed pods of local native plants.
She has been involved in many exhibitions and community events, and in 2013 won the Artifact, Art Based on Waste competition locally, going on to claim the NSW title in the Dubbo Art To Waste competition in the “open functional’’ category with a necklace made with resistors with resined butterfly wings as pendants.
During the years, she has dabbled in pen and ink works, focused on resin layering and polymer clay, felting and stained glass, and mastered printmaking.
Silver jewellery is a latest fad – along with metal stamping, soldering, 3D resin painting and stone polishing.
However, her art is always inspired by beauty and nature, like her bark pieces, silver jewellery and the butterfly wings she sets in resin.
“I think nature is amazing and I want to set it off as well as I can because nature is better than anything we can make. I try to capture the beauty of nature but I also try to imitate it.’’
Opal polishing with Sonja van As is available at her Leura studio at 9am and 1pm daily. Limited to four people per session, children aged under 15 must be supervised by an adult (not suitable for those under 8). Sessions last up to three hours.
No prior experience necessary. Participants should wear short sleeves and tie long hair back.
Cost: $190 per person. Bookings essential: phone Sonja van As on 0448 725 830 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Ellen Hill for Lost Bear Gallery Photos: David Hill
A summer breeze softly brushes against Warwick Fuller’s neck and pulls at straggly bits of hair sticking out from beneath his trademark hat.
The incessant buzz of countless cicadas pulses the air.
His faithful red kelpie, Digger, gives him a lovesick sideward glance, whining in contentment, too lethargic to bark at the maggies squabbling in the trees.
Fuller shifts his position and the sticks crunch softly under his boots. He absent-mindedly wipes his paint-spattered fingers on his trousers, leaving multi-coloured smudges on the fabric.
His paintbrush moves frenetically across the canvass, desperately punching and prodding, sweeping and sliding the colour into shapes.
Digger sniffs the breeze and catches a waft of eucalyptus oil released into the atmosphere by the scorching sun. He heaves himself to his feet with a sigh, his snout high and picking up a hint of wattle, kangaroo dung and a neighbour’s barbecue.
What is it, Digs?’’ Fuller coos quietly.It’s just a rabbit. You’ll be right.’’
The old dog grunts suspiciously and flops back down to the ground, his weary head resting on his paws.
Fuller takes a step back.
He absorbs the scene with all senses awake: the great boulders plonked 50 feet from his back door, the course Aussie scrub, the rickety wooden gate he knocked up years ago, the rugged crags in the distance and the clouds skating across the sky.
Encompassing it all is the light.
Fuller glances at the canvass, satisfied. He has frozen this moment in perfect detail.
When I paint I like to have all my senses activated,’’ he said.I interpret the landscape differently if there’s birds singing or aeroplanes soaring overhead. If I smell the summer grass it just puts me in a different mental state and that’s going to affect the way I paint. I stay in total concentration so I can absorb all those things while I’m painting.
“If I can quote myself: `How can I paint a frost if I don’t have cold feet?’ ‘’
One of Australia’s most respected plein air painters and a Fellow of the Royal Arts Society, Warwick Fuller has painted the Australian landscape for more than 35 years, during which time he has built a solid reputation through more than 60 solo exhibitions and numerous awards and accolades.
After living at Emu Plains for 30 years (he remains patron of Nepean Art Society), Fuller and his late wife Wendy moved to the Kanimbla Valley near Lithgow 18 years ago, just a short distance from where his ancestors Edward and Harriet Fuller settled in 1839.
“This country has a rugged beauty and the weather is fairly volatile here, which makes for interesting landscape, being on the edge of the Dividing Range.’’
Fuller travels around the country often on painting trips and when at home is inspired by the jaw-dropping landscape. He has an easel permanently set up on the back verandah. Pick up any catalogue of any Warwick Fuller exhibition in the past 18 years and there will be that scene.
But it’s not a changing landscape he’s after.
“The real essence of what I’m trying to create in my paintings is trying to interpret what I see and paint my emotional responses to that. It’s more than just getting the right colours and tone. It’s the light that inspires me.’’
Used to working at a furious speed to capture a scene, Fuller was not fazed by the unrelenting pace of the Australian tour of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall in November.
Fuller was the official tour artist for the Royal couple, as he was during their 2012 tour.
A dozen works he painted during the tour will be exhibited at Lost Bear Gallery from February 1 to 15. The non-commercial exhibition will be an opportunity for art lovers to view Fuller’s paintings before they leave Australia.
The works depict scenes captured by Fuller when the Royal couple visited Tanunda near Adelaide, the national War Memorial in Canberra for the Remembrance Day ceremony and Sydney, where Fuller painted the world-famous Sydney Harbour featuring the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House as seen from Admiralty House.
An accomplished watercolourist himself, The Prince often chooses an artist to join him on tours as a way of supporting the arts and in appreciation of the unique perspective that an artist can provide.
Fuller said he was free to paint the subjects and in the style he wanted.
“There was no expectation. His Royal Highness asked me to go on tour with him because he liked my work and knew what I painted, and that’s the last thing he asked.’’
While he only had two opportunities to talk with the Prince, the second occasion at Admiralty House in Sydney was a lengthy 15 minutes, during which Prince Charles talked about artist Edward Seago, who he met as a child and who toured with his father the Duke of Edinburgh to Antarctica on the Britannia.
The pair were then joined by the Duchess and chatted for a further 10 minutes about Fuller’s artworks he had produced during the tour.
While the Prince will formally exercise his right to first option to the paintings, the Royal couple has already expressed interest in several.
“He was very enthusiastic about the work,’’ Fuller said.
Paintings acquired by the Prince will become part of the Royal Collection when he ascends the throne. Fuller will also gift Prince Charles a work.
Artworks produced during the Royal tour will form the special exhibition at Lost Bear Gallery, along with several larger works developed from smaller studies painted on tour.
Warwick Fuller’s Royal tour collection will be displayed at Lost Bear Gallery, 98 Lurline St, Katoomba, from 10am to 5pm daily from February 1 to 15. Details: (02) 4782 1220 or lostbeargallery.com.au.
- Warwick Fuller and Lost Bear Gallery are commercial clients of Deep Hill Media and Headline Publicity