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Posts tagged “artist

Chasing rainbows with expert opal polisher

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

Blue Mountains: Talisman Gallery brings contemporary edge to Everglades

Metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick of Talisman Gallery with one of his sculptures at Everglades Historic House & Gardens

By Ellen Hill for Talisman Gallery        Photos: David Hill

The avant garde curves of Everglades Historic House & Gardens will be given a contemporary edge when metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick displays his distinctive garden art at the Blue Mountains heritage property this month and next.

The selection of outdoor pieces will be exhibited in the terraced space beneath the row of cherry trees next to the main building from September 30 to October 8

Set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, the graceful Moderne-style 1930s house at the Leura property is set among 5.2ha of native bush and gardens designed by Danish-born landscape gardener Paul Sorensen.

The magnificent inter-war period gardens feature formal European-style terraces and winding paths revealing the many moods of the property, from the tranquil Reflection Pool amid towering trees from all over the world to the subtle charms of the lookout and contemplative Grotto Pool. Visitors also enjoy the surprise unveiling of vistas through to Mt Solitary and the Jamison Valley.

To this setting, Fitzpatrick’s sculptures of rusted forged steel mounted on sandstone plinths textured in convict henpecked-style will introduce whimsy and colour.

“It’s a really tranquil experience to sit in the gardens with a Devonshire tea watching the light play on the flowers, the breeze moving the branches and leaves and how the artworks interact with the space,’’ he said.

“The Everglades house has lots of spectacular art deco wrought iron work so my sculpture pieces blend in too because of the materials I work with – steel and sandstone, the sandy colour of the building and its curves and patterned façade.’’

Referred to by one customer as “the zen iron master’’, Fitzpatrick creates his inspired metal art in his Talisman Gallery, an old woolshed behind the clutch of colonial-era sandstone buildings of Hartley historic village at the western foothills of the Blue Mountains.

Most of his designs are inspired by his daily meditations practice, when he often “sees’’ the shapes he creates.

A fitter and turner by trade, Fitzpatrick’s artistic journey began in the early 1980s, creating handmade knives and Tai Chi dancing swords in a small shop in Melbourne.

Since moving to Sydney in the late 1980s, his art and business has evolved from a need to provide for his family by making his own furniture from scrap metal to trendy inner west wrought iron work to finally settling in the Blue Mountains and Hartley.

Fitzpatrick’s exhibition of garden art will also coincide with the famous Leura Gardens Festival, with several pieces also to be displayed in select private gardens during the event.

Also on in the Everglades indoor art gallery, Nadege Lamy’s Dancer in the Dark exhibition will reflect on the visual and emotional of the then and now, of the ever-changing life journey of an artist through her body of work. The paintings and sculptures will shed light on the processes of art making and various subjects.

Talisman Gallery at Hartley historic village, Great Western Hwy (400m before turn off to Jenolan Caves heading west) is open from 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday. Details: Ron 0407 723 722, or the Facebook page @Talisman Gallery -Hartley.

Everglades Historic House & Gardens, 37 Everglades Ave, Leura, which is open from 10am to 5pm daily during daylight savings and from 10am to 4pm during autumn and winter. Entry: $13 adults, $8 concessions, $4 children, National Trust members free. Details: (02) 4784 1938 or email

Blue Mountains artist Warwick Fuller: In search of light


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.

Warwick8His 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.

Warwick6He 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.

Warwick5“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.

Warwick 1“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.

Warwick11The 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.’’

Warwick9While 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.

Lost Bear Gallery director Geoff White adjusts the light on a Warwick Fuller work

Lost Bear Gallery director Geoff White adjusts the light on a Warwick Fuller work

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

  • Warwick Fuller and Lost Bear Gallery are commercial clients of Deep Hill Media and Headline PublicityWarwick11

Tor of Hartley: a magnet for artists

Metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick is inspired by the Tor of Hartley.

Metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick is inspired by the Tor of Hartley.


By Ellen Hill                                              Photos: David Hill

Hulking moodily over a remnant of the nation’s colonial past, a pile of rocks flung against the side of a hill just west of the Blue Mountains has been a magnet for artists for two centuries, creatively and literally.

Known as Kew-Y-Ahn, Bells Rock or just The Tor, the granite rocks are embedded in the hill rising above Hartley Historic Site, between Lithgow and the Blue Mountains.

Kew-Y-Ahn has inspired artists for more than 150 years.

Kew-Y-Ahn has inspired artists for more than 150 years.

In 1865, one of the colony’s most important landscape painters, Eugene von Guérard (1811-1901) featured them in his painting Sunset in New South Wales.

Today, across the hill a bit and down, metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick unleashes his creativity in Talisman Gallery under The Tor’s gaze, its protection, its morose acceptance.

Clang. Pause. Clang. Pause. Tap. Tap. Tap tap.

Ron beats his metal into submission, coaxing the ore into the shape he has dreamed up.

In the murky light of winter when the fog pervades every open space; under oppressive summer heat; in the milky romance of moonlight, The Tor stares out across the valley indifferently.

From the doorway of his workshop, a converted woolshed, Ron gazes back.

The Tor of Hartley is beautiful at any time.

The Tor of Hartley is beautiful at any time.

“I don’t know what it is about them – maybe it’s because they are granite and literally a bit magnetic, but I definitely draw inspiration from them,’’ Ron says.

“They represent strength and reliability like metal and they have metallic qualities. But really, they’re just really beautiful at any time of the day or year.’’

Whether it’s the configuration of how they were arranged after eons of wear from rushing water from the Cox’s River and its tributary the River Lett, how their sheer size radiates an imposing presence or how the sun’s rays tickle their faces at dawn, the wardens of the hill have long-held a magnetism for artists.

Visible from miles around, Kew-Y-Ahn appears in the von Guérard work, Sunset in New South Wales, after he assimilated on the left of the work the cabbage tree palms of American Creek in Wollongong, which he captured in an 1859 pencil sketch, with the granite rocks of Hartley on the right.

Interestingly, von Guérard did not actually entitle the work, which was assigned a title when it was shown in the 1870 Intercolonial Exhibition in Sydney, where it was on sale for 60 guineas.

The Sydney Morning Herald of the day commented “The sunset scene… is a beautiful painting but rather highly coloured’’.

The son of court painter to Emperor Franz Joseph 1 of Austria, Bernard Von Guérard, Eugene von Guérard immigrated to Australia in 1852.

Colonial landscape artist Eugene von Guerard

Colonial landscape artist Eugene von Guerard

A respected romantic landscape painter, his work celebrates the untamed, wild beauty of the Australian landscape and awe-inspiring presence, qualities most definitely displayed by the granite tor at Hartley.

He was on a quest for landscapes of a particular quality to sketch and develop into large oil paintings.

The Blue Mountains landscape, with its vast vistas, plunging gorges and towering sandstone escarpments and rock formations, was ideal.

Von Guérard discovered the rock outcrop during two visits to the Blue Mountains and Hartley in 1859, capturing the scene in sketches that June and December.

By then he was an established oil painter with works exhibited in Australia and internationally, including at the London International Exhibition, and lithographs of his sketches produced to illustrate Journals and Newspapers.

Those sketches are held by the Mitchell Library.

Although the landscape of the Vale of Hartley had been sketched since its discovery, von Guérard’s work marks the transition from drawings recording the scene like a camera does today, to works of art.

“Like me today, von Guérard lived in a very cosmopolitan era when it was acceptable and even encouraged to experiment with art and culture,’’ Talisman Gallery metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick says.

“That gave people like him freedom to create art in their own style, just like me and my art today.’’

Detail of one of Ron Fitzpatrick's metal works at Talisman Gallery.

Detail of one of Ron Fitzpatrick’s metal works at Talisman Gallery.

Ron’s own artistic journey began in the early 1980s, creating handmade knives and Tai Chi dancing swords in a small shop in Melbourne.

Since moving to Sydney in the late 1980s, Ron’s art and business has evolved from a need to provide for his family by making his own furniture from scrap metal to trendy inner west wrought iron work to finally settling in the Blue Mountains and Hartley.

These days his gallery collection includes large high-end pieces along with his signature metal art mirrors, small affordable sculptures and candleholders and an extensive collection of imported jewellery and new crystal pieces.

One of the showrooms at Talisman Gallery.

One of the showrooms at Talisman Gallery.

Taking inspiration from ancient symbols and ideas he sees in meditation, Ron believes that “being creative is a state of mind and I just don’t think people have learnt to let themselves access that part of themselves’’.

“Designs and ideas are all around us, like these rocks here. You just have to become aware of them.’’

The rocks featured in von Guérard’s work can be explored today along the Kew-Y-Ahn Bell Rock Heritage Trail walking track at Hartley Historic Site.

Visitors to the site can also wander around the historic buildings, have refreshments at the café, watch Ron at work and buy a unique piece at Talisman Gallery and even brave neck-bristling terror on an evening ghost tour.

Talisman Gallery at Hartley Historic Site, Great Western Hwy (400m before turn off to Jenolan Caves heading west) is open from 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday. Details: Ron 0407 723 722 or

* Talisman Gallery is a commercial client of Deep Hill Media

Metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick at work at Talisman Gallery.

Metal artist Ron Fitzpatrick at work at Talisman Gallery.