Outdoor painting excursions: Southern Vales

Southern Vales-d'Ahrenberg Winery-outdoor painting-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia

Outdoor painting excursions offer variety and surprises. There are so many choices – just outside your door or a short drive away.

The Southern Vales area is the latter – about thirty minutes drive south of Adelaide. This part of South Australia brings to mind beautiful landscape, rugged coast, wines, food and tourism. Aren’t we lucky to have all of this so close to our city and suburbs?

These three paintings have a Southern Vales focus. They were done on three different excursions in 2016 all with the same colleague.

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Pines and Vines, MacLaren Vale; 20x25cm, acrylic on linen panel


outdoor painting excursions-Philippa Robert, Kay Brothers winery, Southern Vales
At Kay Brothers’ Winery, with the painting

Note: the happiness that outdoor painting creates.

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From Kay Brothers’ Winery, 25x30cm; acrylic on linen panel


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From d’Ahrenberg Winery, 25x30cm; acrylic on linen panel

This one is still on the thinking post. I am calling it a work in progress until its time is up! Or mine is.

As you can see, the Southern Vales area has many attractions. Not only for outdoor painting excursions but also for lunch and picnics. I have plans for a week’s painting down that way. My main dilemma is whether to go for total immersion (and extra expense) or drive there and back every day. But that won’t be until spring at the earliest.

Or perhaps it is a dream for next year.

Last year I focused on Landscapes in July. This year I am staying with that routine! I feel comfortable with that. So, get set!


Beach profiles in paint

2016-seascapes-beach location-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia

Beach profiles are an indicator of the health of that part of the coast, at least in terms of its ability to withstand storm erosion.

South of Adelaide the shoreline has rocky cliffs and smaller bays, but the suburban beaches are part of a coastline that is generally straight and low-lying. The land rises gently behind Seacliff and Brighton beaches. Over the last 100 years houses and roads have been built on the sandhills and many methods have been tried to “save” the sandy beaches and protect the built-up area.

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“Good voyage” 2009
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“van-tastic” 2009
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Kingston Park hillside, 2013

These paintings show the beach at low tide seven and four years ago. The second and third works show the beach towards the south, the direction of the next two paintings. You can see the increasing cover on the high dunes over the years.

Here are the outdoor paintings of Seacliff Beach. Both have been completed within the last month. The captions tell the story!

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Beach profile before the storm
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Beach profile after the storm

In the second painting you can see the erosive storm effects. The waves cut in at the base of the dune and the sand above collapsed to form little cliff shapes. In that painting you can easily see the sand pipe which has been part of the latest replenishment program.

The cycle of northward drift of sand is endless and quite natural. The work to restore and maintain our sandy southern metropolitan beaches and protect foreshore development is an expensive ongoing project. Hopefully smaller scale local structures can be embedded to do all that at lower cost.

These two paintings will be submitted for exhibition at “Dire” to be curated by the Centre for Culture, Land and Sea. The show will be at the South Coast Regional Arts Centre, Old Goolwa Police Station from June 23rd until July 24th.

If you are in South Australia, pop down! Only an hour south of the city. See you there?


Southern Vales

Southern Vales-Philippa Robert, Kay Brothers winery, Southern Vales

The Southern Vales is a favourite spot of mine. I once lived so near the area that it was the automatic choice for day trips with interstate visitors. There is so much to enjoy – scenery, greenery, wineries, eateries. With friends it is a delight, even for a drive.

In past years I have been to Kay Brothers Winery as a maker-marketer of bow ties, ready made and t.y.o. (tie-yer-own). The winery is now 125 years old and has been in the same family for all that time. The hilltop location provides almost 360 degree views and a large picnic area is a magnet for visitors who choose to linger.

The family and staff at Kays’ have always been welcoming and friendly so it was easy to phone up and ask whether I could spend some time there painting with a friend this month.

Philippa Robert, Kay Brothers winery, Southern Vales

Weather and other arrangements had prevented such an outing until yesterday. By 4pm the chill was drawing in. That is about when this picture was taken.

There was quite a bit of coming and going around us. Two visitors from Norfolk were picnicking nearby and enjoying glasses of red with their lunch. They took a photograph of us (after asking permission) as we painted. Funny feeling, being part of the scene. As an artist I find it necessary to lift myself mentally out of the scene to objectify it, pull it apart somehow.

Another group of young Chinese tourists hovered. One young woman practised some English on me and an another came back later to take a photograph. The manager came down to introduce himself in person. He talked a little about the history of the family and their three artists. A very understanding gardener with a ride-on mower kept his distance while we worked. All in all not too busy, but during the afternoon I realised that we were in a tourist destination. You think of all people I would have known that after my earlier experiences as a Southern Vales tourist myself!

But it was quite a delightful session.

As with a lot of sessions lately it wasn’t quite long enough, just under two hours. Here is a rough smart-phone image of the painting at that stage. It was taken at night under a lamp so there is some flare as well as blur.

May 2016 Philippa Robert, Southern Vales, outdoor painting

My intention is just to show you where it is now, before I have contemplated it and refined the work. Plans are to return to the same spot next week if weather and arrangements permit. That would be ideal!

I will post the news of the progress next time.

Best wishes,


Kangaroo Island Art Feast

Here are three paintings from my current exhibition at Western River Cove, Kangaroo Island.

Winding down, Western River Cove
Along the north coast on the western end of the island, the roads are unsealed. The surface is usually reddish and in wet weather the roadside puddles are bright orange to ochre in colour. The approach to Western River Cove is one of those roads. At one particular turn the cove comes into view.  Soon it disappears again as the road descends to sea level and wraps around the hillsides. The winding road and the glimpses of the cove seem to heighten the visitor’s anticipation. When you have driven as far as you can towards the sea, it is a short walk across the bridge and along the river to the secluded beach.  It really is a place to wind down.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia, acrylic on canvas

In this painting of the road to Western River Cove the colours are typically summery. As well as the rich reds of the soil contrasting with the icy blue of the sea, I enjoyed painting the soft colours of the dry grass. There are so many nuances of pale gold in the sunlight, the shadows and the undulations of this sparsely vegetated stretch of land.

Backstairs Passage, early crossing. I posted this painting in June, but giving it another airing in this context.
There is a quiet excitement about an early crossing to Kangaroo Island. When any day begins there are so many possibilities, but when you are heading for KI, there is much visual beauty in store. Backstairs Passage takes less than an hour to cross so you are there before you know it. In smooth conditions the only swell you feel is some rolling about half-way to Penneshaw. I won’t tell you about the return trip yesterday but there was good cause to cancel the ferry trip altogether. Hundreds of tonnes of steel bouncing around was a frightening sight as the ferry approached.

Philippa Robert, South Australia, acrylic 2012

This painting represents the moment just over half way (on a calm day) when the view of the mainland shows a stretch of the Fleurieu Peninsula sitting up just like an island. I love to spend as much of the journey outside on the back deck of the ferry. The foam of the wake is a reminder of the white-water of waves but has a different rhythm and pattern driven by the engines and the boat’s forward movement.  Over the years I have taken countless photographs of the swirling wake. A significant part of this image is the soft outline of the land form left behind, “the big island” or “the north island” as they say in Kangaroo Island (and Tasmania).

While painting this piece I thought often of the Inuit people who have so many words for white. Most of this painting is white foam, not snow, but there are many whites in sea foam too. The wake of a large ferry in such clear waters is a mixture of icy turquoise white, blue whites, lavenders, milk and chalk. All this against inky blue-black and deep blue-green. Dynamic beauty.

And we aren’t even on the island yet!

Rams’ Paddock
This painting was done from the top of the hill at my brother’s farm at Western River Cove. I chose the spot because it was a lovely vantage point and offered so many possibilities for paintings.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia, acrylic on canvas

After about half an hour I realised there were two very important occupants of that paddock – and they wanted me to know it. In their visits that day, the rams came quite near, almost nudging my water bottles and bag of supplies. I asked them politely to move on. I even used their names Cameron and Carl. My sister-in-law had named them after two people at Channel 9 Sydney for family reasons. Thank goodness I remembered that! However, it didn’t do me any good. They took no notice. Eventually they sloped off to find something to else to eat.

A couple of weeks ago I discovered that these two were not Cameron and Carl at all, but New Bruce and Ramlet. No wonder they hadn’t heeded my warnings to keep away from the paints!

But, back to the painting. This is the view looking west across the heritage forest to a distant pine plantation. In November that year the grass had already died back and it was the lovely gold that captured my eye when I first set up my gear. It was such a gorgeous field of warmth that I made it the dominant feature of the composition. The contrast between the warm greens of the native scrub and the cool deep green of the pines added interest to the upper part of the painting. As a small painting it contains the bare details but it works well to convey the feeling of being up there on top of the hill on a sunny November day on Kangaroo Island.