2012-landscapes-outdoor painting-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia-Urrbrae House
Urrbrae House; 20x20cm
Bed of Roses, Mitcham. (30x30cm)

2014-landscapes-Philippa Robert-Adelaide South Australia-Cypresses Mitcham

Cypresses, Mitcham; 20x25cm (private collection)

Places for contemplation can feel like havens in this busy world. They are places where we can be alone with our thoughts and sometimes our particular memories.

We need them, but are often too busy to seek them out. For me any natural surroundings like the beach or bushland can put me into a contemplative mood. Even while I am painting there is a level of my mind which is switched off. I suppose that is more meditative. I certainly don’t solve any life problems but I can leave them behind for a bit.

Cemeteries are strange places, and while they don’t always feel welcoming perhaps it is in the mind of the visitor. Unless it is a painting excursion, my reason for being there is usually a funeral. That is a time for contemplation of course and if there is time to wander around known spots afterwards, all the better.

Gardens and cemeteries often go together, thank goodness. As you can see in two of these paintings at Mitcham Cemetery in Adelaide, two different sections can lie within the boundaries. One work is an exercise in rhythms, while the other has a gentler feel with greenery and sunlight.

Two of these paintings and their stories are in my new book – Landscapes. Recent work by Philippa Robert.

I am convinced that art books can put people in a contemplative mood. Give it a try!


Urrbrae House and gardens


Urrbrae House is a beautiful residence built in 1891. It was the home of pastoralist Peter Waite, after whom the Waite Campus of the University of Adelaide is named. It is set in large grounds including many university buildings, a vineyard, gardens and an extensive arboretum. Inside the house are beautiful wooden staircases, generously proportioned rooms, one of Adelaide’s first billiard rooms, even (I think) an early approach to air-conditioning.

Here is a photograph of the house and rose gardens from the south-west corner of the house grounds.

Urrbrae House May2016-PhilippaRobert-AdelaideSouthAustralia

As a painting destination, Urrbrae House and gardens is a favourite – just too many choices! It took me at least twenty minutes to choose a spot.The subject I found first was an upturned orange wheelbarrow under a weeping myall tree. Unfortunately the tree was not weeping in the right places to make the composition ‘easy’ but I thought I could adapt it. When I walked back to collect my trolley I saw another choice – a small flight of red brick steps flanked by bushes and leading up to the generous shade of a Chinese elm tree. Not bad, nice diagonals, reds and greens. So that was where I set up the easel. Then I saw choice number three…

The wheelbarrow was in a slightly boggy area so was not very difficult to reject. The brick steps seemed a bit of a cliche, so they were out. The third choice was mostly green. Some painters don’t like green, or find them especially difficult. Not sure about that. For me they are a colour to mix (like any other) except that I love greens. And blues. And lots more. But greens and blues mostly.


Here is the work in several stages:

darks and lights-PhilippaRobert-AdelaideSouthAustralia

Darks and lights mapped in


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Some mid-tones added

And now a large leap towards the stage of colour. I got so engrossed that I didn’t photograph more steps along the way.

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End of first session at Urrbrae House.

Still work to do after this. More later. As well as a look at a painting in these gardens from a few years ago.

When you see that you can tell me if I am stuck in a rut, or not!