The dream continues…

Today we are going to explore and sketch at Arltunga an old abandoned mining town.  Born out of a gold rush in 1887, Arltunga was officially Central Australia’s first town and once supported up to 400 people.

But on the way we stopped to photograph the ghost gum trees that the Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira 2 simpsons gorge glen helen gorge pc 013_3000x4000

Born 115 years ago in Hermannsburg, Northern Territory, Albert (Elea) Namatjira remains one of Australia’s most famous artists, for his landscape paintings that celebrated the country through a unique lens of reds, ochres and purples. His story is a tragic one: the Western Arrarnta man became the first Aboriginal to be granted Australian citizenship in 1957. He was then exempted from laws that denied Indigenous Australians the right to vote, own property and drink alcohol, but was arrested for introducing liquor into his community – a charge which he denied. He was released from prison after two months but never recovered, and died of a heart attack in 1959, aged 57. (follow this link to see some of his inspiring paintings)

Copies of his paintings lined the walls of the dining room at Glen Helen and I found them so inspiring. This is Namitjira country and though we were not far from Hermannsburg it could not be squeezed into our full itinerary. A reason to come back for another visit…

We were now heading into true outback country on unsealed roads. The red dust swirls around us and I was pleased Sharon was driving when this huge road train appeared from the dust straight ahead of us.arltunga jc 157_4000x3000After an hours drive we arrive at Arltunga. I try to visualise how it would be in 1888 when a gold bearing quartz site was discovered. The trudge of 600 kilometres from Oodnadata, the nearest rail head, often on foot. The heat, the dust, possibly flies tormenting them, lack of water, only the thought of probable riches driving them on. Then to arrive here to nothing. All goods had to be brought in by camel. Drought was the norm and water is needed to work their claims and to survive. No water for washing the dust off after a hard day digging and hoping and praying the next shovel would produce the sparkle of gold. Despite these hardships by 1903 a township of approximately 300- 400 people had grown here. Living conditions were extremely rough, in a tent or a small bark hut. By 1918 mining activity had tailed off. leaving behind a ghost town. Owing to the harshness of the climate and the fact that local stone was used in the construction of buildings, the town is well-preserved and in 1975 Arltunga Historical Reserve was established and it became an interesting tourist destination.

So here we are looking around and absorbing the atmosphere and again, with the help of Leonie Norton, our teacher and tutor and a very experienced water colour artist, to help and guide us, we try to capture the scenes around us. ( do go here to see her web site she is a very talented artist )

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Sketching takes a lot of   concentration and so the 3 hours we were there just flew by and I didn’t have time to fully explore the rest of the area. It would’ve been fascinating, but our priority was art, so I promise myself I will be back…

Getting back to Glen Helen by 4pm gives us time for another sketching session. As we sit outside our cabins watching the sun set.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAarltunga pc 006_4000x3000This is the Glen Helen Homestead and along the veranda there are some interesting relics.

day 2 simpsons gorge glen helen gorge pc 082_4000x3000This dear old dog was wandering around hopefully eyeing up the food on people’s tables. But written on the rag around his neck was “don’t feed me, I’m on a diet” He was very tubby…

This was my final sketch of the day. Looking at it next to the photo I think I need a bit more definition in the rock face.

So ends another full and satisfying day. Tomorrow it is Ormiston Gorge and Sharon tells us to be prepared to be blown away… (to be continued)




  1. Love all the colours here. And I know how time flies when skeching or painting – just swooosh. Your sketches look great, I love that shed, but I agree on maybe some more to the rocks. Love that truck as well – and the red dust. Thank you for the link to the artist who met a tragic end. So alive in his work, and so talented. The touch and the colours are very special – he could have made many more paintings of the landscape he was so familiar with.


  2. How wonderful, Pauline! I love Albert (Elea) Namatjira’s paintings (in the link), which are truly inspirational. In turn, your inspiration from the artist and your tutor in the sketches you produced are fabulous. I love them. You are truly talented. Have you done much sketching and painting before? I’ve probably missed posts in your blog about this. I think it would be so much fun to sketch and do watercolors, but I feel I have no artistic ability whatsoever. Thanks for sharing this. I need to remember to add this place in the Outback to my 30-year travel list! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It certainly is a must see place Cathy. I have done some sketching in the past, but only intermittently. So this past year, by giving up the blog, I was able to finally follow through with spending more time sketching and painting. Thoroughly enjoyed it, but I did miss the blog and especially the connection with my blogging buddies.


  3. I really enjoyed your sketches and the tough history if the area that you shared. Namatjira’s paintings really evoke a sense of the region. Our 1st Nations peoples have also suffered at our hands – really tragic and it continues today. The art they produce is very unique, colourful and fascinating.


  4. Fabulous trip – what fun you had with those sketches, Pauline. The landscape and its remains of human doings clearly ‘spoke’ to you. And as for the ghost gums – what more could an artist want. Thanks also for the link to Albert Namatjira’s work. Also v. inspiring.


  5. The ghost gum trees look amazing and I went over to look at Namatjira’s paintings. Aren’t they fabulous? Such a true reflection of the incredible outback landscape. I think yours are rather good too, especially the gum tree in that last one and I love the details on the old police station that you have sketched. You are very talented Pauline and I am really enjoying this art trip of yours.


    • Thanks Jude. Having such a talented teacher and in a small group we all had individual help and also being able to devote uninterrupted time every day, which I don’t get at home, to practice does make improvement possible. The colours in Namatjira paintings are incredible

      Liked by 1 person

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