Last week in Journey to the Pearl Coast I took you to the historical pearling town of Broome in the dazzling remote north-west of Australia. I recently spent some time there with my husband and we were enthralled by the incredible landscape and the history of the area. My experiences in this beautiful wilderness area known as the Kimberley region, where the Australian outback meets the ocean, have become a major source of inspiration in my current series of works that form Saltwater Country.
This week we continue to explore the surrounding area of Broome beginning with Gantheaume Point, a rugged rocky outcrop at the tip of the peninsula beyond the stunning Cable Beach. Around 130 million years ago, Broome was a playground for dinosaurs and this particular spot has clear evidence of these former residents. At the lowest tides which drop around 11 metres, dinosaur footprints are clearly visible in the stony shelves and visitors can enjoy something of a treasure hunt trying to locate them. Up at the crack of dawn to catch the outgoing tide, we arrived at the Gantheaume Point ready to discover these ancient markings. What we hadn't anticipated was yet another breathtaking display of Kimberley colour. The rocks! Oh my! Startling red, crimson and ochre with patterns that only nature could create. We eventually did discover the dinosaur footprints too!
Beyond Broome we toured through rough terrain heading north to the even more remote Cape Leveque along a red sandy road inhospitable to anything but a four wheel drive vehicle. We visited the tiny aboriginal community of the Bardi people at Beagle Bay, originally established by Trappist monks in 1890, with its exquisite church decorated with local mother of pearl shell. The altar glows with its wonderful shell inlay which also frames the windows and runs in mosaic channels along the church aisle.
From Beagle Bay we continued onward to the beautiful Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm, one of the oldest pearl farms in the region and where the world's largest fine quality round pearl was grown and harvested in 2006. It measures 22.24 millimetres in diameter and is on display at the Cygnet Bay Pearl showroom in Broome (which of course we visited too!)
After a brief stop to learn about pearl farming and admire the treasures found there, we jetted across the fast moving waters to the stark but wonderful Buccaneer Islands including the craggy and now uninhabited Sunday Island formerly home to the Sunday Island Mission School. It's hard to imagine how challenging life must have been there.
As the sun was setting we returned to Broome along the red desert track of Cape Leveque Road once more which resembles a river bed more than a road although it is due to be upgraded in the near future. We stopped to again admire the incredible Kimberley colours; the red desert sand providing a stunning foreground to the delicate Australian bush.
From my sketchbook
As bad luck would have it, at this point my camera battery died. So I later made a quick sketch of the sun setting over the Indian Ocean as seen from our journey along this memorable road. My aim with these sketches, as you also saw in last week's post, is to capture an energetic impression of what I have seen, mostly from memory and sometimes referencing photos I have taken.
Our week in Broome wouldn't have been complete without an iconic camel ride along the majestic Cable Beach at sunset. And we found beauty in the local gardens including the spectacular Boab trees with their bulbous trunks, the fiery blooms of the Poincianas and the shy local wallabies.
Our journey to Broome and the parts of the Kimberley region we visited made a vivid impression on me. It is the sort of place people visit for a few weeks and find themselves still there ten years later. And we met plenty who had done just that. Back in my studio I found myself wanting to capture all I had seen. These small works are abstracted landscapes, painted from memory and imagination that aim to give the viewer an experience of the landscape and light; a moment in time.
I also created a series of small oil pastel paintings based on impressions of my experiences. Larger works are currently in progress.
Full details of all artworks shown can be found at Saltwater Country.
Your comments are always welcome below. Please note, in order to comment, you will need to be logged in to Facebook, Linkedin, Google+ or similar.