Caravanning with Wep – Mon., 9th Aug 1937; painting in Bylong Wep defines his artistic style

Bylong

Monday 9th Aug.

Got a letter from Geoff, I mean, Mickey Blunden yesterday. Seem to be enjoying themselves. Hope none of the wicked Frenchmen grabbed a bit of Mickie’s buttocks. South of France – I too would like to see it, the country of Van Gogh & Cézanne. Be interesting to see the actual scenes they had painted. Be very illuminating as regards their conceptions of nature.

Letter dated 30th June. I suppose they’re pretty near back by this. Strange that they should have seen so much of the world while I have been busy prying & poking into odd corners, gullies and old trees.  If only one could take such a leisurely trip on such a vast scale.

Had our first guest yesterday. Farm hand from homestead up yonder, on property of which we are camped. Spoke to me whilst doing my ‘masterpiece.’ Treated him to a cup of tea and was rewarded with vision of him balancing said cup on lap and trying to avoid getting crumbs on his lips, all in very best drawing room style.

Did a spot of bush carpentry today. Made a lean-to table against the tree. Have also constructed sunken brick fireplace. Stay here much longer I’d better buy the acre and, so conserve my activities. My! But I’m proud of that table. Jerky writing here the results of most powerful hiccups. Potent rissoles I make!

Have got 4 paintings on the go. Only 1 any good I’m afraid. Still, having great old experiments on others. All mistakes duly covered over with tempura white (home made). How I loathe painting over dried & mistakenly applied colour! Seem to be discovering, after 6 months, the method of painting I prefer to employ. Essentially all a prima, which gives freshness, but unless greatly interested in the subject and it well within one’s capabilities is difficult of execution. However, all mussy paintings can, I suppose, serve as a basis for subsequent, more considered attempt. The difficulties will probably have managed to resolve themselves in the messy soup of paint.

Caravanning with Wep – 2nd May 1937; Kurrajong to Mt. Victoria, Cox Valley & Lithgow then unplanned return to Sydney and back to Kurrajong

2nd May.

What a chronicle! A month gone and nothing entered.

Left Kurrajong after a hectic Saturday. Doug & Don (the chef) threw a party in our honour at Pumpkin Cottage on the Friday. The 5 gallon keg dethroned after a few hours hard at it. Met the behind scenes life of pub. Myrtle the fertile waitress lusty built, generous flesh, man-knowing painted face, possessing look of lewd pictures. Ethel, Don’s wife, crudity, not his class. Dirty jokes, two girl corpses. Vision of housekeeper appearing clad in irate dressing gown demanding cessation of activities. Needn’t have bothered herself the 5 was empty anyway.

Got away from the Hotel at 4:30 am (4th April) Sunday. Woke to find ourselves in bed in the caravan outside the bar. Blissfully unconscious where Lena had laid us to rest in a dim hiatus of alcoholic past. Woke to impervious demand by Jess that we should get going.  Stagger with sleep and angrily start off after god-damned strenuous cranking of engine. Jess stays in bed in the caravan and travels in sick comfort. She is not well. Dawn breaks somewhere near Bilpin. Drearily drive through a dank and dampish no-man’s land to Mt. Victoria. Jess getting hell from the old trouble. Passes out with strain in the corridor of hotel whilst on way to bath. 4/- for cleanliness; no wonder it’s next to Godliness!

Got to Cox’s river both feeling mighty low. Ate disinterestedly on re-fried pork chops surreptitiously parcelled out to us by Don the previous day. Scraps of chicken gnawed at on way to Mt. Vic. Sad, grey, sat-on, oyster patties, past all human aid unceremoniously consigned to garbage.  Slept fitfully the afternoon. Good painting here. Brown burnt rolling foot hills, lean silent ghosts of once trees stubbed on unshaven ridged earth. She-oak trimmed river gurgles on round rocked ford. Jess restlessly ill wants to go. Get to upper reaches of Cox valley between Rydal & Bowenfells. Am entranced with delicious cool mountain water. Gulp gallons & run with glass for Jess to taste – Curiously kick over fallen notice much faded injunction that “This water is unfit for human consumption.” Speeding vision of all the arses & privates of Lithgow emptying hurriedly into my glass. Ugh! But it did taste good. Jess very bad next morning. Pack up and leave trailer at Lithgow & come on to Sydney. 5 hours slow run. Took her over to Paddy. Left town on Thursday with Dawn and returned to Kurrajong with caravan. Arrived pub at 7:30pm after tiring trip along Bells Line Road. (Thursday 8th April.) Ran from blue water clarity beyond Hartley into great dark battlements belching shot of ice. Past Bell look backward under arch of dark, glimpsing reddened sun. Mists rising out of the blue depthless valley swirl flame like licking cliffs – Red lit. Am amidst a heatless mighty fire, the sky behind a blazing strip squeezed beneath a great warm bottomed rolling vapour dark. Sharp shafts of orange-lit trunks waving myriad bronze green flashing drip-dropping fingers against death purple-blue shadow depth. A great Ziegfield flashy stage lit by crazy aimless spot lights. Lights and darks where they have no damn right to be. Isolated, staring patches of highlight, serpent wiggling lines of coloured mist. All the colours of the mind in one mad finale before the curtain of night. Awesome in its colour psychology, its extravagance. In some vague way, terrifying. Filling the timid alien who has burst willy-nilly upon such recklessness with something akin to fear, relegating him in a great cold Hell! The car leaves hurriedly, the man, furtive, back-looking. Interloper! 30 miles of aloneness-fear, bad grades, slippery road, hail, mud, and unutterable dark. 30 times 30 miles. Cold wet.

They dropped a log on Toby. Dead as dead. Have got to know the Culvers. Often wondered what fearsome predatory brute lurked behind bunches of “No Trespassers.” Called over and made himself known to us, inviting us to bridge at “Fernmount” that night, Sunday. A florid pleasant chappy with rather inquiring habit of looking at you. Sometimes the rigid immobility of staring doll eyes. Cultured, first I’ve struck on the travels interested in art, not as a connoisseur but with curiosity as to the flap doodle of art, its jargon. English ex-navigator & curio up in these parts. Wife also English mannered. David, the son, a 9 year old adult. Father’s face and eyes. Eyes that seem as if expecting you to burst into a song-and-dance or turn into a pillar of salt, or something curious, or just something. A great big lovely chocolate cake for supper.

Invited over again after a few days to Bridge & Bottle party. Turned out no bridge, but much bottle & talk about ground here – abouts and possibilities thereof. Finally offered use of a portion of his ground up from Geoff’s. Quite keen on the prospect of us building a shack on it we could use for week-ends. J.D. has appointed himself official angler to play my enthusiasms re house erecting. A past master of the art.

The more I see of nature the more incredible I find it. Give me mountains for variety. Convinced that an artist could paint anything his errant fancy could devise and nature would not only duplicate it for him but show him as a feeble scribbling child mind.

Saw, during evening, the foothills below as billowing foam crested sea. Crest-capped long waves of earth breaking. Angry waters of land. Is there no end to the possibilities of this scene?

Went to the boat race with Frank Peck. Arrived as it was in progress. Heard it all most comfortably seated behind a pint of beer in the Nepean Hotel. Parked and made way towards river as the crowd broke and flung itself city wards in our teeth.

Getting to know pretty well everyone up here now.

Frank     Jack P.   Queen Anne (Miss Quinnan)

Daddy   Aub        Mr Simpson

Nana     Charlie  Lee Wilson

Lena      Jack H.  Don Donaldson

Bill          Bill Brown            Ede

Don        John D.                 Una

George Van Tright

Ken        David

Dick (skull phantom of the opera)

Ethel

Myrtle  Dorothy

Pat         Geoff

Doug     Mickey

Joe         Bill Walk

Jess has just finished knitting a bootie. Well! Well! How things do ’appen!

Caravanning with Wep – Tuesday, 23rd March 1937; Arrival in Kurrajong

Tuesday, 23rd March 1937

The first day of the diary but not of the trip. Had been out since Saturday. (Left 2 o’clock & after a pleasant but stinking up Kurrajong drive – boiled up ½ gall. Water arrived here more or less sober at 7:30 pm.)  Entertained Mollie & Petrov over Sunday. They left about 6. Monday most uneventful. Did a job for WW & moved camp to a pleasant grassy spot overlooking the world as we knew it (i.e. in sight and imagination). Yesterday made friends with Dorothy Hobbs daughter of the philosophic proprietor. Have been pestered with her ever since. A lonely nice spoken child who brings us oranges and a companionless heart. A good little girl who gets on the women’s nerves. Excess of attachment. Not shy – about 12, fine eyes, can’t remember colour – walks 2 miles to school & then comes up to take me shooting – means well. Met her brother Jack – gangling gaunt hill-billy with gum boots & gap between incisors – dog took violent dislike to him. Must be his Khaki shirt & watch stuck in leather pouch on rear of belt (with chain). Got blind tonight – returned home to find gifts laid before our doorstep. Oranges from lonely child. Shall eat two now. (11 pm). Shall write as thoughts strike me – bugger style – what we want is recreation of holiday and reactions (3rd orange.) Saw the sun rise this morning. A sat-on luminous orange all squat blood red and impossible to look upon. Dominating what (for the 1st time in my life) a materialised but incredibly ethereal Chinese scroll painting. What bloody beauty & mastery these people possessed.

Woke to find the low lands filled as with water. Mists licking the shoes of Kurrajong as though great tidal wave of vapour inundated the whole of stinking city noise smothered so far as Richmond. Sun bleeding upon incredible unbelievable pearly greys – towards Broken Bay a series of phantom hills lacking substance lacking in reality so skilfully planted by the Oriental hand & heart, bred ???? & loving mist – us sun-worshippers considering such as inconvenience to early milking. Spoke with son of the soil tonight in pub recapturing wondrous pearly pattern & was appreciated. They see but do not see. Could not bear so much for long and needs must kill or murder a rabbit. My soul too stepped in pettiness to contemplate such large scale grandeur. An overdose I can’t take. Grandeur is the wrong word association with the fulfilment of art – in actuality a false painted scene – flat but colourful – reading what I have seen into it.  The sublimity of immobility. Hills solidity vaporised to nothingness but re-concretised in my mind by Oriental calligraphy. I couldn’t stand it long. Am I still ill? – unstable?

We are beneath pines – the floor is strewn with oranges, set squares, canvas & dreams & talk. Remember yesterday near Geoff Blundens a running live stream of silver-lit bracken burnished blue against sharp red tipped green; deep lined black trunks & lush green covered scars of last October fire – couldn’t see that withered flame blackened wallaby. That poor rabbit! I killed its rhythm.