Getaway to the South Coast. March ’14

Our Getaways are 3 day/2night Sketching Holidays. Usually just a few hours from Sydney.


We’ve been getting excited as the time drew near to go south of Sydney on our South Coast Getaway.

We would all meet at 10am about 2 hrs drive South of Sydney at Berkeleow’s Bookbarn.

It’s been there for years. An early Dutch family lived on a Southern Highlands farm and just happened to be passionate about collecting books.

The barn was built to house them all and later was open to the public to visit, browse second hand and first edition books and have a coffee with a scone or perhaps a bowl of soup.

One could sit by the fire and enjoy a winter afternoon surrounded by old books.

Nowadays it’s been become a popular wedding venue where they wheel all the bookshelves to the sides and the wedding takes place in then now open space

Just beautiful.


People started to arrive and introductions are made while coffee – yes of course – is ordered.

We have sketchers from near Melbourne, Camden near Canberra, Kiama out on the Coast and of course, good old Sydney town.

Everybody’s in a great frame of mind on this beautiful cobalt skied day.

Here we are out in the country and suddenly you are breathing clear air and feeling so energized.

We grab a really big table in the sun, as there’s still a hint of morning chill, and out comes the sketching gear.

For some it’s a refresher time so a great chance to go back to ‘How high how wide, where’s the centre’

One first timer feels pretty pleased with his sketch of a raspberry friand.

Time now to head off to Kangaroo Valley and meet one more sketcher at Cafe Bella.

The drive through the very rich pasture country is so uplifting.

Rolling country spreading before you, patterns of green sloping toward a country farmhouse atop the rise here and there.

Pink cows knee deep in green grass.

Black angus stand solidly in the purple shade of the big old trees.

We drive down the hairpin bend road into the valley.

Glimpses through the rainforest of where we are heading far below.


There is only one main street in Kangaroo Valley so it’s a matter of pulling up outside where you’d like to be.

Life is slower and we are liking it.

There is our sketcher waiting to meet us beaming as we approach, a sketch almost completed.

They show us into a very long room at Cafe Bella with plenty of places to sit for our larger group.

Orders for drinks and lunch are taken and again, out with the sketch books.

What’s rather nice is the collection of preloved books on the shelves behind us.

Lots of old books today!

They turn out to be school prizes with the dedications still in them. Circa 1939.

One of the sketchers is so taken with them and her sketches all relate to the book titles.

When our food arrives we all tuck in and in a few moments are chortles of approval

The flavours are superb. Our filo chorizo cigar with salad is so full of flavour and someone else said theirs was the best cauliflower soup they’d tasted.

Some continue with their sketches and others take a quick explore of the local shops before we head up the long road and on to our Aussie country adventure.

We see the Banksia Park and Olive Grove entrance ahead and make our way to the reception area.

Alison comes to greet us and points to the 2nd left drive which will get us close to each of our cottages.

This is a large property high up with the river running through the valley below. The Olive grove is outside our cottage.

There are half a dozen self contained cottages spread around between magnificent stands of eucalypts.

Green grass and gardens of native shrubs take you on a discovery round hidden pathways.

Old cart wheels, a tractor and rusted farm equipment become garden features.

We have a laugh over Miss Millie the fat pig getting cranky at Buster the donkey for daring to push past her, wanting our attention. She oinks indignantly.

Later one of our sketchers falls in love with Buster, and makes it her mission to take leftovers to him at every chance. ‘Is this a spare carrot Milton?’

The chooks dash about clucking and pecking and extremely focussed on finding anything edible.

Outside our cottage are a couple of sheep with black faces, lolling about.

They look a little shaggy and apparently have wool that comes off by itself.

We all wish this was how life was for all animals.

Free and happily living in a good environment with people who treat them kindly. And carrots.

We make a  time to meet in the dining area once everybody is settled in for an afternoon sketch lesson.

Those who are not able to be in our regular classes are keen to know my way of teaching sketching.

For some there’s a little un learning to do.

I short circuit every teaching method there is.

Whatever you’ve learned before I’ll show you the cut back version.

This is travel sketching. It’s about time. About when you only have a few minutes.

We observe quickly, get the shapes down, wash some colour where it goes forward and back – and move on.


We’ve set the big long tables with striped cloths and 2 big jugs of white daisies.

They’re there to make the big room inviting and they are great sketch subjects.

We go through the whole ‘how to see’, how to measure shape against shape and so on.

Everyone puts down their impression.

Watch that you sketch what’s there.

Not what you think is there.

Two different things.

Colour. OK.

Layering of your pencils. No black. No brown.

You’ll get every colour under the sun with those clutched in your fist.

One colour over another.

Leave the white at top and sides.

The white paper is your white. We don’t use white paint.

See how that comes forward and the other back.

Meanwhile the sun is going down and drinks are out.

Milton gets the dinner under way.

Always interesting finding everything in a kitchen you don’t know.

One of the sketchers helps with the BBQ side of things.

It’s boy’s work anyway.

Others get potatoes done and salad is created.

We’re a great team and everybody works well together.

Scraps of food are to be kept for the animals. And carrots.

By the time dinner is served on the buffet counter everybody is feeling very jolly.

It’s been a fab start to our Getaway.

The enormous full moon rises high above the gums.

A perfect moonlit night.

Eventually we say our goodnights and make our way to our cottages.

I didn’t see any wombatsI enroute but I definitely heard a kangaroo.

Watch out for Day 2. Coming.

IMG_0572 - Copy


Golly 7.30am already.

Must have slept well.

Another amazing blue day.

I head over to the dining area and set up the last minute breakfast things.

We’re having cereals, with fresh fruit and yoghurt.

Toast with choices of jams and marmalades.

Fruit juice, tea and coffee.

The chooks may have laid eggs but we don’t know where they’d have hidden them.

Anyway we have a big St Patricks Day High Tea this morning.

Save yourself!

Everybody appears and selects their breakfast.

People are gathering at the table so I join them.

What’s this?

An envelope with a wombat footprint on it.

Oh and a tall brown paper bag.

It’s my birthday, yes of course.

Someone suggests it’s a token of their appreciation, and I think it’s a lovely gesture.

The card is gorgeous. Bathing belles of the 1950’s.

I’m sure my Mother had a swim suit like those.

Everyone there has signed the card and written something kind.

I do love these people.

We have the best time.


When everyone is done we head off down to the village for our appointment with cake.

The High Tea will take place in the Kangaroo Valley Fudge House and Ice Creamery.

Up the steps we go into what was once an old bank.

And they’re not letting you forget it.

It’s very clearly written in very large type across the front of the building.

As the first sketchers enter, I hear a whoop of excitement.

There on an enormous square antique table is the most glorious High Tea setting you could imagine.

Fine china in a myriad of designs sits on hand embroidered heirloom table clothes  with linen napkins.

There are 11 of us having High Tea today and the table setting is a sight to behold.

When all are seated, Michael explains the way the ritual unfolds, including watching out for the Blue Tongue Lizard in the bathroom.

He has a very droll sense of humour.

Paula is the chef. She’s created all the cakes sweets and savouries.

Ingredients are sourced locally and recipes are handed down.


You begin to realise that there is a regional Slow Food movement going on that you’d never know about if you didn’t take time to yarn with the people who live here.

Tea and coffee orders are taken and everyone decides what to sketch first.

Somebody arrives at my side and places a delicately decorated cream coloured cup cake with lit candle in front of me.

Something about it’s your birthday or words to that effect.

I am actually taken by surprise.

I’m also delighted.

Hadn’t even thought about cake and candles.

Cameras are up and I’m smiling and looking at my wee cake.

I’m about to stick my finger in that buttery icing too,  some has slid down one side a little already.

Needs tidying up and I can hardly wait to taste it.

How much better can it be.

Here with all our sketchers, every one of us sketching and thoroughly enjoying this pure indulgence.

When noon comes around we collect any little morsel to take home to have later.

Sketchbooks are laid out and a pic taken.

We love this moment seeing all the sketches together and how different they all are.

Our plan is now to pile into our cars and head along the road to a roadside spot by the Hampton Bridge.

We all find a shady place to settle and decide whether to sketch the bridge or the old pioneer cottage.

Now is a good moment to explain eye level and perspective.

For some they say it’s the first time they’ve understood it.

Once you’ve learned the principal you can’t go wrong.

We pass the next couple of hours peacefully observing and sketching.

I wander from one to the other seeing where and if help is needed.


The sun is high and the sky is a powerful blue.

The greens are rich and you can see the lights and darks very clearly.

Lunch had been planned for another spot further along the edge of the river, but one observant sketcher notes that people are running out of steam.

So let’s go back home and have lunch there. Everyone agrees.

We can have lunch, a swim, a sketch, a Nana nap and some time to one’s self.

Proteas are being sold at a roadside stall along the road home.

Another great sketch subject.

So that’s just how the afternoon goes.


I promised a watercolour session for those who hadn’t seen how I use them.

As the afternoon draws out, this session takes place round the spa pool overlooking the magnificent valley, with the river flowing below. That’s travel sketching. You sketch where you find yourself.

In fact it’s quite extraordinary looking out across blue and lavender shades and tones as far as you can see.

The spa is part of the cottage our 45 years married sketcher couple are residing in.

Wine is sipped and several are in the pool relaxing and chatting.

Our sketch subject is set up with whatever is at hand for 3 sketchers to try their first watercolour.

A sun hat, pair of sandals and wine bottle.

Quick sketch, chinagraph to get the whites.

Premixed pure colours ready to wash one layer over the other.

Let the pigment blend.

Ahhh. Delicious.

Meantime a sketcher does some fun sketches of those in the spa.

Dinner is about to be served and people have revived now and looking forward to the two lasagna dishes wafting their Italian aroma, with fresh green salad.

We’d found a few herbs to top it off.

Vegetable scraps and carrots are taken off to you know who!

Another glorious day comes to a conclusion.

The moon is high again and we’re all feeling delightfully tired

And it’s still my birthday.

But only for another 3 hours.

I don’t stay awake to see it out.


More tomorrow.



It was breaking dawn when I woke.

The first bird call was the Kookaburra, who woke all the other birds who then began their happy chorus.

I made tea and sat outside our ‘Kookaburra’ cottage watching the sun rise.

So perfectly still. Not a breath of wind. Not a cloud on the sky.

So very tranquil. Like me.

The others stirred and sleepily made their tea.

I was wide awake by now of course.

I wandered over to the dining area and had a little breakfast.


Some of the others joined me.

I made coffee.

There was no hurry as we didn’t need to leave till late morning.

I suggested the orange tractor would be a good sketch subject for this morning and everyone liked the idea.

Lovely big clear shapes. Nice to sketch.


I helped the girls new to watercolour with a tractor demo.

They can see how the colour blends.

I checked one sketchers work as she was reAdy to start the colour.

‘Looking good, but you haven’t put the safety cab on it’

‘I’m not doing that as I don’t like it. I’m a designer and I’m not putting it in.´

‘You can’t redesign a tractor and turn it into a Lamborghini by taking the cab off ‘

We all had a big laugh about that idea.

She added the top.

There was plenty of time for sketches of other subjects around the property.

We have some chickens, buildings, ploughs and so on.

We’re pretty settled in the country life style now.

We’re not keen to give it up.


Once we’re a packed and on our way, we make a plan to meet at Fitzroy Falls.

It’s about 20 mins away and some have never seen them.

We get a coffee at the cafe and wander the pathway which will take us to the viewing platform.

It certainly is spectacular. It’s falls down so far you cannot see the bottom.

I make the crazy suggestion that we should sketch it.

‘ What! We don’t have time.’

‘We have 10 – 15 mins. Give it a go’

They all do and are thrilled with the results.

Some admitted they would never have tried because they didn’t think there was time.

We are travel sketchers remember.

We take any chance we’re given.


Next stop and our final destination is the Burrawang Village Hotel.

The road takes us past more lush countryside and beautiful homes and gardens.

They are quite isolated though and we wonder if we could live this far from the action.

We turn into the Main Street where a few pioneer buildings remain and seem unchanged.

I did watercolours of them years ago when I had my greeting card business.

Through the main doors of the hotel we wander, past many high ceilinged rooms, and through to the vast garden courtyard beyond.

The view out over the countryside is beautiful.

There  are English garden urns marking a grand walk down through the sloping lawns and gardens.

We order a delicious lunch. Mine is the pumpkin green salad. Others try calamari or pizza.

Nobody has the energy to sketch the lovely old homes along the main road.

We all agree to call it a day and begin the journey home.

Some are going back to Melbourne so will have another night somewhere.

One lives not too far from where we are. So she’ll be having her cuppa tea way before we get ours.

It’s been wonderful.

Somehow one gains more from from these sketching get together a than one expects.

There is interest in repeating this one same time next year.

Sounds like a plan.

See you in March 2015.IMG_5219Thank you to everybody who kindly sent photos.

©ErinHillStudio 2014

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