Given their good looks and the rugged terrain in which they live, Black-Footed Rock Wallabies are ideal painting subjects. When Sandi and I ventured into the north-west last year we certainly had a general idea of where to look for them, but it wasn't until the final days of our stay at Yardie Creek that we were able to spot them with any consistency. They seem to have their favourite crevices and rocks and, once we knew where to look, we were often able to watch them sunning themselves or nibbling on the sparse vegetation along the walls of the gorge. Although the juvenile in the photograph had obviously outgrown its mother's pouch, it could still be seen suckling from time to time.
This particular colony is used to the daily tourist traffic and were not easily startled by our presence. Approaching them silently in our kayaks certainly contributed to our ability to get close enough to photograph them too.
With or without rock wallabies, Yardie Creek is one of my favourite places. When the tourist buses have departed for the day and the sun is sinking over the ocean, paddling our kayaks through the creek mouth and up into the gorge brings on an instant state of serenity which I find hard to describe. We're at pains to paddle as quietly as we can and find ourselves whispering to one another across the water as if any unnecessary noise would break the spell.
A cave just beyond the end of the navigable portion of the creek turned out to be one of the wallabies' favourite haunts and I snapped some photographs in the last rays of the setting sun with a wallaby silhouetted against the dark interior of the cave. It should make for a dramatic painting if I can pull it off.
As with all my attempts at painting, I bounce between utter despair and mild euphoria and can alternate between these states within the space of a few minutes. I'm envious of those artists who describe the process of painting as relaxing; they've obviously arrived at a place where they feel some level of mastery over light, colour and composition. I'm certainly not there yet and I'm finding the path to be a long and rocky one!
Hopefully, the dramatic lighting will become more evident as I refine colours and tonal values a little later on. I suspect that the interior of the cave needs to be toned down a little to accentuate the rock at the mouth of the cave, and the colours in the upper left corner are a little too intense for my conservative tastes. Having said that, seeing the work in progress in close proximity to the rich colours in the previous photo of the gorge already has me questioning the wisdom in that course of action. I'm conscious, of course, that being a slave to what's depicted in a photograph is a well-worn road to mediocrity, if not failure, and that I'm striving to convey some sense of time and place as well as translate my emotional response to what I've experienced into its visual equivalent.
I hope that sharing my works in progress is informative or entertaining in some small way. It's great to receive positive comments, but I would also encourage any of you reading this to offer constructive criticism - you've all been too polite so far!