Sunday, 20 August 2017

Botanical Art & Sketching in Flores, Indonesia

I have just arrived home after a wonderful two weeks in Indonesia, the majority of the time in Flores. This is an incredibly beautiful island two and a half hours flight from Denpasar Bali. The first nights accommodation was in Udayana Ecolodge in Jimbaran Bali. The following morning my group and I flew to Ende, then a few hours drive to the beautiful ecolodge of Kelimutu Crater Lakes.

There is a series of these ecolodges throughout Indonesia and they have an International Eco Certification.  I am very pleased to be representing and supporting the ecolodges by taking my art groups there for workshops.  This year it was Flores, and next year will be Bali, with an optional post workshop tour to Rimba to see the orangutans.

Flores is known for its coloured volcanic crater lakes and on the north side of the island are the famous Komodo dragons. The drive from the airport to the Kelimutu Crater Lakes took several hours and we stopped along the way to visit an ancient village of Saga and to view some stunning vistas.

Traditional ancient village of Saga

Arriving at the Kelimutu ecolodge I was amazed at how well it blended with the landscape while being so functional and picturesque. The accommodation was firstclass and exceeded all my expectations. All the rooms had wonderful views, and from my villa higher up, I would wake each morning to the sun rising over the mountains and the spreadings its warm rays over the rice paddies.

The view from my villa

My villa
There were 13 in my group from many places in Australia. Some had been with me previously on art tours, and for some it was their first experience in Indonesia. Our morning workshops were done in an aula, which is an open sided structure and used in villages to hold meetings and important events. 

The aula used for the botanical art workshop

Some of students at the workshop

One of the benefits of painting in a different environment is the varied choices in plant and flower selection. Some of the same species found in Australia grow throughout Indonesia (and other countries in the world), but there are always a few unique, colourful and special gems to be found.


 During the afternoons there were some fascinating excursions to various locations where the group would sketch and/or explore the area. 

The Kilimutu crater lakes

Rice paddies at Moni village
The group trekking to the waterfall

Spinning and dying cloth for weaving
 We explored the local village of Moni, where the ecolodge owners have a long standing connection with the people. One of the highlights was a visit to the local school where we took coloured pencils, books, rulers and erasers. It was a special time for both the children and ourselves.

There were so many exceptional places we explored, and above all the group were very excited with their paintings for the week. It was a treat to  be able to spend 5 mornings without interruption working on the paintings, with individual tuiton, except when we stopped to enjoy some very special freshly cooked pancakes, slices, fruit, scones and various other delights for morning tea. 

The time came to farewell Kelimutu and its wonderful staff, who cooked the most wonderful meals and really looked after us. I felt I had been on a health retreat - walking every afternoon when we were on excursions, eating very delicious healthy and low fat food, and sleeping like an angel.

The local villagers performed their traditional songs and dances for us on the final farewell evening. 

No wonder I am so looking forward to my next Botanical Art workshop with Ecolodges Indonesia. This will be at Udayana Ecolodge in Jimbaran Bali, which is a quiet area, and afternoon excursions will be locally and so avoids any heavy traffic. There is always so much to see and do. 

TOUR DATES: 4-11 June 2018  Contact me for further information

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Namatjira Country art Tour

I have just returned from the most wonderful art tour - following in Namatjira's footsteps in the MacDonnell Ranges, Central Australia. The incredible contrast of the rust red earth and the intense turquoise blue skies was just amazing.

I took a group of 11 artists (of all levels of ability) and some of the work they produced was exceptional. Everyone's work and colour mixes improved dramatically throughout the week as they sketched at some unique locations. Among them were Simpson's Gap and Ormiston Gorge as we passed through Namatjira country. The scenery was forever changing and the history of the land formation was fascinating.

One of my highlights (along with two other workshop participants) was a helicopter ride from Glen Helen Homestead over Goss Bluff and the 'Caterpillar dreaming' rock formation.

'Caterpillar dreaming' rock formations
The West MacDonnell Ranges are some of the oldest land on earth. The sedimentary formations are exposed as the movement of the land throughout millions of years has risen up and exposed the underlying layers of the rock below.

'Caterpillar dreaming' is an Aboriginal dreamtime story. Yipirinya means 'caterpillar' in Arrernte and the region was created by giant caterpillars in the story. These creatures became the stunning ridges I viewed from the helicopter were row upon row stretching as far as the eye could see. As you move through this beautiful country, the landscape you see is the unfolding of the Dreamtime stories in the exposed hills you pass through.

Goss Buff
Tnorala (Goss Buff) is one of the most significant impact structures in the world. It was probably formed by the impact of a large comet, meteorite or ball of calcified gases, about 142 million years ago. Travelling at a rate of about 40 kilometres per second, it slammed into the earth's surface just out from Glen Helen Homestead, where we were staying, and tunnelled 6 kms underground in a fraction of a second before detonating in an explosion that would dwarf the most powerful nuclear bomb.

Tnorala Conservation Reserve is a registered sacred site and is a place of great cultural significance to the Western Arrente Aboriginal people, as well as one of international scientific interest. This crater is the largest of its kind in the world.

The Tour
Below are some images of the tour participants sketching in various unbelievably beautiful locations.

Old Telegraph Station outside Alice Springs

Majestic Ormiston Gorge

Ormiston Gorge with incredible mirror water reflections

Desk at Simpson Gap
Some of my sketches
When beginning my sketches and taking in the glorious intense colours around me, I discovered I needed to use a different palette colour palette. The rock and earth colours changed with the light, and went from a dull rust red to a magenta and a bright orange. Indescribable beauty. The greens of the eucalypts varied from a golden green to a dull blue green.

So I now have a separate palette and colour mix chart for Central Australia.

The red cliffs at Glen Helen Homestead, near Glen Helen Gorge

Namatjira's famous tree for many of his paintings

Simpson's Gap, where the colour changed dramatically with the light

West MacDonnell Ranges

Panoramic view of a scene from Ross River Homestead
This was a very special tour to a very special and spiritual place, where the land formations, vegetation and colours varied constantly.  We all bid Central Australia a fond farewell and I am sure it will not be the last visit.

My next Australian Tour
My next tour within Australia will be to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia on 15-23 October 2018, with Aussie Redback Tours.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Sketching Central Australia 2017

I am thrilled to be taking an art group sketching to Central Australia in the first week of July 2017. This is somewhere I have always wanted to explore, and to be able to experience the incredibly red earth, the unique flora and to explore the gorges is going to be magic!

Here is some information:

1 - 7 July 2017

Sketching Central Australia with Leonie Norton

Capture some of Australia's most stunning landscapes and natural features on this amazing tour of Namatjira Country. Sketch and paint the majestic gorges, rolling hills and mountains, crisp white gum trees and much much more!  Flights, accommodation and most meals included. Optional balloon flight over the MacDonnell Ranges and a helicopter flight over Glen Helen Gorge.

For more information, brochure and Itinerary:

New web page for Central Australia in progress

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Plants & Pollintors Workshop in Canberra

Last weekend I taught a workshop in Straithnairn, Canberra ACT on Plants & Pollinators. 

The weather was absolutely glorious and the spacious studio/workshop provided ample room with the sun streaming through the windows and the viewlooking on to the rural scene and distant mountains.

The lovely group was all very enthusiastic and I am sure they were inspired by their subjects. In Canberra the artists will focus on the local native plants and pollinators which can be often found in their gardens.

I get quite excited when I see the subjects they are painting, and often wish I could pick up a brush and also paint. The group is very motivated and I am sure they will now begin to create more works including pollinators. I personally find it enchances a painting by adding further information and interest and it also stretches their abilities and encourages them to think outside the square.

Enjoy these photos from the workshop.

View from the workshop/studio

Another rural view

The colour study, part of the process

Helen painting a Monarch butterfly on a callistemon

Colour study of a Eastern Spinebill

Jann's painting of a Eastern Spinebill, sourced from her own photographs

Colour study with notes for a Fisheye Finch

Drawing and Colour Study for the Fisheye Finch

New Holland Honeyeater chick on a grevillea

Mature New Holland Honeyeater drawing and colour study - on a grevillea
 This was an excellent workshop. I enjoyed myself asmuch as the students. Jean made the most incredible morning and afternoon teas. Orange and poppy seed cake, moist and moreish, chocolate fudge slice, orange and almond muffins, a cheese platter and much more......


A-Z Travel Sketching Part 3

Here are a few pages from my current article in Australian Artist magazine - Part 3 of the A-Z of Travel Sketching.

There is much more information in this article, on the Rule of Thirds when sketching, more sketches, top tips, perspective and how to actually create a sketch with comprehensive compositional information.

It is now available at all Newsagents. Next month is the final issue in this four part series.

Friday, 29 July 2016

A-Z Travel Sketching Part 2

Australian Artist magazine has published Part 2 of my 'A-Z of Travel Sketching'.

It is now available at all newsagents.

Below are pages 1 and 2 of the article. The step by step demonstration continues on the following page.

Enjoy. For more information on my Sketching travels and tours, and the Travel Sketching Distance Learning Course, see

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

A-Z of Travel Sketching article

My new article for Australian Artist Magazine is out now at newsagents. If you subscribe to this magazine you should have your copy now.

It is going to be featured in following issues with more information and sketches.

Here are a few pages from the article and some sketches from my recent Fiji trip where I took a group of enthusiatic participants to Koro Sun Resort in Savusavu.

Page 26

Page 29
Bulikula Beach - Savusavu Fiji
This was sketched from the workshop room I used while at Koro Sun Resort, Savusavu

The pattern on the cover of one of my Fiji Sketchbooks represents the traditional handmade tape cloth of Fiji. These are fun ways to decorate your sketchbooks from various destinations.