Posts Tagged ‘camping’

collections and collecting

November 3, 2012

Detail from ‘Sections of Life’, Artists’ Book, Peter McLean, 2009


I’m happy to report that the State Library of Queensland has recently purchased two of my artists’ books to add to their collection.  The library has an extensive collection of artists’ books, all searchable in their online catalogue and available to be viewed on request.  The books added to the collection were “Sections of Life; Black Mountain” which includes a sequence of relief prints taken from a small animal jawbone, and “Drooping Sheoak”, which is a sequence of prints from sections through a Casuarina seed pod.  Both were made in my Canberra days, one associated with walking and camping on Black Mountain, the other Mt Ainslie. The Library also has a copy of the broadside ‘Sky’ which I made with Ampersand Duck.

Meanwhile, I’m currently involved in collecting of a very different kind.  I have joined a crew of professional seed collectors, and we have been working in State Forests in norther NSW, collecting native seed to be used in landscape restoration projects and the like.  We’ve been working hard, and I’ve had little extra time or energy for drawing, but I’ve been taking a lot of photo’s of the processes along the way, to transform clippings from some bushes growing in the forest, into bags of pure seed.  We’re not there yet, and the final stages will be done back at ‘HQ’, but we are working our way through a lot of material.




wollemi cliffs

October 15, 2012

‘Morning Cliffs’ , charcoal on grey stonehenge, Peter McLean, 2012


Once again it’s been a long time between posts.  Lots has been happening since the last one, from  teaching a wood engraving workshop with the Newcastle Printmakers Workshop, to Sydney and catching some of the Biennale.  Then there was lots of time out in the bush, with plenty of walking and exploring and drawing.  The above drawing was made in the majestic campground at Newnes, on the edge of Wollemi National Park, home of the rare Wollemi Pine.  It was hard to stay focused on my drawing instead of watching the wombat wombling it’s way around camp, especially when it bumped into the big Goana making it’s way along the creek bank, but the shadows were changing fast as the sun rose and the frosty morning quickly turned to a hot day.  From there it was a slow trip back to Queensland, via time in the Warrumbungles, the Pilliga Scrub and Mt Kaputar – all very different and fascinating in their own ways.  Now it’s off out bush again, this time into the coastal forests between Grafton and Coffs Harbour, so posts will probably stay sparse for a while yet, but I’ll try and fill in the gaps with some more pictures soon.

pic of the day

March 23, 2012


Self Portrait at Warri Reserve, Shoalhaven River near Braidwood NSW.   I’m camped here on the lovely Shoalhaven ready for a dash into Canberra in the morning.  I do love autumn in this part of Australia, and especially on a day like today when a big cold front pushes through and the air turns cold and clear.  It is after sunset now, the big white gums are splendid against the violet sky, the wind has eased but still quite breezy and turning cold.  The sky is clear here, but low clouds loiter on the mountains to the south.


November 21, 2011

I’ve been enjoying a rather different enviroment to California, travelling the green (and often wet, cold, and/or windy) hills and valleys of New Zealand.  Brief and intermitant access to a computer makes keeping up with log posts difficult though.  So today I’m going to cheat, and suggest you go and have a look at a new travel blog from Rob Bertels, with whom I shared some of my last travels in California.  He writes about our shared journey here.  But that was weeks ago now – I’ll have lots of posting to catch up on when I get ‘home’ in mid December.  Inverted commas being necessary since the physical location of home is somewhat undetermined at the moment.  In the meantime Rob has moved on to Mexico, so do check out all his writings (and pictures) at


October 30, 2011

Posts have become sparse lately, a symptom of having too much fun travelling and exploring.  Recent weeks have allowed the resumption of an ongoing project that has been latent for too long.  Whenever I camp, I take a photo of  my tent to represent each nights camp.  Just now I am wondering if this project has a title?  I haven’t considered it before, since so far it hasn’t had any physical outcome, just a growing file of photo’s to be used for something one day.  They are closely tied to some past drawings titled ‘sites of occupation’ which also documented camping sites, so perhaps it is part of a larger project under that banner.  Like much of what I do, these photo’s, taken as a set, contain interesting binaries.  In this case, the consistency of my familiar* set of camp equipment contrasts with the changing locations and my old theme of Nature/Culture is there too of course.  So, as I sit in the Auckland Library, having just arrived in New Zealand, here is the USA subset of tent photo’s.


(*those few readers who are very familiar with my two old tents may have noticed I have splurged on a new one! A two man ultralight from Big Agnus with a sagebush coloured fly.  The orange tent belongs to my fellow traveller for part of the way)

more shelter structures

June 3, 2011

This temporary structure was found in the park beside Turner Primary School.  The litter of hats, shoes and other items recently discarded and forgotten confirmed that it was constructed by young students.

The authorship of this rather more sturdy structure is less certain.  Found on the edges of Canberra Nature Park, very close to residential areas and yet through the orientation of roads and paths and topography is a little pocket that few would visit.  Did someone actually camp here? (it wouldn’t be the first instance of semi permanent residence on Black Mountain that has slipped under the radar).  Teenagers expending their physical and creative energies happily out of sight?  The site doesn’t appear to have been recently occupied and seems little changed to when I first discovered it two years ago.  Whatever the origins, it sits quietly hunkered down in the woodland, proof of the desire to build structures from and within the environment.


December 14, 2010

It has been a while since I posted some ‘found art’. Much of what I include under this heading is possibly not really intended to be ‘art’, but then that is what I find interesting about it really. The fact that once you start looking, you will find evidence left all over the place of people’s creative acts. anonymous, spontaneous, not leading to material or financial benefits – embodying the true creative spirit. Of course sometimes you have to look a little outside the well worn places, but you don’t usually have to go far.

The substantial structure above can be found in Canberra Nature Park – a collection of small nature reserves strategically scattered within Canberra’s planned urban structure. Mostly they occupy the hills and ridges, and are crisscrossed by a dense network of tracks and trails.  This structure has been built on one of the few hill tops not crossed by tracks, and only those exploring away from the paths would find it.

Gully cairn

May 31, 2009

gully cairn

I built this rock cairn in a stony gully next to where I’d camped for a couple of days.  A pleasant little spot, though definitely only for when no rain is expected.  A little pretentious to build a cairn to mark my own camping spot, though that feeling was tempered by building it in the gully since it wont survive the next downpour of rain.  Of course in Canberra that may not be for months. 

Rock cairns are often a little pretentious really.  I’m thinking particularly of the tendency to build a cairn at the top of a mountain, as if we think we are bettering nature just because we built a little pile of stones on top.  On the positive side it’s a nice little ritual to add your one stone to an existing cairn, playing your part in the maintenance of a cultural mark on the land.  Of course the balance between nature and culture has shifted somewhat the last couple of centuries.  Still, it is fun to build a pile of rocks so maybe I shouldn’t try to think about it so much.

cork oak camping

May 26, 2009


Camping in the cork oak plantation recently – I do always find this place rather special, and it was great to be there in the evening and early morning.  I did some drawings, and also a scroll of ink rubbings from the many cut stumps where trees have been cut out for some reason.  Rubbings are a major part of my work at the moment – particularly of tree stumps and stems.  I like the directness of a rubbing – gives a direct recording of the actual shape, size and texture of the object, but also turns it into an ‘image’.


and meanwhile, wood engraving

May 22, 2009

Regular readers will know, that I use this space mostly for some random musings, some disconnected photos and the sharing of images relating to some of the ephemeral art I make outdoors with found materials.    Now and then I do like to bring the discussion round to good old fashioned pictures on pieces of paper.  I call myself a printmaker after all, and I have been busy making prints and other work on paper – they just don’t make it to the blog so much.  Earlier this year I had the opportunity to do a wood engraving workshop at Megalo print studios.  I’ve been meaning to post something about this for a while, but somehow I kept getting put off .  In brief, wood engraving is a form of relief printing that makes use of hard end grain wood, sanded to a high polish.    Because of the qualitys of the wood used, and the fineness of the specialized tools, wood engravings can achieve incredible detail and accuracy of reproduction for a relief print.  Instead of telling you all about the workshop, I’m going to suggest you go and visit Ampersand Duck’s blog, since she was there too and has already given a blow by blow account, and with pictures!

So now I’m right into wood engravings.



This was the second engraving that I did – showing a campsite among the rocks in Namadgi NP.  My project this year is in part about the human presence within ‘nature’.  Wood engravings tend to be small – this one is perhaps two inches long, so probably about the size you see it on your screen.

I quickly became interested in finding my own wood to use, instead of pieces that had been machined by someone else from timber that I knew nothing about.  I wanted to see what could be achieved using the humble sticks to be found on my walks.  After collecting, cutting and much sanding and polishing, I become somewhat attached to these little pieces of wood.  I began to think about printing them just as they are, without doing any carving at all.


relief print

Now I hope you can see what I meant in a previous post about circles referring to elements of nature.  The prints are like little windows into another secret world – especially when you hold it in your hand on thin seemingly fragile Japanese paper.  This little block (about an inch long) then got an image carved into it before printing again.


Right now I’m late for a class, so I’ll leave it at that – more about engravings and circles later.

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