Mt Fraser near Beveridge north of Melbourne. It's not just me visiting these places.

I have made several paintings of Mt Fraser, mostly because of its proximity and ease of access from Melbourne. It used to take me no more than an hour to get there which meant I had plenty of time to sketch from different locations and make detailed sketches; get plenty of "material." I never paint plein air because I hate flies; flies in Australia are a nuisance and turps attracts them. Setting up and packing up are messy. I like to travel light and sketchbook and pencils are enough.


Beveridge is well known amongst local history buffs as the birth place of Ned Kelly. I was making some sketches of the Kelly house one day when the current owner, Dave,  came up the driveway in a fabulous American convertible. He stopped to see my sketches then offered to show me the interior. What a humble place it was, just two rooms and a chimney and how different from the "average home" of Australians a merely 150 or so years later.


However back to Mt Fraser. It is a double cone scoria volcano with a massive slice out of one side where the scoria is mined. On the Hume Highway side of the volcano, on the road that leads to the entrance of the farm on which the volcano sits, there is a monument to Hamilton Hume and William Hovell. Hume and Hovell were two colonial explorers who went looking for grazing land and an overland route between Sydney and Melbourne. It is said that when they climbed Mt Fraser, they could see Port Phillip Bay and knew they had done it. I always felt a bit sorry for Hovell that the Highway didn't include his name. Apparently they never got along so maybe it's just as well. One can jump the fence next to the monument and climb to the summit. There are two high points and a surveying marker sits on the higher one. From here one can see the other volcanic peaks of Bald Hill a.k.a. Melbourne Hill to the south and the well known Pretty Sally to the north west. Port Phillip Bay was not visible from the summit when I was there in 2003; only a brownish smog cloud with skyscrapers peeking through.


Before writing this post I did a quick Internet search for Beveridge and Mt Fraser, just to fact check and see what else is out there. I found two new-to-me photographic records of Volcanoes in Victoria. One is included in a biographical blog of a Melbourne school teacher and WWII vet called Arthur Beaumont Shannon.  Arthur had many hobbies and one was to visit and photograph as many of the volcanoes as he could. There is no information about cameras, film or dates, but Arthur had had art training and the photographs are both strongly composed and take in a variety of viewpoints.


The other blog is quite extensive. Written by two people only identified as Penny and Natalie, Victorian Volcanoes has a large and detailed gazetteer with high quality photography. It's a very comprehensive and good looking site. However neither blog has any contact information, any place to leave comments and no way to find out more about who wrote these. Pity!! It's the age of the connection economy, the communication age, blog authors also need to be accessible, not just obscure Australian land forms!




View of Lake Keilambete from the east side of Mt Noorat

View of Lake Keilambete from the east side of Mt Noorat. oil on linen. 38cm x 46cm. 2005
View of Lake Keilambete from the east side of Mt Noorat. oil on linen. 38cm x 46cm. 2005

In this painting Lake Keilambete is only a dark indentation in plain on the left hand side of the background. I challenged myself with this composition to achieve a sense of looking across the crater and over the rim on the other side. Attempting to convey the steepness of the sides of the crater resulted in an aerial vantage point. That and trying to squash too much breadth of image into the rather uncomfortable standard size shop-bought canvases available in Japan; in this case size F8. ( I later discovered the less commonly used P sizes that suit me better)

Photographs of Mt Noorat well capture its steepness and the undulating outsides of the volcano as lava flows cooled and solidified. The  lake sits inside a tuff ring giving it raised sides that make viewing the lake difficult; one needing to descend the sides of the ring or gain a vantage point on Mt Noorat.

noorat from keilambete von Guerard from wikiart
Western part of Lake Keilambete and Mt Noorat, an extinct volcano. Mr Thomson's station 1858. Eugene von Guerard.

Eugene von Guerard was able to set up lakeside and draw the view from the western side of Lake Keilambete looking back towards Mt Noorat. Careful placement of broken branches and ducks on the lake assist in defining the extent of the lake and its recession into the picture plane. The foreground tree is rather whimsical and might have had help from the engraver in becoming more sinuous and oak-like than it probably was.

Some good images of this view can be seen in Planning Victoria's significant views PDF.

From the satellite both the bright colour and near perfect circle of the lake are easily visible. The circular cone of Mt Noorat sits to the north east. If Google maps were paintings; the circles of irrigated crops coincidentally balance the composition. The Terang racecourse and the chalky double lines of the harness racing track  on the converging roads leading to Terang anchor the eye to the bottom of the image.


Volcanoes in Victoria - in painting

The Newer Volcanics Province is a large area of south-eastern Australia in the west of the state of Victoria. From the Wikipedia: "It has an area of 6,000 square miles (15,000 square km) with over 400 vents and contains the youngest volcanoes in Australia. The youngest eruptions in the volcanic field took place at Mount Schank and Mount Gambier about 5000 years ago, when explosive activity formed several maars and associated lava flows."

Years ago I bought a book from the Royal Society of Victoria called Volcanoes in Victoria. Although I had lived in Melbourne  most of my life, and had grown up there, I had no idea that the west of the state was a vast plain of lava flows, volcanic cones, caldera and volcanic lakes. After reading it, I felt there existed immense drama in a landscape that was most usually associated with the production of Merino wool. Subsequently, I went on two sketching tours with friends; one in 2001 to Mt Elephant, and the other in 2003 to Red Rock, Mt Leura, Mt Noorat and on the return to Melbourne, Mt Elephant again.


Between the two trips, drought had changed the landscape dramatically. Deep Lake near Mt Elephant, which had been full in 2001 was a dry, cracked bed, hard enough to walk on in 2003, and as I found out, not deep at all. All the craters on Red Rock were dry or almost so. The grass  on Mt Elephant, which had been knee-deep and green in 2001 was so dry that the red scoria surface of the volcano was visible. The lakes are now full again, although the craters of Red Rock remain dry.


The drama I anticipated I found when standing on the Red Rock lookout on a reasonably clear day without too much haze. I could see the other volcanoes, like monoliths or markers, standing out on the plain. Looking west, I could easily see Mr Leura near Camperdown. Looking north-west, I could just make out Mt Elephant near Derrinallum. From the top of Mt Elephant, I could easily see Mt Leura to the south and the Ewan Hills, and to the north the distinctive Mt Buangor, and Mt Cole; the so-called Pyrenees of Victoria. From Mt Noorat, with a clear view to the east across the Ewan Hills I could see Mt Leura and farther away to the north east, the barely visible Elephant. To the south-west of Noorat, I could make out the shore of the almost perfect circle of Lake Keilambete, saltier than the sea and rather mysterious. Itself a crater, the water line is low and being on privately owned land, the summit of Noorat is perhaps one of the few places from which you can see it. Noorat itself is completely round, if not flat, with no breach on its side. It's easy to access by car and the crater rim can be easily walked. It's a steep climb down to the bottom of the crater however, and I didn't fancy coming across snakes, or having to climb back out, so I decided against it.


The sight lines between the volcanoes felt like some kind of communication was taking place. Certainly they gave easy reference and orientation across an otherwise almost featureless plain.  Several years later in 2010, I was in visiting the National Gallery of Victoria in Federation Square and saw, for the first time, Eugene Von Guerard's View to the Pyrenees from the Crater of Mt Elephant 1858. His vantage point on to southern side of the then more heavily vegetated Elephant (bushfires in the early 20th century did much to deforest it), was pretty much the same as mine. Indeed, maybe we had sat on the same convenient rock to make sketches. Mentally flipping Von Guerard's image around (the engraving shows his drawing in reverse), I was naturally taken aback by the coincidence. Even though (or perhaps because) colonial-era art is immensely unfashionable these days, from the artist's perspective there is more than a little discomfiture in seeing one's best efforts matched and easily bettered by a stuffy old European who indubitably worked a thousand times harder and took way more risks to get to these places. No highways and motels and counter lunches for Eugene. Owned by the colonial.  Not exactly the drama I had anticipated, but all the same...


Finding older work in cupboards

I hadn't seen these works in a long time. I had put most of my paintings into long term storage not long after we moved here in 2009. They have done well in the cupboards, which are reasonably well ventilated, especially well for Japan given the humidity which is such a curse for anything paper or textile.


I am happy to see these older landscapes of the volcanic plains again. I will look for the sketchbooks now and review them in preparation for more monotypes in the second half of this year. The paper is pretty much ready.


A former teacher once asked me if I ever repainted my paintings. At that time I had some strange idea that that was something one should never do. But I started to experiment with this after he advised me it can be very useful in rediscovering images and ideas. Now that both kids are at school and a tiny bit of time loosens up, I look forward to being able to do this again.


Basic Kanji for Tokyo Station Names

Navigating the trains, both underground and overground, in Tokyo can seem overwhelming at first, but some familiarity with the system before visiting can make it less stressful. There are basically three providers; JR , the two subway operators Tokyo Metro and Toei , and private lines such as Tobu and Seibu.


JR (Japan Rail) operates the overground lines like the Yamanote line, Chuo line, Keihin-Tohoku line etc. Tokyo Metro/Toei operate the subway system. It used to be divided into two separate operations, Eidan and Toei and in some smaller stations, you may still see two different kinds of ticketing machines. The ticketing systems were unified several years ago, so any ticket machine is OK now. Frequent travellers make use of combined transport passes such as Suica and Pasmo, but single ride tickets are not so expensive. You will see people spending a *long* time looking at the transport maps above the banks of ticketing machines; there are often several ways to get from one place to another so decisions, decisions...


There are 14 Metro/Toei lines including the Yurikamome, which is a rubber-wheeled elevated 'railway' taking you across the Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba.


In this post I want to outline 5 frequently seen kanji for Tokyo stations. If you are new to the language and city, it may all seem too much, but there are patterns to look for which will not only speed up your navigation, but also clue you in a little about the city.


1. 橋 = はし -hashi , ばし -bashi = bridge


When Tokyo was a new town back in the day, it was built up on terraced fields reclaimed from the Tama estuary, the Musashino. Several rivers run through Tokyo, so not surprisingly there are many bridges. Such stations incorporating hashi/bashi include:


日本橋   にほんばし          Nihombashi          G11/T10/A13

橋     しんばし         Shimbashi              A10/G08/U01 

飯田    いいだばし    Iidabashi                     E06/T06/Y13/N10

橋     あけぼのばし     Akebonobashi          S03

江戸川橋   えどがわばし  Edogawabashi            Y12

浅草橋    あかすかばし   Asakusabashi            A16


2. 川 = かわ, がわ = -kawa-/-gawa- = river


Where there are bridges there are rivers. There are few stations with this kanji, but it's worth look.


Above we saw


江戸橋   えどがわばし  Edogawabashi Y12


And we can see:

川      せんかわ    Senkawa                      Y07/F07

台     ひかわだい   Hikawadai                      Y05/F05

川      きくかわ     Kikukawa                     S12

       しながわ     Shinagawa               Yamanote line




3. 門 = もん = mon = gate


After the Shogun moved his base of operations to Edo in 1603, he imposed a residential requirement on his Daimyo or feudal landowners to live there 6 months of the year or 1 out of every 2 years. The Edo based Daimyo built large compounds, the superb gardens of which still exist here and there. The way in or out of the compounds, and thus through the different areas of Edo was through a gate. You can see the kanji for gate 門 mon, all through central Tokyo.


半蔵門    はんぞうもん    Hanzomon           Z05

桜田    さくらだもん    Sakuradamon       Y17

虎ノ門     とらのもん     Toranomon   G07

門      だいもん      Daimon     A09/G08

御成     おなりもん     Onarimon           I06



4. 町 = -ちょう -まち = -cho / -machi = town


As the small hamlets and enclaves of Edo/Tokyo grew and spread, they became towns. There are two ways to say 町。 It is pronounced as cho  or machi. You will see this kanji repeatedly on the Metro map.


大手   おおてまち   Otemachi            I09/C11/T09/M18/Z08

小川町   おがわまち   Ogawamachi        C12/S07/M19  (includes

神保   じんぼうちょう  Jimbocho        S06/I10/Z07

永田町   ながたちょう   Nagatacho      N07/Z04/Y16

有楽   ゆうらくちょう   Yurakucho    Y18

人形   にんぎょうちょう Ningyocho    A14/H13


5. 前 = まえ = mae = in front of


During the 20th century, as the public transport network was being expanded, it made sense to locate stations in front of popular and important places.


三越   みつこしまえ       Mitsukoshimae     G12/Z09

in front of the Mitsukoshi department store

水天宮  すいてんぐうまえ    Suitengumae       Z10

in front of the Suitengu shrine

明治神宮  めいじじんぐうまえ Meiji-jingumae   C03/F15

in front of the Meiji-jingu shrine

東大前      とうだいまえ     Todaimae           N12

in front of 'Todai' or Tokyo University

新宿御苑   しじゅくぎょえんまえ  Shinjukugyoenmae   M10

in front of Shinjuku Gyoen park


All stations are signed in 3 scripts; kanji, hiragana and romaji. Several years ago the Tokyo subway system added an alpha-numeric system too. It makes it easy to count the stations to your stop, though it crowds the map with even more information. But who reads maps anymore? "Smaho appu"; smart-phone apps, and online maps are the new normal. On the Yamanote line, screens placed above the doors will show you the next several stops and how many minutes between each. In-train announcements for the next stop, including which side of the train to get off from, are now routinely made in community languages like English, Chinese and Korean.  Many visitors to Japan initially freak out at the sight of kanji, but learning the first 50 to 100 by usage is not hard  as you see them all the time. Should you decide to  move beyond the basics, certainly reading with kanji is a whole lot quicker and easier than reading long strings of hiragana. On the trains however, don't forget the following:


 きた     kita   =  north

 みなみ    minami  = south

 ひがし    higashi = east

西 にし         nishi = west


入口    いりぐち    iriguchi = entrance

出口   でぐち       deguchi = exit


QUESTION: What does this say?   東出口


I bet you got that right, so fire up that flash card app and get learning. A little goes a long way.


Updated 2017. First posted on DukaDuka 7/26/09