My much anticipated artist in residence began at Birrarung House yesterday. It’s 6.30am. on my first full day here. I’m sitting up in my bed writing, so as to let you all know just a little about the experience so far.

Yesterday was a big day of packing and arranging. Two trips from home were necessary before I was officially installed. The fridge is full of food, the firewood is stacked and the studio is now home to my paints, easel and sketch books. I’m pretty pleased with my efforts. I managed a roast chicken for dinner and ate it in front of a roaring fire in the cavernous fireplace. I spent the rest of the evening checking out the collection of books on the Birrarung House bookshelves.


Photograph courtesy of Kerry Cross ©

I especially loved a beautiful book, “Gordon Ford. The Natural Australian Garden”  written by the designer of Birrarung House, Gordon Ford with his wife Gwen Ford.  The late Gordon Ford is well known in the area for his genius with natural landscape design. The prologue, written by Morag Fraser contains words and phrases so beautiful, I found myself wanting to climb into her head and stay there forever…wowa can she write! I was particularly taken with the pictures of Gordon’s own garden, “Fulling”, here in Eltham. The photographs indicate that it’s true to his own ethos,

“We must feel part of the land we walk on and love the plants that grow there…if we are to achieve a spirit in a garden.”

Even here at Birrarung, there is spirit in what remains of his garden. There are the remnants of Gordon’s trademark rock landscaping along with several connecting ponds.  I can only imagine the water from them cascading down the hill to the side of the house.  I wish I’d seen it in its heyday. I understand that Gordon lived in the house for a time. It’s an old muddie held up by enormous recycled timbers. While brick floors throughout create a seamless connection with the outdoors.


I’ve also unearthed a folder put together by writer Sharyn Munro, a previous artist in residence who chronicled her experience here in words and photos. I’m keen to allow her words to wash over me today. To read and reread her experience so that it informs and enriches my own. Sharyn was obviously moved by the indescribable quality that the house and its bush setting provide. While the flora and fauna of the bush undoubtedly offer a clue to that quality, it’s the sounds here that transport me to a sublime, deeply joyous place. Birds and frogs create an unending soundscape, punctuating the air with symphonic beauty. In keeping with my artist in residence brief, I’m already looking for creative themes… I wonder how an artist would represent that symphony pictorially?

Alas, despite the best efforts yesterday, the internet will not talk to my computer, so blogs will need to be partly prepared and then I’ll have to temporarily leave this magical place in order to find a connection for posting. I hope it doesn’t break the spell.   I can’t believe I’m saying this, but already I don’t want to leave here…ever.

Nillumbik Shire offer an Artist in Residence Program at two venues, Birrarung House and River Bend, in Laughing Waters Road Eltham. Go to their website for all the details.