Yesterday I visited the Hawkesbury on a "famil" or familiarisation. It was to experience the Hawkesbury Artisan Trail. The small group of journalists was supposed to have flown on a seaplane from Rose Bay to a stretch of river not far from St Albans - it would have only taken about 45 minutes. While the rain had cleared overnight there was too much wind to fly.
The first stop was the St Albans Gallery where we met three artists: Suzie Startin - the owner and a potter; Victoria Peel - a painter; and Lucy Child - a printer who specialises in lino.
After learning about their work, we sat outside, wrapped in blankets, drinking hot tea and eating Suzie's homemade cakes. The ginger cake was still warm.
The next stop was Kurrajong and Sassafras Creek Restaurant & Gallery for lunch. The cafe, which was opened about seven years ago, offers views towards Sydney.
Next stop was to meet an artist who is renowned for her detailed botanical paintings. Elaine Musgrave owns and runs Fernbrook Garden & Botanical Art Gallery, displaying many of her works as well as crafts from local artists. The actual gallery is in a restored tin shed cum cottage (pictured) which is at the entrance to a sprawling 12-acre woodland garden. Her husband is a horticulturalist. The grounds feature a mini rainforest, and given the recent rain we got to see a waterfall.
The last stop was to visit the studio of Greg Hansell, who has been a finalist in some of the big name art prizes. Gentle and mild-mannered Greg was to give us an art lesson. He set up a still life of strawberries and let us use his "earth" pastels. Greg creates them himself, sourcing coloured rocks in areas such as Terrigal and Bateman's Bay.
The property was a Victorian house painted in duck egg blue with a rambling garden that included rose bushes and orange trees. His studio was an old shed and much of the original property had been maintained.