Can you speak ‘Sandstone’?

I usually work in themes, a collection of drawings based on the same topic. This doesn’t  mean that all my drawings look the same. The challenge is to provide a ‘link’ between each individual artwork. This is a great opportunity to explore an idea and see how far it will go before it’s exhausted.

One of the themes that I’m working on this year concerns the chisel marks made by convict stonemasons in the early 1800s at Oatlands, an historic town in Tasmania’s southern Midlands.

These marks fascinate me. Each stonemason had their own ‘signature’ way of carving. The more I looked at these blocks of chiselled sandstone, the more I saw a link between the surrounding landscape and the plight of the stonemasons. It was as if they were carving stories in the stone, a record of how it was in those ‘Spartan’ days.


Today’s featured drawing is titled “Landscape Memory” – 48 x 80 cm. Prismacolor pencils on Canson pastel board. Each layer contains marks from various sandstone blocks, separated by mortar in the shape of the surrounding hills. In other words, this is a landscape composed of mark making. The convict ‘arrow’ stencil can be seen emerging from the lower left in a symbolic arrangement representing each convict’s desire to ‘escape’ to be free men. The layer second from the bottom contains symbols that collectively have a strong spiritual feeling.

Were the stonemasons trying to communicate through their chisel marks?


About artkleko

artist, art curator, art teacher, art judge, art critic
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4 Responses to Can you speak ‘Sandstone’?

  1. Richard I look at these and so think you should have done geology with our geological mapping… many a time I have taken out my old geology books to incorporate these maps into artworks (specific symbols similar to what you use for different rock types) but have not quite “got there” yet as there always seems to be something more pressing to do. When doing natural sciences I was very drawn to the artistic nature of it (did not realise as much then as I do now, working as an artist) … illustration/ drawing/ recording/ careful observation/ pattern and use of symbols.

    • artkleko says:

      I have always been interested in Geology Evelyn and I’m aware of the strong link between Art and the Natural Sciences. There is so much in the natural world to inspire artists above and below the ground!
      Thanks for your comments, I always find them interesting and thought-provoking.

  2. This is wonderful Richard and very interesting. It’s a great theme. I love the layers with their different marks.
    Our own notorious criminal Ned Kelly was jailed out either in NZ or Australia and he may have been one of those chiselling stonemasons!
    I also am working on a theme at the moment too – our landscape here is eroding very badly at the sea edge on the cliff-face and revealing all sorts of layers which are so beautiful. the cliffs are 325million years old when it was once a tropical seabed and it is fascinating to look at all the layers come away. Wish we had tropical weather here again.
    Keep up the lovely work Richard!

    • artkleko says:

      Thanks Eileen. Ned Kelly was jailed and hung in Australia. He didn’t have time to be a stonemason!
      Good luck with the theme, I’m enjoying your work on Fb.

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