Fig tree cove

Carefully maintained by Willoughby Council, the Harold Reid Foreshore Walking Track will be explored weekly (weather and schedule permitting) over the course of three and a half years from August 2016 to January 2020.


AUG 23 

First drawing exploration of Harold Reid Reserve looking out onto Fig Tree Cove. Began at 11am, left around 1:30pm when the southerly blew in too strongly and brought the clouds with it. 

Pleated Arc: worked surprisingly well. It was quite stable, yet light and portable. Size is perfect for me to sit or crouch inside (calculated carefully to be so). Ready for replication. Drawing with both hands disrupts control of the editing mind. The structure of this piece forces an immediate translation of listening and seeing into a proximate spatial awareness. Distal sensory objects are transcribed onto a form measured and made according to my body's dimensions.

Sound Globe: also worked well. Marked heaven with a circle and earth with a square. Slowly orientated myself within the form and within the space. An interesting exercise, like drawing a 3D map. Holding and turning the form with my left hand while drawing with my right made the process of drawing in this piece more logical than intuitive. Constant rationalisation of where marks were to be placed in spatial relationships to others.

Walking scroll: potential to work very well, but was cumbersome to handle at first as it was quite long. Also difficult due to the increasing wind. Had initially wanted to connect ends into a loop. Left free trailing, the paper is robust, but it became like a kite. May need to explore options of folding or creating a loop each time with paper tape. I found that in this method, looking became more dominant as my coordination of walking needed to take into account the direction of the path. Image 6 shows a detail of the scroll after I had diffused the marks using a lightly wetted brush.

Pleated Arc is documented in the gallery below. I began outlining shadows of the trees which shifted constantly. The southerly brought blue-grey clouds and stirred the gums and currawongs into a pre-rain frenzy. The third and fourth images show the north and south arms of the arc. Image 5 shows an in studio post diffusing of the marks. 


160906 Sugarloaf Morning Walk: 

First recording session around 11am. A group of senior bushwalking enthusiasts approached as I was coordinating my myriad of cables. One of them thought I was on my phone. I suppose mobile phones were the size of my Zoom H4N handy recorder thirty years ago. A crash course in Soundtrack Pro 3 allowed me to master and mix the two recordings into one composition. Practical considerations such as handling noise of the microphone cables and holding microphones while walking need to be solved. Having microphones in my hands allows for a more intimate sense of proximity and 'grounding', however, the nature of the path means that I sometimes need my hands to stabilise myself. I will clip them to either side of my head to obtain a binaural recording in the next session.

The first portion of the walk is an ideal recording site as the topographical shape of the bay is like a bowl amplifying the sound, similar to a parabolic dish. The path slowly descends towards the water and the raised headland behind cradles the bird calls emanating from the valley. As it is spring, the cockatoos are extremely dominant. Metallic construction sounds were strangely beautiful echoing around the bay. The prevalence of human settlement and shaping of the land is prominent in this recording.


Two drawing sessions in Harold Reid Reserve (morning and afternoon). I had to do two sessions as I forgot my hat and by 11:15 the UV was too strong for me to continue without one, forcing me to return home to retrieve it and begin again after lunch. The second session was much more quiet, and it seemed like the birds were snoozing. The mechanical rhythm of jackhammers made their way into my drawing. I am determined to find out the Aboriginal name of this area if there is one. It is currently (and problematically) known only by the name of Willoughby Council's town clerk and European confectionary. 

Walking Scroll: The original form of the walking scroll (168cm x 38cm) was tested again, this time modified into a loop using archival paper tape. This work much more effectively as there was also less wind. However, this method is inefficient in a field work context and the use of a clip board was tiring for my left supporting arm. Not an ergonomic solution and I will not take it to Japan. However, I shall continue with this drawing for this site.

Walking Scroll Version 2: A smaller form made from the side remnant of the pleated arc. 240cm x 22cm, this piece has been scored and folded into a flattened roll that is much lighter and easier to handle. Successful bodily, but there is less surface area to work with. An interesting compression of elements occurred, as I did not make drawn elements smaller, but rather overlapped them. I will consider folding the the larger walking scroll.

Sound Globe: Progression of this is documented below. Second drawing session on this surface. I had diffused some marks of the previous session with water in a studio session.

SEP 12

Three hour recording session of the walking track. Found a comfortable arrangement with the microphones tucked under the chest strap of my backpack and the recorder in my jacket pocket. This allowed for long continuous recordings during the walk and the microphones were allowed to hang when my hands were needed for stability or photography.

As the walk curved left and down into the north arm of the bay, construction noises gave way to the gentle slurp of water against the oyster shell (?) covered rocks. Found a few sweet spots with a rich tapestry of insects, birds, wind, water and human activity. Spring pervaded the environment aurally, visually, and fragrantly. This season allows me to capture bees harvesting amongst the native flowers, providing a proximate foreground to distal bird calls in the ambient aural array. Positioning each microphone at the visually measured ends of the flower bushes (from my position on the path) enabled me to replicate a microcosmic sense of the direction of movement in the sound. 

This session was about bees and sea water lapping against the shore. Spotted a couple of yellow-tailed black cockatoos, an eastern water dragon, peacock green carpenter bees, families of superb fairy wrens and the usual currawongs and white cockatoos. Also frequently heard the eastern whip bird, but could not see it.



The first day of drawing here this year. The last time I came was in September last year when it was spring. I am so much more confident now moving through this place. I am stronger and know how long it takes for me to make my way back to the car. Did one drawing by the water (forgot to photograph). Soaked it with water from my bottle and began tearing and moulding the paper with my hands. I found working directly with the paper in this way much more intuitive and sensual. I could feel the paper resisting and my efforts to mark it were almost violent. I had to resist a feeling of desperation.


First recording session of the year. I walked down a path towards Sugarloaf Crescent which I had never taken before. It wound downwards through remnants of rainforest and although there was a lot of construction noise and hammering (most likely from home renovations) this part of the trail was much richer in birdlife than the other sections. I have realised that small birds prefer the shelter of places with dense undergrowth. I got a great recording of the eastern whip bird, a pair of lorikeets and miscellaneous others in a sudden afternoon chorus.

My first attempt at vocalising in response to the environment was awkward as expected. I tried first above a tiny stream, standing on a small foot bridge. The water reflected the sound well, but recordings with me attempting to sing badly were too contrived.

A second recording which occurred further down the track in the mangrove areas was much more moving. It was made with the microphones dangling over a tiny rock overhang as I faced into the mini-cavern and made soft breathing, blowing, whistling and murmuring noises. These recordings were intimate, playful and sensuous. The space under the rock amplified these soft noises and created a sense of bodily immediacy in the sonic space. This contrasted nicely with the distant, open sounds from the mangroves and water, creating an effective spatial layering effect.   

It inspired an idea of presenting this work in a very small, intimate space, for one or two people. The space of presentation should have a similar shape and characteristic to the space of the recording.


Began working on an ink drawing using she-oak needles and bark. The marks were very evocative of movement and allowed for a variety of textured marks which were intuitive and challenged control. I definitely like this development in method. I also photographed the drawing process to create a stop motion animation. Unsure how it will work as each frame shows progression of the drawing stages rather than the marks moving.

The inconsistent cropping is creating jerkiness in the flow between frames, so this will need to be addressed during editing. 

Click image to view the animation at Vimeo.

Click image to view the animation at Vimeo.


Some observations: 19 degrees, 10% chance of rain, light breeze, cloudy, perfect. Planes overhead, renovation clangs, waterbird slapping the surface, soft sighs of long leaves and harsh rumbles of jackhammers. Waiting for ink to dry. Accidental beauty of bell like hammering on metal. So many coeval trajectories making one place, or is it actually many spaces? Wind shifts the ripples and brings a chorus of different cries. 

Began Binaural Sound Study of Fig Tree Cove. Found a pleasant rocky outcrop facing north and off the main path. This is a drawing structure that is working very well and allows me to tune in carefully to the sounds around me. The first session focused on just drawing and observing sounds. I also decided to draw with she-oak needles collected along the path. This is proving to be a very effective method as the marks produced are distinctly characteristic of this site. The bunches of needles dipped into ink produce a remarkable variety of textures and force me to work slowly and thoughtfully, as they do not absorb and hold ink in the same way as brushes. 

Also made recordings of the drawing process with microphones taped to the inside of the structure. A cumbersome process which yielded some promising sounds for further conceptual development. Some of the gestural sounds on paper were too loud though, may try it with mics on my collar and back of my head.


Today there are more small finches and wrens audible after the rain. Less jackhammering, but still clangs and drills. Quite a few midday walkers. Just a short visit to clean ink splashes off the rock. oops.


Second drawing session on the Binaural Sound Study, this time with warm toned brown ink (mix of ground vermillion and warm black). Almost the same colour as the rock. The water was low today and the salty surface of the mangroves smelt quite strongly of seaweed. The white gulls were loving the feast, their paddling and splashing activating the water in the small bay. 


Drawing session on Binaural Sound Study in studio using recordings from Fig Tree Cove. Decided to stay in studio for this session with acrylic and shellac based ink as even with a plastic sheet, there are still minute splashes on the rock. Japanese traditional inks are made from natural derived glues and charcoal pigment, but synthetic inks are potentially harmful and permanent. Finished this piece, very pleased with the textures of marks.

Fri 8 SEP

First drawing session in Fig Tree Cove in over a month. Wet mounted Chinese Wenzhou and Taiwanese Moon Palace paper together with wheat starch paste that I cooked. A return to tradition. I took a long scroll out to my favourite rock. The wind was gusty, lifting up from the water. I began with water soluble pencils then decided to drench the paper with a water spray. This was a turning point.

The double layered wet paper was malleable but still strong and the wind wrapped it around my body as I drew. When dry it retained the shape of my crossed legs it was resting on. This softness was beautifully revealing of process and the gestural conversation I was having with the wind and the sounds of swaying trees.

harold reid Foreshore Walking Track, Sugarloaf Bay, Sydney, N.S.w, Australia