The Colours of an Ancient Landscape with Rowdy Wylie Part 1

There can be no doubt that The Flinders Ranges in the northeast of South Australia is an artist's delight, offering spectacular landscapes with beginnings millions of years ago.

The further you go into the Flinders Ranges the further you go back in time and much of the area has been likened to visiting Mars.

Northern Flinders Ranges between Hawker and Blinman Photo: John Wylie ©

Rowdy says:

The Flinders Ranges “get away” was great….we based ourselves at Quorn & travelled to Hawker then onto Blinman on Wednesday….

On the way to Quorn you pass through the Southern Flinders Ranges which Rowdy has travelled through many times. Below is one of his oil paintings showing the softer scenery of the Southern Flinders Ranges taken from the Port Augusta Rd.

Southern Flinders Ranges by John Wylie ©

Rowdy continues:

In Quorn I met with artist Val Francis who has an Art Gallery in the “Old National Bank”….she has a life time of landscape oil paintings covering the walls of her house & the old bank….a truly remarkable person & family…

Old National Bank Quorn South Australia Photo: Stuart Smith © (3)

Rowdy says:

I purchased a small painting and an old book (1977 – 78) of local landscapes titled “The Flinders Ranges” with the text by Hans Mincham and paintings by Bill Walls. 4 This is Bill's painting of the Quorn Mill and the Pichi Richi Railway. The Quorn Mill is now tourist accommodation and is in fact where we stayed on this trip.

European settlement began in Quorn (named after Quorndon, Leicestershire, UK) soon after it was surveyed by Godfrey Walsh in 1878 as part of the preparations for building the railway line from Port Augusta northwards... In 1917, Quorn became the crossroads of any north–south (on the Central Australian Railway to Oodnadatta) or east–west travel in Australia, when the Trans-Australian Railway was completed between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie. This made Quorn an important town, given that any person travelling east–west or north–south in Australia would need to pass through Quorn. As a result, many fine buildings were built as the town expanded.5

The famous Ghan passenger train travelled this way from 1923 to 1956, and on the northern part of this route until 1980.6

Rowdy comments:

The scenery of the Flinders is absolutely magnificent….the mountain ranges, the numerous creek bed & flood crossings…all with amazing “giant timeless” river red gums….

Rowdy has rendered his interpretation of the dry creek bed so familiar to those of us with a rural Australian background - the towering river gums connecting us closely with the endless past.

Flinders Ranges South Australia Creek Bed by John Wylie ©

Quorn offered the earlier European settlers an expanse of farming opportunities which continue to this day against the backdrop of mountains which are the gateway to the Flinders Ranges.

Quorn farming district with the mountain range in the distance Photo: John Wylie ©

Rowdy continues:

When we left Quorn in the morning it was blue skies & sunny then when approaching Blinman a massive thunder storm came through from the north west with lots of rain…black skies..& lightening…. I thought to myself… this is going to be good!!! A memorable journey!!!


I came with one “goal” in mind…to photograph and possibly sketch the amazing landscape of “Patawarta Hill” & surrounds… Upon arriving in Blinman we drove through Blinman on a northerly “dirt” road which leads to the “Hill”….the weather severely closed in…the road was turning to mud!!!


In this “moment” to my amazement I looked to my right side…. through the car window & discovered a glimpse of the beautiful Patawarta peak!!! The colours were a deep purple due to the cloud, fog and mist….Then a thick blanket of fog & cloud covered it indefinitely!!!

My view of the peak lasted just 10 seconds not even time for a pic… but I was so grateful even to see that glimpse…. The road became very unsafe & impassable so we went back to the Blinman Bakery for a feed & to gather local information about roads.

Rowdy is not unfamiliar with this territory nor to painting the remarkable Patawarta Hill as you can see below. I think this is my favourite Rowdy Wylie painting. What do you think?

Patawarta Hill, Flinders Ranges by John "Rowdy" Wylie ©


I think the spirits of the local Aboriginal Elders that day were protecting the “Patawarta Hill” which appeared to me to stand out above all other mountain tops & stood out as a Flinders Ranges Indigenous “Monument” in the very severe weather conditions…It was a breathtaking view and a memory I will never forget!!! Think I have to earn this pic!!!!


My plan is to travel back to the region later this year & stay a few nights at Blinman to explore the historic town & region a lot more!!!

Tomorrow Rowdy and I will share some of his earlier paintings of scenes around the Flinders Ranges and conclude with three paintings inspired by this trip. We will also share with you some more paintings of the area by artist Bill Walls.

I couldn't resist playing around digitally with one of Rowdy's photographs of the mountains hoping to conjure up some of the ancient spirits. Many people say that mountains are like sleeping giants but for me they are awake with the colours of time.

4. The Flinders Ranges, text by Hans Mincham, paintings by Bill Walls, 1978, Rigby Ltd., Adelaide