The Quintessential Essence of Place

I like to paint landscapes, not just any landscape, just the special ones. The expression of the “essence” of a landscape is what I want to endure. My favourite paintings are a response to the artistic drive, as opposed to the practice fairway.

I recently toured the Western MacDonnell Range culminating in a trip and a walk-through Palm Valley, near Hermannsburg, the heart of Namatjira country.

Palm Valley is picturesque, it is grand, it is tough, it has a story, it has survived through the ages. It is ‘Australian” beauty, and it has to be painted!

I don’t paint just any scene. There is more to it than that. There needs to be an inspirational ingredient to painting. To have meaning, the attributes of Palm Valley need to be embraced, most of them, if not the lot. I think of it as needing to capture the quintessential essence of the place, making a memory a sense of the place rather than a picture.

I gather an understanding of the landscape, walking up and down the valley, up and over the top and back. I pick up on the rustic sentinels, the ghost gums, the palms, the iron-coloured rock faces, the rock pools and the native reed beds. I have explored the lot.

I look for the image that talks to me about place, a potential painting that will have the effect of creating the touch point for my memories of feelings and impressions of place. I sense that it is It is seeing through this lens that is my uniqueness and why and where my paintings depart from my ancestral teachings.

My aspiration is to simplify the “scene” and convey my interpretations, my touchpoints. We begin to enter the realm of the innovator. What is original? What is innovative? What is perception? We still use the tag “Impressionist” because we seek to capture the impression of this perception, a perception of a personal feeling that you get when you enter a landscape.

This is the essential ingredient for a “good painting” – one that conveys the moment of that impression. It is hard to be satisfied without this ingredient, it requires the skill of those on another level, the genius of the much-admired Fred Williams amongst many others.

The next chapter will be about the execution and my limitations conveying impression with brush to canvas.


Roscoe paints two main landscapes – Arkaroola and South Australia. His other works include beach landscapes and still life.

Click on the links below to view his paintings.