I came to writing late and it took a five-day intensive workshop in a beautiful remote setting in the south of France to unlock the shackles and to let the words find their way onto the page. I started out with poetry, then moved to non-fiction and most recently my first novel Turrwan, set in and around Brisbane in the nineteenth century.
While researching a cover for my novel I discovered some of Australia’s early artists including Conrad Martens and his ‘Brisbane 1855’ above. If you happen to be in Brisbane you could check his work out at ‘Transparent: Watercolour in Queensland 1850s – 1980s’ which is on at the Qld Art Gallery until 20 July 2014. Martens was an English-born landscape artist who sailed with Charles Darwin on the second voyage of HMS Beagle along the South American coast towards the end of 1833. He sailed to Sydney via Tahiti in 1835. After initial success his fortunes were hampered by economical downturn in the colony due to drought. He came to Brisbane in 1851 then eventually travelled back to Sydney via the Darling Downs, staying with squatters and pastoralists along the way.
In the end I decided I needed a picture that reflected more of the central theme of the book, that is, the conflict between black and white on the colonial frontier. The image I finally chose is a detail from ‘Attack on a Settler’s Hut’ which appeared as a plate in James Bonwick’s The Last of the Tasmanians (1870); however, it is not known whether Bonwick was the artist or not.
Although the action in the image is set in Tasmania and not Queensland I thought it was an appropriate reflection of the conflict of the time. It also has some similarities to a scene in Turrwan.