Untitled Document
Sands of Gallipoli - Official Site
About Sands
The Collections Media Centre Marketing & Business Centre Keeping The Spirit Alive Community Forum

Artist's Notes; The Battle of Lone Pine

When presented with the Lone Pine project my awareness of the specific campaign was limited. Ironically, my first impressions of the battle were drawn from the fantastic dioramas on display at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. I vividly recall visiting the Memorial as a child and being completely in awe of the superb miniature models. There was a certain wonderment derived from viewing a small snapshot of history and being drawn into the sense of emotion experienced by those who fought during conflict. Most notably I was fascinated with the scene depicting Australian troops fighting an unseen Turkish force in underground trenches at Lone Pine, Gallipoli. As a child, it was impossible to understand the full consequences of war, however, the miniature battle conveyed all the fear, adrenalin, terror and bravery one could only imagine Australian and Turkish soldiers experienced during hand to hand combat.

It soon became apparent during project planning that the diorama was a highly regarded representation of Lone Pine in terms of known accuracy and campaign detail. I was keen to draw parallels with the model as much as possible and did indeed reference some of the figures within the painting. This was important due to the lack of existing photographic material surrounding the opening battle. Painting historically accurate representations requires a large amount of detail and for this particular work I was fortunate to have assistance and guidance from Brig. Chris Roberts AM, CSC (Rtd). During correspondence there emerged some key factors that needed to be incorporated into the painting including - the distinctive white patches and armbands worn by Australians, unique Turkish trench system, time of attack and terrain. Each of these became determining factors for the overall composition and look of the painting and ultimately helped decide the depicted angle and viewpoint.

The Gallipoli campaign and the facts surrounding the ANZAC landing in April 1915 highlight the incredibly difficult topography including sheer cliff faces and impenetrable ridges. Period photos that do exist suggest Lone Pine was, in contrast, a flat plateau with few distinguishing features. This is not always ideal when attempting to create a dramatic scene and one of the challenges was to draw more interest from the flat environment. Fortunately the low dusk-sun helped to cast dramatic shadows across the scene and it was also possible to include foliage and undulating sections of landscape.

Similarly, one of the key identifying features from the initial skirmish was the supremely fortified Turkish frontline trench. As represented in the Memorial model, these were buried defences with a strong, log roof structure and covered completely under a thick layer of earth. With the trenches well camouflaged I was directed to find a way to represent this distinctive feature without making it appear overly obvious. By all accounts the Australians were caught completely by surprise and could only gain access to the trenches via any areas damaged by artillery fire. These latter actions provided the necessary visual key for showing some portion of the covered dugouts. Another source for inspiration was "The taking of Lone Pine" by artist Fred Leist who depicted several troops straining to shift some of the structure. I incorporated a similar action into the painting as homage to Leist's portrayal. For additional drama it was also possible to include a menacing line of Turkish rifles protruding from the narrow defensive slits.

It is not possible to explain my painting process without mentioning a few key influences. In recent times my own painting has been far more contemporary in style with a very clean and crisp realist approach. For the Lone Pine painting it was necessary to re-adopt a style and technique closer to that of my detailed aviation subject matter, while also balancing this with the more open approach of landscape painting. I also sought a lot of guidance from the works of former, and much admired war artists, such as George Lambert and Harold Septimus Power as well as contemporary military artists like Barry Spicer. However, above all others, there is Ivor Hele. His works captured an inherent fluidity, emotion and movement that avoided glorification of war and in my opinion are some of the most honest depictions of human conflict.

I can only hope that my painting of the Lone Pine attack is a requiem to those who served or fell during the battle while providing a sense of combat devoid of over sentimentality.