Ingpen and the Island

I dare you to not be charmed by this little pocket of wonders. 1-img_4255

Many years ago as sweet young things we went to Churchill Island and I made a water-colour painting of the farmhouse. The house was in a faded state and the garden tossed wild but very beautiful. The painting still hangs in my mum’s house, surprisingly unfaded after all this time.1-img_4256-001

One of the artists I (and many others) fondly associate with Churchill Island is Robert Ingpen. He always inspired me to draw from the time I saw his sparse minimal sketches which show such a mastery of line and ink work but which still have such drama and movement. (As a kid I also loved that his name was like ‘ink pen’).


Robert Ingpen’s classic set of drawings of Churchill Island circa 1976 before the farm restoration


The little buildings in Ingpen’s drawing (top left above) now gently revived – (It is a bit spooky that I took this photo at almost exactly the same point as Ingpen’s drawing)

So wonderful then to come back and to see the heritage farm and garden just as it should be with layers of greens spilling over paths and smudges of pink against the weatherboard buildings.  1-img_4257

We were lucky to have come at the height of summer when the garden was so vibrant but also when it was unexpectedly cool which was so perfect for wandering. The bay around the island was millpond still and you could see out for miles.


A snippet from the Friends of Churchill Island shares some knowledge about the first peoples who lived here.

Churchill Island was ‘home country” to the Boonwurrung/Bunurong people, an aboriginal tribe whose traditional lands ranged from south of the Yarra river in Melbourne to the Tarwin river in South Gippsland.  The land and sea visible from Churchill Island are the tribal lands of the Yallok  Bulluk clan.  Churchill Island was known as Moonar’mia and as a place of special significance that has a legend associated with the Moonah tree. 

The Moonah or Tea-trees, Melaleuca lanceolata, grow all around the Bay area but on Churchill Island they have grown old, tall and shapely, perhaps because they are more protected from the wind and salt to those exposed on the surf coast around Phillip Island.

Of course these places have a fascinating recent history as well, with eclectic collections of families and myths that have evolved around the island. 1-img_4261

I don’t remember the little potager from the last visit but if it has been replanted more recently everything here too looks as if the gardener has just popped over to check on the chooks – there is nothing ‘garden show twee’ about it.





Interesting to return to the Island so many years after that first painting expedition and to read that in his early career Ingpen worked as an artist / designer for CSIRO to communicate the results of research. How enlightened they were back then. Perhaps if I had known that I would have embraced the split life of science and art with more gusto!



An example of Robert Ingpen’s superb drawing skills honed as a scientific illustrator – Image from Malaleaca Galleries.

No doubt Ingpen’s time spent drawing on Churchill Island inspired many of his beautiful and highly creative children’s stories and illustrations and certainly – once the tourist buses roll away and stillness descends again – you can sense the spirits of the land are still here on Moonar’mia.


Some more of Robert Ingpen’s illustrations are here..>>.

and here

Directions to Churchill Island – don’t forget the paints!

10 thoughts on “Ingpen and the Island

  1. And thanks for the introduction to Robert Ingpen, whom I don’t believe I’d ever heard of.

    Your reference to “ink pen” reminds me of the time when I moved from the Northeast of the United States, where I grew up, to the southeast, where I went to graduate school. I was surprised to find that people from that part of the country pronounce “pen” and “pin” exactly the same. In order to indicate that they mean a pen, they say “ink pen,” which sounded weird to me, because every pen uses ink and therefore “ink pen” is redundant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is a really nice anecdote. We Aussies tend to tease our Kiwi cousins by asking them to say ‘fish and chips’ – the Kiwi ‘i’ is very flat so that ‘i’ sounds is like a flat ‘e’ which we think is very amusing. Funniest of course to our sadly unimproved brains is that the Kiwi ‘six’ sounds to us like ‘sex’.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have never quite made it over to Churchill Island, but you have made me want to go and visit. Lovely to know there is a link to Ingpen too. I have always been in awe of his beautiful, delicate but expressive work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Anne – It is somewhere you would feel totally at home. It’s such an easy place to visit but we’ve driven past so many times on our way back & forth to Phillip Island – it’s so nice to have been back


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