Finding Creative Solace In The Blue Mountains Bush 

Artist Corinne Loxton in her Blaxland studio. (Photo: Julie Nance)

By Julie Nance

Lower Blue Mountains artist Corinne Loxton has used daily walks in the bush, journaling and painting to help her overcome culture shock and a personal crisis, and to connect more deeply with herself and the rest of the natural world.

Key Points:

  • Slowing down, immersing yourself in the beauty and fragility of nature, and noticing the many small details in life around you, is a form of ‘mindfulness’ that has been shown to reduces stress and anxiety.
  • For Corinne, walking in the bush is a meditative, contemplative practice; one that helped her overcome a major personal crisis.

Throughout her childhood, Corinne Loxton’s daily life in Cape Town, South Africa, was anchored by Table Mountain, looming above her bedroom window. When she came to Australia at age 15, she felt displaced. It wasn’t until the landscape and sky artist moved from Sydney to the lower Blue Mountains years later that she regained a sense of belonging.  

Out on the water in her little one-person boat, nature threw everything at 10-year-old Corinne: strong winds, rain and storms. She spent hours each week sailing in her hometown, with the mountain a familiar, reassuring backdrop. 

“I was always immersed in the landscape, and I felt as if my day was almost determined by the mood of the mountain,” Corinne says. “I’d be very aware of the clouds, the mist, the colours. From as early as I can remember, I’ve always had a mystical relationship with nature.”    

Without Table Mountain to orient her daily life in Australia, Corinne was disoriented.

“I felt this cultural shock and the foreignness of the environment; the difference in smells and colours,” she recalls. “I spent a long time living in cities – Canberra and Sydney – but I still wanted to paint landscape.”

Corinne experienced nature by looking up at the sky, creating quite abstract, colour-filled sky paintings.

Breathing Space, a sky painting by Corinne Loxton

Breathing Space, 2011, reflecting Corinne’s focus on the sky while living in the city. (Corinne Loxton)

After moving to Blaxland in 2012 as a single mum of three children aged 12, 7 and 5, Corinne started walking in the bush behind her home near Cripple Creek. Organically her paintings moved from the sky to capturing the ground, trees and other flora, thriving, struggling and evolving.  

Watch Corinne painting in the bush behind her home, where she feels a deep connection. It’s a place that fuels her both personally and professionally

She says the “poetry of interaction with nature” nourishes her personally and strongly influences her work. Walking in the bush is essential to her practice.

“The walking, the noticing, journaling, all of those things are important to setting the groundwork for feeling centred and grounded.” – Corinne Loxton

“For instance, this morning when I went into the bush, I opened my senses to what was going on around me. I noticed my movements, my emotions and experienced what was happening around me: how loud the bees were; watching the tiny birds darting around; the shifting colours and the seeds; how the seasons cause things to change.”

Corinne Loxton painting in the blue mountains

Corinne painting in the bushland behind her home in November 2023. (Photo supplied)

Corinne usually walks along the same local tracks and has noticed both subtle and more dramatic changes in the landscape over the past decade. She now sees cliffs that were once hidden by trees and banksias dying and falling to the ground.   

“I’m noticing the decay and the renewal and trying to make sense of that,” she says. “My work reflects the deep relationship I have with this place.”

painting of a tree by corinne loxton

Wisdom of Trees I, 2023: For over 10 years I have walked past this tree in the bushland near my home. As though by a miracle, it emerges from a crevice in the sandstone rock and stands serenely overlooking the valley below.” (Corinne Loxton)

Corinne has carved out a successful 30-year career as a painter, supplementing her income intermittently with casual teaching in local high schools. She regularly runs evening, full day and weekend workshops in her studio.

In 2020 Corinne faced an overwhelming personal crisis which upended all aspects of her life and sent her into a “massive shame spiral”. Her paintings, usually gestural, ethereal land and skyscapes unintentionally took on a more realistic tone. Corinne found it unsettling when people began to comment that her paintings looked like photos.      

In her studio the tiny brush strokes on the canvas, the increasing level of detail, helped Corinne focus and block out the negative thoughts invading her mind.

Glenbrook Lagoon had already emerged as a sacred space. During the height of Corinne’s crisis, she created a large series of paintings that spoke to human experiences of joy, hope, loss and longing.  

corinne loxton landscape painting

Looking Glass, 2022:This painting portrays a reflected world that could almost be flipped over, paralleling my search for truth, and questioning reality. Dark trees began framing and partially obscuring the landscape beyond, acting both metaphorically and visually as a barrier or line of containment.” (Corinne Loxton)

For a few months Corinne ceased painting altogether and had to slowly rebuild her crushed confidence and self-esteem. She found solace in the simple things in life: chatting with her teenage children, gardening, yoga and journaling. Every day she walked in the bush, a meditative, contemplative practice that was central to her healing.

In a TEDx Katoomba talk in June this year, Corinne spoke of the wise advice her ‘gran’ gave her as a teenager, proving to be pivotal to her recovery as an adult. Walking the cliffs of a fishing village in the western cape of South Africa, she used to stop and breathe, slow down and notice what was happening around her.

“The rocks, the lichen, the colours in the clouds, the creatures in the water or wriggling on the track. Decades before the popularisation of mindfulness, my gran showed me how to be present and bathe in nature.” – Corinne Loxton

About 11,000 kilometres as the crow flies from her hometown, Corinne remembered to stop “pushing and striving” and soak in the reality of the Blue Mountains bush. As she slowed things down her desire to paint intensified. Back in her studio she produced tiny sky paintings and tree artworks, full of detail that proved to be “restorative”.

corinne loxton artwork

Evensong V, 2022: Exploring little sky paintings. (Corinne Loxton)

corinne loxton art

Into & Beyond V, 2022: Part of a series of 30 x 30 cm images of densely wooded bushland. They are incredibly detailed paintings that took many days to make with tiny brushes. (Corinne Loxton)

A blend of time, nature, self-care, family, friends and painting helped restore Corinne’s sense of self and renewed her creativity. She painted recently in the open air at Glen Davis, 70 km north of Lithgow in the Capertee Valley. 

“It was a wonderful, immersive experience working in the outdoors each day, with all the challenges and joys of the elements,” she says. “Being grounded in nature, tramping through valleys and over clifftops, eating smoky food around the fire and waking with the birds at first light: all this renewed my passion and revitalised my spirit.”

corinne loxton glen davis painting

Glowing Cliffs, Glen Davis, 2023: A recent plein air (outdoors) painting made over a few hours. (Corinne Loxton)

Take Action:

  • View Corinne’s latest works at her exhibition Realms and Ranges, plein air and studio paintings in the Capertee Valley and the Blue Mountains. 10am-4pm, 2-3 December at 12 Jamison St, Blaxland.
  • Explore your creativity through music, dance, poetry, writing, whatever brings you joy. If you would like to try your hand at painting, check out Corinne’s workshops.   
  • Give yourself permission to slow down and pay attention to what’s around you; the beauty in your world, even if it’s just watching an insect crawling along the footpath.

Share this article:

This story has been produced as part of a Bioregional Collaboration for Planetary Health and is supported by the Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (DRRF). The DRRF is jointly funded by the Australian and New South Wales governments.

More from around the region

Read more about these biscuit tin guitars and the @glenbrookrotarymarkets in Lower Mountains Local News (link in profile):

Music, creativity and sustainability all come together at Glenbrook Rotary Markets every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month, and recently the organisers from the @rotary_club_lower_blue_mtns showcased their continuing commitment to waste reduction by hosting a creative Trash to Treasure Competition for local Lower Mountains kids. #recycling #upcycling #biscuittin #biscuittinguitars #markets #glenbrook #guitarsofinstagram

A Little Old, A Little New: Revisiting RoseyRavelston Bookstore

Second-hand bookstore and social enterprise @roseyravelstonbooks has moved to Lawson-town. While the core of their social enterprise remains the same(supporting refugees), the move has prompted adaptation and diversification, which has opened up new collaborations and opportunities for the business and the community. Read more in Mid Mountains Local News (link in profile):

#bookstore #refugees #lyttleton #gnocchi #music #communityhub #freshproduce #lawson #bluemountains #communityconnection #planetaryhealth

RoseyRavelston Bookshop and social enterprise has moved to Lawson where it`s become a welcoming community hub! Read more in Mid Mountains Local News (link in profile) #bookstore #socialenterprise #lawson #bluemountains #connection #gnocchi #livemusic #planetaryhealth ...

Every week the children at Carinya Neighbourhood Children`s Centre in Springwood spend time in neighbouring bushland as part of their Bush Preschool program. Read more in Springwood Area Local News (link in profile) #bushpreschool #natureconnection #natureplay #springwood #planeataryhealth ...

Bush Preschool is an international programme which encourages young children to actively engage in the natural environment, rather than just ‘be outdoors.’ Carinya Neighbourhood Children`s Centre in Springwood has embraced the idea, taking their pre-schoolers, babies and toddlers out on regular bush excursions to encourage our next generations to learn about sustainability and the importance of caring for our environment. Read more in Springwood Area Local News (link in profile):
#bushpreschool #natureplay #natureconnection #rewilding #childcareadventures #springwood #carinya #planetaryhealth #sustainability #wearenature

When it`s cold and wet it`s so easy to forget what it was like to live in a `Time of Fire`. This is a powerful performance by Harry Laing at the Blue Mountains Planetary Health Studio: not only reminding us what a severe fire season is like, but helping us see the whole experience in a different way. View the full video on our YouTube channel (link in profile) #bushfire #poetry #planetaryhealth ...

Shaun Watson is the NSW Chair of Doctors for the Environment Australia @doctorsfortheenvironment At his home-away-from-home in the Kanimbla Valley, he talks about his motivation to fight for the planet, the health impacts of fossil fuels and simple things we can do to make a difference. Read more in Blackheath Area Local News (link in profile):

#theinterconnectednessofallthings #humanhealthandclimateaction #wearenature #togetherwecan #planetaryhealth #doctorsfortheenvironment

Volunteering has been experiencing a gradual long-term decline but community needs are higher than ever. The volunteers we’ve interviewed over the last 15 months have all felt that their lives were richer as a result of their volunteering experience, so we’ve compiled a list of volunteering opportunities in the Upper Mountains which can help strengthen our community while also providing volunteers with skills for the workforce, new friends and social connections. Read more in Katoomba Area Local News (link in profile):
#community #allinthistogether #togetherwecan #volunteering #volunteeringisfun #givebacktothecommunity #connection #planetaryhealth

Our latest newsletter has information about the Planetary Health Bushcare Group starting on 6 July, other volunteering opportunities in the Upper Mountains, Doctors for the Environment, a Bush Preschool, RosyRavelston Bookstore, the Glenbrook Rotary Markets, and an innovative energy monitoring project to help residents save money and energy this winter.

You can subscribe to receive our fortnightly newsletter and read it now via the links in our profile:

@doctorsfortheenvironment @glenbrookrotarymarkets @lithgowtransformationhub @roseyravelstonbooks #bushpreschool #natureconnection #bushcare #bushcarebluemountains #bluemountains #thinkglobalactlocal #togetherwecan #planetaryhealth #volunteer #lovevolunteering

About Julie Nance

Julie Nance is a community storyteller with the Blue Mountains Planetary Health Initiative. In her coverage of the Lower Mountains area, she brings 30 years’ experience in communications, publishing and journalism. After specialising in health and social issues as a journalist, Julie led creative teams in the government and not-for-profit sectors including the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, YMCA NSW, Cancer Council NSW and The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. Julie is passionate about empowering people with quality information to help them make informed choices.

You might also like:

merryl watkins in the blue mountains

Capturing the Magic of Our Beautiful Blue Mountains Birds

During COVID lockdowns, Merryl Watkins posted a new bird photo on social media every day. The Blaxland resident wanted to remind people there was still beauty in the world and joy to be found if you stop, look and listen.


Enjoyed this article? Please spread the word :)

Can you help us build a more resilient community?

Donate to the Blue Mountains Disaster Ready Fund. 

Donations over $2 are tax deductible