The Nine Training Sketches

The Nine Training Sketches motifs were given to the painters by Rudolf Steiner as a new impulse for understanding both Art and Nature, to help the artist explore objective spiritual laws. They are a training for the soul.

The sketches are a sequence of nature moods that bring the artist to an understanding of the invisible laws of Nature through revealing Nature’s processes. The series forms a part of ongoing research that trains the soul ‘configuration’ of the artist through repeated practice, through immersion into the themes again and again. You can view images of the original sketches here.

Below are a recent series of watercolour paintings developed from the Nine Training Sketches. They were created as part of an online masterclass I have been conducting into Steiner’s approach to finding the spiritual in art but also to commemorate the 100 years since artist Henni Geck first asked Steiner for a new impulse for the artists to work with, such as he had given to the performing arts as eurythmy.

L-R: Sunrise, Sunset, Shining Moon, Blossoming/Fruiting Trees,
Summer Trees, Moonrise, Moonset, Sunrise II, Sunset II.


My approach to painting the training sketches


As an Australian painter, I cannot help but be influenced by the strong physical/spiritual nature of this ancient landscape. There is not much of a middle watery realm between heaven and earth in the Australian landscape, and consequently, we have vibrant colours under a strong sun where the forming and breaking down forces dominate. I painted much of this series in the company of my course participants, most of them also Australian, and some, like me, found themselves unconsciously expressing the quality of the Australian nature mood through our six, not four, seasons in their own works. The paintings of the few northern hemisphere residents in our group always have different colour qualities to the Australian ones.

So even though these Nine Sketches are inner moods, to more consciously express the colours and dynamics of the Australian soul mood, I only worked with a red called Pilbara Red throughout all nine sketches, and a yellow called Australian Red-Gold, both made by an Australian company called Art Spectrum, renowned for its unique Australian colours. And our greens tend more to the red rather than yellow, so are more olive, more gold than lemon-toned European foliage. This can seen in the two Trees sketches here, and the heat of the red surrounding them is the fire element rising from the earth, even in Winter. Australia is a fire/earth country, to my mind.

Pilbara Red is a rich, mahogany red with subtle overtones of violet, as can be found in the ancient rocks and soil of the Pilbara regions in NW Australia; and in the red gums that are widespread around our inland river systems. The Red/Gold holds the fiery nature of our sun in it, but also translucent brown overtones so typical of our plant colours.

Formative forces

I worked continually with trying to find a balance between forming and dissolving, both in each painting and between each pair.

As the series progressed, the dynamics of the formative forces come more strongly into play. My work has been strongly influenced in recent years by the qualitative water studies of Goethean phenomenologist, Theodor Schwenk. The metamorphic forms that can be found in natural water flow and air flow can be found all the sketches from Shining Moon to Sunset II, but particularly in the three Moon sketches, where the water influence is most strongly experienced in Australia.

The overall experience of the series

I painted each pair side by side (except for the Shining Moon), so as to experience the polarity between each pair, as counterbalancing each other, but also so that I was inwardly moving between the two as I painted.

As my class and I progressed through the series, we came to realise that it was a journey through Nature’s cycle through the year itself and from Cosmos down to the Moon sphere, to Earth itself with it’s cloak of plants and the trees – the lungs of the earth breathing through the seasons – then ascending again through the Moon sphere to the Sun and Cosmos.

Create a website or blog at
%d bloggers like this: