RoadTrip2021: Along the Newell Highway

May 11, 2021 | 9 Comments

Today’s article will take you to three towns in Central NSW along the Newell Highway – Parkes, Forbes and West Wyalong. The land is flat and the roads are straight.


Even though I felt as if I was in the middle of nowhere, the Newell Highway is an important route connecting Melbourne in the south and Rockhampton in North Queensland. So I saw a lot of trucks as I drove along this road.

The week before I had driven on a little section of this road – from Dubbo down to Peak Hill to visit an open cut gold mine – see here for more details.


Parkes and The Dish

After a brief stop at Eugowra (I bought a takeaway coffee so I could sketch from my car) I headed straight to the Radio Telescope (referred to as The Dish) about 20 minutes drive north of Parkes.

Aside: I really wanted to go to Trundle (another 30-45min drive north west) to see one of the widest streets in the state, but it was just too hard for me to fit in. Generally I’m trying to limit my driving to under 2 hours per day – so adding over an hour to my route for this day was not an option!


On arrival I was greeted by two signs – ‘flight mode but please take photos’ and the all important snake warning sign!


And then The Dish was right before me! It was quite hard to sketch – trying to work out how to simplify all those trusses – and sitting in the bright, hot and glaring sun!

There was an interesting free display area and after another sketch I decided to hit the road.


I stopped at a viewing spot on the way out for another sketch… and got excited when the dish started to move. Ah! what I pity I hadn’t waited around for another 15 minutes… it would have been great to have been right next to it when it moved.


Super quick sketch while watching it rotate significantly and then I headed to Parkes. This town was named after an important Premier of our state.


Here is the statue of Sir Henry Parkes on one intersection of the main street. I’m always interested to see the location of the signature photo of a place. Sir Henry’s photo was in all the literature I looked at for Parkes.


Parkes’ other claim to fame is an Elvis festival in January… I didn’t manage to find the Elvis statue but I did see these two images on the walls as I wandered the streets.


And there was a JimmyB (James Barnet) building to sketch – another courthouse and another building that was started by Barnet and finished by Vernon.



I had one more town to explore that day (Thursday) so after a quick lunch I headed south (25minutes drive) to Forbes. There are quite a few grand buildings in Forbes…


…the most photographed is the town hall building, but of course I was more interested in the JimmyB buildings!


But first an old pub with a long verandah (are you tired of these yet?)


I managed to park my car with a great view of the Barnet Post Office.


And at the time I didn’t add watercolour (it’s a little hard to comfortably paint when sitting in the driver’s seat), I photographed my line drawing and asked on Instagram whether I should add colour.


In the end I ended up adding paint as I thought the spread looked better in full colour.

At the top there is my sketch of the JimmyB Courthouse. It was really fun to sketch this as there were two groups of people waiting in the park opposite for court case outcomes and there were lawyers coming and going. 


One of Forbes’ claims to fame is connections to the bushranger Ben Hall. The lady in the Visitor Info Centre offered to take a photo of me with this statue… but really, that would not quite be my thing. (A photo with a statue of James Barnet on the other hand….)


I did however visit the local cemetery and the grave of Ben Hall, and Ned Kelly‘s sister. Neither were interesting enough to sketch…


…but I did sit down and do another view nearby – I was being attacked by all kinds of insects while doing this.

I also did a quick sketch of the main shopping street and enjoyed drawing a map of Forbes.

Both Forbes and Parkes have the highway bypass the main street. However in Forbes there was a grand wide main street with some big buildings on it, and then a secondary street containing all the shops. In Parkes the main street contained the shops but there was a secondary street, at a higher level containing the larger buildings (including the courthouse).

I’m really interested in comparing the layouts of all the different towns I’m visiting, and for this trip, doing a quick map is the best way to document this.

West Wyalong

On the next day (Friday) I continued my journey south on the Newell Highway to West Wyalong. This town had another fascinating main street and an information panel on the pavement (sidewalk) mentioned that the bend in the road was due to the ‘insecure tenures issued under the Mining Act’. I would have liked a little more information about this… but at least I know that it’s mining-related!


The most photographed building in town is Thoms Corner and I was able to find a great spot to sketch it.


Before I started, I had a coffee and then I found myself sketching the whole street. So I left this sketch as a line drawing.


Next I did a detailed watercolour sketch of the corner and I really enjoyed doing this!

I also had a number of lovely conversations with locals who were walking past.


I loved this street in West Wyalong!


A little further up the street was an info panel about a famous Russell Drysdale painting.


Here is the finished painting…


…I was more interested in this little study of his.


Apart from the main street of West Wyalong I also wanted to visit the Lions Park.

When I was 19 we went on a family holiday – a road trip through NSW and Victoria. I filled one or two A3 sheets each day with little sketches of the crazy things we did. (You can see some of the pages here). I remember that at this park there were lion shaped garbage bins and that my sister and I had to pose for our dad so that he could take some photos of us disposing of our rubbish.

Naturally, I was super happy that there were still two lions in the park – no longer used as bins – and of course I had to sketch one of them.


Here is the full spread which also includes a quick line drawing of the Drysdale view and a map (which isn’t quite finished).


Before heading on south to my next destination, I visited the older part of town (Wyalong). Here there was an old courthouse (now museum) but as it was designed by Walter Vernon I didn’t bother to sketch it!


There were also some mining relics/replicas. This is a replica of the Poppet Head from the True Blue mine. Huge!


So I did a quick sketch of it!


And finally, just before leaving the Newell Highway I took this photo to document the colour of the soil. I’m expecting that I’ll see some more red dirt when I start heading further west.



  • Jane Varley says:

    Hello Liz, I am thoroughly enjoying your trip. Love your structures- The Dish and Poppet Head. Straight in with w/c and no messing around with a pen! May I ask please, what is the granulating blue you have used for the sky of the Forbes cemetery sketch? Is it DS cobalt? I’m just on my last pan of the long since discontinued St Petersberg cobalt spectral which granulates beautifully and so looking for a replacement.
    Also, a couple of posts back – Orange PO, I think, in less than 30minutes! Knockout sketch.
    Thank you for keeping us up to date on your journey.

  • Jane Varley says:

    ………or at least, not much messing about with a pen!!

  • Jan K says:

    Hi Liz, I can’t adequately describe how much I’m enjoying your sketches, dialogue and history of your travels through these NSW towns, some of which I’ve been to and some not. It is very inspiring to see your approach to exploring each town and the delight in capturing so many gorgeous, old buildings. Enjoy the rest of your trip! Thank you for being so generous in sharing your sketching journals.
    BTW I am going to Mudgee next week and drafted a list of ‘must do’ items some time ago – this included the art supplies store so I was delighted to see the short video of the store that you recently posted on IG!

  • Maria Schnbel says:

    I am impressed by your curious eye, managing to produce interesting sketches of scenes that I might overlook as too simple or mundane. Love following your trip and your approach to capturing the essence of that part of your country.

  • Peggy Bowman says:

    Liz, your sketches and commentary make even the seemingly mundane come to life. It’s so much fun to travel with you vicariously. I look forward to each day’s posts. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

  • Linda Barnhill says:

    Thank you for including ALL of us on your trip. My husband & I have thoroughly enjoyed your photos and lovely art. And the interesting descriptions. Had to smile about the parking.

  • Mathilde says:

    Thank you Liz for the time you take to record your travel holiday.
    I am impressed and at the same time delighted by your boldness to
    transfer your thoughts into sketching. Your text/words are a joy to read.

  • I have been trying to catch up on your posts from this trip. You have some amazing sketches of the buildings and structures in the towns.

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