After a short walk away from the Manchester Art gallery, we arrived at the private gallery called Contemporary Six, which was showing the work of the Northern Boy; who are nine of the North's best 'plein-air' painters. Although each member has his own style, they are united in their love of painting outdoors and in all weathers. This gives their work a distinct feel of the moment, and yet still appear timeless.
The work was impressive and what was even more interesting, was that a lot of the scenes were of Manchester many of which we had walked through on recent trips to the City Centre. Thankfully, the growth of groups such as this and the Urban Sketchers, show how healthy the art scene is, in the UK.
However. this makes me think of the decline of art in schools where the focus and energy seems to be dwindling. This is no fault of the dedicated teachers who try to inspire but are hindered by the constraints put upon them by a Government who show no interest in developing this part of the curriculum.
My #Manchester paintings
I have painted several scenes from Manchester but mostly from watercolour sketches or with the help of photographs as reference material. I started by capturing the rise of the modern shopping centre from 1979, when the Arndale opened and before the Trafford Centre was even an idea.
My paintings, in a way, are an historical documentation of the changes in Manchester, as large stores took over from smaller outlets.
They also show how the Arndale changed from a darker space into a brighter one, as they opened up the roof. Some of these shops and attractions are no longer part of the Arndale setup. In my paintings below, I have tried to capture the hustle and bustle of the shopping centre and the painting in the left hand corner, reminds me of many of the backgrounds painted by L S Lowry in his paintings
I do a lot of sketching from life, however, I am more comfortable sitting in a quiet corner observing people and my surroundings. I haven't yet plucked up the courage to spend time, stood amongst the busy crowds, painting my oils!
Maybe, one day, there will be an addition to the Northern Boys! You never know, in the future, there might even be a Northern Boys and Girls group! I would like to think so.
,After an enjoyable walk around the Leonardo drawings we wandered down to the lower floor of Manchester Art Gallery. Here we were pleasantly surprised by the carved bowls and sculptures of Halima Cassell.
The images above show the large selection of intricate carved bowls produced so far. This display is a series of bowls made from clay taken from different countries. Number 13 is the Honour bowl for the United Kingdom. You can't help but be impressed by the amount of effort involved in creating each bowl. As she developed her techniques, she became interested in a Japanese technique of Kintsugi, where cracks are repaired using lacquer dusted with gold. This celebrates rather than hides the repair, an interesting concept and certainly adds interest to the piece.
A fascinating insight into this artist's work and well worth a visit.
It seems quite a time since we have had a chance to get into Manchester but thought of visiting the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci exhibition was the inspiration we needed.
After an enjoyable meal at the quirky Richmond Tea rooms, we set off to visit Manchester Art Gallery. Having been warned about possible queues to get into the Leonardo exhibition, we were pleased to find we had timed it perfectly and walked straight in. The room was dark to protect the drawings but we had the opportunity to view a range of his work. These included his anatomical work, where he was exploring the human body, as well as some portraits.
Apparently, he was studying human proportion; attempting to find the mathematical formula for ideal beauty. In the last sketch below, he distorted the features of a couple to see if he could create ideal ugliness. An interesting concept that shows how he was developing his thought process.
It was interesting that these were never really meant to be shown and many were just Leonardo trying out ideas.
Another sketch showed him drawing a series of small thumbnail sketches to cover all the knowledge he believed a painter should possess to represent the world accurately. Here he attempts to capture every action of the human body. The very small sketches are fascinating in the amount of detail and movement he achieves; something all artists could learn from.
A fascinating and thought provoking exhibition and it was interesting to see that there are other exhibitions of his work around the country, giving a chance for many people to appreciate a selection of his work. We hope to visit one or two ourselves.
After a hectic few months I finally got down to spending a day completing an oil painting. After attending a painting holiday in Norfolk I have been busy practicing my watercolours ready to be part of an exhibition in July.
I have been busy for the last couple of years preparing for my exhibition at The Old Parsonage, Didsbury in May, so it was a nice change to just try something different. The exhibition there will feature my oils and Digital drawings in two of the galleries. I'm looking forward to that and managed to go to the preview of another artist yesterday for a final look around.
This oil painting is painted in my usual way, building up the layers with a palette knife. I started with the light colours put on very loosely before adding more and more detail.
Another reason for doing this is that I'm doing a demonstration for my art club and needed to check my materials and get myself focussed again.
After two busy weeks, we were back at our starting point. Knowing that packing was on the agenda later, we decided to have an easy day, so we didn’t book a last- minute trip.
Walking along the Quayside, we were faced with the throng of local taxi drivers fighting for our business and offering all types of island tours. Passing through these we made our way to the car park, where we picked up a licenced taxi to take us into the beach resort of Pantal Chenang.
Walking along the main street, we looked in several of the shops but having already purchased our requisite souvenirs there was nothing of interest for us. Cutting through to the beach area there was a long sandy beach, with the typical layout of sunbeds, which were rented out by locals.
Sitting under the shade, we relaxed and ate our lunch, watching the people sunbathing or enjoying the sea. By now the heat was getting quite intense so we found a cool bar to have a drink before getting a taxi back to the ship.
Langkawi is a beautiful island and they are working hard to improve the facilities, as well as providing lots of activities for tourists to enjoy. If you can stand the heat and are looking for a Winter holiday, it is well worth a visit.
Summing up the last fourteen days is difficult. We really enjoyed the experience and are glad we came. It has been more hectic than other cruises, we have been on, with some of the towns being so far from the ports.
Singapore is stunning and worth a longer stay whereas Cambodia, at this moment in time, is a third world country, with all that entails. I’m not sure we will be returning to this area, because of the flight time and there are several other countries we would still like to see. Thailand was interesting and Langkawi was beautiful. Having looked now at the Facebook page, something we wish we had known about before the cruise, we realise how much more there is to see in the ports. Several people on the site also write that they have already booked the trip again for next year.
Now, after getting over the flight back, made worse by the extra delay because we couldn’t fly over Pakistan’s air space, I’ve had time to write up these notes and look at my sketches. I realise that since this was one of the busiest cruises that I’ve been on, I haven’t done as many as I would have liked!
Never mind, we can now look forward to planning our next adventure.
Anchoring just away from the town, it was to be a tender service into the port. After breakfast, we collected our tickets numbers 488/489; these seemed quite high numbers, but the wait wasn’t too long, and we were soon on our way in one of the lifeboats. The journey there was quite pleasant, however, the one back, in a larger boat, wasn’t as it was like being seated in a large dark sweat box!
After several quite hectic ports, we were surprised, when we got ashore, that this one was so relaxed and quiet, even the rickshaws drivers were not as persistent as others we had encountered previously. We fancied one of these colourful rides but watching one older man struggle to pedal off with his two guests, we decided it would be quicker to walk, as well as being kinder.
After perusing a local information map, we set off to explore. First, we found a nice park to walk through, and was fortunate to see our first native wildlife; a toucan, hopping from branch to branch in a distant tree.
Climbing the nearby hill, we arrived at a ruined church with superb views over the city. As we descended the hill, it was good to see the stalls of local artists selling some original artwork and souvenirs rather than the mass-produced ones in the shops.
At the bottom of the hill, it was interesting to see the historical buildings, all coloured in red, reflecting the Dutch influence, as well as several museums showing Muslim culture.
Only having a short time on shore, we decided to explore the city further. After a short stop for refreshment, and our Wi-Fi fix at a Starbucks, we looked around a modern shopping centre. We then ventured over to the local market stalls. You could certainly arrive here with an empty case and buy plenty of cheap shirts and T shirts to take home!
Eventually, after a long queue to get back on the ship, we set sail to our last port of call.
After a few more busy days, this week we had two sea days. Last week we found seating by the side of the pool quite easily. For some reason the ship seemed busier this week, or maybe we just had more sun worshipers. Anyway we finished up sitting a bit further away in the end, eventually moving closer later in the day and finally getting a sunbed later in the afternoon. Still it did give me plenty of chances to do some sketches as people relaxing around the pool area, some sunbathing, others reading or just having a conversation.
During our evening meals, we shared tables with other guests, which was a nice way of meeting different people from all walks of life and places. Consequently, we talked about trips that they had already been on with the consensus that The Mekong Delta trip was preferable to the Ho Chi Minh city trip. We weren’t looking forward to the three -hour journey but as we probably wouldn’t be visiting this area again, this couldn’t be avoided. Expecting a coach, we were surprised to find ourselves in a mini-bus; unfortunately, this wasn’t to prove to be very comfortable with three people on each bench seat.
Driving into the city, we were surprised by the sheer volume of motorbikes and scooters. In places they weaved in and out of the different lanes; in other places they had their own lane separated by a barrier.
Arriving in Ho Chi Minh, the skyline was dominated by the typical modern high rises but as we drove further into the countryside, we passed through shanty towns and rice fields before arriving at the river. Here we boarded a boat and had to wear life jackets, although drowning would have been the least of our worries, looking at the state of pollution in the water.
As we sailed along the river, we were treated to a variety of fresh fruits to try, which was refreshing after the journey there. Soon we stopped, so that we could transfer to a smaller boat, for a trip through the tributaries. The Vietnamese lady, on the back of the boat was meant to row but at first ours cheated by using the engine to avoid being caught in a traffic jam!
As the tributary narrowed, she stopped the engine and stood up, and using long oars she manoeuvred us through. Surprisingly here, as on the whole trip, we didn’t see any wildlife although, talking to other people on our return to the ship, they had seen two very large lizards about to fight over some food
After boarding the larger boat again, our next stop was a small market area, where we could see how different products were made from rice. It was an interesting short break watching them being made. We sampled rice paper, a candied rice sweet and rice wine, although I don’t think anyone was brave enough to try the snake wine. There was also a shop with a local artist displaying their work.
Another stop was at a villa that had been restored to how it would have been ninety years ago. As well as being interesting, we had the bonus of free Wi-Fi.
The highlight of the tour was to have been a visit to a local floating market! Having seen the pictures on the ships screen of sailing along with the small market boats coming up to us trying to sell their goods, we were looking forward to experiencing this.
Unfortunately, this was not the case. As we sailed along, we saw a few shops in the houses along the side of the river and some of these looked like they would fall into it at any minute, the small boats failed to materialise. A few large boats were moored in the river, but these appeared to be living quarters. It was certainly interesting though, seeing how the locals lived although some of there toilet habits, as we passed, were not as impressive.
Our stop for lunch was interesting as the food was based on local cuisine. As we sat down, we were faced with a fish that, in theory, was then taken away to be cooked. The food was not to our taste but was plentiful and enjoyed by the other members of our group.
We were soon back on the mini-bus with another three- hour journey, to look forward too!
Having talked to a few people, who had already visited Cambodia, and hearing about the beggars and conditions in the town, we decided to go on an organised Tuk-Tuk tour.
After travelling in a recent luxury Tuk-Tuk in Lisbon, this one proved to be slightly different; being drawn by an old motorbike that struggled to get up the hills. If the roads weren't bad enough, the traffic was just as chaotic, I will not be complaining about our pot holes at home as much!
The town was really run down in places but in-between the old houses, new hotels and casinos were being built by Chinese investors.
Why bother to invade a country now, when you can simply buy it!
Unfortunately, the locals were being forced out because of the rising prices caused by this and the driver showed his distain quiet openly. Another noticeable thing was the smell, with the sanitation sometimes leaking onto the road. Not a pretty ride for our senses!
Along the streets, there were several stalls selling food and several motorbike repair shops; a necessity considering the vast number being ridden everywhere. We did see some interesting landmarks such as the Golden Lion sculptures on the roundabout, which our driver circled twice to make sure we didn't miss it. I'm sure there will be more to enjoy, once the infrastructure of the place improves.
Then, we made our way through the traffic, closing our eyes at times as there didn't seem to be any road rules in p!ace. It was a case of set off and go-regardless of who was in your way!
We arrived at our first surprise stop, a local beach, where we were given nearly an hour to have a wander.
After a stroll along the pleasant beach, we arrived at the end of part and our fellow members of the Tuk- Tuk convoy, soon found bars for a refreshing drink and a chance to get rid of the dust in our mouths. Going to the toilet in these bars was also an experience. Luckily, we carried tissue and sanitized hand gel with us. The beach was very nice though and we could see why investors were showing interest in this area.
After another short stop, at another beach, where there was a nice hotel on one side, with its own private facilities, it was back to the ship. Unfortunately, the weather today was disappointing. Still very hot but cloudy, so the photographs we took didn't really show how nice the area was. Nothing can beat golden sunshine reflecting off blue waters!
After seeing the town, we were pleased that we hadn't gone out on our own; although we never felt threatened in any way, there were very few pavements to walk on and the whole area near the ship was very run down. A place that in a few years time will probably be completely different, which in some ways will be a shame as the local, traditional ways of life will most probably be gone.
Back on the ship, sat having afternoon tea, it was fascinating watching the small fishing boats sailing out for the evening. There was also an interesting small peninsula jutting out with small houses on it. There was even a building with a full sized aeroplane on top of it. An interesting day.
Following a long day in Bangkok, we decided to look for a more relaxing time; settling for getting a taxi to the nearby beach area of Pattaya. We went down to destination services to find out a little more about the area, just as a man, we had met the day before, was trying to cancel a trip into the town. It suited us both to negotiate a deal for these tickets and we rushed back to pack a few things, as the coach was soon to depart.
Although, we would only have about three hours in Pattaya, it would give us a chance to have a walk around and look for some presents, as our daughter likes a few small gifts when we return. This has become a little tradition in the family.
The town was a complete contrast to the busy capital. We were dropped off outside a state of the art shopping centre, with many well known stores selling clothes etc. at prices you would find at home. Wandering through this we emerged into the older part of the town. Here we ambled around a local market, where you could buy items at a much lower price. It was one of those places, where a little bit of bargaining earned you some worthwhile discounts!
The beach was a pleasant area with the normal sections of sunbeds you could hire. As you sat several vendors would approach selling a variety of goods or cooking food to sell, as well as offering foot massages. Although we saw a few of these, they didn't seem over intrusive. We sat here and had a snack before finding a Costa Coffee for our internet fix, and then it was time for our coach back.
One of the most interesting observations from the day, was our guide's relaxed attitude to the things on offer in the town. He told us about the Ladyboys who frequented the streets at night, as well as the ladies whose job it was to make you 'happy'. Massages were also readily available and the further you got from the centre, the more interesting these would become, with what he described was a 'Happy Ending'. He did mention the image of the town was now changing with upmarket hotels replacing the seedier establishments, attracting a different type of clientele, which he thought was better for the town's development.
We had already had a couple of eccentric guides, on previous trips, and on arriving back on the boat and talking about our trip to other guests, they were surprised or maybe disappointed that their guides had only talked about the temples etc. We certainly can choose them!
In the whole we were very impressed with Thailand and it certainly is an up and coming area where prices are still reasonable and there are a lot of interesting places and beaches to visit.