After a day at sea, we arrived at Brisbane and again had a coach journey into the centre of town. We decided to stay in the town and explore by ourselves.
The first stop off, was a well known coffee shop to get some internet to keep in touch with home. This was something that many people had to do because of the very expensive packages offered on the boat.
Unfortunately. as we arrived the rain started. After a few weeks of hot weather the locals welcomed the downpour! However, as we had just left a wet and cold Britain, this was not appreciated by us! This led to us looking for places to visit that were inside, and after looking at the map, we decided to go straight to the art gallery district. Here the two main galleries were situated very close to each other.
On entering the Queensland Art Gallery, we were immediately confronted with the large bright sculpture below, which reminded us of work by 'Romano Britto', with it's playful use of colour.
The first exhibitions featured work from native Australians and we were immediately captivated by the work. We were used to the colourful art using marks but the range of paintings and sculptures here was excellent. This high standard continued throughout the gallery.
After lunch we went to the Gallery of Modern Art. Again the range of work was one of the best we have ever seen. As they say, there was something for everyone. Well known artists like Picasso and Bridget Riley were interspersed with Australian art and other contemporary work from all over the world.
The range of styles was excellent and we spent a few hours there. After an enjoyable afternoon we made our way back to the ship. the rain had not spoilt our day and because of it we had found the galleries fairly quickly. Unfortunately other guests had gone on trips and going around a zoo in heavy rain was not as pleasant.
After a busy few days we have another sea day to rest the next day.
We decided to go down to the port early and were rewarded with one of the fastest boarding times of all the cruises we have been on. Like with all cruises, we then had to wait for our bags so decided to partake of our first meal of many. There, as always, was a wide choice to choose from and we were able to sit and enjoy the food. After a break we spent time exploring the ship until our luggage arrived and we unpacked. After the evening meal and a drink in the bar we settled for the night.
One of the things we like about cruises is when you wake up the next morning and you are in a fresh port. The first stop was Newcastle, not a place we knew much about.
Located 162 kilometres (101 mi) north-northeast of Sydney, at the mouth of the Hunter River, it is the predominant city within the Hunter Region. Famous for its coal, Newcastle is the largest coal exporting harbour in the world, exporting just over 161 million tonnes of coal in 2016. Beyond the city, the Hunter Region possesses large coal deposits.
When you read the write up about the town it doesn't seem an ideal place to stop and where the boat was docked, in the industrial area, didn't inspire us at all.
But how wrong can you be. The town laid on coaches, at no cost, to take us into town. On the coaches were volunteers enthusiastically, telling us about the town and the area. There were more of them in town to meet us and answer any questions. I have never come across such friendly and helpful people when arriving on a trip. They may have had a slightly ulterior motive as the town is trying to encourage tourism and is busy developing the seafront for holiday makers, but I don't think you would get the same response getting so many volunteers, in other countries .
We decided to walk along the seafront and eventually reached the first bay Nobby's Beach. Although quite wind, this was an impressive sight As we sat having an ice cream overlooking one of the beaches, Sue writing and me collecting images for sketches; it was quite surreal as a distant tanker seemed to drift in through the mist. It looked like the Mary Celeste as it disappeared behind the headland.
After a rest, we wandered further along the coast finally reaching the swimming area. This was a large area cut off from the sea. As we passed, a group of teenagers were entering the water; they must be braver than me because although sunny and hot, in the wind by the water's edge, it was quite cold.
We then headed into the town, not a large area but we found some nice old buildings. Whilst there we wandered into a small gallery and were impressed with the quality of work. The first artist represented the effects of global warming and environmental issues using fabrics and ceramics. This was quite thought provoking, especially after our trip to Alaska, where the ice flows are receding.
In the next rooms was an international exhibition showcasing dynamic and challenging art that intersected with digital media, science and technology. These were quite interesting as they used film, mixed with sculpture and mechanical devices.
In the first picture below, the mechanism continually reacts with the light to create a continually changing piece of art. In the second picture, a person swims under the changing light with a wire sculpture above.
There were several other works on a similar theme.
Exhibitions like this will certainly involve the visitor more and show how art can move with the times. A topic I will come back to, in more detail, in future posts.
After an enjoyable day it was back to the ship. Newcastle proved to be a surprise and when they finish developing the seafront, will certainly attract more cruise ships to stop there.
On another note it is always interesting to collect reference pictures for future paintings; sometimes as sketches, sometimes as photographs. This bar, we stopped at, had a fascinating area behind the bar and the scene reminded us of the famous Manet painting of a bar scene. Although, not the same, it had that type of feel to it; an image trapped in time.
I was recently invited By Stef Lorenz to do a couple of workshops with an art group that meets at Pendleton College on a Thursday evening from 6-7.30pm. I offered two workshops on oil painting with a palette knife and proposed the members painted along with me.
I arrived early and set up with help from Stef and my wife, Sue. She had helped carry the equipment in and then brought a couple of extra pictures to illustrate my paintings.
I then had to wait patiently to see if anyone came, particularly after the bad weather we had been having. It is only a small group, which hasn't been going long, but eventually three members turned up with apologies from a couple of others.
I started by showing them my work and then getting them to do a simple drawing based on the photograph I had given them. Next, I slowly started adding paint to my canvas using a palette knife, starting with the light colours. As the evening progressed I would do a small section and then go around helping them mix colours and build up their painting. I was worried that I can get a bit carried away working on my own piece but by the end of the session all of them had a recognisable landscape painting, all completed in their own individual style.
The scene was from an Autumn view looking towards Monton Cricket club. I decided on a colourful picture as I thought they may be fed up with the cold, bleak winter they were experiencing!
The three paintings are shown underneath and for a first attempt a oil painting or using a palette knife are excellent.
Second session a week later
I felt, looking back, that I may have thrown the members in at the deep end, as they say, but was pleased with the end results. Also not knowing their ability I was at a disadvantage when planning the session
After setting up again I waited for members to arrive. Had I scared off the ones last week and with the weather improving would more be able to attend?
This time six members arrived, including the two men from the week before, and one lady from last week apologised because she had just had an operation.
This time I picked a water scene to paint, a picture from a visit to Heaton park. I started by showing how the palette knife could be used to apply paint in different ways, by dabbing with the end, using the edge or by dragging colour along. This would later be used to show the smooth water and the ripples in it.
I used the same demonstration method, painting a small section and then allowing them to have a go on their canvas, helping where necessary. This progressed well and again all the members completed their work and again I was impressed with the outcomes. Some had never attempted anything like this but with more confidence and practice would become quite proficient.
Again considering we were all doing the same picture it is interesting to see the individual styles developing. One member already had experience using oil paint and took to the style immediately. I will have to watch my back!
The members pictures are shown below
A really enjoyable experience with a lovely group of people. I hope they continue to enjoy their painting.
My two demonstration pictures are shown below
For our last day in Sydney, we decided to do a little shopping and then walk to Hyde park, another area we had not explored. As we sat in an outside café eating lunch, it was fascinating to watch a couple of chess players having a game on a large chessboard. There were a few people watching in anticipation and the whole event seemed a serious affair. It seemed a good way for people to meet and enjoy the day.
Hyde Park is Australia’s oldest park. It’s also one of the most well-known. With just over 16 hectares of wide open space in the heart of central Sydney. Several monuments stand guard in Hyde Park north, the most notable of which is the Archibald Fountain, a gift from JF Archibald, a big water feature dripping in ancient mythology. A bronze Apollo is surrounded by horses’ heads, dolphins and tortoises. There is also in Hyde Park south the Anzac Memorial .
As our stay in Sydney drew to a close it was a good time to reflect on our experiences. Last time we came the itinerary was highly planned and we had seen the highlights. This time by ourselves we had been able to immerse ourselves more in the local sights and events. Although we may not return, because of the distance, I think there is still more to see and we certainly enjoyed our stay.
Last time we visited Sydney we got the ferry to Manly beach and we stayed at Bondi beach. This time we decided to check out Watson Bay. One of our relations mentioned a well known Fish and Chip restaurant there as well.
Positioned as it is on the southern head of Sydney Harbour's entrance, Watson's Bay is literally the first place Captain Cook would have dropped anchor as he sailed into the harbour. As Sydney's oldest fishing village (since 1877), this picturesque suburb is drenched in history, and one of its notable must-sees is the South Head Heritage Trail, a scenic bushwalk dotted with historical remnants such as a disused cannon and rifle wall.
Slow down and take it all in when visiting this eastern suburb – it's one of Sydney's top spots for picnics, long lunches, park sprawling, sunbathing (Lady Jane Beach is a legal nudist spot, if you're so inclined) and trail walking. Make sure you leave some time to partake in some fish and chips by the water, an essential Watson's Bay pastime whether it's fancy and on a plate at Doyle's, or wrapped in paper and dripping vinegar on the sand at Camp Cove Beach.
On arrival, the first thing we came across was the restaurant and being lunchtime and a hot day we decided on take away and sat in the nearby park to enjoy our fish and chips. Apart from watching out for seagulls trying to get food, it was nice to see all the families enjoying the day.
After an enjoyable meal (comparable to Harry Ramsden's in the UK) although the fish was barramundi, which was caught locally, we set off to explore further. The first thing we came across was the more upmarket restaurant belonging to Doyle's, but were quite surprised that there weren't many other outlets around.
Venturing further, we decided to walk to the Hornby Lighthouse, situated at the South Head Lookout, as this seemed an interesting experience. The path followed the clifftop and along the way were the old fortifications from the Second World War. There were also stunning views down the cliffs looking towards Sydney.
On the way we passed Lady Jane beach but weren't tempted to go down the path for a swim. Like most passers by on the clifftop walk, we did look down to the beach. Here most sunbathers were on the rocks in the distance apart from two men who seemed to spend their time posing. They were still hanging around when we passed on our return an hour later!
The Lighthouse was indeed impressive and the Candy stripe paintwork certainly made it stand out. I sat down to sketch the scene but soon had to give up as I was perched near the cliff edge and it was very windy. This meant that my equipment kept blowing away so I had to finish the sketch when I got back to the hotel
After a pleasant walk and enjoying the scenery we returned into the town for refreshments, in a small café, before walking to another small beach. Here we sat for a while and Sue wrote whilst I did a couple of studies of the sunbathers.
After an enjoyable day we got the ferry back to Sydney. This had been another aspect of Sydney lifestyle we had experienced and it was interesting to see where the city people came for a day out.
One of the things we like to do when visiting a new city is to have a quieter day and visit the Botanical Gardens. On this occasion we had the added incentive that there was a Tomato Festival taking place. Now, this is not something we seek out but the poster peaked our curiosity and we decided to check it out. It is always interesting when visiting another country to go to a local event and they don't come much more unusual than this one.
At first it wasn't very well signposted from our entrance to the park and we finally bumped into someone going to it and they gave us directions. It wasn't as extensive as we first thought but there were several stalls and activities going on
As we explored further it was fascinating to see how many types of tomatoes there were and to see the different things for sale on the stalls. Locals really became involved in the activities and families sat for picnics enjoying the day.
We didn't enter the "Guess the number of Tomatoes" completion, (top right photograph) as I don't think we had time to try and count them all!
There was a tomato tasting stall but the queue was too long for us to try that. Towards the harbour there was a very long table set up for a record breaking tomato lunch; all the tickets were sold for this but as we passed we were glad we didn't participate as the appetizers to go with the tomatoes consisted mainly of cheese, which we don't eat! Instead, we settled for a freshly stone baked made pizza; although they were a little confused when we asked for them without cheese!
Certainly an interesting experience and one of the odd activities that you remember from holidays as other memories fade with time.
After a day around town we were looking forward to a relaxing walk around the Gardens, which were a short walk from the hotel. Last time we visited Sydney we had stopped there but only for the view across the bay and to sit in Mrs Macquarie's Chair.
This time we could wander at our leisure and admire the scenery. Along the walkways were several sculptures, which reflected the overall feel of the Garden. The first one was of a giant Bee and the next one, which I chose to sketch, was like a giant egg made from branches. This particularly intrigued me as I found a stunning rock formation to shelter under from the fierce morning sun. In the front of the view nature was reflected in the artwork and in the distance the two great landmarks of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House stood in all their splendour.
After, a pleasant walk around the Gardens, we visited a small gallery in the garden, with changing exhibitions, for artists whose work reflected the theme of the area.
Next, we crossed the road to visit The Art Gallery of New South Wales; another large exhibition space with impressive classical architecture. Here again, was a wide selection of Modern art and Australian paintings; such famous artists, as Picasso, Monet and Cezanne and several other Impressionist painters. I also enjoyed the range of Aboriginal art on show and was impressed by the way the paintings told a story by the use of different shapes, symbols and images.
What was also of interest, as I have noted before, is the public viewing choices. As well as the permanent collections, which were filled with onlookers, there were two other exhibitions, which required visitors to pay an entrance fee; The Lady and the Unicorn and Robert Mapplethorpe, had large queues, yet the modern art gallery, which displayed more challenging conceptual art, was nearly empty.
An interesting visit to two art venues in and around the Botanical Gardens and an excellent contrast to the busy city. We also enjoyed a fun lunch; but more about this in my next blog!
Like many people I have watched the full series of this programme. My wife and I enjoy trying to pick the three artists chosen from each heat and then we try to select the one winner who will go through to the semifinal.
We are reasonably good and often get all of them right. Sometimes we disagree with the judges but they are paid professionals and have opinions of their own. As with all programmes of this type there is an end decision to be made and they have to look at what they are trying to achieve. They have to choose the artist, who will be able to win the prize and do the commission-sitter justice.
This year the three finalists included one professional artist and two amateurs.
As the series progressed, to me there seemed a slight shift in emphasis on what was wanted. The professional artist, the man far left of the photograph, could produce a superb painting capturing the sitter on every occasion. The only thing against him was that it was a fairly traditional style. The young girl, on the right of the photograph, again caught superb likenesses of the sitters and although her use of technology for reference purposes, may have gone against her in the beginning; she did start to also observe the person in front of her as well. The last artist, in the middle, tried to capture the essence of the sitter and in my eyes did not always capture a likeness.
Before the final, the artists were asked to do a commission and these were seen along with the final portrait at the end of the competition. The judges would use the two paintings to help them to decide which artist was to be the winner.
As soon as the programme started, you could tell as it progressed, who was going to win by the subtle references made by the judges as to what was wanted from the artists. Although this is my opinion, I have spoken to other artists, at my art club, and they had noticed this as well.
I had thought that the likeness was the most important thing in a portrait, but now they were looking for the most inventive artist. Which is fine as long as the artists who take part in the competition know this from the beginning.
At the end of the programme, when it came to the judging, to me the most impressive portrait was by the young girl, as well as capturing a good likeness there was a lot of originality in the use of colour in the background. Unfortunately, her commissioned piece seemed to lack the looseness of this one. The professional artist again produced two superb likenesses. The eventual winner had been given Zandra Rhodes to paint, as her commission and I believe produced one of the best paintings of the whole competition! However, in my opinion, her subject, Zandra Rhodes, certainly suited her style and it would have been interesting to see how she would have coped with the other two artist's commissions.
This portrait of Zandra Rhodes clinched the competition and the winner went away to paint Kim Cattrall as her £10,000 prize. She is obviously a very talented artist and produced the most original work. I think that she has the potential to develop her painting style and this is what the judges recognised. The young girl, if she continues to develop, should also be very successful and the professional artist has already reached a high standard and will continue to flourish.
What bothers me is the title of the competition, "Portrait Artist of the Year". I thought when it started the painting had to capture a likeness. When I go into a gallery I expect to recognise who the portrait is of. Each year it must be harder to pick a winner because there are so many talented artists out there. We have several who come to the club, but to find an artist who has an original way of capturing a likeness must be getting more difficult.
Maybe they need to change the title Sky Arts "Figurative Painter of the Year" or something similar.
The winner Samira Addo with her stunning painting of Zandra Rhodes
On our stroll around Sydney we were impressed with the number of shops supporting the Chinese New Year celebrations. Everywhere there were dog statues or decorations.
In Manchester, England the celebrations seem more linked to the Chinatown area whereas here everywhere was celebrating the event.
Around Circular Quay there were excellent large sculptures and inflatable animals for all the symbols of the different years.
These were impressive in the day and really livened up the scenery.
In the hotel was an excellent leaflet explaining where celebrations were taking place so we picked a couple for the evening and eagerly set off in anticipation.
The first event we went for was a traditional Dragon dance in Chinatown. After wandering the area for a while we found the police security officers and they pointed us in the right direction. After a nice meal in the food court, we went to a crossroads to wait for the procession; children sat patiently on the kerbside.
After about fifteen minutes with nothing happening the policeman wandered down and informed us that we were in the wrong place. The crowd then proceeded down the road to the correct place but by then we were all at the back and anyone under six foot only managed to capture a glimpse of the event. I had to hold my camera high and watch it afterwards.
After the disappointment of this we were looking forward to the fireworks over Sydney Harbour, especially after seeing the January 1st fireworks on television.
On the way down to the Quay the inflatable animals were lit up and were even more spectacular.
By now the crowds were gathering and there must have been several thousand anticipating the show. We fought our way to a decent position and waited, and waited, and waited. Eight pm the allotted time came and went, People checked their brochures and phones; maybe it wasn't dark enough. This went on for over an hour and the children were getting restless.
There were no officials around so we decided to give it a little longer, rumours stared to spread, but there was no real information anywhere about what had happened, and eventually the crowd started to disperse. We gave it a little longer but eventually gave up ourselves and went for a drink!
It seemed such a shame that something so well advertised did not take place and there was no one to explain why.
Never mind we had an exciting event planned for the next day!
After returning from a holiday, in which we travelled from Sydney to Singapore, I am posting some of my observations, which I hope will be of interest.
As part of these diaries I decided to do a series of sketches as illustrations of my experiences. I started these a couple of years ago and find them an enjoyable way of remembering my journeys and I find they enhance my enjoyment of the places I visited.
After a thirty hour journey, somehow losing Wednesday in the process; we finally arrived in the Australian city of Sydney. Our hotel room wasn't available, which gave us the opportunity to explore the city for a few hours and catch up on the changes that had been made since we last visited, three years ago. The improvements and developments to the harbour area was impressive and eventually Circular Quay. where the cruise ships dock will be linked to the Darling Harbour; a keen tourist destination.
Although I did feel sorry for the person who parked his car here!
The next day, after a good nights sleep, one of the places we visited was the Modern Art Gallery. Last time we visited we were on an organised tour and didn't have much time to explore the city.
This was a superb building with a wide range of exhibits.
The MCA Collection contains over 4000 works by Australian artists that have been acquired since 1989. The Museum collects across all art forms with strong holdings in painting, photography, sculpture, works on paper and moving image, as well as significant representation of works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.
It was interesting to see modern art as well as paintings by a wide range of Aboriginal artists. Not everything was to our taste but in a gallery, as impressive as this, there is always many pieces of art to admire. There were also excellent views from the café at the top of the building, although, the queue was too long for us to get a drink and then sit and admire it!
Also walking around the city, there were several small galleries to visit and large sculptures to admire. Sydney certainly has an impressive arts culture and we were looking forward to seeing more of it over the next few days.