We decided to make our first day in Austin a cultural one and started by visiting the State Capital. On entering, a tour was just starting so we decided to join it.
The first room we entered, featured the portraits of the past governors and the guide explained that after leaving office, a new portrait would be added and all the others would be moved up on all the floors. This seemed a mammoth task.
Next, we entered the two government rooms to see where the delegates met. These were both very impressive in different ways as were the explanations of how the system works.
As we looked around, there were several paintings and I decided to photograph the one of Davy Crockett and the battle of the Alamo, as we would be visiting that area next. On another note, the large picture of the Alamo and the one on the other side of the door, took the artist 40 years to complete. I'm not sure I would have had that much patience and dedication.
After leaving the Capitol, we decided to visit some of the art galleries shown on our map. Finding our first one, we opened the door and entered. To the surprise of the owners, we had walked into their living room!
Although to be fair, their home was listed as a gallery even though we found out that you could see the work by invitation only.
After apologising, the owner was good enough to let us look at his collection, based on the American West, and these were very impressive. He was very knowledgeable and it was fascinating to hear the history of some of the pieces.
Moving on, we found the People's Gallery based in the City Hall. It was good to see that the Cultural Arts Department sponsored an exhibition showcasing the work of local artists. !!4 artists were selected from over 350 entries and 1.300 pieces of work were on display.
There was a wide range of work showing the diversity of artistic endeavours in the area and the range of superb talent around.
The City Hall was a working building and the artwork was used to enhance the environment, as well as giving publicity to the artists. An idea that other public buildings in our country, with a little foresight. could well do.
On leaving, it was humbling to see the memorial to all the public servants, who lost their lives or were killed in the line of duty. These were represented by carvings done by a retired Police Captain John N. Vasquez.
After several weeks of rain, the forecast for a dry weekend inspired us to set out in search of Autumn colours in the Lake District. To our surprise it must be over fifteen years since our last visit, considering it is so near.
We had intended to go straight to Sizergh but as it was overcast we decided to leave that until the next day and made our way towards Windermere instead. Although cloudy, it was a reasonable day for a walk and a chance to explore the town. The area was busy and the autumn colours around the lake weren't fully out yet but the views were worth the trip.
Walking into town, we looked for somewhere to eat and soon realised that food and drinks were quite expensive due to being a tourist area. Venturing further, we explored the shops and several of the art galleries and craft shops. I always feel it's a shame that many of these are selling high priced prints when there are so many talented artists around that would welcome galleries selling their original work.
Eventually, we did find a gallery that had a range of original art and spent time enjoying the pictures before setting off for our hotel.
Having seen so many prints for sale, it was nice to find that the Gilpin Bridge Inn, where we were staying, showcased the work of Bob Sutcliffe who, after a heart attack, taught himself to paint and now raised over £50.000 for charity by selling his pictures, cards and prints. They were all reasonably priced as well.
Unfortunately because of the lighting in the Inn these were difficult to photograph.
On Sunday we woke early after a disturbed night when the fire alarm went off. If we are not careful we will be banned from staying in hotels etc. soon, as this is the third time that it has happened in the last year; none may I add, were our fault!
With the weather improving, we drove to Sizergh Castle and were lucky enough to enjoy the colourful garden in the sunshine before it clouded over. The Acers were in full bloom and the walk around the garden was impressive. I managed to get several images that I will be able to use for paintings and it is certainly a place we will visit again, hopefully when the castle is open as well.
Rather than rushing home we decided to stop on the way in Morecambe, again a place we hadn't been for several years. Like many seaside resorts it is having to adapt to changes in people's vacation choices. They have several improvements to the seafront and added sculptures to enhance the area. The most famous one is of Eric Morecambe but there are a range of others including several of birds.
Some of the shops are now empty but it was a nice surprise to find a recently opened café; come craft, come art gallery. Here, the lady in the Beach Bird has collected a wide range of craft items and work from local artists for sale. It was a really quirky place to sit and have food and drink. As we sat down another artist came in chatting to the owner and was encouraged to bring some work in to put on show. We had an enjoyable chat with the owner ourseleves and it was pleasing to see this type of establishment opening up and we wished her every success in her endeavour.
An enjoyable couple of days. An area, we decided, we mustn't leave it so long before returning.
Leaving the Modern Art gallery, we made our way to the #Kimbell Art Gallery to see the #Monet exhibition. Although it had only just opened, the queue was already stretching along the outside. In the end it took an hour, stood outside, in 90 degree heat, before we entered the exhibition However, the staff were aware of this and they gave out umbrellas and cold drinks to help us standing in the queue.
Once we had entered, we were able to listen, on our headsets, to information about the exhibition that was based on his garden at Giverny and mostly painted in his later years. Inside, the first rooms were quite crowded, but as people made their way through the exhibition, it became much easier to view the paintings.
The subject matter was fascinating, starting with a selection of his early paintings from Lilies in pools and then the more well known works, such as the bridge; finally finishing with some of his floral paintings.
That so many stunning paintings could be produced, from such a subject matter, yet alone from someone in his 80's with failing eyesight, and who still spent so many hours painting outside, was most impressive. The way he captured the changing colours resonated with me, as did the looseness of his brushstrokes.
It was also interesting to see how his colour palette changed in later works, often being brighter. It is speculated that this may have been after he had his cataracts removed.
An exhibition that was well worth the money and queue and again showed how people have such a fascination with the work of the Impressionists.
We have been very lucky in our travels that both in Vancouver and Singapore, as well as New York and Amsterdam we have come across different exhibitions featuring different aspects of their work.
It was also interesting, that a town such as Fort Worth, beknown for its cattle ranching heritage, had such great art galleries and again showed how American's are prepared to sponsor and support the arts.
Leaving Dallas for Fort Worth, our Sat Nav decided to take us the longer scenic route. Still arriving early morning, we decided to visit the #Stockyards as this was on the way to the hotel. This is a small town still meant to look like the old west. Apart from Sue, sitting on a real Long Horn cattle and having a shock when what she thought was a fake one moved, there wasn't as much there as we expected. Although it was interesting to explore and we did see a wild west show and a small cattle drive.
The next day, we decided to drive to the nearby cultural area to see the Monet exhibition, as this wasn't open until later, we went into the Modern Art Gallery.
Here several of the well known artists were represented, such as Picasso, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein as well as several lesser known artists.
Passing what looked like someone had been to the toilet in the corner, we explored the other room. Sometimes, you wonder why some works are placed next to each other with a traditional photographic landscape next to a hoop of wood. Like a lot of modern art, I am sometimes impressed and at other times I despair.
The biggest surprise was on the top floor, where there was a retrospective of David Park's work, an artist I had never heared of.
David Park (March 17, 1911 – September 20, 1960) was an American painter and a pioneer of the Bay Area Figurative Movement in painting during the 1950s.
It is always interesting to see how an artist's work progresses, as they mature. In this case, David worked through several styles from early figurative work to cubist paintings before settling on a freer style of figurative painting.
He became known for his paintings of bathers and rowers before his later canvases of everyday topics. Eventually, with failing health he did a series of works on paper.
From a personal point of view, I liked the life studies done by him and his friends, as I could relate to the way they used these sessions to experiment with differ materials and ways to capture the human figure.
,An excellent and unexpected surprise that made our morning in the gallery. It also gave me chance to do a figure study capturing this lady as she stood admiring a painting.
After visiting the art gallery, we walked to the sculpture centre. As we entered, a member of staff approached us and apologised that one of the rooms was being prepared for a new exhibition but he could take us through to another room.
Here the work was being installed from the museum's own collection on the theme of portraits and chosen by the artist who was having the next exhibition in the gallery.
It was interesting to see the choices made by the artist and to recognise some pieces by well known artists.
Moving outside into the garden, the sculptures were stunning. In this natural setting, which was not over populated enabled the individual pieces to stand out. It was also interesting to see pieces from well known British artists such as, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.
A fascinating day so far and on the way back to our apartment, we decided to look for a large eyeball sculpture that we had read about. Believe or not, we nearly missed this, as it was behind a high hedge. Although it was on private land, we were able to view it from a distance away over an iron railing.
So a nice end to this cultural day. As we walked back to our apartment, Sue's eyes lit up with excitement as she realised, that once we were back, she could carry on one of her holiday traditions of washing our clothes!
Arriving in Dallas, after collecting the car, we arrived at the apartment we had booked. This proved to be a converted warehouse type building with very modern self contained apartments.
After settling in, we decided to get something to eat and to our surprise it was even hotter here than Houston! Again, there several homeless people wandering about. Because of the heat, we were soon back in our apartment to watch television and have an early night.
For our first day, we decided to go to the art district and soon found the Dallas Art Gallery. This proved to be a large gallery in an impressive setting. Sitting for a drink, it was interesting observing the clientele sat having lunch or simply chatting; this was my first character study.
The first area we entered contained contemporary art and for the first time, I can remember, we were approached by the security guard, who was gushing with information about the work on show. The rooms were set out a bit like a maze and, as with all work, some pieces appealed more than others. It is always interesting to see the work of the more well known artists such as Picasso and one of my favourites Edward Hopper.
Moving on, it was interesting to see a large room where families could create their own artwork. An artist here had asked people to draw a self portrait and then he would do his own painting from these images. The gallery had expected a couple of hundred portraits but a couple of thousand at least had been done. I don't think he will ever get round to doing ours though!
For some reason we had missed one of the main rooms, which contained the personal collection of Wendy and Emery Reves. This contained many of our favourite artists including several from the impressionists and this proved to be the highlight of the visit.
It was also interesting to see a set of Mondrian's paintings showing his development from tree studies to his famous abstractions.
What was impressive was the amount of sponsors who helped to finance the gallery and the work on show. It's a shame that the UK millionaires aren't as interested anymore in this type of activity and would rather buy a football club rather that enrich our heritage by supporting the arts.
Waking after a restful night, we looked out of the window and things seemed to be getting back to normal. Today, we decided to have a rest around the pool before heading out into the city and it was nice to have the full area to ourselves.
After looking around downtown the day before, we decided to head to a Graffiti park which proved to be situated in a slightly run down area but we enjoyed wandering around photographing the artwork.
When walking around town, we had noticed a range of sculptures and artwork and the city seemed to be making an effort to add to these; particularly on Maine street.
It did seem strange that a major city like this did not seem to have a City Art Gallery and not many private ones. Houston, we realised was more of a commercial city, where work was the main focus and only in the parks did we see any family life.
We did eventually find the underground walkways, where you could move around out of the heat, but unlike many other cities, there wasn't much for tourists to do; with the main attraction, the Space Centre being well out of town.
Although a surprise, we still had several places to visit and it had given us a chance to aclimatise.