Saturday was a blue sky day and heralded the last weekend of summer. We’re into rain and colder weather this week so the pool cover will be going on and the ugg boots coming out. Yes – I do have that most ugly of Australian footwear but they are just so toasty warm I gave in and gratefully accepted some Mother’s Day ugg slippers a few years ago.My feet have never stopped thanking me. Anyway , I digress as I often do.What I started out writing about was the blue sky day and here I am blathering on about toasty feet, winter rain and ugg boots!
So, back to the blue sky day. As previously mentioned the sky was a startling blue, not a cloud in sight, just a vast canvas of cerulean blue. It was too beautiful and inviting to resist so the Writer made curried egg sandwiches ( his current obsession) I grabbed the snorkles and we both picked up our cameras as we headed out the door. The plan was a day trip down the Tasman Peninsula with a spot of swimming if the water was still warm enough.Down south the water temp starts dropping pretty quickly at the end of summer so I wasn’t about to commit until I’d dipped my toes in the water.
Toe dipping went fine and we swam at Safety Cove amongst schools of salmon and dancing gardens of seaweed with the sun casting golden ribbons of light over the sandy seabed. It was joyous! Later we dipped in again at the Tesselated Pavements. In between we drove around the Peninsula stopping so often for photos of the coast that it may have been quicker to walk! A splendiferous end to summer.
I meant to post more often once I retired but I’ve been busy…. so here’s a collection featuring my “busy” for the last little while.
Mini pastel painting book
I’ve been trying to figure out how to make a mini book filled with pastel paintings. The big problem is the smudge factor as the pastel is so delicate. I finally hit on the idea of placing a sheet of framing acrylic straight on the painting, securing with tape then glueing the painting to the inside covers of the book.
Next I added a mat to hide the edges and joined the covers with a painted canvas hinge. I think it could be a goer- I’ll sit it on the shelf and see what I think in a few days time.
Now that took a lot of thinking and fiddling round and a fair chunk of my “busy”….
A few You Tube demos
I wanted to get a couple of YouTube demos done and put away for a rainy day. It’s good to have one sitting ready to upload if I have a dry idea week. So I did a couple of small paintings, edited the videos and now I have a spare. That took a medium size chunk of “busy”….
A trip up the coast
Hey this was work folks! I needed a few more photos of the East Coast of Tasmania. Seriously, I’ve only got a few thousand and that’s just not enough . We left early in the morning and I got some shiny sea shots on the way up which I was pretty happy with.
Then some sunny ones at Honeymoon Bay ( a fantastic little beach in the Freycinet National Park). In between the photography I squeezed in a spot of snorkling so as not to waste the sun, warm water and prolific marine life.
Then back home again with a few stops…
and that was a very full day of “busy”.
I unleashed the sewing machine
A trip to the home furnishing shop a few weeks ago saw me grab few bolt end fabrics and they ended up in this trio of bags.
And I made another mini watercolour painting book.
Just wanted to play with my new Schminke watercolour set which is lush!
In between the busy I’ve swum and snorkled, baked and eaten, walked and talked, written and read so forgive me for my blogging slackness please.
On Monday I headed down to Cygnet to drop off some paintings at an exhibition. It was a glorious sunny morning and The Writer was headed in the opposite direction to Port Arthur to take the Tasman Island cruise. I would have joined him but for the need to drop off the paintings and the fact that I’m such a bad sailor there was no way I was ever going to get on that boat! The waters down there can be pretty rough and the boat is a very bouncy ride – all adding up to a green and nausious experience for me which I preferred to avoid.
So, back to the Cygnet trip which was by road and much less bilious all round!
I packed the car with my painting kit, trusty Red Velvet (my camera) the paintings to be delivered and some lunch. This took a bit of time. Painting kit makes it sound like a small box you might fit your first aid items in-try imagining a 1940’s film star heading off on the Orient Express for a 6 week grand tour of Europe and you might get a glimpse of the magnitude of the packing job. I had acrylic paints, brushes, canvases, my field box of pastels, rags, charcoal, pencils, alcohol ( not the drinking kind- I’m driving!) paper, sketchbook, easel and a kitchen sink just in case I might need to wash up after the painting! Then I decided it wasn’t quite enough so I threw in the tripod in case I wanted to YouTube the painting.
Red Velvet got quite a work out on the way down. As soon as I hit the Huon River I was stopping every few minutes- the reflections were fantastic and the blackberries lining the road were ripe and luscious- so between the snapping there was a fair bit of berry browsing!
I often have trouble committing to a painting spot when I head off plein aire. I want the perfect subject , the perfect place for the easel, not too much traffic to disturb me and a bit of shade nearby. So I kept on driving and was very tempted by the reflections here…
but all the time I was thinking of Drip Beach so I kept heading south past more perfect reflections…
…and then I arrived. I love this small beach because it has such interesting shadows from the gum trees behind the beach. I’ve painted these shadows before and I thought I might try a different format this time…
I parked the car in the shade, hauled out the easel and set up. It was a lovely spot and I enjoyed being out in nature painting for a change. There were a few locals out walking their dogs and we exchanged greetings as they trooped on by. They stopped to check my progress on the way back and wanted to know if I was famous- not really- but they wanted my name anyway!
A couple of happy hours passed and here’s the result…
I’ve promised myself I’ll get out and about more this year and this was a good start!
I’ve been wanting a day trip to Bruny Island all January but The Writer was hanging out for the perfect day. He was after all those blue sky and sparkling sea shots. I was all for just going and working with the weather! So last Saturday I got up early , packed lunch and said “Let’s go”- and off we went.
I have to say I was quite happy with a few clouds- I’ve got lots of sunny shots from previous trips . My first solo art exhibition was inspired by a day trip to Bruny on an astonishingly beautiful summers day and I was looking for a different, more moody side of the island. The early morning light was subdued and the water took on a silver sparkle.
I love this into the sun shot at the Neck and have already painted a small pastel using it as reference.
I added a little more colour and used a square format. I’m a bit of a fan of the square for small paintings.
The clouds came and went creating some interesting skies and reflections.
…and the water kept on sparkling.
The tidal flats had just enough shallow water to make for great reflections of the amazing clouds…
And finally the sun took over the day and we had a swim and a snorkle in the fairly chilly water at Coal Pt with it’s weathered rocks that have been wind blasted creating a myriad circular pockets in the rock.
Then off to Adventure Bay for a few shots in the bright sunlight to satisfy The Writer.
The lovely tracery of shadows on the sand inspired another painting…
All in all, another stunning day on this small island off an island.
I was driving along in the glorious, summer sunshine when a glimpse of light bouncing off something caused me to suddenly swerve onto the verge of the road and come to a spine jolting halt. The Writer craned his whip lashed neck in all directions looking for whatever it was that had caused this aberration in my usually impeccable ability to get us from A to B without running off the road.I waved my hand in the general direction of a pile of boulders excitedly yelling “horns- I’m sure I saw horns”.
We were heading up the Valsavarenche, one of three valleys that make up the Gran Paradiso National Park in Northern Italy, and we were steinbock hunting!
Grabbing the cameras we stealthily sidled out of the car – I’m no sure why ,since any animal in the vicinity had surely heard the gravel flying as I skidded to a stop. Anyway , sidle we did, pointing and whispering as we tried to catch a glimpse of anything moving on the rocks above us. It wasn’t long before The Writer began to mutter in a rather scathing manner something along the lines of ” wishful thinking…”
Can you see the horn?
Just a glimpse of the steinbock.
Just as the muttering started to gain momentum I shouted “over there!” and pointed ( in what I hoped was a “I told you so” sort of way) at a lone steinbock leaping over the rocks just metres away. His long, curled horns quickly vanished from sight as we started clicking away. I back tracked down the road following the line of the rocks and as I rounded the corner so did the steinbock. He politely posed , nibbling first on a patch of grass , then on the low branches of a pine tree, twisting and turning his handsome head as if to show off his sweeping, serrated horns.
The Writer was still hanging round the car hoping for a return of the steinbock so I headed back and nudged him in the general direction of the photo worthy horns. We spent a happy 20 minutes tracking and shooting stills and video and came across a couple of other young bucks frolicking over the rocks and alpine meadows.
Feeling very blessed to have had such luck we happily mooched on back to the car and decided we still had time for a quick walk in this beautiful valley.
There were a few cars in the carpark and as we hoofed it up the track we met a couple heading back with cameras and tripods slung across their shoulders. The Writer, deciding they were kindred spirits, regaled them with tales of our successful steinbocks potting advising them to head on back down the road where, if they were lucky, they might find a one with enormous horns posing on the rocks. They thanked us politely but not with what you would call effusiveness. I did think I caught “30 something” in amongst their rapid fire Italian and assumed they where asking how far to the big horns. “No,no – it’s only 5 minutes from the carpark ” I assured them.
We felt a little silly a few minutes later as we rounded the corner to find a herd of 30 something big horned steinbock grazing in the meadows!! They obligingly munched away as we clicked away. They waited while The Writer set up his tripod, they arranged themselves in picturesque groupings, draped themselves on the nearby rocks and generally behaved as any well educated model might. They knew the moves, they could hold the pose and they were politely disinterested in the photographers.
On the way home, we passed the rocky slope where we’d seen our first steinbock earlier in the day. In unison we turned to each other and said “ours was better!”
Looking back at our photos from the comfort of our living room several weeks later we’re still in agreement. It was a thrill to catch a glimpse of horns , see them disappear and then track silently until we came across a proud and majestic wild animal , alone on the rocks. The herd seemed altogether a more domesticated group!
There’s something special about the light in Tuscany. The last few days has been a parade of misty mornings, sunny days and stormy afternnons resulting in some stunning landscapes. Here’s just a few.
When I haven’t been absorbed in the larger landscape I’ve been seduced by the details. The polished doorhandles, small window decorations, intricate patterns on the church facades. Everywhere is detail and it brings another level of richness to travelling in Italy.
Sometimes the two coincide in a happy moment of serendipity as happened this morning while I was visiting a small and beautiful 12th century cloister in a tiny village. The sun came out casting wonderful shadows through the black and white arches and lighting the fiery red geraniums in their terracotta pots.
Amidst all the pleasures of travel light and detail are top of my list.
I really loathe the expression “point and click”. The word I really object to is point. It’s such a sneery term implying that as the owner of a digital camera with a very good auto function I will simply point my camera at any scene and click away with no more thought than if I were flicking a light switch.
The Writer often extolls the virtues of his digital SLR- talking all that photographer speak of f stops and iso . I remind him that I’m not a photographer, I’m an artist. Red Velvet, my lovely red camera, is simply another artistic tool in my studio and whenever I use her I am most concerned with composition . I NEVER “point” and click.
Sunset Hokitika New Zealand
I could go all technical if I had the inclination , after all I run an MRI unit where I’m constantly concerned about signal to noise, contrast to noise, resolution and image quality. I know how to manipulate factors to improve image quality and provide high quality diagnostic images of the human body. Of course I could learn to manipulate my camera’s many manual features if I wanted to- but the truth is I don’t really want to. There’s been a lot of R&D gone into fine tuning her auto functions and I can tell you they work just fine without ant intervention from me. I’m never going to be one of those people who carry round a notebook and jot down the ISO for this shot and now what does it look like with a different ISO? Just don’t care! Surprisingly I’ve done some of my best work from less than perfectly focussed or lit photo references!
What I do care about is using my artistic sensibility to frame in an inspiring way. To see an imperfect scene and crop before I shoot. Of course I’ll keep cropping afterwards because cropping is my friend. …but why would I want to just point when I can frame?
Tuscan evening sky
Taking photos for me is another form of sketching. I’m making little thumbnails of a scene, I take one in portrait, one in landscape, then I move the horizon low …what about if I make it all about the sky and move that horizon really low? I’m already working on the painting that might not materialise on canvas or paper for several years. I’m storing up visual memories that will lay dormant until some time in the future when I search through my archives for inspiration and bang! there are all my thumbnails , the composition options already thought out and one will leap out at me and I’ll be excited because all those memories of being there, on the spot, will come flooding back. If I had just pointed I wouldn’t have the scene so firmly etched in my memory.
Tuscan clouds and wheat fields
That doesn’t mean to say I don’t use a sketch book as well- but sometimes a camera is more convenient. When I’m travelling with The Writer we often hike through amazing scenery and he hikes a lot faster than me! If I were to stop and sketch every sketch worthy scene I would never make the ridge , the top of the mountain or the end of the track. So I take along Red Velvet and frame and click away with just the occasional sketch when we stop for a break. Later that night I’ll make some more sketches after dinner to fix the subject even more firmly in my memory banks.
Monumental rock peaks in the Italian Dolomites
So that’s why I hate that phrase. I don’t judge you if you like to mess about with your ISO and F stops so don’t judge me just because I love the auto functions on my digital camera!
I like these two ,out at sea in their sturdy little fishing boat. There’s something about the companionship of boating with a friend that is really appealing. The boat glides effortlessly through the calm waters, a salty breeze ruffles your hair as you throw in a fishing line and chat away for a few hours while the fish totally ignore you. And you don’t care that they ignore you. Sharing a day on the water with a friend is double the pleasure.
This bridge in a quieter area of Venice is achingly beautiful in it’s simplicity . The mellow red brickwork edged sharply in white stone , the geometrical angles contrasting boldly with the curving steps and Arabesque windows of the ancient palace facade and the stark shadow of the handrail delineating each step all add up to a visual feast.
There is mystery in the dark shadows under the arch, passion in the splash of red paint that echos the exuberance of the flowers, happenstance in the greenery clinging to the brickwork and balance in each curve and edge. This is the Venice I love.
I was playing around with shots through my kitchen window and was fascinated with how real the reflected plant looks – much more solid and real than the kitchen.
It made me think about how we often see some glaring fault in another, overlooking the real person, as we concentrate on their perceived shortcomings. As we pay more attention we might find that the fault is merely a reflection of our own lack of understanding, empathy and humanity.
I wrote about this photo – baring my soul – and then I went off and experimented with a theme change and bammo! all my words are gone. (So this is just summary of my previous poetic ramblings)