Sunday, March 31, 2013

A vignette

Someone asked me why there are no photos of me on my blog/facebook/website. Well, here is one, a vignette taken last winter when I got my phone and was experimenting with  the buttons.
A vignette from last winter

Wikipedia tells me that vignette is a word that originally meant 'something that may be written on a vine-leaf" and that vignetting in photography is any process by which there is loss in clarity towards the corners and sides of an image. I looked it up because I wondered why my phone calls this sort of image a vignette when other software calls them instagram photos. I suppose instagram is type  vignette.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

St Andrews in Sydney

I used to work almost opposite St Andrews Cathedral in Sydney but until last night I had never been inside the building. The Cathedral is right next door to the Sydney Town Hall - another seldom frequented building. I think I have been in the Town Hall once.

Last night I heard the Messiah at St Andrews and it was definitely worth the effort of getting there.
Side door of St Andrews Cathedral in Sydney
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujahhhh

Friday, March 29, 2013

Eating money

I liked the T-shirt worn by Tom the pianist at last week's rehearsals. Perhaps being with people like Tom for 10 days made me doubly disappointed by the attitude of the woman at the beach the other day. I rather fear there are many of her persuasion in my local area.
only when the last tree has died
and the last river has been poisoned
and the last fish has been caught
will we realise we cannot eat money

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Climate change

I always seem to be too busy to go to the beach, but tonight was so balmy I took the opportunity to take a beach walk. There was a huge moon coming up over the bay ... how enormous it looked as it rose from the hills.
On the bench overlooking the beach a woman sat, taking photos of the moon just as I was doing.
"Beautiful isn't it?"
"Just lovely."
"It's been so hot today it is nice to visit the beach in the cool of the evening."
"Yes, it is unseasonably hot."

"It is so hot here, but I just saw on the news before I came out that England is having snow and ice!" the bench sitter said,"and it is the end of March!"
"Well, that's climate change for you, I replied, "up and down like a yo yo."
The look on the face of the bench sitter changed and hardened.
"Oh I don't believe in climate change," she said moving her body into a less accommodating position.
So we had a bit of a discussion about the climate and then I wandered off down to the water feeling a bit dispirited despite the gorgeous moon and the luke-warm waves lapping at my feet.

moonlit beach at 7pm

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cherubs dancing above

I spent last week drawing at rehearsals in the old Marrickville Town Hall which has the most amazing plaster ceiling.  If you look at the ceiling closely enough you see cherubs dancing above you.

Ceiling in the Marrickville town hall
Cherubs in the plasterwork
Drawing from life is very hard work and after drawing all last week and again yesterday I fell into bed at 8:30 and slept 10 hours straight. I think I'll need the week to recover.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Stuart singing at King Street Theatre

My painting of tenor Stuart Skelton was not one of the forty (of 800) paintings chosen to be hung in the Archibald exhibition. Instead Stuart is now singing from the wall of the revamped and exciting King Street theatre in Sydney's Newtown.
The portrait looks as if it was painted especially for that wall ... it matches the decor so well!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My ANZAC Grandfather

Today I found a box of old photos, among them a picture of my grandfather (the man with a cross above his head) with his ANZAC mates, taken sometime during or just before the First World War. I never met him as he died of his war wounds 16 years after the war ended and long before I was born.

Some New Zealand ANZACs.
Wikipedia about the ANZACS:
The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was a First World War army corps of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force that was formed in Egypt in 1915 and operated during the Battle of Gallipoli. General William Birdwood commanded the corps, which comprised troops from the First Australian Imperial Force and 1st New Zealand Expeditionary Force. ... The soldiers of the corps showed great courage and endurance but had been landed on the wrong beach and were too ill-equipped to overcome the obstacles that confronted them. ... The Anzac front at Gallipoli remained a stalemate for much of the campaign. The one outstanding success of the campaign was the evacuation, starting in December, where the entire force was withdrawn before any Turkish reaction. However, Birdwood was the only corps commander opposed to abandoning Gallipoli

So here they are, New Zealand ANZACs. Grandfather was a farmer and I imagine most of the men in this picture were too. I wonder how many of this group made it back home to New Zealand. Probably very few. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Frederich II

"I was particularly captivated by the personality of that gifted Emperor Frederich II., … it delighted me to find in the German mind the capacity of appreciating beyond the narrow bounds of nationality all purely human qualities, in however strange a garb they might be presented. For in this I recognised how nearly akin it is to the mind of Greece. In Frederick II I saw this quality in full flower. A fair haired German of ancient Swabian stock, heir to the Norman realm of Sicily and Naples, who gave the Italian language its first development and laid a basis for the evolution of knowledge and art where hitherto ecclesiastical fanaticism and feudal brutality had alone contended for power, a monarch who gathered at his court the poets and sages of eastern lands and surrounded himself with the living products of Arabian and Persian grace and spirit – this man I beheld betrayed by the Roman clergy to the infidel foe, yet ending his crusade, to their bitter disappointment, by a pact of peace with the Sultan from whom he obtained a grant of privileges to Christians in Palestine which as the bloodiest victory could scarcely have secured."

This was what Wagner wrote about the personality of Frederick II whom he discovered in reading Raumer's History of the Hohenstaufen.  

Reading passages like this in Wagner's autobiography My Life makes me wonder if Wagner,  like Nietzsche, has been a victim of media campaigns against him, passed down the generations, because of his anti-cleric attitudes. I think it is highly likely, as even assuming Wagner presented himself in the best light in his autobiography (although actually he is very self critical), he would hardly write something like this if he didn't mean it.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

'I'll marry Ellen": Portrait of Stuart Skelton.

So I have taken my latest portrait into the Archibald Prize competition. It is a portrait of the Australian tenor Stuart Skelton.
"I'll marry Ellen": portrait of Stuart Skelton.
 I saw Stuart an unforgettable Peter Grimes (that's where the words on the painting come from)  in London at the Coliseum. Stuart is a big fellow and had no difficulty hoisting the young fisherman's apprentice onto his shoulders when the script required.  I heard later that the tenor the following week did not find it so easy. Both portrait and the studies I made in preparation are on

Hugo Chávez

One can't help but be impressed by the outpouring of love for Hugo Chávez by his people. He did so much for the poor and particularly poor women that it is no wonder Venezuelans love him. You have to have guts to stand up to the multinationals and the powerful Governments who support them. Compare this demonstration of caring with the general feeling about politicians here in Australia. It is like night and day.

It is interesting watching the commentary from the US, the UK and their hangers-on. If they had any decency they would be embarrassed by their anti-Chávez stance.

The video clip from Venezuela showing the wonderfully gifted conductor Gustavo Dudamel conducting the national anthem is inaccessible in Australia (and the UK). Watch here

Friday, March 08, 2013

Wagner autobiography ... much more interesting than I imagined

I am reading a fascinating book, the autobiography of Richard Wagner called My Life. It is such an interesting insight into how life was lived in 1850. I am up to the part where he and his wife are on a boat,  traveling  to Paris from Konigsberg (now Poland). They are traveling without passports and to get out of Konigsberg without a passport they had to flee across a border at night behind the backs of Cossack guards. Wagner seems to have regarded small things like laws as irrelevant to him.

So now they are on a boat being blown up the coast in a violent storm, the noise and fury of which he later wrote into his opera The Flying Dutchman.

I found my copy in English on Amazon for free, contributed by a team of volunteers. When I tried to find this again I found other copies on Amazon as well ... but not free.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Lohengrin from La Scala

Here is a fantastic version of Lohengrin ... a complete version, with Jonas Kaufmann singing Lohnengrin and Annette Dasch singing Elsa. Also with Rene Pape, Evelyn Herlitzius.

Once I start watching I just can't turn it off .... it's very addictive!

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Berthe Morisot by Edouard Manet

The artist Berthe Morisot, painted by Edouard Manet
Isn't she gorgeous? I like this portrait so much I have made her my screen saver.

Books to new homes

Out they go, off to new homes.
books, someone else's treasure
Once upon a time our many boxes of books served as a stable base for a King sized mattress. Many moves later and I am still giving books away. These ones are going to the Pearl Beach Book Fair  to be held on 30 March 2013.

Will I be able to resist buying more?

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Acrylic over oil

You shouldn't paint with acrylic over oil, that is unless you want an effect like this - a flaky looking portrait. Actually it looks better in the flesh than as a photo.


Saturday, March 02, 2013

Dying while doing something you love

William Bennett, Principal Oboist with the San Francisco Symphony died last week while playing with the orchestra. He was much loved and only 56 years old. The only consolation is that he died while doing something he loved ... and I can't think of a better way to go. 

Here is William Bennett playing the lovely Tchaikovsky Symphony 4 with the orchestra.

Cloudy sky, gray sea.

A cloudy day and our turquoise seas are gray and meld into the sky. 
Looking north along the NSW Central Coast
I am reminded of a picture I drew of Otago Harbour in 2007.
Otago Harbour