MALDON AND THE MOUNTAINS

With 5 days up our sleeve before the Maldon Workshop started we decided to slowly plod our way down to Victoria via backroads and out of the way places rather than race down the highway.

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We camped behind the pub in the little town of Goolma, where the publican spun us a great tale about his favourite dog staring down a possum – neither would give in and they both died without ever moving.

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This is the possum

dog

…and this is the dog

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Foggy morning behind the pub

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We wound our way down onto the Murray River before heading across to Maldon. Great to see the river with so much water and the country in such good condition.

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Julienne, the workshop coordinator in Maldon, arranged for us to stay in this fantastic little farm house – complete with chooks and a veggie garden.

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Maldon is a beautiful little town protected by a heritage listing to preserve the unchanged character of the place.

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The 5 day workshop was a lot of fun. We met some fantastic people and really enjoyed the quiet little country town.

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Melbourne was in the middle of the Spanish Festival in Brunswick and the Polish Festival in the City, so there was a lot happening.

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After a few days in Melbourne we took off towards the Snowy Mountains via the Sale Wetlands…

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…a spectacular series of swamps, creeks and billabongs just out of town – made even more dramatic by the approaching storm clouds.

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From Sale we drove up towards the Snowy River and took the long windy track down to McKillop Bridge.

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The mountains were magnificent and the road signs basic.

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MacKillop Bridge across the Snowy River. First built in 1935 and washed away a few days before it was due to open.

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Mmmm – Jindabyne Steak, 4 minutes each side, Yum.

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Above Charlotte Pass there were still patches of snow on the ground.

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Snow Gums

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Thredbo River

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Platypus in one of the small creeks.

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Stormy night up near Kiandra

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Creek on the Long Plain Road

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Home via Washpool NP.

STUDIO WORKSHOP

For the last two weeks I have been busy conducting a workshop looking at selecting, manipulating and extracting the most from a painting subject. It was a lot of fun, but we worked hard – doing a couple of paintings each day and squeezing in a few critique sessions, where we examined everybodys work and discussed various problems and solutions.

Studio Workshop John Lovett Nov 2011

It is always a pleasure meeting new students and catching up with students from previous workshops. One of our new students for the second week was Carol and her assistant, Kim. What an inspiring lady – taking up watercolor a couple of years ago after a severe car accident ended her career as a lawyer and left her a quadriplegic. Forgetting about her disability, the standard of her paintings is excellent, but to see how she has overcome so many physical hurdles to produce the work she does is just amazing. On top of this, she is determined to keep on improving and works hard to that end.

Thumbnail sketches and simple monochrome collages were used to simplify and rearrange our subjects.

The demonstration paintings below illustrate some of the techniques we explored.

Manipulating a large foreground to lead up to a focal point while not causing a distraction.

Creating depth with hard and soft edges

Flat Ultramarine gouache used to squeeze more vibrancy from the warm, transparent watercolor.

Confining detail and using empty space as an element in the painting.

Practicing the random placement of suggestive abstract marks

Blitz Truck Watercolor

 

Sometimes an unusual subject will free you up to try new techniques.

Making a strong focal point in what was a flat uniform facade.

Starting loosly with a big brush and no preliminary drawing, then adding detail as the painting progresses.

Experimenting with techniques to break up a symetrical subject.

FRENCH TRANSPORT

The French are responsible for some cool and quirky cars – Peugeot, Renault and Citroen make up the bulk of cars on the road but, mixed with these is an interesting collection of other brands clogging the Rues and Boulevards. Here are a few that caught my eye.

Citroen 2CV – these cars pitch and roll so much that it is said you can tell their owners by their grazed elbows

Weird amphibious convertible on a Paris river barge

Practical Plastic Citroen

Minute Ute


American extravagance in Paris


American muscle in Paris


British practicality in Paris


1960’s weirdness


Ancient  German engineering reborn


Tiny garbage truck at Versailles


Primitive 2CV

If you own a small white van in Paris and don’t have a garage, graffiti seems inevitable…

THROUGH THE NORTHWOODS

After our workshop at Dillmans in Wisconsin, we picked up a hire car from Rhinelander airport to drive up to Sudbury, in Canada, and visit my brother Wayne and his family. We ordered a mid sized sedan but ended up with a Mercury Grand Marquis  with all the electric fancy bits, a big V8 engine, full leather lounge chairs and shiny wood trim that looks like plastic (or maybe plastic trim that looks like wood). Anyway, it takes up a lot of road, gulps down gasoline and would have looked really ugly, even in the 1980’s.

The Northern region of Wisconsin / Michigan  is known as the Northwoods. It is a flat, green maze of lakes and creeks. Much of the country is covered with heavily wooded forests of birch, maple and a variety of conifers. In winter the region is covered with feet of snow and the temperature stays below freezing till spring. The green grass and  dense growth of the woodlands was a surprise in such low temperatures. We managed to spot a coyote, many squirells, chipmonks, deer and loons, but bears and moose have evaded us.


Northwoods towns are quaint and tidy


Patriotism is always evident.

The rural properties try to out barn one another.

Waving Chipmonk

NEW ROLLING STUDIO

Sorry about the lack of posts recently. Over the past couple of months I have been flat out working on a new mobile studio that will take us into some remote communities in the Northern Territory and Western Australia over the next couple of years. Dianne and I are planning to run a number of workshops for kids in these communities.

We are grafting the small off road caravan, we traveled around Australia in in 2009, onto the back of a four wheel drive truck. It will give us more mobility and allow us to carry more supplies.

Rather than clog up this blog with the day to day activities of modifying a truck, I have started a separate blog to cover the work being done for those that are interested

_______________New Rolling Studio>>

STREETS OF PALERMO

We had planned a day painting in Palermo, so after some questioning, decided the Plaza Marina was the place to go. After a long stop start procession through the town our bus driver stopped by a small park surrounded by dilapidated buildings. We couldn’t work out why and, after some head scratching, discovered it was a “photo stop” –  the only problem being there was nothing worth photographing!

After a traffic snarled circuit of the waterfront we decided to head out to Mondello to paint. That was our introduction to Palermo which tainted our enthusiasm to stay there before flying back to Rome. However, intriged by the infamous mafia history, we stayed a day to have a look around.

We were told that, around the time two high profile, anti mafia judges were killed, there was a 12 month period in Polermo that saw almost 1000 murders! This grisly fact also influenced our perception of the city.

It’s a strange town where hotel safes just sit loose in the cupboards.

where rubbish and broken furniture litter the streets…

abandoned Vespers decay in back alleys…

securely locked, with owners never to return…

Vehicles in various states of disrepair somehow cling to life…

double parking anywhere is condoned…

garbage bins overflow…

strange characters in dark suits haunt the city…

kids play with handguns…

and in any other city, a man carrying a violin case probably plays for an orchestra…

The secrets whispered through confession box windows in the churches of Polermo would raise the hairs on the back of the hardest necks.

NATIONAL ICON

A few years ago the European Union made a ruling that any car over a certain age should be taken off the road in an effort to clean up air pollution. Italy said fine, but the Fiat 500 is a National Icon and, no matter what age, has a place on the roads of Europe. There are still thousands of these little cars on the roads and footpaths of Italy. Now joined by a brand new version, Italy would not be the same without them.