Postcard from MV Ventura: Sketching at sea

Whenever we go travelling, I pack my watercolour kit and various sketchbooks of various sizes and make time for sketching.

Our ritual, as soon as we arrive at a new place, somewhere we will be staying long enough for Anne to write and me to paint, is to set up the space to suit us both. Our cabin aboard MV Ventura was perfect for our needs. And what a view!

Our cabin | Postcard from MV Ventura: Sketching at sea

Anne bagged the ‘dressing table’ as her office space, and I took over the ‘lounge’ area. Some shelving beneath the TV held all my equipment and I used the small coffee table for my palette and to rest my sketchbook.

We were aboard MV Ventura for fourteen days and seven of those were at sea. This gave me plenty of time for sketching.

 

Water, water, all around …

For the first two days, crossing from Southampton to Lisbon. all we saw from our balcony was the sea. And ships. And even more ships and drilling rigs whenever we went into port. With my marine insurance background, I found this fascinating and took many photos. So much resource material, so much inspiration for my sketching, but never enough hours to paint everything!

Drilling rig | Postcard from MV Ventura: Sketching at sea

However, I did sketch a few cruise ships and captured the landscape when we were in port.

 

Sketching Queen Victoria

One of Anne’s friends cruises regularly. We met her and her husband for lunch in Madeira a few years ago. We were staying in Funchal over Christmas and New Year; they were due to arrive on New Year’s Eve, in time to see the fireworks that night. This time, they were aboard Queen Victoria and – because our itineraries had us both in Madeira on 31 December, we planned to meet up at the same restaurant for a catch-up. Imagine our surprise to wake up the day before, to see their ship just across from ours.

Cunard moored | Postcard from MV Ventura: Sketching at sea

As it turned out, we should have made the effort to meet that day. Once we got to Madeira, they were moored off and the sea was too rough for them to be allowed ashore on the tenders.

This sketch is of Queen Victoria sailing off into the sunset.

Cunard sailing away | Postcard from MV Ventura: Sketching at sea

Sketching in Tenerife

We’ve visited Tenerife before and we were not inclined to go ashore that day. The sky above the mountains was black, and we’d not been attracted by the various tours on offer. Instead, we enjoyed relative peace and quiet aboard ship. Anne did lots of writing and when I wasn’t taking photos, I was sketching . Bliss!

Tenerife | Postcard from MV Ventura: Sketching at sea

Sketching in Madeira

We’ve also visited Madeira many times but never aboard a cruise ship. The day we arrived (31 December), it was a full house.

Madeira | Postcard from MV Ventura: Sketching at sea

We walked ashore in the morning and returned to the ship in time to avoid a downpour. As you will have seen from a previous post, the rain abated, almost, and the New Year’s Eve fireworks were spectacular.

This post is one of my POSTCARD series, sharing all things ART with you when I go travelling. My previous postcard focused on edible art.

Next week’s blog shares more of the art we discovered ashore. If cruising appeals to you, visit the P&O website.

Postcard from MV Ventura: Art on the stairs

The MV Ventura has many decks (18) and many lifts, to save passengers from walking up and down stairs.

However, the staircases provided yet more art to enjoy. At every landing – halfway between the opportunities to board a lift – there were dramatic displays of works.

There were t0o many to show them all here, but I selected three artists whose works were particularly stunning.

 

Art on the stairs: Johnny Bull

Johnny Bull was born in 1949 and the work he has on display are a series of colourful images produced from photographs taken in various locations visited by MV Ventura. They are unique images: inkjet print on paper, mounted behind a lenticular lens. So, the image moves – comes alive – as you walk past!

This is just one of many of his works of art.

Johnny Bull | Postcard from SS Ventura: Art on the stairs

Art on the stairs: Paul Critchley

Paul Critchley originates from Merseyside but now lives and works in Barcelona. Both parents were art teachers and he is much travelled. His works are oil on canvas mounted on aluminum.

The 3D effect is almost alarming. He presents familiar objects but in such a way as to provoke the viewer to see them differently. This one, called ‘The Daily Commute’, is relatively tame.

Paul Critchley newspapers | Postcard from SS Ventura: Art on the stairs

Others were more exciting and sometimes shocking. This one is called ‘House of Stories’.

This one appealed to the artist in me.

Paul Critchley easels | Postcard from SS Ventura: Art on the stairs

Hexagonal art: Vanessa Ballard

Vanessa Ballard has a passion for patterns. For the images on board MV Ventura, she travelled to 15 countries and spent hundreds of hours creating 100K digital images for these works, all created from hexagons. Close up, you could see how each hexagon was differently coloured.

From afar though, the intention of the artist becomes clear. This one, called ‘Setting Sail’,  is of MV Ventura.

This one, fittingly, is a glass of champagne. It is called Paradise Island I.

 

Art in the cabin: artist unknown

Even in the cabin, we had art … and decided the style – with a wavy perspective – made complete sense aboard a ship, especially when we were crossing the Bay of Biscay. I omitted to note the artist’s name for these pieces … apologies!

This post is one of my POSTCARD series, sharing all things ART with you when I go travelling. My previous postcard was all about Whitewall Galleries.

Next week’s blog shares more of the art we discovered aboard MV Ventura, and ashore too.

Postcard from MV Ventura: Whitewall Galleries

Anne and I spent two weeks aboard the P&O cruise liner SS Ventura, enjoying Christmas and the New Year celebrations, and some art, courtesy of Whitewall Galleries.

 

Whitewall Galleries

Whitewall Galleries offer beautiful and innovative original paintings, collectible editions and sculptures from internationally acclaimed artists, alongside the most exciting emerging talents through a nationwide network of galleries.Network of galleries | Postcard from SS Ventura: Whitewall GalleriesWhitewall Galleries can be found in 36 locations on land, with several on ships, including SS Ventura.

 

Whitewall Gallery aboard SS Ventura

P&O’s SS Ventura provides space on Deck 5 for Whitewall Galleries to display their wide range of works.

As part of the entertainment programme, Jada, the Whitewall Gallery manager, gave several talks and presentations. I attended three:

  • A talk on Jack Vettriano in the Gallery itself
  • A presentation on LS Lowry in one of the theatres, attracting a much larger audience
  • A talk on the Impressionists – back in the Gallery

 

Jack Vettriano at the Whitehall Gallery

I was aware of Jack Vettriano’s work and his images which have proved ideal for greetings cards. This one is called The Picnic Party. (Apologies for the poor lighting and reflections!)

The Picnic Party | Postcard from SS Ventura: Whitewall Galleries

One favourite of mine is The Singing Butler. I love his use of umbrellas.

The Singing butler | Postcard from SS Ventura: Whitewall Galleries

On the cruise, we had to resort to an umbrella now and again and most especially on New Year’s Eve, while watching the fireworks in  Madeira.

Fireworks in Funchal | Postcard from SS Ventura: Whitewall Galleries

Like Vettriano’s dancing pair, we were not deterred by the weather.

Umbrella time | Postcard from SS Ventura: Whitewall Galleries

Born John Hoggan, this talented artist never had any success with that name, so Madonna-style, in 1989, he reinvented himself and took an Italian surname. Makes me wonder if I would sell more paintings if I were to follow suit?!

This post is one of my POSTCARD series, sharing all things ART with you when I go travelling. My previous postcard was from Stratford-upon-Avon.

Next week’s blog shares more of the art we discovered aboard SS Ventura, and ashore too.

Postcard from Milton Keynes: Howe Park Woods

If you are near Milton Keynes – you don’t need to search out galleries or museums to see works of art. Many are on show, for free, in the countryside.

 

Milton KeynesMilton Keynes – the frog band sculpture

These four frogs, called  ‘the Frog Band Sculpture’, provide no sound but much entertainment for children. They are the work of American artist, Roland Lawar.

Donated by the community arts charity, Inter-Action MK, these four sculptures are situated conveniently close to a welcoming cafe in Howe Park Woods, Milton Keynes. For those used to the traffic system it’s easy to find: it lies between Chaffron Way H7 and Tattenhoe Street V2.

 

Milton Keynes community arts charity Inter-Action MK

According to their website: Inter-Action MK use the arts to bring joy and purpose to all communities and especially to improve the life chances of people with support needs or disabilities or in challenging or vulnerable circumstances. Their innovative programme of inclusive arts successfully brings people of all backgrounds together in shared creative activity. Their programme helps participants to develop creative, personal and social skills.

 

A good place for a muddy walk in Milton Keynes!

Milton KeynesAnne and I visited this location one cold January morning, along with her son and his family. In the photo above are Charlotte and Edward, wearing full woodland walk kit.

And I was wrapped up warm too.

This post is one of my POSTCARD series, sharing all things ART with you when I go travelling.

 

 

Postcard from Chichester: Ching Piau Khoo

I met Ching Piau Khoo in Chichester. He had a stall in the main pedestrian area. As you can tell from what we are wearing, it was cold and had been raining, but he was full of good cheer and I was impressed by his paintings.

 

Let me introduce Ching Piau Khoo

A self-taught artist, Piau’s been in the UK for over 20 years. Like me, he has a passion for nature.

He uses high-quality professional grade watercolour paints and cotton canvas. His many layers of watercolour are enhanced by delicate use of pen and ink. The net result is most pleasing on the eye – and on the pocket.

According to Piau’s website: his original paintings and prints are now collected worldwide.

Piau says: Nothing gives me greater pleasure than creating a new piece of work. My artwork covers a wide range of topics – landscapes, seascapes, wildlife, and flowers. I make originals as well as limited edition prints in a variety of sized to suit every customer. Commission are also regularly undertaken and welcome. 

Where can you meet Ching Piau Khoo?

Piau sells his paintings via his website, and exhibits in the Chichester Market on Wednesdays.  You can also find him at Lymington Market and Winchester Art and Design Market. And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/piauartgallery/

This post is one of my POSTCARD series, sharing all things ART with you when I go travelling. 

Postcard from Oxford: Ashmolean Museum

Ashmolean

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1175-1851): Walton Bridges

This was my fourth visit to the wonderful Ashmolean Museum.

Anne wanted to attend a literary lunch at Denman College – meeting Clare Mackintosh, author of I See You, a brilliant psychological thriller – so we decided to share the driving from Devon, and I got to spend the day enjoying once more this amazing trove of art.

With so many works of art on display, it’s difficult to pick out just a few favourites, but here are my five from this particular excursion.

 

At the Ashmolean: Turner’s Walton Bridges

These bridges were mentioned in a previous postcard, way back in February when Anne and I were in Australia. We were enjoying a stroll around NGV (National Gallery of Victoria). As I mentioned back then: it was a lovely surprise to see ‘Walton Bridges’.

The Walton Bridges were erected in the 1780s and were painted by Turner (twice) in 1805 for exhibitions in 1806-7.

Ashmolean

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875): Montfermeuil, the Brook in the Wood, 1867

Turner used his artistic licence to create this idyllic pastoral landscape, minus the various houses that would have been visible to anyone present at that time.

This painting – like the one is Melbourne – brought back into sharp focus the many times in my life when, forty plus years ago, I drove from my home in Shepperton and crossed a more modern version of these bridges en route to Walton Station for my daily commute to London.

How time flies?

 

At the Ashmolean: Corot’s Montfermeuil, the Brook in the Wood

This oil-on-canvas painting is an example of Corot’s later work.

His palette is more monochromatic and the overall effect more blurred.

I see similar skies over Salcombe. The challenge is to capture the atmosphere before the clouds move on.

 

At the Ashmolean:  Etty’s  The Repentant Prodigal’s Return to his Father
Ashmolean

Willian Etty (1787-1849): The Repentant Prodigal’s Return to his Father

This painting combines two scenes from the story of the Prodigal son: centre stage, the embrace between father and son; and, to the left, the return of the elder brother from working in the fields.

Etty was unique in his ability to make a successful career out of combining history painting – such as this one – with his love for Venetian colours.

He was especially keen on life drawings and studied life at the Royal Academy schools – and this painting includes four lovely ladies, in various classic poses, in the background!

I’m very much looking forward to getting back into class. The Salcombe Art Club Main exhibition ended on Saturday, and I’ll be back ‘in harness’ on Tuesdays (with Michael Hill) and Fridays (with Ian Carr).

On the occasional Monday, there’s a life drawing class too …

 

At the Ashmolean: two paintings by Walter Richard Sickert’s
Ashmolean

Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942): The Piazzetta do San Marco, Venice, 1900

Although Walter Richard Sickert was born in 1860, in Germany, the son on Oswald Sickert, a Danish-German artist, the family relocated to Britain in 1868 where they obtained British nationality.

Sickert visited Venice in the Spring of 1900.

This first painting, The Piazzetta do San Marco, Venice, with the Campanile on the left and the basilica of San Marco on the right, was dedicated to a Mrs May (Polly) Price. Polly was the daughter of one of Sickert’s closest friends, a Mrs Middleton.

I fully intend to visit Venice again soon. Wherever you look. there is a composition with perfect light, just waiting to be painted.

Sickert, as a painter and printmaker, was a member of the Camden Town Group in London – a small group of English Post-Impressionist artists active 1911-13 and influenced by Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin.

Ashmolean

Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942): The Brighton Pierrots, 1915

This second painting, an oil-on-canvas, depicts members of the troupe of Pierrots who performed on stage in Brighton in 1915.

Sickert visited his patron and friend Walter Taylor and studied these Pierrots, making many sketches before returning to London and creating this image.

His Pierrots perform in front of rows of empty deck chairs, and presents a depressing insight into life in Brighton at that time.

However, the painting was sold very quickly and then Sickert was commissioned to paint a second version. You can see that one at the Tate.

Apparently, Sickert rarely commissions. Neither do I!

 

Lunch at the Ashmolean

I thoroughly enjoyed my day at the Ashmolean, not least because the rooftop restaurant is first class, albeit with a first class price tag!

I’m very much looking forward to seeing Anne browse through the new Denman catalogue. I’m sure she’ll find something she will enjoy, and that I can disappearing into Oxford again soon.

This post is one of my POSTCARD series, sharing all things ART with you when I go travelling. 

Louvre Museum

POSTCARD from Paris: Louvre Museum

The Louvre is one of the ‘big three’ museums in Paris. Comprising an impressive group of buildings – and offering the opportunity for much walking! – it is said to be the largest museum in the world.

The other two ‘big’ museums in Paris are the Museé d’Orsay which was featured in the previous postcard (with Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art from the years 1848-1914) and the Centre Pompidou (with 20th century works created after 1914) which we didn’t have time to visit during this trip.

 

The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays!

The Louvre Museum is always top of the list when Anne and I visit Paris. However, this time, we arrived on a Monday afternoon and the Louvre is closed on a Tuesday, so we had to hold fire on our excitement for an additional 24 hours.

We took the advice from Booking.com to purchase our fast-track ticket from the Paris Tourist Office at 25 Rue des Pyramides. If you think the queue we joined – on the left of the featured image above – was long, the one for those without tickets – on the right – was ten times longer. The tickets were no more expensive … and those in the longer queue were understandably frustrated.

Once inside, despite the crowds outside, the galleries were relatively empty.

 

The Louvre marquees

The pyramid outside the building is eye-catching enough but, inside, apart from the paintings, the architecture is wonderful.

There are great sweeping stairways and three marquees: Mona LisaVenus de Milo and Winged Victory.

Long, long corridors, with hundreds of framed original paintings on display. And, you must remember to look upwards too, at the ceiling.

 

The Louvre boasts 35,000 art treasures inside

One of the world’s most authoritative museums, the Louvre’s collection ranges from arts and crafts of ancient civilizations right up to the middle of the 19th century.

The brochure boasts that there are 35,000 artistic treasures inside. We didn’t have time to count them … It’s also impossible to see everything in the Louvre in one day!

Antonio Canal by Canaletto

We consulted the free tour guide and identified the exhibits of most interest to us.

We were delighted to see paintings by our favourite artists: Archimbold, Bosch, Brueghel, Caravaggio, Carpaccio, Constable, Delacroix, Dürer, Gainsborough, Goya, Guardi, Ingres, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt, Rubens, Titian, Turner, van Eyck, Vermeer

One by Canaletto sparked a discussion as to when we might return to Venice. This stunning location is always on our to-visit list and, one day, I might find time to paint some scenes of Venice myself.

The paintings by Arcimboldo, Bosch and Brueghel also provoked discussion; they reminded us of the exhibition we’d seen at Les Baux-de-Provence only a few days earlier. I wrote about it in this postcard.

The Mona Lisa, of course, warrants a visit. It is tiny, and the crowd between you and it is huge.

 

One last indulgence: the Louvre gift shop

In all, we spent a good couple of hours walking up and down and around, and eventually had to admit, we needed to stop … and come back another time.

One last indulgence was a visit to the gift shop … where I treated myself to the Guide to the Louvre, which has proved very helpful in writing this postcard – and which I shall treasure.

 

The treasures outside the Louvre

Back out into the sunshine, we were delighted to see this sculpture.

Usually, I also take a photo of the label. But, by now, we were so weary, we just headed to the nearest eatery for much needed refreshment.

Next to the Louvre are the Tuileries Gardens and yet more art to enjoy: statues by Maillol, alongside works by Rodin and Giacometti.

We have walked through these gardens on a previous visit and no doubt will do so again.

We will be back!

This post is one of my POSTCARD series, sharing all things ART with you when I go travelling. It’s the third and final one for this particular trip. The previous postcards were from Paradou, and Paris (the Musée d’Orsay)

Postcard from Paris: Musée d’Orsay

Musée d'Orsay Au Pied De CochonDuring our recent trip to Paris, we visited the Musée d’Orsay – a first time for us – and what a delight!

What made us choose this venue?

 

The Musée d’Orsay comes recommended

While enjoying a lovely French dinner at the Au Pied de Cochon restaurant on the Monday evening, we fell into conversation with the couple at the next table.

Having discussed what we might order from the menu, talk turned to our plans for our two days. The Louvre is top our our list, I declared.

Musée d'Orsay

Central area with sculptures

No! They thought the Musée d’Orsay was much better.

Then the following morning, when we went to purchase our tickets, we discovered the Louvre doesn’t open on a Tuesday, so off we went to find the Musée d’Orsay.

 

At the Musée d’Orsay – so much to see?

As you walk through the entrance to the Musée d’Orsay, this huge exhibition space is what you see first: a central walk filled with sculptures.

It takes more than a moment to take in the layout of the building, but, having consulted the free tour guide, we identified the exhibitions and ‘rooms’ of most interest to us.

We were pleased to discover the lifts. Our first chosen exhibition – the Impressionists – was on the 5th floor!

En route, we walked through the cafe area. That was a masterpiece in itself, but we did not sample the delights.

Later, we were to explore all the rooms which led off from the left hand side of the upper corridor (level 2) of this enormous entrance hall area.

 

At the Musée d’Orsay – more Impressionists than you can shake a stick at!

Musée d'OrsayI have attended many Impressionist exhibitions in London but none compare with the one on at the Musée d’Orsay at the moment.

I saw more of the Impressionists in one day than I had in my entire life: Bazille, Caillebotte, Cassatt, Cézanne, Degas, Fantin-Latour, Manet, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, Whistler.

It was a knock out!

The catalogue (at 14 euros) is a delight and is split into three historical sections.

  • Impressionism from 1863 to 1874
  • Impressionism from 1874 to 1886
  • Impressionism after 1886

If you are quick, you can see the Portraits by Cézanne exhibition – ends 24 September.

 

At the Musée d’Orsay – Les Régates à Molesey by Sisley

Musée d'OrsayOne exhibit, I had never seen before, by Sisley, was Les Régates à Molesey (Boating at Molesey).

Painted in 1874, it shows a spot on the Thames, near to where I lived for many years.

Seeing that painting brought back memories …

I’m not sure if we were allowed to take photos in the Musée d’Orsay; certainly, the placement of the exhibits in relation to the windows didn’t encourage it!

This post is one of my POSTCARD series, sharing all things ART with you when I go travelling. It’s the second one for this particular trip. The previous postcard was from Paradou, and the next is Paris again, at the Louvre.

Niagara-on-the-Lake

Postcard from Niagara-on-the-Lake: Me and My Girl!

Anyone who visits Canada is bound to visit Niagara – but we also made a special trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake and enjoyed Me and My Girl at the Shaw Festival Theatre.

ShawThe town is delightful and was bathed in sunshine. We resisted the option of a ride around in a pony and trap (see featured image above), and walked instead from our hotel to the theatre.

 

The Shaw Festival

According to their website: In 1962, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, lawyer and playwright Brian Doherty parlayed his love for the work of Irish playwright Bernard Shaw into a summer theatre festival, producing eight performances of Don Juan in Hell and Candida in the Court House auditorium.  In this singular act of passion for theatre and culture, the Shaw Festival was born.

The grounds of the theatre include a beautiful garden with occasional statues. It’s the perfect place for a stroll before a show, in the intermission, or afterward.

Shaw Festival gardens

There are more works of art inside the theatre. At the top of a sweeping staircase, under a magnificent chandelier, this selection of ‘busts’ caught our eye.

 

The show: Me and My Girl

The show was spectacular. As well as the wonderful costumes, the energetic choreography and clever set, the cast entertained us throughout – clearly enjoying every moment themselves.

George Bernard Shaw’s wit shone through with some lovely one liners, and had us laughing out loud.

Niagara-on-the-lake Me and my girlThe following morning, while tucking in to pancakes and maple syrup, we happened to see the star of the show Michael Therriault.

We had the opportunity to thank him for a wonderful performance, and to congratulate him on his Cockney accent.

He recognised immediately that we hailed from the UK and it turned out he, like us, once lived in Surrey.

Small world?

 

 

Where is The Shaw Festival?

The Shaw Festival theatre is located at 10 Queen’s Parade, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0 CANADA

If you’d like to see the show Me and My Girl, it’s on until 15 October. You have plenty of time to book your seats!

This post is one of my POSTCARD series, sharing all things ART with you when I go travelling. It’s the second one for this particular trip. Watch this space!

house portrait

Postcard from Melbourne: Farewell gift of a house portrait

At the end of January, it was time say farewell to Melbourne and to record our thanks to our hosts: I presented them with a house portrait.

I promised myself I’d spend some of this holiday sketching, and this is one of the first sketches I completed.

It shows a typical Melbourne property: a bungalow that has been extended upwards, with a modest front garden onto a suburban street, lined with gum trees.

 

There’s no garage?

Who needs a garage? Even if you have a Fiat Spider on the front drive …

Melbourne poolside

Out back, more important to us, and to the grandchildren, there is a pool, an essential component when the temperatures reach 40 degrees in their summer months.

Like most houses in the area, the space at the rear is compact, but well designed with a deck area complete with barbeque.

Plus a poolside area, complete with tropical foliage, where we could laze around.

No lawns to mow!

 

From sketch to finished composition

Having gained approval from our hosts that they would indeed like a painting of their home, I set to.

house portrait

This is the finished painting. It’s a watercolour. My baggage allowance was insufficient for my acrylic kit!

I took the liberty of losing the magnificent tree that was in full bloom when we left. It housed a flock of colourful but noisy parakeets whose dawn chorus happened hours before dawn each morning.

The front garden (on the left) is given over to raised beds. So, we had fresh strawberries, daily. And courgettes. Rhubarb. More varietes of herbs than you can shake a stick at. All requiring daily watering …

 

Stephen and GraceNotice the two figures in the window?

That’s gorgeous granddaughter Grace and a friend.

And this is me, packed and ready for the return flight, with Grace. She’ll be almost 10 the next time we see her.

 

Farewell Melbourne. Back to reality!

Back in the UK, we have the central heating on. We’ve swapped the T-shirt and shorts for layer upon layer … and ‘enjoying’  temperatures in single figures.

This post is one of my POSTCARD series, sharing all things ART with you when I go travelling. It’s the final one for this particular trip. My next trip is to Canada, in May. Watch this space!