Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sharm El Sheikh plein air

During our stay in Sharm El Sheikh, on the cruise trip, I stayed on board. Not having an escort trip lined up, feeling too unsure about going ashore on my own and forgetting to get a form done to enable me to take my camcorder with me, were my excuses. However all was not lost, as with the ship quite quiet of passengers, I was able to sit undisturbed on the top deck and paint the view across the bay.
On the one hand I felt 'guilty' for not going ashore and seeing Sharm again (was there in 2003 on MV Aurora), yet on the other........ I thoroughly enjoyed being able to sit in the sun (despite the fairly cool breeze across the aft end where I was sat) and soak in the atmosphere of being on the ship in far away place and 'get lost' in sploshing some paint on paper.

The painting took bout 2 ½ hours, which for a plein air is quite long enough, almost too long, as the light changes constantly during this time; 2 hours is usually the target, any longer and it can get confusing with the way the light has changed the scene. As it was, I sat and observed the scene for a while, as clouds were moving over the sun on a regular basis, bringing successive shadows on the crags and peaks of the ranges; so I had to decide which phase of lighting I wanted to paint.

The painting was done with gouache on a not watercolour paper and is just about 10" x 4" (26 x 10cms) in size. 2½ hrs is a long time for such a small piece - apart from the fact that I was revelling in being able to switch off from everything and just concentrate on the scene and paint, it took so long because of the waiting for the chosen lighting conditions.
When I paint I'm not trying to copy exactly what's before me... I'm looking to simplify the details and use my brush strokes to create the effects by moving them across the paper in the direction of strata, crags and shadows etc.

I mixed a warm pale mauvey-blue for the sky which I then used as the base for the colours of the mountains. Painting from the horizon forward I added more browns to the colour mix on each step forward in the landscape, taking the mountains through from very pale distant ranges to darker, warmer and closer. However, even my darkest touches are still only a mid-reddish brown and very minimal in use. No black. For the shadowy areas I used a more bluey-mauve colour... nothing too heavy in contrast, application or weight of colour. A touch of that bluey-mauve was blended into the sea to add the cast of colour to tie the scene together.

In this close-up you can see the simplicity of the brush strokes - dabs and splodges... no attempt to get finnicky with details. Observe the general feel of the scene, break it down into simple forms and use the brush to create an impression of it.

This landscape was a great example of recession and I used it in my class on ship when we started on the painting sessions.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

New Exhibition/Events listings

I thought it was high time I changed the exhibition and events listings over to the current year. My excuse for the delay in this is, of course, that I have been out of the country for a wee while and since I came back I've been under the weather with a persistent cold bug.

As last year I will add to this list as events are confirmed or submissions excepted.
I have several exhibitions I intend to submit for again, in particular the SWLA, NEWA and TWASI events. Time will tell if I.... a) get the work done and b) have my work accepted.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ships’s log- shoreside date 130208

In Kemaman (Malaysia) I was supposed to be escorting a tour on a river cruise through mangrove swamps to a fishing village and a batik centre. Again the promise of good wildlife viewing came to nought, as the tour was cancelled due to one of the river-boats having an accident and being unusable. I therefore spent the morning perusing the wares and buying a few gifts from the stall traders on the jetty alongside the ship. In the afternoon I went for a wander – investigating the patch of scrubland on the land behind the jetty. Found a lovely little lizard that didn’t run away, so I got plenty of video, photo’s and sketches done. Also saw butterflies, dragonflies, crabs, water snails and inadvertently disturbed a bird sat on a nest under a tree. Back on the ship I wrote and posted the last of the postcards I had promised to send to family and friends and then spent the evening having a Guinness sundowner out on deck – the first time I had managed to get to do that this trip!

Vietnam – As I woke very early I was able to get out on the deck just after 6am to see our arrival into Phu My. I missed most of our passage along the Mekong River but the bit that I saw leading up to our berth had industrial land and buildings off the ship’s starboard side and thick endless mangrove swamps stretching to the horizon in all both directions off the port side. Large and small egrets lined the tidal zone in amongst the exposed roots and mud. Our berth was a rather non-descript jetty in amongst an industrial background… pretty uninspiring, especially with the slightly unpleasant whiffy aroma of the water!
Once crew shore leave was granted, I got off ship and bundled myself onto one of the shuttle busses provided for taking passengers and crew to the Vung Tau – a coastal town about 40 mins from the ship.
Mopeds are obviously the favoured transport here… they swarm over the road like clusters of bees buzzing along with one, two, three, four and even five passengers per moped! Whole families sit astride their one moped, kids and babies crammed between the adults, as they pootle along, unhurriedly moving out of the way of horn blasting car and bus drivers.
In Vung Tau the drop-off point was at a hotel complex from where I decided to walk back towards the beach as that seemed as good a destination as any. Any hassle I got from locals trying to persuade me to hire their taxi, cyclo or moped lessened the further away from the hotel complex I got; in the end I could walk unimpeded. Saw two gentlemen from the ship heading in the same direction and we walked together to the beach, where we did the very quintessential British thing and went for a paddle!
The beach is about 10km long and looked full of people as far as the eye could see in both directions. Despite the heat, at least half of them were fully clothed…even when they went in the water! There were colourful kites being flown, big tyre inner tubes for hire and at the water’s edge also saw dead jellyfish and hundreds of long pointy shells, tiny hermit and other crabs rapidly burying themselves in the sand as you neared them.
Sailaway was interesting and showed the impressive ‘driving’ skills of the Officers on the Bridge and the manoeuvrability of such a big ship (69,000 tonnes) in such a small space and in the dark! The ship was basically swung around on a sixpence right up against the jetty. Suffice to say the manoeuvre was carried out very slowly and carefully and took about half an hour to complete. At one point, those of us at the looking out over the front, held our breaths as the bow was swung round, seemingly narrowly missing the corner of the jetty.

The following day, as we sailed up the South China Sea towards Hong Kong, we were in a Force 8 that increased to Force 9 for a while. The top and Promenade decks were closed off and walking around the ship was fun again, although it has to be said for some this kind of weather is not fun.

Our arrival in Hong Kong was early in the evening just about dusk. It was very misty and foggy on our approach and somewhat mysterious as little islands and then skyscrapers came out of the shroud of white like ghostly shadows. At about 8pm the office skyscrapers along the front started their light show - this was a lovely unexpected ‘extra’.
Later that evening I went ashore with some friends who were going to the Night Markets off Nathan Road. What an experience that was! Hundreds of stalls lining roads selling all sorts of goodies like fake brand names for bags, clothing, sunglasses and watches. Electronic gadgets, toys, jewellery, souveniers… and people thronged there in a mad hustle and bustle. We wandered around all this for 3 hours and still didn’t get to the end of it all.

The following day I was disembarking and had lost my voice!! My throat had been a little croaky the previous night but now I had no voice at all. I was so glad I got this ‘bug’ at the end of the cruise and not whilst I was still doing classes. I finished packing and was out of my cabin by noon, to then wait til 5pm to leave the ship and be taken to the airport along with about 9 other members of crew. My flight to Paris CDG airport was at 23.35 and took about 12 hours. I had hoped to sleep on the plane but only snatched 10 mins here and there. Arrived at Paris airport in good time and after a quick freshen up and change of clothes I sat and waited for the flight to Bristol - England. This was due to leave at 09.35 but in the end we didn’t take off until 11.25 as first our plane had to be repaired, apparently, and then the French air traffic controller strike slowed things down. The flight to Bristol was just 1½ hours and landed at 11.33 UK time. Mum and Dad were there to meet me at the airport and drove me to their house for some lunch and chat. Luckily my voice had rallied around a bit by then and I could just about manage to make some speech-like noises that could be understood! Managed to stay awake all day and went to bed about 9pm, by which time I had been awake for almost 48 hours! I don’t even recall my head hitting the pillow.

I woke at 7am the next day. Something was wrong! The ship’s engines had stopped! There was no sound; it was eerily silent and disconcerting with no vibrations or slight juddering from the engines. I opened my eyes and thought it strange that I could see objects…. It should be pitch black in my cabin… what was going on! Then I heard a car go by and the images filtering into my brain suddenly made sense as sleep left my mind… I was at home in Bristol in my own bedroom! That was a very disappointing realisation.

So that’s it for my ‘leg’ of Oriana’s 2008 World Cruise. I had a fantastic time and shall miss being on that beautiful ship. I hope those that attended my classes enjoyed them and learnt something of use for their future drawing and painting. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting them all and hope our paths will cross again some day.

Signing off on last Ship’s log for 2008
Su Lees - Guest Ent - Art Lecturer

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Ship's log seadate 070208

Ahoy there folks!

After Cochin we had 3 days at sea, crossing the Indian Ocean to Phuket in Thailand. The art class are now painting landscapes, using ports of call as our subject matter. Having introduced the class to gouache - quite a few of them are giving it a go and though some struggle to get out of their watercolour technique, they appear to be enjoying themselves. Others have told me that they think it's the medium they have been looking for, as they have been struggling with watercolours. Twice the Captain has visited my class. The first time he stood at the back and listened for a bit - slightly disconcerting for me! The second time he came right in and wandered around and spoke to some of the class.

In Phuket I could have escorted a tour to the bay with all the stack islands... very tempting... but even more of a draw was the chance to go and see some elephants. We anchored offshore and got on 'tenders' (Oriana's lifeboats and two small ferry craft from Phuket) to go ashore- which is great fun. Felt sorry for the officers and crew on duty on the pontoons in charge of this operation, as it was extremely hot and some had to be on duty there all day.
Got ashore and found the oldest looking taxi driver I could find!! Struck a deal (sure I was still ripped off) and got my ride out to an elephant trekking place. My idea was to stay there for an hour or two to photo, sketch and video the ellies but my taxi driver had other ideas and said I'd have to pay more for him to wait longer than the time it took for a 'trek' on an elephant!! Hrumph! I ended up going on a 30 min 'trek' - more like a sedate amble along a track to a small patch of woodland, big circle round wood and back along track! Well it was an experience.... Had mixed feelings about participating in this activity – it was hot and seemed that they did this day in and out… not much of a life! But felt reassured by the way the mahouts were with their ellies and that there seemed to be a good care ethic with plenty of food, shade and water available.

The next morning we woke up in Penang.... where I did go escorting - went on tour to the Botanical Gardens, Butterfly Farm and Tropical Spice Gardens. It was very hot, sunny and humid in Penang, especially in the hillside wooded glade of the Spice gardens.... but we had a very refreshing water drink made from the soft part of a nutmeg plant... Yum! The botanical garden was very manicured but lovely and restful. Think I saw a racket-tailed drongo and there were a few long-tailed macaques that were free roaming and after handouts - though feeding was definitely not encouraged! The butterfly farm was a large free flight room filled with butterflies and plants. The air was constantly misted with a fine refreshing water spray - not much good for cameras but a welcome relief to 'heat/humidity-stressed' people!

Next day we were at sea again til the afternoon when we arrived in Singapore. Our approach to Singers happened at the time of my afternoon art session, so we didn't get to see much of it... apart from a few tantalising glimpses through the windows. There were masses of ships - mainly freight/container vessels - I thought it was busy in the Suez on the Bitter Lakes, but this was mad crazy with how many there were! Our berth was equally amazing. We were in Container Land!! If you've seen the film 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' you'll get some idea... that bit at the end where the ark is being stored in an endless warehouse filled with boxes to the hilt.... well it looked a bit like that only an open-air version. The containers were arranged in blocks of blocks of blocks.. 40' containers in blocks of 5x7x8 or thereabouts! Rows and rows of them. Stacks and stacks. And it went on and on and on for as far as the eye could see along the massive dock area we were berthed at. Going out in the coach later we were driving along the coast for about 15 mins or more and it was just continuous container land all the way... thousands upon thousands of them! Quite staggering!

The ship stayed in Singers overnight and all but a few left the ship for the evening - I stayed on board having no-one to go ashore with to enjoy a meal or drinkies. However, the next day I caught the shuttlebus service provided for the ship and went off in search of the Nature Reserve. There was a long queue on the dockside waiting to get on the 20 coaches provided... as there was obviously no walking in ContainerLand. Eventually I got to Orchard Road - where the drop off and pickup point was. From there I got on a local bus and took a ride out to the Burkit Timah Nature Reserve - an area of primary rainforest. I had high hopes of seeing the birds, squirrels , colungas and monkeys that were promised here... all I saw was an Oriental whip snake - very cool beastie and a 4" long caterpillar. Heard plenty of birds but just couldn't see them and as for the monkeys.... not a sight or sound of them...must've been having their siesta! However disappointing that was - the forest itself was wonderful! And I had a great time following the little trails up and down steep inclines, over tree roots and round buttress roots. It was hard going in the heat and humidity but what a fabulous place! I was so busy looking up trying to find a bird that I went over badly on my ankle.. served as a reminder to watch where I was going.. I was on my own and it would not be an easy place to get out of with a sprained or damaged foot!Couldn't cope with any of the malls on my return to Orchard Road... I went in one but the shutters went down in my brain... didn't want to be there, too much noise and hassle. So I joined the large queue for the shuttle bus back to the sanctity of Oriana.

Well I'm just a few days away from the end of my trip... and can't deny that I'm not ready to come home.... have had a marvellous time and have met lots of lovely new people and some familiar faces from previous cruises, when I was assisting Julie. I have just two ports of call left... Phu My in Vietnam and Hong Kong from where I shall be flying home. I will leave posting my report about these places til I get home... which alas is just 5 days away! Wish I could bring some of this lovely weather back with me... today is my last chance to sit out on deck in some hot sunshine, as it will cool rapidly now as we head up to HK.

Will walk the decks taking it all in -the sound of the sea washing along the hull of the ship, the breeze through the cables overhead, the sound of shuffleboard games clanking on the decks, the smell of salty air and the sight of endless ocean.

Signing off for the last time on MV Oriana


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Ship's log seadate 300108

Well the weather has at last turned hotter… For the last three days it’s been up in the 80’s….

Due to the scheduling of my classes (which has been chopped and changed so much) I was able to actually get out on deck in the daytime for the first time in the three weeks I’ve been on here. So the tan is at last being worked on. Now however they have changed my times again so… that plan has been scuppered!

Oman was great… the people were lovely and friendly… none of the frantic, manic persistent forceful hassling that we got in Egypt! Wandering through souk’s (markets) was pleasant and I actually bought a few things because of that fact. I escorted a tour in Salalah (or as our Captain called it Salalalalalaland) we went to a ‘picnic spot’ and fort/palace ruins before going to two souks and then a museum. The picnic spot was lovely situated at the foot of a mountain range (pointy hills really) around a natural spring and I got a little wildlife fix there with birds and fish.. and, of course, en route the free-ranging imperious camels with total disdain for all traffic. The fort/palace ruins was supposedly used by the Queen of Sheba! I didn’t get to look round the first souk as some passengers on another coach asked me to check their coach out, as they had no escort and they had some problems they needed taking note of and witnessing. At the museum I wandered off along a wadi to watch herons and little dabchicks and saw a harrier swoop through!

Dubai was… well there’s money there… I think that sums it up. Big BIG hotels, we passed one built like a pyramid complete with huge statues and gold hieroglyphs on the surrounding walls. We went to a Mall… not the biggest but much bigger than any mall I've been in. Inside the mall there were lots of water features and marble flooring, sparkling lights and all very glam and decadent. One mall even had a huge ski slope built into it - though I didn't actually see that one... just heard about it from passengers and crew who did. There's lots of road building and even the underpasses and flyovers were decorated and architectural not just concrete coloumns!

Mumbai I got off with two other ladies on ship (one passenger, one other guest lecturer) and we went shopping in local shops away from the touristy ones! It took some persuading of our taxi driver that this is what we wanted to do. Great fun.. also got a quick few photo’s at the Gateway of India.. the archway through which all foreigners arriving by sea to India used to pass through… so they say.

In Cochin I stayed on ship… had appointment at ship's hairdressers (tis cheaper on port days)… and had no-one to go ashore with. So sat up on aft end top deck and sunbathed and watched, photo’d and sketched the kites that had a nest in one of the dockside light stands that was conveniently close to the ship.

Now on our way to Phuket……