Saturday, January 8, 2011

Painting Miller's Point from the top of Harbour Control Tower New Year's Eve 2010- Part 4:Through a glass darkly

Painting on New Year's Eve 2010 from Amenities Level at the top of the Sydney Port's Harbour Control Tower.
Painting on New Year's Eve 2010 from Amenities Level at the top of the Sydney Port's Harbour Control Tower Painting of Barangaroo at sunset, waiting for the fireworks. 

People have gathered on the 'knuckle' of North Barangaroo to see the fireworks. When this area was still an operational port, the wharfies and their families used to sit here and have a picnic outside the now demolished Shed 3.  


The parade of tall ships and other Heritage Fleet vessels decked out in fairy lights, sailing the length of Sydney Harbour, is my favourite part of the whole celebration.
 Self Portrait with painting of Sydney Heritage Fleet with fairy lights.

One of my traditions is to paint the fireworks on New Year's Eve and other major celebrations from the vantage point of the top of the Sydney Ports Corporation's Harbour Control Tower. 
This may be for the last time.
There are no guarantees that this Tower will have any place in the redevelopment of Barangaroo. If it is to be retained, what function will it serve?
The interior spaces of both the amenities floor, where I paint, and the top floor, where the port operations are carried out, are very snug, to say the least. There isn't much room. The Tower is a magnificent observation post with breath-taking 360 degree panoramic Sydney Harbour views, but the number of people that could visit at any one time would be severely limited. I am worried that the Tower would be seen as being not economically viable to maintain in the new Barangaroo.
It could be demolished at any time after April 2011, which is when all the port operations will be finally transferred to Port Botany. Even if it is not immediately demolished, it will be inaccessible for a couple of years while major earthworks will be disrupting the Northern end of the Barangaroo Headland. The sandstone escarpment will be buried in earth to provide a slope down from Merriman St to the new shore of the Barangaroo Headland Park. I wonder how the inhabitants of the quaint little terraces in Merriman St will cope? They are a stoic, laid back bunch, but these changes will be traumatic.
   
To All:

Happy New Year!

Painting Miller's Point from the top of Harbour Control Tower New Year's Eve 2010- Part 3 : Panorama

Painting Miller's Point from top of Harbour Tower.
A small study of the rooftops of the heritage Miller's Point terraces. This painting is still unfinished but is well underway, and has already helped me to sort out some potential problems with the large panorama.

'Miller's Point from the top of the Harbour Tower' 2010-11 oil painting on canvas 61 x 183cm

 Painting Miller's Point from top of Harbour Tower. This is my painting for the late afternoon, with the shadows lengthening along the roads and carving strange shapes into the tin rooftops. I want the gold of the last rays of the setting sun to glint on the rooftops and warm the cold brick and tin. For this painting marks the end of an era for Miller's Point ; possibly for Sydney itself. Love it or hate it, things will never be the same.
I can see already that this painting is going to be a lot of hard work.
The previous small studies were to give me the courage to start this.
I have chosen a panorama format canvas for this composition, 3 times as long as it is high. The vista spans the Sydney Harbour Bridge, parts of the North Shore, Miller's Point, Walsh Bay Wharves, the Rocks, Observatory Hill,some of Sydney's CBD and Barangaroo.
It will be the quintessential Sydney Harbour painting; from the old Sydney to the new; from skyscrapers to dinky terraces; from pub to park to carpark;from road to wharf to sea. From the sublime to the gorblimey: Sydney from top to bottom of the harbour.

Detail of 'Miller's Point from the top of the Harbour Tower' 2010-11 oil painting on canvas 61 x 183cm 
Detail of 'Miller's Point from the top of the Harbour Tower' 2010-11 oil painting on canvas 61 x 183cm 


A ramshackle row of terraces contrasts with the lumpen apartment blocks behind them.

Painting Miller's Point from the top of Harbour Control Tower New Year's Eve 2010- Part 2: Moore's Wharf from the eye in the sky

Painting on New Year's Eve 2010 from Amenities Level at the top of the Sydney Port's Harbour Control Tower.
Painting Moore's Wharf and the Sydney Port's Corporation Emergency Response Tugs while waiting for the 9pm fireworks

My easel is set up in the lunchroom of the amenities floor. I am short, and the window is small and tantalizingly high. I spent the next 8 hours literally standing on tip-toe, painting the view. When I was younger, I spent several years at ballet class, not realizing that training my calf muscles not to protest would ever come in handy later on as an artist.
A bird's eye view of tugs and workboats

Moore's wharf has a fascinating roof structure - very tricky  perspective from above. From ground level, the building's curve is not immediately apparent.
As expected, the parade of tugs arriving and departing drove me bonkers. When one would finally return from an outing, they would dock it in the opposite direction to how it had been when it had set out. Just to annoy.
Art and life

I tried hard to take a photo of both the canvas on my easel with the view. The combination of the high set of the window, the narrow working space (the door is directly behind me) and the dark interior compared with the glaring light outside made this my puny Olympus camera's best effort. 
It's interesting how even in this age of digital photography, something as slow and old-fashioned as painting can still be more effective. The human eye has no trouble combining a dark interior scene with an extremely light exterior into a cohesive image - but the camera does.  People endlessly nag "Why paint on site? Why not just take photos?" Well, this is one example of the limitations of photography. Add to the dark/light problem, the glare of glass, and the smeared and grimy windows, and any photos taken through these windows are barely adequate as memories. 
It helps when painting this series of works from this vantage point that I have already painted everything in this area before. Singly, in pairs and in groups of three! The buildings, the boats, the wharf, the water - from almost every possible viewpoint and in every season and weather.

Painting Miller's Point from the top of Harbour Control Tower New Year's Eve 2010- Part 1: Nice Rooftops

I arrived at the Harbour Control Tower very early for New Year's Eve - about 10am and left after 4am. It was a very long day and a night and a day up there.
A small study of the rooftops of the heritage Miller's Point terraces. Unfinished oil painting on canvas 25 x 20 cm
Painting Miller's Point from top of Harbour Tower.
Starting a new canvas.  I'm going to paint a very large panorama of this area while I still can. The perspective is going to be very tricky so I'll try a few smaller works first. 
I can't help thinking of a hapless overseas star being asked the inevitable question by some hack before they had even got off the plane - "So....What do you think of Australia?" The snappy answer to the stupid question was "You have nice rooftops"  I can't recall who it was (John Lennon? Stephen Fry ? Worthy of either)
 Comparing art with life. I'm standing on a chair to compare my painting with the view outside.


I had to stand on a chair to paint this work as the windows are a bit too high for me to see the terraces. I'm 5'1", which is short, even for a woman. Exactly the same height as Toulouse-Lautrec reached.
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Unfinished study of the Miller's Point terraces and Walsh Bay Wharves from the top of the Harbour Control Tower 2010 oil painting on canvas 36 x 46cm
 
In the afternoon I start another small canvas. A small study of the rooftops of the heritage Miller's Point terraces and the former Bond stores of the Walsh Bay Wharves. The  roads curve towards the Opera House in the middle distance.

Friday, January 7, 2011

White Ship with Black Hawks-The 'Pacific Jewel' at Barangaroo


'Pacific Jewel at Wharf 5, Barangaroo, with Black Hawk helicopters
2010 oil painting on canvas 31 x 103cm

Buzzing Around

A training exercise (hopefully). This happened several times during September - November 2010. Must have scared the passengers out of their wits! The huge Black Hawk helicopters reminded me of giant blowflies buzzing around a flaked out sunbather.
Strangely enough, not long afterwards they had a real problem. Something mechanical went wrong with the Pacific Jewel. I don't know whether it was an engine problem or a propeller problem, but the ship had to cool its heels for quite a while, first at Barangaroo, then for over a week at Glebe Island and finally at Captain Cook dry dock over at Garden Island. I have painted an example of each site, and will post them at my other blog Industrial Revelation  soon.

This is painted from just inside the LendLease enclosure at the north-western end. I was chased away from the demolition activity down at the southern end and was grateful for all the aviation activity to add a different focus to the painting.
The diagonals of the white tents contrast with the darker, more classically inspired dockyard bond stores and historic hotels of Millers Point and Hickson Road to the right of the canvas. 
A light pole neatly bisects the canvas into new wharf to the left and old (or comparatively old) buildings to the right. LendLease had just finished removing all the powerpoles from their section of the wharf, leaving just a few of the yellow bollards sticking out, uselessly. In the centre distance of this painting, you can see some of these relics standing like a few jagged broken teeth in the toothless jaw of an old wharfie.
I must say that I don't care much for the Palisade Hotel's newly renovated roof garden. The shade sails might be practical but they spoil the charm of the stepped roof line, giving it a blocky, squared off look. However this will probably be the least of Millers point's architectural problems given all the changes in store for this previously sleepy and overlooked area.

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