Tuesday 18 September 2012

Centennial Park, Sydney

Not only is Centennial Park a beautiful part of Sydney, but it has an amazing history and is still significant today as the largest freshwater wetland system in inner-metropolitan Sydney. It is approximately 189 hectares of open space and it is a "people's park" for the enjoyment of the public.

Water Lily Pond
It was designed as a grand park in the Victorian tradition with formal gardens, ponds, statues and wide avenues for the early Sydneysiders to drive their carriages around to ‘take the air’.

Centennial park is also vital for stormwater management and drainage of the local areas and to alleviate local flooding by its detention basin.

On 26th January 1888 Centennial Park was officially opened to celebrate the centenary of Eurpoean settlement in Australia, and this day is known and celebrated as Australia Day.

In 1825 convict labour was used to bore a 3.5 km subterranean aqueduct to gravity feed the pure water from the Lachlan Swamps (as it was then called) to Hyde Park in Sydney, underneath Oxford Street. This served as Sydney's main water supply until 1859. This aqueduct is now known as Busby's Bore and is one of the most important examples of early industrial development in Sydney.

Centennial Park is also a special place for me, and I often take my sketchbook down as there is never a shortage of things to sketch and record. The water reflections are wonderful, especially very early morning, just after the sun has risen. There is dew on the grass, the lakes are like mirrors and birds leave a wonderful pattern as they glide silently over the water.

Enjoy some of my sketches I have done of Centennial Park.

Within its diverse environment, almost 124 native bird species and 18 introduced species of both land and waterbirds have been recorded.

The Centennial Gates and some of the fantastic garden sculptures found in certain areas of the park.

Balance in Life

We all need balance in life, and to me this includes doing things out of the norm. As I spend most of my days in my office/studio working, it is good to get out and enjoy the fresh air, and find a little time to unwind and "smell the roses".

So when the opportunity presented itself to volunteer to man the drink station for the Sydney Runing Festival, in aid of Sydney Children's Hospital, I eagerly jumped at the chance.

My alarm went off at 6am and it was a cool but clear morning. Unfortunately I had been battling some dreaded virus but felt better that morning. So off I went to Centennial Park, which is only a leisurely 15 minute walk from  home and I was really rugged up, no wanting to invite any further complications to my slowly recovering health.

Dawn breaking on Centennial Park as we set up the drink station

There was ample time to set up, and the whole event was incredibly well organised. The wheelchair athletes were the first to come through. Kurt Fearnley, the London Paralympics Champion sailed past with an enormous grin on his face, obviously having a great time. He was fresh back from London and was spectacularly fit.

The marathon runners came through next, firstly the elite athletes who did not slow down as they grabbed the water we enthusiastically offered, along with our encouragement. Slowly the middle of the pack appeared and there were literally hundreds of runners descending on the water, not just to drink but to thrown over themselves. 

Me at the drink station
By the time the C grade runners approached, most were walking, but we cheered them on and gave them further congratulations and support to spur them along to the finish.

In the end they were all champions! 

Monday 10 September 2012

Bushfire Burnoff

Early yesterday morning my husband and I noticed great plumes of fire and smoke spectatularly rising many hundreds of feet into the air. Helicopters were circling. As we live high above Sydney Harbour it was clearly visible. Was it a terrorist attack? Had a warehouse caught fire?

There was nothing on our news reports, and the fire was obviously spreading and reminded me of volcanic activity we had recently experienced in Kagoshima Japan with Mt. Sakuajima Volcano.
            Smoke seen from my balcony                  Smoke from Mt Sakurajima volcano

This morning I discovered the smoke was caused by a controlled hazard reduction burnoff, which was conducted not only around Sydney, but this one was from Wyong on the Central Coast, which is an hour's drive from Sydney. The freeway was closed for some time resulting in a lot of disruption for travellers to and from the Central Coast on a Sunday.

25 hectares of bushland was burnt throught the afternoon to establish containment lines as a very hot summer is predicted. Our wonderful NSW Rural Fire Service does an amazing job in conducting burnoffs and fire information to protect areas throught NSW, particularly those with forests and bushlands where fires can take hold and are very difficult to control, as we have experienced in past years, with loss of many lives.

Saturday 8 September 2012


Am about to head off to the station to teach a full day workshop on Leaves.

John Ruskin (1819-1900), an art critic, theorist and botanical artist, said "If you can paint a leaf you can paint the world." How true this is.

Everything you need to know about watercolour painting is experienced in painting a leaf. There is:
  • Colour matching
  • Brush and paint control
  • Correct amount of water to paint
  • Highlights
  • Shadows
  • Tone
I have 20 students booked into this workshop, with a waiting list. Rather daunting as my usual class sizes for my regular botanical art course is 16.

Workshops are a lot of fun, very relaxed, and we cover an amazing amount of different areas, culminating with my Show and Tell, which is my class evaluation of what the students have produced through the workshop. This is invaluable and they also learn from seeing what works and does not work, and how they can improve their techniques, and also makes them think outside the square.

Demonstratons are integral to this workshop, so I always ensure I am nice and fresh and I clear any cobwebs with a brisk walk to catch the train.

Botanical art is all about Observation, Patience, Practice and Perseverance.

Nectarine Leaf painted in a New Zealand workshop

Saturday 1 September 2012

Magazine Article

I am on track with my projects and painting, although there is another commission to complete before I get to my own work.

Yesterday I finished an article for Artists' Palette on Art Tours. This was in response to a readers letter to the magazine. Included in my article I did a step by step demonstration on how to do a pen and wash sketch. I actually had to do the sketch and scan it at various intervals. Luckily it didn't have to be a botanical art painting, which would have taken a week to finish (slotted in with other priorities).

I have two articles coming up shortly in Australian Artist magazine and will let you know when they are published, and also another article due for publication in Back to Basics magazine. It is not the writing that takes the time, but assembling the complimentary images for the articles.

Here is the sketch I completed of a temple entrance at Tirtagangga Water Palace in Bali. This was for my step by step demonstration.

I could spend a month in Bali sketching my way around the island. If only.......

Temple entrace at Tirtagangga Water Palace, Bali

I love the colours, the architecture, the detail and the religious symbolism in the Bali culture.

Yesterday afternoon was spent working on a floor plan (on graph paper) of my new built-in office/studio. I have been procrastinating over this, because it all seemed in the "too hard" basket. This was probably because I had so many other projects and work on at the same time, I couldnt find a space in my head to think about measurements, de-cluttering (throwing things out?) and what I needed in my space.

I was happy with my floor plan and I know the builder will have more ideas. I bit the bullet and rang him about the project and now am very excited. I will take some before and after shots to show you the progress. Do not have a starting date yet, as long as it is before Christmas, as I only have a few trips away between now and then, but am extremely busy in 2013.

This morning I will finish marking my students work (this is a fulltime job on its own), enjoy an afternoon at an exhibition opening and perhaps some relaxing tomorrow? Believe it or not, I find what I do relaxing, it is not like work and it is always stimulating and challenging. So think I will begin sorting out some things in my room.