Sunday, July 31, 2011

So Done!

Workshops are over! Six of them behind us. Daniella wowed Australia with her incredible professionalism, huge breadth of knowledge, and over-the-top sense of humor. It is a winning combination and people here are begging her to come back, and sooner rather than later!

Yesterday was a great finale to the class. People did "brilliant" work in the class, and mid-day we got take-away Vietnamese soup and sat out in the sun for a tasty picnic together. It felt good to clean all that equipment and then pack up our 10 boxes for the last time. I was utterly exhausted by the end, but we walked down to Chinatown for one last meal of "Ripper King Prawns" and Asian greens with garlic.

Oh, and I forgot to mention breakfast, pictured above. We were out walking and since it was Sunday morning, not much was opened. Then we saw people streaming into a small alley. We followed, and found a tiny, hidden jewel of a place where we sat outside on milk crate stools and ate the MOST divine breakfast we have had in OZ, and there have been some winners. D. had eggs Benedict, and I ordered the muesli. It was more like a rich granola full of macadamia nuts, covered in Greek yogurt, and a mix of raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries soaked in rose water. It was heavenly!! And some of the best coffee and chai latte of the trip too. Who knew that macadamia nuts are from Australia, more common here than in Hawaii??!

Here are a couple of random photos from the class. Sophie gave us a huge gift at the end, a copy of a big book of her gorgeous paintings, with a loving inscription. It you want to google her, she is Sophie Gralton, a fabulous painter and out-of-control fun person. She and Celia together are like an all day fireworks event, too much fun!! We will see them both once more, tonight in Sydney. Which reminds me. Get up. Pack. Go to airport. Fly to Sydney. Have one more day of fun. Fly to California! Yaaaay!!

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Location:Brisbane, AU

Saturday, July 30, 2011

OMG - A Huge Surprise Today!!!

We left our funky (but comfortable) B & ( no) B and headed out for our last encaustic class in Australia. We had heard that the class would be small, only 6 enrolled. It's a good thing, because we are in quite a small room, maybe as big as our kitchen at home, very tight quarters. By 10 am everybody had arrived except for "Claudia Schiffer and "Olivia Harris". We waited.

A few minutes later, up drove a big car and out stepped our pals Celia and Sophie, who were our students and wild playmates last weekend in Sydney! It was a huge, rollicking surprise. We were excited to see them, but also wondered how we could make room for two more people in a room so small and crowded. It turns out that they had enrolled under fake names to surprise us. Those rascals were really our Claudia and Olivia. And then the fun began!

It is a very good group. Besides them there are 2 lively professional women artists, one young art student, and a professor (man) from the local art college. Everybody jumped in fearlessly and began right away to paint!

At our lunch break we asked about where we could find something nearby, but Sophie said "oh no, let's go to Chinatown" so we climbed into her car and went on a quick and frightening ride into downtown. She jumped out, marched up to the first Asian person she saw, and asked "where is the best Yum Cha lunch?". We had seen signs for Yum Cha all over Chinatown but didn't know what it was. Turned out it was dim sum, and we had a fantastic banquet, with Sophie impulsively ordering dish after dish of wonderful things. Completely delicious! what a treat!!

We had to race back to the class, a bit late but we made it up at the end. Our students were gracious about it, and the afternoon flew by with much fun and laughter. At the end of the day, Sophie and Celia were ready to play, so we found a place to go for drinks, and then another for a lighter dinner of pizza and rocket salad. We talked and laughed for hours into the night, and finally they drove us back to our hotel. It was like going through a maze - we know how to walk to it, but not how to drive to it, and we circled around it in the dark many times before finally plunging into the little alley that takes us to One Thornbury. What a great day!

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Location:Brisbane, AU

Friday, July 29, 2011

Odds and Ends day

We lazed about today, strolled down to Chinatown for lunch. Did a little laundry. Ate a cannoli for a treat. And set up for our sixth and final workshop here in Brizzie.

Tonight we found a place with excellent Korean food, and here is Daniella crying with happiness, or with excessively hot Kim Chee while eating her favorite dish, Kim Chee Chi Gae, best ever outside Korea!

And now for a little musical interlude. It has been pointed out by an Australian friend that my impressions of this country are sadly lacking in any commentary on music. Alas I am ill-equipped in so many ways to say anything at all about music, but she and another new friend have both sent us the same very moving and exciting YouTube clip as a starting off point. I love the music, and most of the performances take place in the elegant Sydney Opera House, where we just visited last week. I will link to it here.

But I will have to admit that my favorite music of all these days is the sound of the birds outside our window in the mornings, so exotic and melodious. We saw two of them singing a duet together this morning. They are Australian magpies - they have grabbed me by the heart! Here is a YouTube somebody recorded that is a near variation of what wakes us up each day so joyously!

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Into the Woods

I've been longing to get out into the countryside, and yesterday we managed to do it. Since we aren't driving here in AU, we signed up for a day tour into the rain forests, south of here. Our driver picked us up at 6:30 am in this 4WD vehicle, and off we went.

We drove south along the Gold Coast for about an hour and a half until we got to Surfers Paradise, a city that looks like Miami Beach, miles of beaches with golden sand, and miles of high-rise hotels and luxury apartments lining the beach fronts. It was indistinguishable from many US luxury beach areas. In fact, much of the Brisbane area is indistinguishable from much of California. The city has every American excess, every junk food outlet imaginable, big box stores, glaring advertising in the metropolitan areas. It is a fairly young city, brash, and a bit vulgar in my opinion. And the countryside, similarly, looks just like California with a few exceptions.

We turned inland and drove a long way back into the interior where we began climbing the steepest, most winding road I've ever experienced. It wound up and around some mountain ridges for 42 kilometers before we reached the top and our first destination, O'Reillys, which is really a resort on the so-called Scenic Rim, that once was a ranch. In the middle of the Lamington National Park, it is a few acres scraped off clear in the middle of a dense forest of eucalypts and boo yang trees and many we could not identify. We learned, for example, that the aboriginals made boomerangs from cutting out pieces of the root shown above, which already has a natural curve in it.

The big attraction here was the catwalk through the treetops which meandered throughout the area and gave us the opportunity to examine the trees up close. Here is my favorite cat walker!

After the driver served us tea at a picnic area, we had to fasten our seat belts for the descent, which was all on a rutted and horribly eroded dirt road called Duck Creek Road. It took about 45 minutes to get down the road, jouncing all over the place. We stopped occasionally to look at the outstanding views from the roadside.

When we emerged, we drove through farms and many horse raising areas, very beautiful. On this journey we saw five kangaroos in the wild - three jumping across the field, one sitting bolt upright, and one crouched down in a golden meadow. I also saw a kookaburra, a wild turkey, and a gorgeous rose and grey parrot. But the wildlife spotting was very disappointing in general. We drove so fast through most places and there was no time to be still and look around.

After a picnic lunch near the little town of Canungra, "place of the owls", and another looooooong drive, we got to our last stop, a beautiful waterfall in deep forest in Springbrook National Park, that falls through a stone arch with a deep stone cave behind it. Normally the cave is full of glow-worms, but there were none to see when we got in there. Only the pretty waterfall.

Back into the 4WD for an endlessly long drive back to the city, stuck in traffic for most of the last hour. Overall the day had some interesting moments but not enough to justify a whole day, and all that driving. At least we saw some of the countryside, even if while whizzing by.

Got to our hotel at about 6:30 pm, tired and hungry. Since we have come to believe that our B&B sits in the middle of a dead zone (no public transport, no food, nothing but houses) we did a little Internet research and decided to walk out in a new direction. Lo and behold we found ourselves in Chinatown, just a ten minute walk from here. Had a delicious Vietnamese dinner, and thus ended a very long day with a bit of a sweet finale!

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Location:Brisbane, AU

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Feeling Better

Things are looking up a bit. A good cup of chai latte and some exhiliratingly blue sky did wonders for my spirits this morning. Today we walked for hours. In fact we walked all the way across Brisbane before we were done, and then part of the way back again.

We headed over to the GOMA, or Gallery of Modern Art. The sculpture below greeted us as we strolled into the big empty plaza outside the museum. The building sits on the bank of the Brisbane River, in a huge complex of art galleries and performing arts venues.

Inside we looked for hours at some wonderful exhibits. The big show was art work from the Torres Straits islanders, people whose homeland is off the coast of Queensland in the direction of Papua, New Guinea. The vibrant works of art shown here are similar to but yet significantly different from Australian aboriginal art. They use strong lines and patterns, but the colors and techniques are completely different. Themes reflect a life in tune with the sea.

This last one is an aboriginal piece that we saw upstairs in the Library adjacent to GOMA.

This photo is for Angela Gleason.

We walked through a big farmers market this morning, and then later went to the area called West End, where many ethnic restaurants and shops are grouped together. Our lunch was Greek, but it was hard to choose from so many nationalities. After a lot more walking (and we were too hot-imagine!) we caught a bus to somewhere reasonably close to our little B &B.
Now we are resting, listening to the exotic and piercing bird calls outside our window.

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Location:Brisbane, AU

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Brisbane Blues

We are in Brisbane. So far we feel like we are in a suburb of LA, in an isolated bed and breakfast, but with no breakfast, no public transport near us. Hopefully tomorrow will be cheerier. At least it is sunny and mild, or as they say here, "fine". Not so much.

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Location:Brisbane, AU

Monday, July 25, 2011


Yes, it is true. Yesterday the sun shone in Australia, and it was glorious. We had a "day off" and took advantage of it. For a few hours we became sightseers, after a long working week.

First we took the train into the city, and got out near the Royal Botanic Gardens. The impromptu planter above was not in the Royal Gardens, but something we saw along the way.

The gardens were the perfect place to be yesterday. Australians were rejoicing to be out in the sunshine. The park is full of formal and informal gardens, and avenues of huge old trees like these.

We met up with our friend Anthea, who was in one of our workshops, and together we toured the National Art museum, which has a rich collection of aboriginal art, as well as numerous contemporary art works. It was great to have Anthea as a guide and companion. She knew so much about what we were seeing, and she is a fun person to be with.

Next we strolled down through the gardens to a sweet restaurant with an upstairs terrace overlooking some tropical ponds and gardens. While we ate a particularly scrumptious lunch (parsnip, celeriac, and hazelnut soup shown here) we were entertained by an array of birds who came right up to the tables looking for scraps. There were several Noisy Indian Minor birds, and many Ibis who hopped right onto table tops looking for goodies.

One area of the park was notable for the huge resident population of Fruit Bats (flying foxes). The dark sacs you can see on the tree below are all fruit bats hanging upside down. Many were flying around in broad daylight, or stretching and scratching themselves, and they make a raucous loud screeching noise. I could have watched them for hours!

After lunch we strolled through the park to the Sydney Opera House. Anthea left us there, and we signed up for an hour-long tour of the building, which was highly informative and delightful. We got into most of the theaters where rehearsals were going on, stage sets being built, etc. Fantastic building, with an amazing history of how it was designed and constructed.

At sunset we sat outside the Opera House and watched a little rain storm that swept across the western side of the city as the sun went down. There was a rainbow, and this golden hued sky.

To end the day, and our week in Sydney, we walked around the city and into the Rocks area where we met Derek and Celia for a final, celebratory evening together. We chose the Lord Nelson pub, on the recommendation of our Santa Crus pal Kristine, because she told us they have the best fish and chips in the world. After a hearty plate of of them, we can't argue with her. Once again an evening full of laughter, good, food, and great conversation as we deepen our friendship with these two very sweet people.

Now we are in the air en route to Brisbane and our next adventures!

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Location:Sydney, AU

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Learning the Lingo

Bottle brush (after the workshop ended)....

Workshop number 5 is finished, and was Bonza (excellent). Great artwork happened, met faboo people, and we had an especially Ripper Rita (fantastic) time with our super hosts, Derek and Celia. They are truly "fair dinkum" (the genuine item), couldn't ask for more thoughtful, generous and fun people to hang with. We admire and love them both!

Tomorrow we are off to Brisneyland, of Bris Vegas, or Brizzie as the folks in Sydney refer to it. What fun we have had so far!

Even though this journey has not been so much about sightseeing, we have been deeply immersed in conversations with many Australians, and have been studying the language intensively. It is wildly colorful and exotic to us. Here are a few highlights so far:

Aussies tend to shorten long, multiple-syllable words and add an O. So we get "lingo" for language, "relo" for relatives, "ambo" for ambulance, "arvo" for afternoon, "smoko" for a tea or smoking break from work, "doco" for documentary, "dero" for a hobo, tramp (from derelict), "garbo" for garbage, "nasho" for National Service", and so many more. An electrician is a "sparky", carpenter a "chippie".

We love how people say "good on ya" when you have done something well, or when they are wishing you well.

There are many colorful ways to say that somebody is dumb or crazy: "he has a kangaroo loose in the upper paddock", "she is a few prawns short of a barbie", "a sandwich short of a picnic", "one brick short of a load", etc.

When you are suddenly surprised or amazed you can say "stone the crows!"', or "cut off my legs and call me shorty!", or "God strike me fat!" if you are a skinny person. If something is simple and easy to accomplish (you push a button and something magical happens) you can say "Bob's your uncle!"

Doing something quickly can be "in two shakes of a lamb's tail" or more often "in two shakes", or in "half a tick" (as in the ticking of a clock).

We love the great descriptions of various things: "mad as a cut snake", "cross as a frog in a sock", "grinning like a shot fox" (smugly satisfied), "dry as a dead dingo's dodger". A drunk can be a "two-pot screamer". Female genitals are called "fanny" or "mappa Tassie" (map of Tasmania).

A chicken is a "chook", and being ill is "crook", and people are sometimes "crook as a chook". Having sex can be to "root" or "have a naughty". Someone who talks too much is an "ear basher". To "whinge" is to complain or whine. You might be given a prezzie (gift) and you can only hope it is not bodgy (poor quality). Some Aussies get their "tucker" (food) at "Maccas" (McDonalds). A microwave is a "tuckerfucker".

And now, for fear of being thought an ear basher and making you whinge, I'll just say "Hooroo" (goodbye).

Oh, and be sure to check out Daniella's blog too!

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Location:Sydney, AU

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Musing on the Archibald

Some things are just eerily serendipitous. On our first night in Melbourne, several weeks ago, we went for dinner to a fairly lousy Chinese restaurant. It was noisy and crowded, and we were studying the menu when the lively young woman next to me leaned over and said "don't order the Lemon Chicken - it's like rubber." After that salient piece of advice, we struck up a rambling conversation and somewhere along the line, she said that we would have to go see the Archibald Prize exhibit out at Tarawara. We didn't know what she was talking about, but duly made note of it, and a few days later we made our way to the exhibit, using several trains and buses to get there.

In an earlier blog I talked about what an amazing show it was. What has been even more amazing is how the thread of it has followed us everywhere throughout Australia. Everyone talks about it. Many artists we have met have entered the competition. We have seen the work of the Archibald finalists in many museums and galleries. Last night when we visited Celia Gullett, one of her studio mates was a former Archibald winner, and several of his big canvas portraits were lying around in the studio, many about ten feet tall! If not for that random comment in a restaurant, we might have missed it all. Thank you, Rubber Chicken Lady!!

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Location:Sydney, AU

Artist's Paradise

Yes, rain again yesterday. After we ducked into a little patisserie down the block for a morning chai latte, we were kindly picked up by Derek Parker, our host for this current workshop. Derek owns the Parkers Art Supply store where our workshop is happening. For starters, I carried along a bag of dirty laundry. We had spotted a laundry where you can leave your washing for a day and pick it up in the afternoon all clean and folded. I dropped it off at 9, but in the churn of the workshop, forgot to pick it up! They were closed, of course, when I remembered, and today is Sunday. Have no idea if they will be open, but if not, our luggage just got pounds lighter! Not such a bad thing we reckon.

This was an amazing workshop, full of many professional artists, many of whom regularly show at big galleries in Australia. Some of them have been experimenting with encaustics, and all of them were loaded with technical questions that took up the first two hours of the class, bam, right out of the gates! Daniella is eminently equipped to answer anything thrown her way, and so she made an impressive start to the morning. By mid-afternoon, people were making the most beautiful art works already. Can't wait to see where they take it today, but they are an exciting group, and SO thrilled to get this great class that Daniella offers.

At the end of the day, Derek and his partner, Celia Gullett, took us to her studio to see her beautiful oil paintings and collages, all inspired by the Australian bush. We drank Moet Chandon and talked about art. Next we went down to the Rocks section of Sydney for a lovely Japanese dinner together.

Then, like a magical mystery tour, Derek opened his art store and took us on a tour of the most magnificent art supply palace we have ever seen, stocked with the finest of artists mediums, papers, and canvases. We were stunned by the scope of it, by the beauty of the displays, and by Derek's generosity as he loaded up Daniella with an armful of gifts.

And today, Sunday, the forecast is for sunshine! We will be inside in the workshop most of the day, so we won't notice much. But sunshine, now there is a concept......Then tonight we pack up all our boxes once again to get them ready for shipment to Brisbane for workshop number 6, the final curtain call. This month has flown by, and at the same time it seems like we've been away for months.

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Location:Sydney, AU

Friday, July 22, 2011

Rain Does Not Dampen Fun, Does Not, Does Not. Repeat & Believe.

Drenching rain continues here. Yesterday I went out for an hour-long walk in the morning, despite it. When it got too bad, I stopped under some overhang and sometimes got to chat with others who were seeking shelter from the massive amounts of water coming down. I walked in a neighborhood near us called Paddington, where most of the contemporary art galleries are located. I also saw a lot of these gorgeous old gum trees, just huge! Yes I got soaked, But it was worth it!

At noon we went out with our lovely and generous friend Susan. She first took us to a nearby gallery to seen the work of Jenny Sages, an Australian encaustic artist. The work was beautiful, and we also got to watch a DVD of Jenny working. She was not totally new to us. When we went to the Archibald portrait exhibit in Tarawara, her portrait of her (now deceased) husband Jack was one of our favorites of all in that show.

Next we drove over to Darling Point and Double Bay, two of the poshest areas in Sydney. There we did a little banking, some sightseeing, etc. The photo below was taken from the street where Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise lived when they were together, complete with on-street security guard. The view is across a harbor to the city skyline, spectacular even in the wet conditions.

After a scrumptious lunch in Bondi Beach, we came back to the hotel to regroup. At 5 pm we took a train to Parkers, the location of our next workshop. In two hours, we got all set up and ready to start this morning with workshop number FIVE. What a marathon this has been! Derek Parker, the owner of this framing and art-supply business, is the fourth generation of Parkers to own this shop. He remembers working with his grandfather when he was a child, and most of the great art work of Australia for the past 100 years has passed through the hands of this shop. We are honored to be presenting in this venerable location, and delighted to get to know Derek!

Location:Sydney, AU