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First evening and day at #BigSkyArtCourse #TheWhiteHouse #BurnhamMarket with #JohnHoar

Philip Westcott

Posted on Wed 28 Nov 2018

After a busy time, it’s good to have a chance to catch up with my thoughts on the last few weeks. My exhibition went well, even if the weather wasn’t always kind. I managed to sell about fifteen paintings and the cards I made went well. Lots of good comments about my work and a chance to talk to some old friends and make some new ones. I must say at the end of the four weeks I have changed my mind about the idea of ever working in a gallery. Even though we were only there for three to four hours, three days a week it was hard work; at times it was very quiet and at others quite busy.

I was also lucky enough to win a painting holiday at the Big Sky Hotel in Norfolk, from a competition that I had entered in Painters on Line. I chose to go in November, partly because of other commitments and partly because of the course offered in Watercolour and Pen and Ink. I use these for my small studies but mainly as reference material or small studies. I have not done a large watercolour for over twenty years.

I was a little nervous about this endeavour, partly because I had never done anything like this before and partly because of the distance and chances of inclement weather. I decided to split the journey in half and arrived on the Monday at the hotel early. The Sat Nav had problems on the small country roads and I had to go back to the information sheet for instructions.

I was greeted by the owner with a warm welcome and being the first to arrive had a chance to walk around the grounds. The Hotel and surroundings were exceptional and after a rest, I met my fellow artists and guests and we had our first meeting at four o clock. As all of us were artists, there was an immediate bond and we were soon getting to know each other. We met the tutor John Hoar and his wife before going to our rooms to prepare for the evening meal. This night, as with the meals that followed, were superb.

After the evening meal, we were treated to a demonstration by John, which proved to be impressive. He was supported by his wife, almost as a double act, as she reminded him of things he needed to say at times. An entertaining and thoughtful start to the course, watching how his picture developed.​
The next day was our chance to do our first watercolour in a paint along session. I found this quite hard at times, as he used a different range of colours from what I was used to. My sky, which I was quite pleased with, almost vanished as it dried; something for me to remember in future.
I also found it hard to mix my greens using Raw Sienna and Winsor Blue; a task he found quite easy. As well as these two colours, our paints for the course included, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Payne's Grey, Alizarin Crimson and Light Red, as well as Hookers Green for two Land Rovers.
Having not attended any of these before, I took everything I could think of with me, but found that I needed a larger water container, which was solved when I raided the kitchen for and empty milk bottle; also a mid sized brush and a better mixing palette.
My first painting had some areas I liked and others I felt that I could have done better. Hopefully the next one will give me a chance to use the knowledge I have gained.

​The next day was our chance to do our first watercolour in a paint along session. I found this quite hard at times, as he used a different range of colours from what I was used to. My sky, which I was quite pleased with, almost vanished as it dried; something for me to remember in future.
I also found it hard to mix my greens using Raw Sienna and Winsor Blue; a task he found quite easy. As well as these two colours, our paints for the course included, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Payne's Grey, Alizarin Crimson and Light Red, as well as Hookers Green for two Land Rovers.
Having not attended any of these before, I took everything I could think of with me, but found that I needed a larger water container, which was solved when I raided the kitchen for and empty milk bottle; also a mid sized brush and a better mixing palette.
My first painting had some areas I liked and others I felt that I could have done better. Hopefully the next one will give me a chance to use the knowledge I have gained.


Final thoughts on the Iberian cruise and goodbye to the #MarellaSpirit
16/11/2018 0 Comments

Just over six weeks now, since we returned and by the Spirit will have left the fleet going to another company. We have been on the Spirit twice before and on boarding, it was like meeting an old friend. Not being too big, it was easy to find our way round again and our favourite band was still playing in the top bar area.

It was a little strange because in the past we had sailed in school holidays and this time there were no children on board. In fact the first week seemed like it was full of all the grandparents enjoying their freedom now that the grandchildren they had been looking after had gone back to school. On the second week a few children did board the ship though.

The entertainment crew must have been the hardest working ones we had ever seen putting on more shows than ever, although it was the first time that a couple of the shows had been repeated on the second week. The top bar had a slightly different feel to it because of the age range on the ship and there were times when it was hard to find a seat. When we had to share a table we were soon in conversation, sharing holiday and cruise stories and general conversation

As with all holidays, there were individuals who you seemed to keep noticing, the man with his Hawaiian shirts, the lady and gentleman who always wore the same hat or the gentleman who wore cowboy shirts and enjoyed his dancing. These made good subject matter for sketching.

We always enjoy Marella cruises because we like the idea of only one sea day and waking up in a new port each day. This cruise visited a number of towns we had never been to and having had a brief glimpse of the places there were a few that we would look forward to visiting again.

​As well as the busy days in port, there were several lounges to relax in and again these gave me plenty of chances for quick sketches,

The ship was a little worn in places but always a pleasure to sail in. Some guests even came on this cruise just to say goodbye to it as it brought back so many happy memories. We chose it because of where it was going not knowing about this being its last month. We will now have to look forward to going on the Dream or another one in the fleet and see if these have the same friendly feeing.


Last few ports of call #Lisbon #Portimao #Cadiz and #Gibraltar.
12/11/2018 0 Comments

Our first port of call was Lisbon. On our travels we like to try different ways of getting around. Here we decided to go on a Tuk-Tuk, which proved to be nothing like the ones you see in some movies.It was the upmarket electric version, leather seats etc and apparently cost about £24,000 plus £4000 for the battery. This was a fantastic way to go around the narrow streets and a fortunate choice as the taxis were on strike. The views from the vantage points were impressive as were the churches we visited, one's interior being completely covered in gold.

After getting back to the ship, we had time to go for a walk to see more of the town. It was interesting to see that one man was building stone sculptures from the rocks and people were giving him money. Another fascinating structure that we saw, was the lift to take you from the lower town to the upper one, unfortunately there was a long queue here, so we had t give it a miss.

A city we would certainly return to for a few days in future.

At Portimao, we had a choice of visiting the town or getting a coach to the seaside town of Pria-da Rocha. Fortunately, we decided to go to the coast and it was a nice change to wander along a seaside resort, taking in the different sights. It also gave us a chance to pick up a few souvenirs.

At the far end of our walk, were smaller inlets to sunbathe in and these were very pretty. As we walked back along the beach the scenery changed and here the coastline was flat and the bars all had their own sunbathing areas. Strangely, the further we walked towards the harbour, a loud thumping beat could be heard and as we came closer its volume increased. This proved to be a large concert area, with hundreds of young people dancing the day away in a cordoned off area. As well as the music, there was a large pool and other facilities. Unfortunately, we hadn't packed our disco shoes and had to get the coach back to the ship, otherwise it would have been our first rave!

In Cadiz we decided to explore the town ourselves. After leaving the ship, we came across the local tourist office. They were giving out maps of the town and we were impressed to find out that on the floor, there were several coloured trails you could follow; depending on what you wanted to see and the time you had.

We set off on the first one and found ourselves in a large square, where a craft market was being set up. After that, we were exploring several narrow streets. We finished one trail and decided to try another. Looking out for the painted lines was great fun, even if they crossed at times or were a little worn. We certainly found parts of the town we otherwise wouldn't have seen.

The architecture was stunning and we even managed to fit in a quick visit to the art gallery, showing more traditional art. Another very impressive town and following the marked routes was a good idea and one that other towns could take on board. These were very helpful and would allow tourists to enjoy their visit more.

Our final port of Gibraltar, proved to be the one that split people's opinions. We booked a tour to the Rock as this was the main attraction that you hear about before you go. This proved to be badly organised as we arrived an hour and a half before the cable car was due to start running.
Fortunately, the driver of our shuttle bus. managed to persuade them to let us go up quite quickly. On arriving, we then found the facilities weren't open as well. Here again, the staff decided to open early for which we were very thankful. As it was rather foggy and cold up at the top with a non existent view. The only thing to do then was sit and drink lots of hot coffee for a while.

​Eventually, we ventured outside to see the apes. The ones near the café appeared well fed and were quite docile but as you ventured further away, they were a lot more lively. This trip was partly spoilt by the low cloud and cold, but the whole upper rock seemed run down. I know it is a ruined fortress but there was rubbish everywhere and some of the apes were just rooting through it. Although there was more to see it was hard to venture further because of poor visibility, which was a shame as I'm sure there were some quite interesting things to see.

We went back down on the cable car and once below the cloud, it was pleasantly warm. As we wandered along the main street, it felt very familiar with Dorothy Perkins, Marks and Spencer and many of the high street stores found at home. Although a tax free port the prices seemed very similar apart from alcohol which was a lot cheaper.

As the day progressed, we knew that it wasn't going to be one of those golden visits. What with the disappointing start and then when we went into a café for something to eat and ordered two pancakes, Sue's arrived first and I waited and waited for mine. Sue had eaten hers before the waitress came and told us that the machine had broken and I never got one!

We left the café and wandered to a large square, which was very lively, and decided to look for the small craft outlets advertised on the upper floor of a craft market. As you can imagine, most of these were closed, but we did have a good view of the start of a small re-enactment by the colonial soldiers.

We then decided to make our way back to the ship, which proved to be quite a difficult task. As we had travelled into the town centre by shuttle bus and leaving on foot, we had to rely on the map given to us on the ship. The area itself was poorly signposted and as I have mentioned before in previous blogs, the maps weren't very good! In our wanderings and after taking many a wrong turn, we did come across the modern port area, which was impressive and then fortunately saw the ships entertainment officer and managed to follow him!

When talking to fellow passengers, we found that some liked the idea of all the local shops and English surroundings, whereas others enjoyed other ports where there was a local feel. We were a little disappointed with the day and could only sit and wish we could have gone up the Rock later in the day, as the clouds disappeared, and maybe then, we would see why people love the town.


Visit to #Porto and #MuseuDeArteContemoreaDeSerralves #ContemporaryArtGallery #Serralves
1/11/2018 0 Comments

Arriving in Porto and having talked to people who had been there before, we decided to catch a Hop on Hop off bus to see the sights.

As we set off along the shore, we immediately saw a sculpture based on a tragedy at sea. The sea at this time was quite rough and you could imagine the plight of these women as they waited for their fishermen husbands and fathers to return.
Further along the coast was a large sculpture, which was a tribute to the sea. This was a large net like structure, which apparently was even more impressive at night when it's lit up. ( I have picture of this later on in the blog)
Along the bus route, we had an excellent tour of the town, taking in all the landmarks. It was difficult deciding where to get off, not really knowing what we wanted to see and being short of time. We mainly used this as a way of deciding if we would like to return for a short break. Some very nice buildings and a few that were in need of some TLC.

Eventually, we saw the Contemporary Art Gallery mentioned and it seemed interesting as it was also a park with outdoor sculptures. As well as giving us a cultural fix, it also gave us a chance to have a walk in the sunshine.

The Serralves Foundation’s Museum of Contemporary Art is very much on the international art map. The building alone is worth a visit – a masterpiece by Álvaro Siza Museu Romântico Vieira. It plays host to exhibitions showcasing Portuguese artists and others from around the world. These arty indoor treats are complemented by the beautiful surrounding park and the magnificent art deco house.

As we entered the grounds, we were immediately faced with a large sculpture near the entrance. This obviously intrigued us and even though there was a cost to enter the gallery, it proved to be well worthwhile.
The first room we entered displayed a selection of models of outside space sculptures, made by Anish Kapoor, a British sculptor. Born in Bombay, Kapoor has lived and worked in London since the early 1970s. I had seen pictures of his Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago, but did not realise that he had produced so much work in cities around the world.

To see his ideas as models gave a good insight into his thought process.

The next room focused on the work of Gilbert and George and this was the first time I had seen a retrospective of their work and it proved to be quite impressive.

Two more rooms followed with some humorous sculptures in one and a photographic exhibition in the other. I always find it hard to decide why some photographs are chosen, as being worthy of an exhibit whilst, to me being similar to ones anyone can take. At other times I am in awe of the photographers subject matter or view of the world.

After viewing the galleries we decided to wander around the park using a map of where to view the sculptures. Having only a short time left, before having to catch the bus, we were selective over the area we could cover. Some sculptures were quirky whilst others, such as the mirrors and stairway, involved the viewer. These made the walk more interesting and it was a shame we didn't have longer to explore. I did get a chance to ​capture a quick sketch of one of the landscaped features though.

The ship was only a short distance away but in the heat of the afternoon, we decided to catch the bus back. We were surprised to see that, as we approached the dock, everything was cloaked in a mist from the sea. The seagulls seemed quite happy though. In the distance you can see the sculpture mentioned earlier.
Another enjoyable visit to a city. Not one we may go back to as some others we had visited would be higher up our list. A super art gallery and a range of artwork we would never have expected to see.


#Malaga and #PicassoMuseum and #AndyWarhol exhibition
30/10/2018 0 Comments

At the end of the first week we arrived at Malaga and had a chance to go into the city whilst the new passengers boarded. One of the places we looked forward to visiting was the Picasso museum.
The Museo Picasso Málaga is a museum in Málaga, Andalusia, Spain, the city where artist Pablo Ruiz Picasso was born. It opened in 2003 in the Buenavista Palace, and has 285 works donated by members of Picasso's family.
We decided to go by bus from the port, but again the map wasn't perfect and we finished up getting off a stop too late. In a way this proved to be a stroke of luck as we came across an interesting religious procession that was going around the town.

After watching this, we asked directions and then the museum was well signposted. Fortunately, the queue to get in wasn't too bad. As with a lot of these museums abroad, there was an entrance fee, but as this was a must see destination we were happy to pay. I'm sure that money could be raised in our country for important exhibitions, and this would help the running costs of the museum.

Having collected a recorder we set off to explore the artwork.

From 14 Mar. 2017, the rooms housing Museo Picasso Málaga’s permanent collection are refreshed, and more visitor-friendly and informative about Pablo Picasso’s work. The new design is predominantly chronological, showing how the artist’s work stretched over a period of time. It also points out its intrinsic versatility and the cyclical nature of his artistic investigations, drawing attention to his constant vocation for exploring the expressive possibilities of any medium.
It was interesting to see how Picasso's work changed over the years and the different styles and materials used. You don't often see a lot of these works, as his most famous pieces are the ones focussed on in art books etc. There were sketchbooks showing how he explored the themes and some of the paintings seemed to be the initial work rather than the finished piece.
​You could see how his style developed through paintings and interestingly through sculpture. Some of his small clay and ceramic sculptures proved to be a fascinating insight into his thought process and how he came across a broken bicycle and used the seat and handlebar to represent a bull's head was inspirational.

As an added bonus, there was also a Warhol exhibition on and for a small added fee you could visit this as well. It's interesting that as you visit different counties sometimes you find that you have already seen an exhibition or part of one. In this case, The Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester had shown a few of his pictures. This exhibition was on a slightly different theme and included extra examples of his work.

Again, you seem to get an idea of an artist's work by the pictures they are famous for and it is a pleasant surprise to see other work by them.

Warhol. Mechanical Art provides a complete and polyhedral journey that enables visitors to follow the creative development of this exceptional artist from his beginnings as a budding commercial graphic designer in New York City in the 1950s, to his death in 1987, by which time he had become a universal legend. The show highlights various aspects of Warhol’s work, such as the innovative way in which he applied the idea of processing to his multi-faceted serial work, the strong biographical links, his artistic production, and his originality and talent for transversally and cyclically combining different techniques, media and iconographic repertoires. He created representations that are canons, as they form part of the official history of Western art, and symbols, having become part of contemporary collective popular imagery.

Having viewed the exhibition, we even got a chance to have our own Warhol picture taken to put on the Facebook page. An enjoyable start to the day and not the end of our cultural experience.
On the way back we even stumbled upon the Centre Pompidou Malaga, which was a complete surprise. We had seen the outside on our bus journey into town and looked forward to exploring the large cuboid coloured structure even though we didn't know what it was.

By this time I must admit we were quite tired but did manage a quick look around. Again, we were surprised to find such a wide range of modern art and it was an impressive new gallery. A place we could visit again, as was the town of Malaga, which certainly had a lot more to offer.


Visit to #Almeria and #Ceuta.
29/10/2018 0 Comments

Arriving in Almeria, the main attraction seemed to be the old fortress sited on the hilltop. This involved wandering the streets trying to follow the signs. This proved to be something of a challenge but it took our minds off the steep climb involved!

Arriving at the entrance, it was good to find that this was free to British people. As we looked around, we were immediately impressed with the gardens and the views from the battlements were also impressive. In the distance we could see the rest of the fortress. The site is still being restored and in a few years will be a must see tourist attraction.

As we wandered around the gardens and ruins we realised that they were also home to a litter of cats. These proved to be quite photographic and a small kitten even tried to get us to adopt it!
We were sitting eating a cake and it started to eat several crumbs as they fell. Feeling sorry for it, we filled a wrapper with water and put it down. After drinking the water, it decided to eat the wrapper! We snatched the wrapper away and the kitten lost interest in us. Then the kitten moved onto another couple who were also having a quick sit down and a snack!

Going for a drink in local café, we asked one of the staff to show us the way to an art gallery we fancied visiting.

We had with us a map that we had been given on the ship. Going back to an earlier post, even being a local, she struggled to understand it! However, we followed her instructions and came across a statue of John Lennon. Apparently it was whilst filming here that he wrote Strawberry Fields Forever,

Unfortunately, the gallery was closed by the tine we arrived there, and feeling quite drained by the afternoon heat, we decided to make our way back to the ship for some shade. ​

Our next stop was Ceuta, although being a very pretty town was not one that a lot of cruises stopped at. Because of this it was quite different and not very 'touristy'. There was a very good shopping area and some interesting buildings such as the one with dragons on top. It was actually a pet store! Unfortunately, they seemed to be all sold out of dragons!

A sculpture garden was advertised but on arrival this proved to be a type of waterpark, in the grounds of a casino and one that you had to pay to enter. Instead, we walked across the town and found a more or less deserted beach. This was a surprise considering the beautiful weather.

On arriving back towards the ship, my recent visits to the gym paid off, where I was able to stop Hercules destroying the pillars!

An interesting couple of towns that we hadn't encountered before. They were not part of the usual tourist routes, and were well worth visiting, although possibly not for a long stay.


Pool and sunbathing areas on the #MarellaSpirit
24/10/2018 0 Comments

As well as having busy visits to towns, cruises also give you a chance to relax in the sun. We are not great sunbathers now but do enjoy short times sat out covered in suntan cream!

We have sailed a few times now and the first time we went on the Spirit, there was very little sunbathing area. Over the years they have added these and it is much better now. You still have the problem, as with a lot of ships, that there are not enough sunbeds for everyone. Some days we arrived back on the boat early from a visit and were able to get a bed, on other days, we found a nice quiet area on the sport's court where we could sit on benches to read and relax.

Not being smokers, however, we did have a gripe that one side of the sundeck was for smokers and if this happened to be the side that the sun shone on, it meant that we couldn't sit there. Also one of the best places to relax was the upper area above the pool, again this was a designated smoking area, which restricted where we could sit comfortably.

​On the lower deck, around the pool area at the back of the Spirit, there were tables and chairs to sit on if the sunbeds were full. This gave me a chance to sketch some of the holiday makers as they relaxed.

​This was a pleasant area where you could sit in the sun or shade and had the advantage that it was next to the restaurant and snack area. As the afternoon sun moved into early evening, we met a few interested couples who wanted to find out about my work and we enjoyed spending time talking to them. Some of the 'waiting-crew' stopped by too and it was nice to receive positive feedback on my quick sketches.

First evening and day at #BigSkyArtCourse #TheWhiteHouse #BurnhamMarket with #JohnHoar


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