Monthly Archives: September 2013

Just Landed

“Just Landed”.  The title of this drawing refers to me just as much as to the tern sitting on the concrete.  I have recently returned from overseas.  An unexpected result of the trip is that I am seeing my own area with fresh and appreciative eyes.   The idea to look around Fremantle Port actually came from a dream a couple of weeks ago.  In the dream I was on the bow of a ship looking for subject matter around the port.  I am therefore following the directive from my subconscious.

I wanted to be on the same level as the tern so I had to prostrate myself on the cold dirty concrete – getting my head and camera as low as possible.  At embarrassing times like this I tell myself “Who cares what I look like. Artist at work!”  It was an extremely blustery day.  Even the tern looks a little wind-blown.  He is so round that I wonder if he is young.  “Just Landed” could also refer to his arrival on this earth – ie not so long out of egg.

I visited some cities on my last trip which I didn’t particularly take to.  Without naming names let me say that having experienced them, I see my own home in a new light.  When one goes overseas to Paris and Kyoto, one comes back wanting to draw Paris and Kyoto – but – when one travels to some other [harsh or soulless] places one wants to draw home again.  Just as a colour appears to change depending upon its surrounding colours, so the perception of one’s own place may be influenced by one’s recent exterior experiences.

I’ve always liked Fremantle’s port…and ports in general.  I painted and drew Fremantle’s waterfront extensively from 1998 to 2004.  My sights changed and I didn’t think I would make art from local landscapes again.  However – what goes around comes around.  Once more I want to draw it but I need either (or both) of two elements; intimacy and/or elegance.  Hard to find those in a port setting – unless – you add the humble seabird.  Hence, I’ve been out with my camera for several days last week seeking my subjects.  I tell you it is NO DIFFERENT trying to get photos of seabirds than trying to get photos of geisha.  In both cases one is playing with chance, good fortune, being in the right place at the right time and trying to compose when your subject is moving quickly; there one second and gone the next.  Seabirds and geisha don’t wait for photographers.

Speaking of geisha, in my last drawing “Observation”, Katsuyuki was observing a white heron.  Perhaps working on that drawing also quietly influenced me to revisit birds.

My plan is to do a series of birds-at-Fremantle drawings.   This should please some West Australians as from time to time people ask me wistfully if I will return to birds and Fremantle.   I say “no” but really the answer is that I can’t do it until my heart is back in it – which it is.    For now.

Related post    On the Waterfront            Related page:  Subject 6: Birds in a landscape

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“Observation” the finished drawing.

3rd February 2011 – the turning point between late winter and early spring.  Here was a perfect winter setting; crisp air, perfectly still with watery sunshine.  I had travelled to Kyoto especially to photograph Katsuyuki who was having her erikae.  On day two of her erikae (graduation from Maiko to Geiko) she wore a pastel blue kimono with a spectacular obi.  Along with an orderly group of photographers and well-wishers, I followed Katsuyuki as she called into many establishments to pay her respects.  She was cheerful and relaxed, chatting with her paparazzi as we all followed the well-worn path.  If only I spoke Japanese.  If only I could tell her that I had drawn her portrait several times over three years and that I had come all the way from Australia just to see her transformation from Maiko to Geiko.  But I couldn’t.  So I just smiled inwardly and walked in silence.

At the Shirakawa stream Katsuyuki stopped.  There was a moment in time – THIS MOMENT – (click) where she saw the white heron preening itself.  She observed its stance and made a swift motion with her arm –  like a dance movement.  I caught it.  I was the observer of a fellow observer.  Perhaps she was thinking about dance as she imitated the heron’s position.  It was a poetic moment.

Now, let us imagine the observation, design, dexterity and gruelling patience which went into that obi!  The designer had been inspired by nature, just as Katsuyuki, right then, was being inspired by nature.  We can all be observers – noticing life’s moments.   We can be inspired and create from them; whatever form our art takes; words, vision, movement, sounds, forms.  “Observation”, then, is a celebration of art.  The art source is life itself.

The images below are just two of the several drawings I have done of Katsuyuki since I first saw her in 2007 as a junior Maiko.

"Gift Wrapped" a drawing I did of Katsuyuki (with Mameyuri) in 2008.

“Gift Wrapped” a drawing I did of Katsuyuki (with Mameyuri) in 2008.

"La Belle Epoque" a portrait of Katsuyuki I made in 2010 (from one of my 2007 photos).

“La Belle Epoque” a portrait of Katsuyuki I made in 2010 (from one of my 2007 photos).

ps Katsuyuki retired a year after she became a Geiko.

Return to Contents of Posts page        Related page Geisha

The Cats of Miraflores

Working away at my drawing with my cat, Saphie, on my knee.

Today I have been working at my current drawing …with the occasional interruption from Saphie Cat.

The drawing I started before I went overseas is taking a long time.  Perhaps I will finish it next week.  In the meantime I would like to show you a society of cats I met in Parque Kennedy.  The location is a city park in Miraflores, an affluent district of Lima, Peru.

Censor’s warning: Do not read on if you can’t stand cats.  It will only upset you!

A good place to sleep?

A good place to sleep?

People of Lima carefully walk around the resting cats.

People of Lima carefully walk around the snoozing cats.

I spent a couple of hours observing and photographing the Miraflores cats.  Of course I could not resist stroking one or two and neither could other people.  (Yes, I washed my hands afterwards.)


These cats are not exactly strays.  Apparently two were put in the park by local authorities in the late 1990s to deal with a rat problem.  Now there are about 120 cats.  They are regularly fed and supplied with fresh water.  I read that they are checked out by vets as well.  Certainly they looked healthy and as well padded as your own domestic moggy.  They liked affection and happily visited people who lingered in the park.  There must be some sort of population control as I didn’t see any sick looking cats nor did I see kittens.




It is a rather perfect (purrfect) environment.  The cats have trees to climb and lawns to bound across or sleep on.  Cats fully utilize the flowerbeds and grass – while people (other than the gardeners) must stick to the paths.  It never rains because Lima is situated in a desert and even in winter the temperature remains mild.  As well as being fed pet-food, cats receive more than their fair share of people’s lunches and snacks.  An American father with his two daughters bought Kentucky Fried Chicken to share with the cats.  He happily reminisced to me about his cats back home while his daughters fussed over the felines.

Can you find two cats in this photo?

Where’s Wally?  Can you find two cats in this photo?

Good camoflage.

Good camouflage.

The climbing cat (from the last photo) has come back down again but still wants to explore.

The climbing cat (from the last photo) has come back down again but still wants to explore.

A priest from the local cathedral wanted to get rid of the cats.  Maybe he petitioned for their removal.  In any case, his suggestion provoked a public outcry.  The people insisted the cats of Miraflores must stay.


Perhaps there are big fights at night.  I’m sure they have their secrets.  But during the day I didn’t see a single sign of aggression amongst the cats.  It looked like a civilized democratic group.



The bird population looked robust.  I didn’t see any rats or mice though.


While I didn’t know what I would come across in Lima, I never expected to find a cat society.  I’m sure I will draw a Miraflores cat or two some time in the near future.

"I'm the cat on day-watch while my companions sleep."

“I’m the cat on day-watch while my companions sleep.”

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Welcome to Christchurch

Welcome to Christchurch

Welcome to Christchurch

At the beginning of August I was briefly in Christchurch to visit my family.  It was the first time I had visited since the big earthquakes of September 2010 and February 2011.  As well as these two major quakes, there have been over 11,000 tremors recorded.  These include everything from barely perceptible movements to big frightening quakes.  I took two long walks with my camera through the central business district on one of my days there.

Each photo may be enlarged just by clicking on it.  I hope you do this.  There is simply so much to see.

Chateau Blanc Suites

Chateau Blanc Suites.  While some buildings look completely intact, the signs on the windows warn that all is not well inside.

Children's paintings opposite the Central Library.

Children’s paintings opposite the Central Library.  I don’t know the fate of the library.  Certainly it isn’t in use at the moment.  Books are rehoused and borrowed from other sites.

Arrow, cones and figure.

Arrow, cones and figure.  Many streets in the CBD are only allowed to be accessed by pedestrian traffic.

Cathedral in the Square (minus its tower).

Cathedral in the Square (minus its tower).  I believe the dear old Cathedral, icon of Christchurch, will be demolished.

Sad face, Cashel Street Mall.

Sad face, Cashel Street Mall.

Two figures in a landscape.

Two figures in a landscape.

Four figures in a landscape.

Four figures in a landscape.

Girl in birdcage at the seedy end of town.

Girl in birdcage at (what was) the seedy end of town.

Theatre collapse - side view.

Theatre collapse – side view.

Theatre collapse - front view.

Theatre collapse – front view.  Many buildings have been demolished.  I am not sure which of the ones still standing will be demolished and which will be fixed up.

Red Fix

Red Fix Expresso Bar

On High Street

On High Street

On High Street - through the 'keep out' fencing.

On High Street – through the ‘keep out’ fencing.

landscape with red container under a norwest sky.

Landscape with red container under a norwest sky.

Road Closed.

Road Closed.

White chairs - a memorial to the people who died on 22nd February; one chair for each person.

185 white chairs – a memorial to the people who died on 22nd February; one chair for each person.  The installation is by Pete Majendie.

Treat with respect.

“Please respect this site” a tagged notice on the site of The Canterbury Television Building.   The CTV building collapsed, then caught fire.  Many people died here on February 22nd, 2011, including international students studying english.

Business open on New Regent Street.

Open for business.  New Regent street is a quirky and historic street which happily has reopened.  When I was there, people were enjoying lunch sitting outside cafes.

Landscape with child's painting.

Landscape with Ngaire’s painting.  It is so hard to get one’s head around all the empty space.  It is disorientating.  One keeps asking oneself “which buildings were here before?”

Art on an exposed wall.

Art on an exposed wall.



Late afternoon glow on Christchurch.

Late afternoon glow on Christchurch.  All this SPACE – used to be city buildings!

Late afternoon glow on Christchurch

Late afternoon with the kinetic sculpture “Nucleus” by Phil Price catching the sun.  This sculpture has become a symbol of resilience.  Its petals have kept turning throughout EVERYTHING.

'High vis' man ready to knock off work.

‘High vis’ man ready to knock off work.

Two visual messages.

“Save Christchurch” by Kyle.  Behind you see this “Protect your investment” sign.  Old signs, in the past covered by buildings, have become re-exposed with their demise.

people people people

people people people!!! in the city

In the photo above “people people people!!! in the city” you can see the words ‘Gap Filler’.  This refers to a project started by Coralie Winn to inhabit abandoned spaces with quirky, eye-catching installations and temporary creative projects.  Certainly examples caught my eye and reminded me of the importance of art in society, including as a vehicle for healing.

Two happy paintings.

Two happy paintings, one unsigned, the other by Eva.

Landscape with painting in the fading light.

Landscape with painting in the fading light.


Demolition.  The truck says it all.  A lone figure walks through this quiet urbanscape.

This would have been 'rush hour' pre-2011.

This would have been ‘rush hour’ pre-2011.  It is still kind of hauntingly beautiful to me.

The photo below shows a house teetering on the edge of a cliff in the suburb of Redcliffs.  I didn’t have time to see the suburbs except for a quick trip out to Sumner (a suburb by the sea).  I used to rather fancy living in one of the houses up on Redcliffs.  They enjoyed extensive views FOREVER encompassing the Southern Alps, the Kaikoura Mountains, and the sea.  Now they lean at broken angles and gape vacantly, their insides exposed.

House at Redcliffs

House at Redcliffs

Christchurch has made it into Lonely Planet’s top 10 cities to visit in 2013.  Siobhan Leathley writes in ‘The New Zealand Herald’, “The city, described by Lonely Planet as “rising from the rubble with a breath-taking mix of spirit, determination and flair”, is ranked 6th on the travel publisher’s Top 10 Cities for 2013.” (22nd October 2012).

Known as 'the Garden City' Christchurch's flowerbeds and gardens are still lovingly tendered. In the distance, the only part of the building standing is the facade.

Known as ‘the Garden City’ Christchurch’s flowerbeds and gardens are still lovingly tended. In the distance, the only part of the building standing is the facade.

Ordering lunch at the funky outdoor cafe area constructed with blue-painted wooden palletes.

Ordering lunch at the funky outdoor cafe area constructed with blue-painted wooden pallets.

Jail Breaker Coffee in the blue wooden pallete area.

Jail Breaker Coffee in the blue wooden pallet area.

I had a some trepidation about visiting Christchurch.  Having lived and studied there for four years long ago, I was afraid to see it post-earthquakes.  Two and a half years after the most devastating quake, so much has been cleared away.  Actually, I loved being there.  I plan to visit more often now and will watch with continued fascination to see the New Christchurch unfold.

A quote from “A City Recovers: Christchurch Two Years after the Quakes” published by The Press in 2013 (ISBN 978-1-77553-321-4) page 300 “In an interview in 2011, architect and urban planner David Sim was asked whether Christchurch could be reborn and rebuilt from a blank canvas.  No such thing existed, the plain-speaking Scot replied.  A city is not simply composed of buildings.  It’s a composite landscape of history, human experience and aspirations that even natural or man-made disasters cannot eradicate.  What we make of it is up to us.”

“Nowhere is this more true than in the arts, where human emotions, beliefs and imagination are made tangible.  In small and large ways, individually and collectively, Christchurch’s arts community reacted to an unfolding human disaster with innovation and resilience, proving beyond any doubt that the arts have played – and will continue to play – a pivotal role in the city’s recovery.”

See also Christchurch Revisited – a post written in April 2014 after visiting Christchurch again.

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