Industrial Cathedral

Industrial Cathedral
"Industrial Cathedral" charcoal drawing on paper 131 x 131 cm Jane Bennett. This drawing was a finalist in the 1998 Dobell Prize for Drawing (Art Gallery of N.S.W.) ; Finalist in 1998 Blake Prize for Religious Art ; Winner of 1998 Hunter's Hill Open Art Prize

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Artist in Residence at the Sydney Heritage Fleet - Part 4 'Blowing in the wind'

I have been commissioned to paint a monumental canvas of all the vessels of the Sydney Heritage Fleet from the foreshore of Blackwattle Bay at the end of Glebe Point road.
There are a few obvious challenges to overcome.
One of the challenges is that from this distance it is difficult to separate one vessel from another - they seem to merge into each other. 
After my first session of painting this, I made several visits to the Rozelle shipyard and to the Noakes shipyard at Waverton to paint smaller canvases of some of the vessels such as the 'Lady Hopetoun', the 'John Oxley', the 'Kanangra' and the 'Boomerang'. Even though these were from different angles to the way they are from this viewpoint, I now have a much better understanding of what I have to deal with.

The sheer complexity of the subject could swamp the viewer in a mass of inchoate detail, so I have to choose carefully which areas to highlight and which to shadow to create enough rhythm to tie the composition together.


oil painting of 'The Sydney Heritage Fleet from Blackwattle Bay' by artist Jane Bennett
Painting 'The Sydney Heritage Fleet from Blackwattle Bay' 2012 oil on canvas 122 x 178cm
Enquiries about this painting: janecooperbennett@gmail.com 
A much bigger problem is very size of the canvas to be painted 'en plein air' . This canvas is 122 x 178cm. 
The concept is for the ships to dominate the space and immerse the onlooker in the unique world of the Rozelle shipyard.
I have painted works on this scale 'en plein air' before and know all too well how it can turn into a wrestling match with the artist pitted against the elements.
oil painting of 'The Sydney Heritage Fleet from Blackwattle Bay' by artist Jane Bennett
Painting 'The Sydney Heritage Fleet from Blackwattle Bay' 2012 oil on canvas 122 x 178cm
Enquiries about this painting: janecooperbennett@gmail.com 
My painting was really starting to come together, but by noon the light had shifted so that I was looking into the glare of the afternoon sun.
 And the wind was steadily rising.
The scene in this photograph looks deceptively calm, with Blackwattle Bay looking as still as a mirror, but less than half an hour later, I was chasing my brushes all over the park.

I knew that I should really stop painting, but the temptation for just one more brushstroke was too much.
oil painting of 'The Sydney Heritage Fleet from Blackwattle Bay' by artist Jane Bennett
Painting 'The Sydney Heritage Fleet from Blackwattle Bay' 2012 oil on canvas 122 x 178cm
Enquiries about this painting: janecooperbennett@gmail.com 
A sudden gust of wind and it was all over.
My canvas stretcher had snapped clean in half!
I had used cable ties to secure it to my easel, but the wood itself wasn't strong enough to withstand the weather conditions. 
Fortunately, some people who had been watching me paint while they walked their dogs, helped me drag the flapping canvas and the rest of my belongings to my car.
If they hadn't, I would have been in some danger of going hang-gliding into Blackwattle Bay.
Broken canvas stretcher  of oil painting of 'The Sydney Heritage Fleet from Blackwattle Bay' by artist Jane Bennett
The other side of the canvas. Painting 'The Sydney Heritage Fleet from Blackwattle Bay' 2012 oil on canvas 122 x 178cm
Enquiries about this painting: janecooperbennett@gmail.com 


Unfortunately this is 122 x 178cm which is not  a standard size for a canvas.The standard stretcher size is 122 x 183cm.
I will have to unpick the staples and restretch it. By a miracle, the canvas itself wasn't damaged, just the wood.
But I will have to restretch this on another stretcher of the same type which is made of lightweight wood, probably balsa. This will withstand moderate wind up to about 25-30 km/h but a random gust of 35-40 km/h might be too much.
At the moment the wind gusts at Blackwattle Bay are so strong that I will need to use an extra heavy duty stretcher frame composed of stronger wood, and twice the depth of this one. And these types of stretchers are not available for  a 122 x 178cm size canvas.

I will finish this painting one day, when there are a few calm days together. But I really need to get this done by the end of October, so rather than risk another lightweight canvas suffering the same fate  I might as well start a fresh canvas.


Update

 At times I never thought I'd live to see the day, but at last I have finally finished my giant canvas!
And now with 9 other  women members of ASMA, the Australian Society of Marine Artists I will be holding an exhibition of my paintings of the Sydney Heritage Fleet.


In 2008 the Sydney Heritage Fleet in conjunction with the Australian Society of Marine Artists inaugurated an Artist in Residence programme, with the commission from sale of paintings going towards funding the Fleet's maintenance.

Our group of 10 artists will hold an exhibition of our completed paintings on the 'tween decks of the tall ship 'James Craig', which is the jewel in the crown of the Sydney Heritage Fleet, from 27th April 2013 - 3rd May 2013.
This must be the world's coolest gallery!

As well as this enormous canvas, I will exhibit 16 other paintings. Some of these were painted at the Rozelle headquarters, some from the Noakes slipways, others from the Australian National Maritime Museum and others from vantage points around Sydney Harbour.

The official opening will be 2pm on Saturday 27th April by Tanya Plibersek MP.
Everyone is welcome!

2 comments:

Sadami said...

Hi, Jane,
Wo~~~~w!!! Your painting is soooo beautiful! Congrats on your honour, being selected for the show!
I heartily hope it will go well. Have fun!
Best wishes, Sadami

Jane Bennett Artist said...

Hi Sadami,

Thanks so much! Hope to see you at the opening - it will be lots of fun on our tall ship pirate gallery.
I wish the James Craig could go for a short Harbour Cruise during the exhibition!
Best wishes, Jane