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

Monday, September 24, 2012

Artist in Residence at the Sydney Heritage Fleet- Part 5 ' Follow the Fleet'

My first attempt to paint the entire Rozelle contingent of the Sydney Heritage Fleet ended in disaster when my canvas stretcher snapped in two.
I was better prepared for my second attempt, with a bigger easel, stronger canvas stretcher, more ballast and longer cable ties.
Armed with a canvas stretched on the strongest and heaviest stretcher frame I could buy, this time I took my "studio" easel. It might be called a studio easel but I can manage to stuff it in the back of the car and use it for plein air painting.
I brought the longest cable ties that I could find to tie the canvas to the easel, and the easel to my trolley luggage, which I am using as an anchor.
The canvas stretcher weighs about 10 kilos; my large easel weighs at least 15 kilos and the trolley luggage with all its contents of extra paint, brushes, palettes, turps, painting medium, sketchbooks, lunch, thermos of water, folding table, first aid kit, spare clothes, hat and boots weighs in at a good 25 kilos. I also took the French box easel, just in case. It took 4 trips to lug this stuff the 200 metres from the car to my painting site, and 5 to lug it back, as a wet canvas has to be handled on its own.
If all of that starts to be blown around in the wind and into the water it really is time to wimp out and go home. 
I'll never need to join a gym or a bootcamp. Who knows, large scale plein air painting could become the latest fitness craze!



oil painting the Sydney Heritage Fleet from Blackwattle Bay en plein air by artist Jane Bennett
My plein air painting of the "Sydney Heritage Fleet from Blackwattle Bay" 2012 oil on canvas 122 x 183cm

$15,000
Enquiries about this painting

It isn't immediately apparent which bits belong to which vessels.
I tried hard to take a photo showing both the painting and all the ships in the same frame to show some of the difficulties.
Apart from the distance making details hard to see, there is a narrow window of opportunity to do any painting. I have to choose a day that has no more than the gentlest breeze, and has enough sun to throw some light on my subject. Even then, there are only a few hours of painting time between when the early morning haze lifts, and when the afternoon sun starts to dazzle my eyes.


oil painting the Sydney Heritage Fleet from Blackwattle Bay en plein air by artist Jane Bennett
My plein air painting of the "Sydney Heritage Fleet from Blackwattle Bay" 2012 oil on canvas 122 x 183cm

$15,000
Enquiries about this painting


Photography doesn't really work, as a telephoto lens flattens and distorts the relationships between the vessels and the colours are highly misleading.  There is such a mad jigsaw puzzle of funnels, prows, awnings and lifeboats all jumbled together. Bits that belong to one vessel can easily be mistaken as belonging to another .

For understanding the close up details, I find it better to visit the Rozelle shipyard and run my canvas past the gauntlet of all the volunteers who have devoted their lives to rescuing these ships. If I've made any truly embarrassing mistakes I can rely on them to correct me. Loudly, often and in great detail!
oil painting the Sydney Heritage Fleet from Blackwattle Bay en plein air by artist Jane Bennett
My plein air painting of the "Sydney Heritage Fleet from Blackwattle Bay" 2012 oil on canvas 122 x 183cm

$15,000
Enquiries about this painting

In the centre of my painting, the 'Bronzewing' and 'Currawong',  tugs recently acquired by the Sydney Heritage Fleet, are face to face like two old friends having a chinwag.
Crammed behind them, the funnel of the a coal-fired steam tug 'Waratah' juts out at a jaunty angle. 'Waratah' was built at Cockatoo Island in 1902.
After a lot of untangling. the steam tug 'Lady Hopetoun' appears shadowed in the background of the dilapidated hulk of the 100 year old ferry 'Kanangra'. The 'Kanangra' is another link with Cockatoo Island. I remember catching her  in the morning when I was painting on Cockatoo island in the early 1980s. I think she was retired by about 1985.

oil painting the Sydney Heritage Fleet from Blackwattle Bay en plein air by artist Jane Bennett
My plein air painting of the "Sydney Heritage Fleet from Blackwattle Bay" 2012 oil on canvas 122 x 183cm

$15,000
Enquiries about this painting

Beyond the 'Kanangra' are the runts of the litter, the 1908 motor launch 'Protex', the 1943 motor launch 'Harmon' and the 1955 motor launch 'Berrima'.


oil painting the Sydney Heritage Fleet from Blackwattle Bay en plein air by artist Jane Bennett
My plein air painting of the "Sydney Heritage Fleet from Blackwattle Bay" 2012 oil on canvas 122 x 183cm

$15,000
Enquiries about this painting

To the right of the canvas is the graceful 1903 "gentleman's schooner", 'Boomerang', which I have just finished painting on the slipway at Noakes.

oil painting the Sydney Heritage Fleet from Blackwattle Bay en plein air by artist Jane Bennett
My half finished plein air painting of the "Sydney Heritage Fleet from Blackwattle Bay" 2012 oil on canvas 122 x 183cm

$15,000
Enquiries about this painting


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!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Artist in Residence at the Sydney Heritage Fleet Part 3 -'Slipping away'

Artist in Residence at the Sydney Heritage Fleet Part 3

Painting 'Boomerang' being slipped at Noakes

 I was invited to join the volunteers who were working on the 'Boomerang' while it was slipped at the Noakes shipyard in Berry's Bay, North Sydney.
oil  painting by artist Jane Bennett of Sydney Heritage Fleet boat 'Boomerang'  Noakes Shipyard, Berry's Bay
On the little steam tug 'Harmon' starting my painting of the 'Boomerang' on the slipway at Noakes Shipyard, Berry's Bay oil on canvas 46 x 46cm
 I arrived at the Sydney Heritage Fleet shipyard at 8am so that  I would be in time to join the volunteers on either the 'Harmon' or the 'Boomerang' to be ferried over the Harbour.
oil  painting by artist Jane Bennett of Sydney Heritage Fleet boat 'Boomerang'  Noakes Shipyard, Berry's Bay
On the little steam tug 'Harmon' starting my painting of the 'Boomerang' on the slipway at Noakes Shipyard, Berry's Bay oil on canvas 46 x 46cm
I had a choice of catching either the 'Harmon' or the 'Boomerang'. Although the stately 'Boomerang' promised a stylish ride, I chose the 'Harmon' so that I could watch the drama of the 'Boomerang' being hauled ashore.
I started painting while still on board the 'Harmon', but she soon had to return to Rozelle, so I completed my painting on the jetty at the Noakes shipyard.
The 2 photos above show the first stage of my painting while on board the 'Harmon', with the 'Boomerang just visible in the background.

oil  painting by artist Jane Bennett of Sydney Heritage Fleet boat 'Boomerang'  Noakes Shipyard, Berry's Bay
Starting my painting of the 'Boomerang' on the slipway at Noakes Shipyard, Berry's Bay oil on canvas 46 x 46cm 11.30am Monday 20th August
By 11.30am I was deposited ashore with my canvas and easel.
I had to make sure that my canvas would be finished by the time the volunteers knocked off at 2.30pm or I would have had to walk or swim back to my car at Rozelle! Noakes is in a little cove of Berry's Bay, which is west of the Waverton Peninsula and east of McMahons Point.
The deepwater frontages of Berry’s Bay were used by the port and maritime industry from the late 19th century.
oil  painting by artist Jane Bennett of Sydney Heritage Fleet boat 'Boomerang'  Noakes Shipyard, Berry's Bay
Starting my painting of the 'Boomerang' on the slipway at Noakes Shipyard, Berry's Bay oil on canvas 46 x 46cm  11.30am Monday 20th August
A Short History of Berry's Bay
During the 1930s the Berry's Bay waterfront was one of the most important boatbuilding sites in the harbour.
There was also a timber mill which provided the materials for the construction of North Sydney’s cottages and churches during the early decades of the 20th century.Other important industries around the site during the early 20th century included the North Shore Gas Company which had shifted its productive gas works from Neutral Bay to Balls Head Bay in 1906 and the  Sydney Coal Bunkering Company which  began building a coal loader in 1917, to act as a steamship bunkering station. It was the most advanced means of loading coal into steamers then available in Sydney Harbour. Coal from colliers was dumped onto a huge timber and rock platform on the shore. It was fed by gravity down shutes to four tunnels below, and then into waiting hopper cars which were then hauled by cable out to a long wharf. Fortunately I painted and drew it  before the coal loader ceased operating in October 1992. The wharf, coal-loading platform, tunnels and a few brick administrative buildings remain.
Opposite Noakes is the former site of the BP fuel depot. Their first tank was installed in 1923 and many more were added until there were 31 by the late 1960s. The cliff was known locally as "Gibraltar". BP ceased operations at the site in the 1980s and by the mid-1990s the tanks had been dismantled although their ghostly outlines are still visible in the cut rock.
oil  painting by artist Jane Bennett of Sydney Heritage Fleet boat 'Boomerang'  Noakes Shipyard, Berry's Bay
2nd stage  of painting the 'Boomerang' on the slipway at Noakes Shipyard, Berry's Bay oil on canvas 46 x 46cm 1pm Monday 20th August
 $1800
Enquiries  

 janecooperbennett@gmail.com
frances@franceskeevilgallery.com.au
The Art and Times of Berry's Bay
Berry's Bay has a distinguished artistic heritage dating from the earliest days of the 20th century. Some of Australia's best artists  of that time lived locally and were attracted to the picturesque scenes of boat building and ship repair.  Roland Wakelin, Rah Fizelle, Sydney Ure, Roy de Maistre, Lloyd Rees and brothers Percy and Lionel Lindsay, often painted together around Berry’s Bay between the 1900s and 1930s and were known as the "Northwood Group".

oil  painting by artist Jane Bennett of Sydney Heritage Fleet boat 'Boomerang'  Noakes Shipyard, Berry's Bay
Completed painting of the 'Boomerang' on the slipway at Noakes Shipyard, Berry's Bay oil on canvas 46 x 46cm 2.30pm Monday 20th August
Note the railway in the background 
Enquiries : janecooperbennett@gmail.com

In the vast collection of Prints and Drawings of the Art Gallery of NSW is a lovely 1926 etching The Harbour from Berry's Bay by Sydney Long (1871 – 1955) which  follows the glassy expanse of water down to the clutter of wooden ships, boathouses, yards and mills. Another evocative Whistleresque etching is Ship Berry’s Bay 1918
by Sydney Ure Smith
Sydney Long later painted a lively little plein-air oil sketch   Across Berry's Bay To The Sobraon 1939 from exactly the same viewpoint as Percy Lindsay's  Shipyards, Berry Bay (also known as The Bridge Builders)  c. 1927 (AGNSW). Both these works also shows the Sobraeon, a famous clipper ship later refitted as a naval training ship HMAS Tingira, that was moored there until being broken up in 1943.
In 1916 Wakelin painted  Down the hills to Berry’s Bay (AGNSW), which has become an icon of early Australian Modernism. Another Roland Wakelin study, Berry's Bay  1919 shows an aerial view of the shipping, while later works such as Berry's Bay  c.1934 shows details of ship repair and Berry's Bay c.1945 shows more of the industrial ambience.
 In 1922 Lionel Lindsay created a mezzotint, A nook at Berry’s Bay of the boathouses along the foreshore, and in 1923 a etching of a venerable old figtree shading the shipyards The Great Figtree.
So while I painted here I was constantly aware that I was treading in the footsteps of the masters.


oil  painting by artist Jane Bennett of Sydney Heritage Fleet boat 'Boomerang'  Noakes Shipyard, Berry's Bay
Starting painting of the 'Boomerang' on the slipway at Noakes Shipyard, Berry's Bay oil on canvas 38 x 78cm 8am Tuesday 21st August
Enquiries : janecooperbennett@gmail.com
The next day I took the less scenic route to Noakes, driving there rather than taking the Harbour cruise option so that I could spend more time and paint a larger canvas.

oil  painting by artist Jane Bennett of Sydney Heritage Fleet boat 'Boomerang'  Noakes Shipyard, Berry's Bay

2nd day Tuesday 21st August 9.30am -1st stage of painting the'’Boomerang’ at Noakes Yard 2 - oil on canvas 38 x 76cm

oil  painting by artist Jane Bennett of Sydney Heritage Fleet boat 'Boomerang'  Noakes Shipyard, Berry's Bay
2nd day Tuesday 21st August 11am -2nd stage of painting the'’Boomerang’ at Noakes Yard 2 - oil on canvas 38 x 76cm
 

With this extra time I was able to include a couple of the volunteers as they worked .

As I was trying to complete this canvas on the day, I wasn't able to take too much time to explore this fascinating site, but I promised myself that I would be back. The staff at Noakes invited me to return to paint the giant travelling cranes, and the quaint cream and red heritage ferries of the Rosman fleet.
oil  painting by artist Jane Bennett of Sydney Heritage Fleet boat 'Boomerang'  Noakes Shipyard, Berry's Bay
2nd day Tuesday 21st August noon -3rd stage of painting the'’Boomerang’ at Noakes Yard 2 - oil on canvas 38 x 76cm
Enquiries : janecooperbennett@gmail.com
The vessels of the Sydney Heritage Fleet are often repaired at Noakes. There are few other options available now as more and more waterfront has been gobbled up by developers for apartment blocks.
oil  painting by artist Jane Bennett of Sydney Heritage Fleet boat 'Boomerang'  Noakes Shipyard, Berry's Bay
2nd day Tuesday 21st August lunchtime break -3rd stage of painting the'’Boomerang’ at Noakes Yard 2 - oil on canvas 38 x 76cm
Enquiries : janecooperbennett@gmail.com
I finished my canvas just in time to avoid being locked inside the gates. I was only able to include a few of the many volunteers who were tirelessly scampering up and down ladders with scrapers and hoses.
oil  painting by artist Jane Bennett of Sydney Heritage Fleet boat 'Boomerang'  Noakes Shipyard, Berry's Bay
2nd day Tuesday 21st August 5pm -completed painting of the'’Boomerang’ at Noakes Yard 2 - oil on canvas 38 x 76cm
Enquiries : janecooperbennett@gmail.com
There used to be many ''working harbour'' boat repair businesses around Berry's Bay , but by now most of the slipways have "slipped away".
Now Noakes is the last of its tribe, and I am one of the last of a proud artistic lineage to paint the bustling boatyards of Berry's Bay.
Related articles
The 'Boomerang' Sydney Heritage Fleet