I invite you to visit also my literary blog: Journeys in Creative Writing where I post original fiction including short stories, poetry and 'Paternity', a full length mystery novel.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Craftsmanship in Old Houses

MURWILLUMBAH is a smallish town in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales, not far from where I live. Sugar cane, paddocks dotted with dairy and beef cattle, banana farms and orchards, occasional rainforest: all create a kaleidoscope surrounding the town.

For me, though, much of its charm rests with the old houses which have been preserved or simply left alone to survive in the area, creating a little pocket of the history of Australian architecture.

Many of the houses still display the intricate craftsmanship of the early woodworkers who displayed their talents in the details that were part of the design of so many of the early buildings.

The stained glass window, and the carved details at the top of the verandah posts and the picket fence are typical of many houses.

Much of the original architecture includes many pre-Federation and Art Deco buildings contributing to a charm rare in our time. Many of the old pubs are still there in the generally historic streetscape, despite a devastating fire in the centre in 1907.

There is a cinema that boasts art house films and a choice of theatre chairs or beanbags for patrons. In contrast, the newly extended Tweed River Art Gallery sits atop a hill just outside the town, its contemporary design still in harmony with the green surrounds.

This little beauty of a similar era survives because it has become a health centre.

More detail in the woodwork - hearts this time - and again, stained glass is featured here.

Mount Warning, the plug of an extinct volcano towers over Murwillumbah, and it's now surrounded with land twisted into interesting shapes by its former fiery activity.

Bundjalung Aborigines thrived in this haven prior to European settlement. The town was first surveyed in 1872.

Cedar getters provided the first industry in the 1840s, but the human influence is more benign today. The highway and railway line have abandoned the town, leaving a more peaceful environment where artists thrive, cafes and restaurants abound and small businesses concentrate on providing good old fashioned service.

Murwillumbah is still the seat of Tweed Shire Local Government with the Civic and Cultural Centre situated in Tumbulgum Road. The locals affectionately call it Mur-bah.

Many early Australian houses used extensive verandahs to shield occupants from the searing summer sun, and 'bullnose' roofs were common.

They often featured 'iron lace' - a big feature of early housing in Sydney. I suspect that the lace in this restored home in Murwillumbah may not be the genuine article.

I was only in the town briefly yesterday but I'll be back for a more leisurely visit soon - camera in hand.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Virtual Art Exhibition - Your Invitation

May I announce the opening of the virtual 70 Plus Art Exhibition, featuring works inspired by friendship, fun, curiosity and the desire for new experiences!

This all began with a little tinkering with the old computer programme MSPaint - and it has grown.
As Lilly, one of our artists, has said: she hasn't been to a hoity toity art opening for ages.

Well Lilly and all of our blogging mates, here is your opportunity! Our invitation design comes to you with the good wishes (and restless Paint brush) of Suranga Date of Gappa. Please accept her generosity with my good wishes.

And on entering the gallery space, take a set of earphones to hear a commentary as you wander ...

Thank you Suranga. I've always admired saris.

However, I must say a word or two in defence of our artists: I do think that all of you have shown you do know what you are doing. We said we'd accept everything from stick figures to Rembrandts. What is perfection in art? Judge for yourselves ...

Now everyone - I know we have a large crowd here but please let's enjoy the fruits of the wonderful talent hanging on our virtual walls in relaxation. And do help yourself to 'wine' and 'cheese' on the way. We've hung the paintings in the order in which they arrived in my mailbox.

This little delight is from Judy of Living on the Other Side of the Hill. I believe that she has taken inspiration from her grandson TW and his teddy bear - what do you think? Isn't that sideways grin familiar?

Lilly says her 'work' is rather like 'horrid wallpaper', but must we accept her word for it? Perhaps she has gone a little dotty here, but Lilly says she had great fun in the creation and that's what counts. She thinks we may have started a blogger craze ...

Steve Emery of Color Sweet Tooth IS an artist who sells his stuff.

Steve said:
'I used to do these with Oldest, back when he was about six or seven years old. We called them "Scrap Creatures." We would scribble and spray and cut and paste/paste/paste, and get something random and crazy. Then we'd see what emerged.

'Today I took 30 minutes and made this one - "Tortoise and Hare." That's what came out. After 5 minutes of random color and fiddling, the rabbit was plain, and the tortoise then became so, as well. Then I sort of carved the figures out of the background, and refined things a little here and there, careful not to clean up too much. This one looks a lot like the others we made back then.

'Please feel free to post at your virtual opening - thanks for the invitation. It was fun to do another one of these after all these years.'

Steve also sent this lovely dinosaur which he and his oldest son fashioned in Paint when Oldest was a little tike.

'Oldest and I just reviewed them. He carefully preserved them through several computer changes, moving them up with diskettes, etc... This was one of our favorites.'

Great memories eh Steve? Thanks for sharing.

This little tiger and his mate came from Rhada of The Musings of a Night Owl who is a real MSPaint fan.

Enjoying the show so far? Please try some of the scrumptious Tasmanian camembert style cheese ... goes very well with the Hunter Valley whites.

This is my personal favourite from Rhada's collection. It reminds me a little of some of Claude Monet's work. Silhouettes in the fog ... I love art works and word pictures which simply suggest.

It's another from Rhada who says MSPaint was a real fad of hers in August and September 2007.

Rhada had forgotten all about these until her daughter remembered and retrieved them from her inbox this week. Aren't there some lovely marks here?

Rhada really got wound up in her
Paint didn't she? I love the freedom of these images.

These four are also from Rhada.

I found it really interesting to see the influences of various cultures coming through in work done in this global computer software programme.

The drawing above and the next few are from Suranga Date of Gappa - the designer of our invitation. I love them all, but I think that this is particularly recognisable as being the work of a woman from India. Do you? I think it's quite beautiful.

'Just tried something,' said Suranga in one of a flurry of emails to me.

'I have written your name in our script (Devnagari script). It is in the thin red line.

'Then because we have summer here and you guys are probably into winter, I thought I'd send you some spring flowers, sunshine and greenery.

'You've got me hooked on to this Paint stuff. Thank you.'

More from Suranga ...

Suranga is really becoming relaxed in her drawing now ... that's what working with Paint can do.

In fact Suranga became so keen she is now decorating a brand new blog (and Gappa, her old one) with Paint pictures, and they're getting better all the time. Have a look at Suranga Date's new blog Rehotya for a feast of lovely Paint art, plus some incisive comments on Indian politics.

By this time she had threatened not to send me any more of her Paint drawings, but luckily didn't keep her pledge ...

This is 'Mumbai Tribal Art' by Suranga. Remember this interesting Indian academic with a fascinating blog had never tried computer art before ...

And with this little gem Suranga bows out and hands over to:

'Cup Cake' by Mrs Bubblefish of Ms Textual. Steph says she thinks she has found a new addiction. If it involves beautiful cakes, I don't blame her one bit.

Don't you love the freedom of those squiggles in this colourful little picture?

Sea Genie of Reality Insanity is an old hand at computer art, filling her blog with wonderful images. She did this one for our exhibition and displayed it on her own blog as well.

But, bloggy mates, don't worry about trying to emulate the sophistication shown here in your own MSPaint efforts. This one was fashioned in PostScript, a professional level programme.

Liked the messages in this one Genie - thank you.

STOP PRESS!! We have a late entry for our exhibition. This lovely floral study comes from Tulsa of The Art of Living in Japan.

She says:
'Here is my first challenge at art on the computer!
I used one of my pictures of a flower as a base.
I use a mac so the software I had was appleworks paint.
Thank you for the inspiration!'

Beautiful work eh? We'll hang it just here where the light is perfect...

Thanks Tulsa.

Suranga has emailed through yet another 'work' - she's cooking with gas isn't she? This one has an inspiring message. Let's hope that people will listen ...

She's still sceptical however ...

Gunjaaish of Speaking Up, Jotting Down ... has also sent across her own Paint creation, and popped a copy on her blog ...

Gunjaaish wrote: 'Sending across a picture I painted, inspired by you guys. Totally novice attempt, but explains perfectly things going on in my life right now.'

Many of us use art and writing as a way of expressing inner feelings. This little work does that to great effect I think. May your troubles soon lessen Gunjaaish ...

Well now, time to indulge in wine and nibblies, chatter and fun, alongside a second look at our wonderful images. Thanks so much to all my bloggy mate artists for their contributions.

As the evening closes, please leave a comment to give us an idea of what you got out of this virtual gallery opening ... I'd really love your feedback.

And if anyone has a burning desire to use MSPaint look at my most recent 'Older Post' for instructions and ideas. Then send your effort over to me in Oz for inclusion in our virtual collection.

Drive carefully ...
Hugs from June

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Painting with No Mess or Expense

I would lay a small bet that a good half of my bloggy mates have never bothered to explore the simplest program in the Windows zoo - the little drawing programme called Paint. It can be great fun for all ages and, if treated seriously, might become a great tool to extend once's artistic imagination and talent.

I drew this small pattern very quickly in the Paint programme which can be found under 'Accessories' in 'Programs' on the Start bar of a computer that uses Windows. I simply set the orientation of the page to landscape under Page Setup and selected the Fill With Colour tool on the toolbar. I clicked the colour I wanted and the rectangle of the page filled with my lovely rich red. Then I clicked the Brush tool, clicked white in the colour selection panel at the bottom of the screen and away I went. Move over Matisse!

This one is a little more ambitious. I had great fun in the more advanced graphic programme Corel Draw, making some of the shapes transparent ... Complementary oranges and purples made lovely pinks when other sections were overlaid.

Back to Paint again ...
This black background became the basis for blobs of several colours created with the spray tool, with some overlaid for extra effect. I don't like to use too many colours at once with these, I think creating a more sophisticated effect.

Geometric shapes came into play in this Paint project, done fairly quickly and with not too much thought to a perfect product. Again, colour is so important isn't it?

Remember, I have not had to buy a single tube of paint or page of paper so far ...
Nor do I need to clean up any messes on my clothing or the floor, for that matter!

This one demonstrates that anyone can have a go. A lemon background and vegetable green squiggles using a smaller version of the brush tool. Just click the brush, select a tiny size at the bottom of the tool box, get your colour right and you're away again.

A few more clicks and a bit of right brain thought and I've rung the changes yet again, in Paint.

You can find the Paint programme by going to the Start Menu/All Programmes/Accessories/Paint. Easy! I think it's been in all Windows systems since the year dot. Save your masterpieces as a jpg to send over the web.

I turned again to Corel Draw for this splashy creation, and becoming most irreverand, called it 'fissure'. Many oldies (and younger for that matter) will probably appreciate that title.

I am very aware of the huge advantages of the texture and 'feel' of paint - computers could never replace the sheer joy of working the real thing. But my goodness, graphic programmes do provide an extra dimension!

Are your fingers itching to be creative? Why not try out this no mess, no cost alternative to pencils and brushes? Or maybe you could tell me about some magical works of art you've already achieved?

PS There seems to be a lot of interest in this - if any of my bloggy mates would like to send one or two of their Paint creations to me I'll put them on 70 Plus linked to your site. Save as a jpg from the Paint programme and email to
(Mind you a masterpiece can be a stick man or a pseudo Rembrandt - we won't mind!
We'll have our own little gallery!

Please leave a comment below to tell me if you are trying out Paint, and if you will be sending me a sample of your efforts ...

Sunday 2pm Judy of Living on the Other Side of the Hill has risen to the challenge and sent me a Paint pic for our gallery - I'll hopefully collect a few more and then I'll 'hang' them all in our very own gallery in the next post, with accompanying artists' links! Come on bloggy mates - send me yours to join in the fun! I'll wait until we have a respectable number of entries and then we'll have a virtual official opening, with wine and cheese (virtual)!
Artwork received so far from:
Judy of Living on the Other Side of the Hill
Lilly of Lilly's Life
Steve of Color Sweet Tooth
Rhada of The Musings of a Night Owl
Suranga of Gappa
Steph of Mrs Bubblefish
Genie Sea of Reality Insanity

Saturday 23rd May
Hi everybody
We've had huge flood problems close to where I live and I have been putting up my sister whose house looked threatened for a while so blogging has been interrupted for a couple of days. However, the sun is shining again here at least so it's all systems go for the virtual art exhibition!
I'll be organising the 'catering' and hanging the works later today so if anyone has Paint drawings ready, send them over and I'll put them with the others. Stick figures to Rembrandts remember - so don't be shy! We have a great range aleady and it's going to be fun. If you need more time that's ok too - we can always add more in the days to come ...

Sunday, 10 May 2009

I Really Really Like My New Bicycle

I really really like the new bicycle I bought just before Christmas.

I paid for it
with part of the $A1,200 payment the Australian Government issued to pensioners as part of a package to stimulate the economy. The rest of it is covering most of the cost of rejuvenating my old lounge suite - so you see I've done my bit for the country by pumping the money back into the economy.

But my bicycle means a lot more to me than that. It's such fun, for one. Secondly, it's helping me get fit.

I rode around the bicycle paths and parks in my neighbourhood for more than an hour this afternoon. If that doesn't help my arthritis et al, I don't know what will!

I went up all sorts of little byways that you'd never bother about in a car. At a bike's pace you can see so much more.

When I wasnt too far from home I spied a park bench which was sheltered from the nippy breeze that had sprung up near the lake.

I was bathed in late autumn sunshine as I drank from my water bottle and crunched into a crisp apple. Then I settled to read a book in idyllic surroundings.

I am pretty confident riding it these days, although I must admit to a mild battle early on. I hadn't ridden a bicycle for more than 50 years.

I confess that I ran into the guard rails of a bridge and barked my shins a week or so after I bought it. But that was before I got the hang of the gears.

The benefits have certainly outweighed that bit of inconvenience.

I strongly recommend a bike to any oldie who wants to feel their blood flowing again. My chiropractor and my general practitioner certainly approve.

So you can see my bike is a plus all round.

How long is it since you rode a bicycle? Do you miss it? Than why not have another go?

Thursday, 7 May 2009

The Fight for Fingal

Dreamtime Beach Fingal today

We've visited Fingal a lot on 70 Plus, and chatted about the flora of the place and admired the deep torquoise sea, the creamy beaches and the unusual rocks that dot the shores. But so far I haven't said a lot about the original inhabitants of this magical place - the Minjungbul people of the Bunjalung nation of Australian Aborigines.

The Minjungbal tribe roamed the entire Tweed Valley in northern New South Wales for thousands of years. Their existence must have been idyllic. That is, until the white man expanded north from the original colony which was established in the Sydney basin in 1788. Since then it's been a long dramatic story. I have been told stories by oldtimer white people that Fingal Aborigines were given poisoned flour in an effort to wipe them out.

The wonder is that there is still a very strong Minjungbal presence at Fingal and in Tweed Heads South where they live in communities and learn of their culture. Also, of course, you can see signs of past generations of the tribe, if you keep your eyes open.

I took the photograph above when I saw unusual little indentations in the rocks on the headland which I suspect may have been made by Aborigines, perhaps making fire by twirling sticks in the stone. However, I am prepared to be proven wrong on this.

Regardless, the community's history in the area is well documented. Historian Andrew Chalk says Aborigines have been associated with the area stretching back into the Dreamtime with anthropologists claiming that it supported one of the most dense nomadic populations to be found anywhere in the world.

He says that skeletal remains of Aborigines seven feet tall have been found on the Fingal Peninsular, attesting to the superb nutrition which must have been available to the locals in the past.

Today there is an Aboriginal cemetery in Fingal, not far from a bora ring which has also been preserved by the local community.

This notice announces that Aborigines and Islanders of the Tweed area are buried there, among them the elder Caomoi and his son Churaki. A nearby plaque installed in memory of community members of the period 1864 to 1964 named Caomoi as 'The King'. We won't intrude any further here ...

This beautiful peninsular was almost lost to all but the very well heeled when a development company announced in the late 1980s that it would build a gigantic luxury resort and golf course there. In 1989 the Aboriginal community, conservationists and many white friends established a small tent settlement at the entrance to the peninsular, in demonstration against the plans.

That settlement remained in place for almost a year while legal and political moves were made elsewhere to halt the development. This eventually led to an inquiry by the Independent Commission Against Corruption into the legal validity of actions surrounding the development.

The plans were scrapped and people were prosecuted as a result.

As Andrew Chalk says in his document:
'As always there is a good deal more to the story. The best parts - the intrigue and manoeuvring, the anguish and joy, and above all the people - are most wisely kept for late nights around a fire on Dreamtime Beach, where, well out of earshot of the defamation lawyers, a group will be sitting waiting for the snapper to bite. They will be remembering and they will be laughing, because in 1989 they all did something which they didn't really think was possible. In Fingal is the great Australian novel waiting to be written.'

Is the good fight being fought to save precious parts of the environment near your place? Or are sad things happening without comment?