Saturday, 15 August 2015

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
[From Sea Fever by John Macefield].
Yes it's nearly here... the return of the Greenwich Tall Ships Festival. From 27th - 31st August, 15 Tall Ships will be dropping anchor with 13 at Woolwich and 2 at Maritime Greenwich.

To get you in the mood here is a painting of The Amerigo Vespucci built as a training ship for the Italian Navy in 1930 in the style of the late 18th century 74 cannon ships. I made this painting from a sketch made in 1983 when the Amerigo Vespucci was moored off Greenwich Reach.

The Amerigo Vespucci at Greenwich Reach, oil on panel, 10" x 13". £395. 
Some notes I made around the time read;

In 1983 on a casual stroll along the Greenwich Pier, I saw a most handsome sailing ship riding high on the tide off Greenwich Reach. I discovered it was the Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian frigate used as a training vessel for officers and was staying for a few days on a courtesy visit. The following day with fine weather promising I began a watercolour with my drawing board pressed hard against the pier railings. I worked for 3 hours without interruption enjoying the contrast between the sturdy shapes of the Thames barges in the foreground emphasising the elegance of the earlier days of sail.

The watercolour painting sold but I also made this small oil painting.
Sadly this ship won't be with us this year but this one will...
Tecla in Greenwich 2014.

and Dar Mlodziezy (below) will be moored on Tall Ship Island in the river at Maritime Greenwich, and will open to visitors via MBNA Thames Clipper shuttles.

A beautiful sight; busy Thames from Tall Ships 2014...



You can find out what kind of activities are on offer at the 2015 Tall Ships Festival here;

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Brewery Wharf

Or more locally known as Prior's Wharf, is a hard working, successful survivor of a once industrious Deptford Creek. The Prior family have run this wharf since 1870 and have a fleet of barges all named after members of the Prior family. The barges are a regular sight on Deptford Creek, travelling daily to and from Fingringhoe in Essex bringing their cargo of sand and aggregates. In a recent report by the Mayor of London the wharf retained it's safeguarded status and was also thought viable for cargo handling, increasingly important as the landscape around it changes dramatically.

Below is a painting I made in 1990, it features in my book 'Visions of Greenwich Reach' and looking back now it's amazing how much the surrounding landscape has changed.

Bert and James at Deptford Creek, oil on canvas, size approx. 21" x 26".  £1500.

Here is an extract from 'Visions of Greenwich Reach';

'It is rare to see both vessels together in the Creek and I spent the whole day drawing every detail, soaking up the cadmium reds confidently emphasising the bulwarks. On the quay behind, piles of bleached sand created a pleasantly organic depth, arrested by an assortment of ancient warehouses. The sky in such a busy scene was crowded almost out of existence but the tiny strip remaining was vital for the painting to breath'.

As you may guess it's a much loved subject and the painting below was made in 1989, in my notes I wrote;

'I ran as fast as I could to Creek Bridge, just in time to see [the ship] edge alongside the quay by the cement wharf. Simultaneously and much closer to me the motor barge 'Bert Prior' swung its stern around in order to pass under the bridge in reverse. Its birth at Prior's Wharf is just beyond but at this point the canal is too narrow for a craft of this length to turn again.'

Motor Barge and Coaster, oil on canvas, size approx. 28" x 32" £2500
Priors Wharf is a much valued local industry helping keep traffic off the roads, not only that, from an artists point of view it is a much cherished local landmark that lifts the soul, long may they continue.

There are a couple of excellent sites relating to Priors Wharf. You can take a trip on Mark Prior here and follow the journey from Fingringhoe to Deptford Creek with Skipper Peter Barc, and Mate 'Fraggle' (filmed in April 2015). You can see some great photos and a full list of the family fleet past and present, including Mark, Brenda, Bert, James, Francesca and many more here.