Europe: from balcony, bus window and roadside

That’s the title for my next outing at Mockingbird Lounge, Glenelg (in Adelaide). I have a hallway space – hanging  tomorrow. Today I will share with you my paintings inspired by Rome, or at least by my photographs of Rome.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia
Centuries apart, Rome

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia
Piazza del Popolo, Rome

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

The pines of Rome

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

Colours of Rome

What a taming effect working from photographs has! It is difficult to ignore the camera’s “truth” in favour of the imaginative inner eye. Working outdoors opens up so many more possibilities – nuances of colour, changing light, the excitement of fleeting visions. The sheer pressure of being out there, the time limit, the silent battles all add something to the dynamics of painting. That’s what got me thinking about the power of the camera’s image.

Today when I gathered all my recent European works to glaze and put in their frames, some them cried out for more attention. They needed strengthening a bit tonally or colour-wise – just a bit more punch.  I had most trouble with “Colours of Rome” (above) which was the first one I started, almost the day after our return. I was super-keen to work in parallel with my colleagues in Rome, to reduce the disappointment somehow. This one still feels like a picture, Oh well.

There they are. From the ashes of our visit to Rome.

I have to say that Rome in the daylight is another place altogether! For me it is good to see something positive emerge from our brief non-stay. I don’t think there is any pain visible. Do you?

Inside Sheffield

Just a few Mondays ago I wished I was still in paid work. Really?
Well, only for the early morning conversations. “What did you do on the weekend?”

I had had the BEST weekend, so probably better that I didn’t go in to work that Monday. (Murdered with Paper Cuts by Jealousy in the Photocopying room).

You have already heard about our unhappy experience in Rome. This was the weekend before…

There are hidden sides to most cities, some that even locals don’t see.
For about a year and a half I have been following a handful of blogs arising from Sheffield – Postcard Cafe, Little Bits of Sheffield, NeoWatercolour and more recently Shopfronts of Sheffield. You might think with that blog roll I could probably show someone around Sheffield. No, but you can be sure I know someone who could!

My once-virtual now-real friend PC from most of those blogs recently took me and my fellow traveller on a walk around the city. Within a hundred metres of our central hotel we found a huge painting of Harry Brearley by Faunagraphic we had walked right past the day before. In our defence, we had been facing uphill and were a bit lost.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

I won’t steal PC’s thunder on these as his photography is top-notch and his links to information are spot-on. Visit his sites Little Bits of Sheffield and Postcard Cafe for the real deal! I will include a couple of quick snaps taken as we walked around.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

We entered some fairly forbidding looking territory, close to the centre of Sheffield. It was partly arty, with studio spaces and a few small galleries but many buildings looked derelict or deserted.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia
I hadn’t realised my parents had been here before me!

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia
Phlegm’s telescope

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia
a collaborative work

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia
Even the tagging looked spectacular!

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Ausstralia

Our friend and guide PC knew lots of background information about the artists and the architecture. He introduced us to EMA (just visible above, on the scaffolding). We stopped in at Site Gallery. Although their current sound and light exhibition didn’t work any magic on me, they were selling Phlegm’s recent book of drawings (which did). It is difficult to note all the other artists we saw, but think Kid Acne, Rocket01, Malarky, and Phlegm

The weather was fine with bright spots as they say in the UK. Our guided walk was full of bright spots! On reflection, PC seemed to allow us to do the discovering as we turned corners or walked to the end of an alleyway. He was a skilful guide with a vast local knowledge and interest in the buildings as well as the art.

It is a strange transition between the virtual and real worlds and this was my closest encounter with the borderline to date. It was almost magical to see the imagined become real and what better way to see it than with a really lovely fellow who stepped out from ‘behind the screen’ into the daylight.

To round out the morning PC took my partner and me out to Sharrowvale Road, a very hip part of town, to meet my other Sheffield blogging friend, Victoria from NeoWatercolour.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia
Photo by Postcard Cafe

What a delight that was! Victoria was just as I had expected, brimming with quiet wit and fun and surrounded by glorious colour – her beautiful work on a street stall. You too can find her outside Gilbert & Sons on Sharrowvale Road on sunny Saturdays. Snap up a print, quickly! We did.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Austtralia
These two photos by Postcard Cafe (on my equipment). Nice reflection and note the Pete McKee cartoon on the gallery window.

We strolled up the street to visit “A Month of Sundays” the gallery featured in our new print before stopping at the Bakery for coffee and buns with PC. How perfect is that? Well, you were busy Victoria. That would have been the icing on the buns, I agree.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia
Here we are with our friend (and guide) PC, photo by Victoria from NeoWatercolour.

Hence my suggestion, in the photocopying room with papercuts etc…. for having such a good time.

And there was more. That afternoon my partner and I attended the wedding of a young friend who had visited us in Australia 12 years ago. It was a marvellous occasion at the Millennium Gallery whose outdoor courtyard is flanked by Phlegm’s work! Echoes of our seemingly unreal movement between worlds. What a day.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia
There were lots of swinging kilts, wild dancing and antics which would probably worry your mother.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

I wouldn’t have done much work if I had attended on that particular Monday. Memories are best savoured quietly. Work colleagues would not have understood.

But, here’s to PC and to V. See you down here sometime soon! Many thanks for your great kindness and for igniting our love of Sheffield.

And thanks for the feel-good story. I didn’t realise how much I would need it. We should have come home that Monday. We could have flown home on the ‘high’.

Off to Rome? Don’t bother with Gallienus Chain

They won’t bother with you.

Even a little bit of bothering would have helped at 11.45pm a couple of Saturdays ago.

It had been quite a day. The first delayed-departure announcement from the cockpit sent a shiver of ‘oh no’ through my fellow traveller. I was more optimistic. The airline knew we were hoping to make a connection. About an hour on the tarmac was do-able. We needed to wait but also take on more fuel for the expected circling (another hour) over London.  A chemical fire on an industrial estate bordering Heathrow had caused runway closures. All flights in and out were late. It was all about queues and English people do that well.

Our onward flight to Rome was delayed to gather people from other northern airports, so we were all relieved to take off eventually. Also on the plane was a large group of Italian teenagers. They must have numbered 20 (sounded like 40). Even turbulence didn’t sit them down or shut them up. (I tried to say “silenced” there). My offsider is a seasoned teacher so the yelling and parading in the aisles didn’t bother him. I was seconds away from standing up and delivering a terse message.

[Forum Boario, Rome, Italy] (LOC)
[Forum Boario, Rome, Italy] (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)
The youngsters applauded and cheered when we landed in Rome. Their youthful exuberance really left me cold, but it was good to have arrived, even if about 3 hours late. We were in Rome so I could paint for the week with my colleague, plein-air artist Kelly Medford. We had been carting my art materials and equipment through Europe and the UK and even adding to the supplies, chiefly for this concentrated week of outdoor painting. It added about 5 kg to the total weight, mostly in linen panels and the wooden paint box.

Non-arrival of baggage was a common problem that evening. We joined the very slow queue at the baggage counter. Many people were advised to wait ‘only’ another hour or so for the next flight in from LHR. Luckily our bags turned up on another carousel. As it was about 9.30pm by then, the baggage assistant agreed to phone our accommodation to let them know of our late arrival. She reported that no-one answered – just as it had been when we phoned and emailed from the UK, but she assured us that the custom was for reception desks to be open in Rome until midnight.

On through customs or whatever it is you have to do when you are on your last legs, and then out to find the bus into Rome.

On arrival in the city sometime after 11pm we headed through the railway station towards Gallienus, more in hope than certainty. It was a hot night and the end of a very long day. Visualise two “older” people (last photo on my previous post), who’d had nothing to eat or drink since about 4pm. We were dragging two cases each (63kg between us) across the 20cm rough stone cubes that make up the cobblestones of Roman streets. I am sure the gaps were wheel size.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia
Three of the four cases, early Saturday am on English paving; 53 kg here.

Gallienus Chain might as well not have existed. There was no-one to answer the door or the bell. Despite all the unlocking and roaming, our phones were not friendly. Thankfully a young local resident made a couple of phone calls in Italian on our behalf. The telephone number listed on the bell directed him to a second number which directed him back to the first. After a lot of head-shaking, he eventually spoke to someone. That person had closed up shop and was now two hours away from Rome. He had no knowledge of our booking. Suggestion: we could wait two hours for him to return or phone him in the morning!

Fhhrrrzzz… The sound of deflated hope and creeping despair.

We headed out to find a bed for the night. We passed homeless people and people who wanted unnamed things from us. Not named in English anyway. Spruikers and con-men seemed to emerge in the yellowish light. It was clearly a bad part of town. Our fear must have been palpable, our exhaustion obvious. We were vulnerable.

We were homeless.

Our choice of accommodation was based on a few things. Budget was primary. Secondly, because we were on the last leg of a three month holiday we were pulling all our baggage (63kg). Proximity to the railway station seemed sensible and also for easy transport to painting locations. Thirdly, Gallienus Chain was on the recommended list of our credit card provider’s travel page. Hmm.

Do you have a feeling this didn’t end well? It didn’t. We left Rome about 14 hours later.

Home safely and two weeks later it is settling into the status of a bad dream.

Just don’t bother with Gallienus Chain, that’s all.

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

Drum roll……………………It’s Neo Watercolour!

Look away now!                if you don’t want to see

something bright, quirky, conversational, colourful, entertaining, bouncy, bubbly, amusing
and Beautiful!

It is “Two Pugs, Sharrowvale Road” by Victoria at Neo Watercolour. From Sheffield UK 2013!


We are proud owners of a limited edition giclee print (‘fast-tracked from the UK’ and recently retrieved from the framer)!

And here it is with the curator, in situ, so far…

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

I can’t promise she would do this for everybody, but V generously dismantled some of her sign to provide us with packing material for the Two Pugs’ journey home to Adelaide. She might be pleased (if puzzled) to know that it is now keeping nesting starlings out of our verandah roof. A temporary solution, but very useful stuff, corflute. Ten days and holding. Thanks V!

Philippa Robert, Adelaide South Australia

But, back to our theme. Victoria’s way with watercolour brings it out of the scenic-wash genre into ‘urban chic’ with many a wry twist. You will be rewarded by looking closely at NeoWatercolour. Smiles and delight guaranteed! Have a look HERE.

What do you think of the red frame?