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Joe Chesters"


This issue contains an account of Joe's visit to Australia. The major part of the magazine is reproduced below, including a piece on restoring Thomas Dempster Jones' portrait of Dennis Griffiths and the visit to Australia. There are a few Buckleyites in Australia and we hope they enjoy reading this.




Dear member,

I hope since our last issue we have all been at work, not only in preparation for exhibitions but for the simple fact that "practice does make progress". Note I said "progress" and not perfection. Perfection is an illusion, it is different things to different people, it is the illusive goal which we all aim for but which will never reach. The more I paint and draw, the more I find this is so, and the more the challenge the wider my horizons are stretched and this can be taken into realms you never thought of. I ventured into one of these realms quite a number of years ago, and being an artist found the work of the restorer a very helpful extra string to my bow. Now before you dart out and say " l've got an oil painting in need of cleaning (even worse a watercolour)", STOP, & THINK. The fairy liquid and a damp cloth from under the sink is OUTS, and so is anything like it. Having said that, its not as scary and difficult as it sounds. Like everything else , ONCE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING.

My first experience into restoration was the cleaning of an oil painting by the Spanish artist "Luiz de Morales" of the 17th century. How's that for a challenge! Then came the job of cleaning an oil landscape by 19th century artist "Parker Haggity" who's work can be seen in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. This was followed by a small French 19th century portrait and the massive undertaking of cleaning and restoring six large angel paintings in Gwernaffield church, three either side of the alter. If you are a devoted painter and love every aspect of art, you will find out how things work and give them your attention, and I do think that the artist is in a good position to do such rewarding and satisfying work.

Obviously the amateur will be restricted and limited to the amount of work that can be done, but the amount of work they can do is just as vital and just as interesting. Quite recently I had a most unexpected commission, and may I say a thoroughly enjoyable one. A phone call one evening enquired whether I could examine a damaged oil painting the next day. The place was Hawkesbury Community Centre, Buckley, and the painting was T. Dempster Jones' "Portrait of Mr Dennis Griffiths". Some unruly members of the youth club had defaced. the picture, and it was in need of cleaning and repair. At first I couldn't believe what I was going to do, clean and restore a painting which I knew well and had studied on more occasions than I cared to remember, plus I had known the artist and his methods of working. Knowing an artist's methods and his materials is a restorer's dream, and it had just happened to me.

Its funny how things come about and life seems to turn full circle. I remember Tom Dempster Jones restoring a watercolour for me many years ago, and now his work comes into my studio. There is more to art than just dipping the brush into the paint.

Have fun! Joe.





The long arc of lights seemed never ending as they came towards us from left to right and changed into a foreshortened perspective as our eyeline lowered dramatically. The last we saw of civilization from 36,000 feet were the feeble glimmers of Geraldton further north along the coast.

Now the city of Perth was sweeping in as a huge never ending curve of yellows golds and silvers with the occasional touch of red and blue jumping out of the shining mass of glitter which was getting closer by the second. The jet black of night disappeared into an Aladdin's cave of jewels.

Our seat belts had been fastened fifteen minutes earlier and we had gone through the regulatory information on the monitor screens concerning our entry into Australia.

The flight deck radio burst into life.

"We would like to thank you for flying Cathay Pacific. We hope you enjoy your stay in Australia and look forward to having you aboard again soon".

Rubber squealed on the unseen tarmac below. Flight CX 173 from Hong Kong was down 1.30 am, Tuesday morning April the 25th 1995.

Our flight left Manchester at 10 am on Sunday morning of April the 23rd for Western Australia via Zurich, Hong Kong and Bali.

Visibility from Manchester to Zurich was zero but the snow-capped spectacle of crossing the Swiss Alps and those of Austria certainly made up for the start of the journey, then on down over Turkey.

Darkness descended over northern Iran; the red desert mountains sinking into long purple shadow as the rim of the earth drew the nighttime curtain across the land far below.

If the spectacles of good daytime flying weren't enough we passed over Delhi on a cloudless night and saw the magnificent illuminated shape of India's capital appearing as a huge galaxy in the depths of space, except we were looking DOWN. Not sleeping the whole night dawn broke over South East Asia as we headed for Kunming in Southern China.

It was a glorious morning, towering masses of cumulus cloud soared high like great billowing plumes above Canton and, at 8.30 am just after breakfast our flight captain Mr Richard Perry announced landing procedure for touch down in Hong Kong for 9.00 am.

I had waited for this moment for a long time. I bad heard the stories from others who had flown in and out of Hong Kong. The exhilaration, the drama of it all! Now we were 30 minutes from Kai Tak International. Our 747 descended quickly through the layers of cloud bringing the dark greens and browns of the Chinese landscape into sharp relief; the roads, rivers and plains, then the mountains which towered in the South concealing the long awaited Hong Kong.

The high ridges passed below. The mainland of China melted and. disappeared behind us as the waters of the South China Sea sparkled in the morning sunlight. The 747 banked to the West to face the run over Hong Kong harbour. The earth seemed to tilt on its side then level out again, and for what seemed ages the Cathay Pacific jumbo appeared to "hang" in space, gradually turning on its axis Northwards. Below was visible the building progress of the new airport, then our 747 descended fast and the whole city fanned out, each island a world of its own; small boats, ships, junks, vessels of every variety, colour and size populated this water metropolis.

The mountains of China rose higher, our speed though decreasing, appeared faster as we raced into the flight path for Kai Tak through the city. Yes! through the city. Skyscrapers were now higher off the ground than we were. Now we were flying only a hundred or so feet above the Hong Kong highways and residential areas and sports fields.

In we go! Like a dart heading for the bulls eye on the board. We are now at what they call "the point of no return". Whatever happens we have to go on. We look down on shoppers, see them in the streets, recognize the numbers on players shirts in the sports stadium. The roads below us are close, you can see taxi drivers and their passengers, see into apartment windows; and your relative speed with the Hong Kong surface traffic at this height is fast to say the least.

Down……… down...... down...

A harsh screech and the 747s wheels contact the runway.

Where there was narrow lanes of traffic there is now a broad expanse of tarmac and concrete. All engines are now in full reverse and our airliner is thundering towards Kai Tak terminal ending the second leg of its journey to Perth.


4.00 pm Monday afternoon Hong Kong / Perth time our Cathay Pacific flight taxied out across the runway for the crossing of the equator to Bali in the Indonesian islands. If the landing at Kai Tak was spectacular, then for the short time it took the take off was even more exhilarating ... this was a pretty short runway! Imagine sitting in a high powered racing car, the driver has his accelerator pedal right down on the floor pushing all the revs out he can, then ... suddenly! lets the brakes off!

Thundering down the runway from a standing start position is underestimating the experience, when with every metre of distance the aircraft nears the waters of Hong Kong harbour. Suddenly the red lights at the runways end flash past beneath us and the nose of CX 173 is up into the blue. Every ounce of power is thrusting skywards, and what was land has suddenly disappeared and changed into water, falling away at a very sharp angle of ascent.

The whole feeling of slowing down is uncanny as now there is nothing to relate our speed to any more, yet we were climbing faster and faster. Hong Kong, Kowloon, and the great landmass of Southern China were now like images on a wide cinema screen, and the late afternoon sun coloured the South China Sea with pale gold adorned with small puffs of cloud like suspended cotton wool.

Our journey across the equator was taken up with dinner and a beautiful sunset over the South China seas. Before darkness descended we rode out a short storm and our time of arrival at Denpasar in Bali was 10.00pm with cloud.

A one hours stop for refuelling, stores, and passenger pickups and stop-offs and we were airborne again heading due south towards North Western Australia.




"G'day and welcome to Western Australia!"

I'll never forget those warm words at 1.30 am in the morning as we passed through passport control. The young man in his khaki shirt sat high behind his desk, closed our passports and returned them with a smile. "Enjoy your stay".

But the greatest welcome awaited Jean and I on the other side where the family was patiently waiting.

The long drive from the airport to our home for the next month was a spectacular journey through the illuminated city of Perth, and our arrival at Currambine was a quick unpack, drinks, plenty of conversation, then sleep. 2.30 am we hit the sack, until 10.00 am the next day.


When for 49 years your eyes and senses have been trained and accustomed to the colours moods and lights and genre in general of this country's landscape, to say that the change came as a surprise is putting it mildly. A shock to the system might be closer to the truth.

It is at first the light that is the marked difference between this country and Australia. Full sunlight creases the eyes and the contrasting shadow tones and. textures that are found in Salvador Dali's work jump out at you in stark reality. Even the grey days are more contrasty than those of Northern latitudes for the light takes on a more silvery brilliance.

Colour certainly has its differences, but depending on where you are great contrasts are not readily evident. Contrasts between the Pilbara, the Kimberley and the coastal plain regions of The Swan Valley and Margaret River are; and to see the landscape change in mood, colour and contrasts can take a lot more traveling than on the British scale of things. But when it does...Wow!


We rose late on our first day. Jean and I slept like Ayers Rock, until a cold nose snuggled us one at a time, and "Buddy" the families German Shepherd made sure we slept no longer.

Bert Newton's voice welcomed us into breakfast with his morning T.V show "Good Morning Australia", and the aroma of cooking finally assured us that we were definitely in Western Australia and last night's landing and drive through illuminated Perth and over the Swan River wasn't a dream.

It is impossible here to discuss every day, place, and volume of work done with sketch books and cameras but the essence or "spirit" of the place as the Chinese brush painters would put it, is what is important.

Countless times I have read of other artists' accounts of the different or special Iights in other countries, plus the colours. In all the time I spent in Australia I have to say that the only difference I found was that the light was brighter and contrasts were greater. There was nothing more than that.

On grey or rainy days the lighting appeared more silvery and a little more intense for such conditions at home, and coastal areas will always appear to have a special light because of the extra reflective qualities from sand, light rock, and water, plus a complete wide open field of vision out to sea giving a wider sky.

We must take into account the colours and tones of the landscape which can or cannot add to the amount of reflectiveness of light on the eyes. I do not subscribe to a colour theory in practice because that can, as history has shown lead to formula painting and that can he boring to say the least, and lead to an avenue of repetition and stagnation.

One thing we must remember about such places as Australia is that BEFORE we see the sights in the flesh so to speak our first introduction is usually through colour photography in books, magazines, films, videos, and the obvious travel brochures. Here we see colour at its worst, for the simple reason that it is presented in such a way as to catch your eyes, through filters, types of film, special lenses, plus processing and printing techniques.

Yes, it is different in the outback of Australia. Colour changes are very noticeable if you cover large distances and, yes, it will make you go WOW! but not like the adverts do it. Whilst Australia is a country with a totally different colour scape to ours, it is still "laid back colour". Photographs made and taken to catch the eye are usually done under dramatic light conditions: e.g. low light morning and evening which accentuates golds, yellows and reds of the land, and couple this with polarizing filters which "deepen" blue skies, "flatten" colour by illuminating sparkle and "cut" through reflections. Also, starburst filters to falsely create sparkles on water which is a horrible effect to replace the real thing, and gradual grey filters to heighten or lower tone in certain areas where needed, and you've got an alien world, without all the other abominable filters which are jokey gimmicks.

One of the strongest colour contrasts for me was the sight of the Ghost Gum in its setting with its pure white and smooth bark. The red rocks of the desert are basically a terra cotta coloured sandstone, which isn't all that unusual in this country, e.g. the red sandstone cliffs in Wepre Woods, Connah's Quay; except down under there are literally mountains of it and deserts of it, and concentrated in such a manner makes it "appear" different. But it is still laid back colour.

The Pinnacle Desert at Nambung National Park near Cevantes north of Perth has prominent colour changes of sand from a white to a deep mustard yellow. As you approach the fringes of the desert from the Brand Highway south of Cevantes the sand is near white and as it borders the Indian Ocean it becomes a cream colour, but the centralized desert areas are ochre and mustard yellows.

No sign of reds in this desert. It is all golds, yellows and whites; and dark, pale dusty greens of the flora. No vibrating colour. Boring? Far from It!

In contrast, feel the cold morning chill in the shelter of the great southern forests before the sun rises (by the way, you can get frosts at Uluru - Ayers Rock). The last of the nights stars have been extinguished by the glowing purple and vermilion of the eastern horizons new dawn. The great "Mirrabooka" (Southern Cross) gives way in the sky to "Wuriupranala", the Sun Woman of the Dreamtime as she rises, and the red glow begins to rise from the deserts in the east, spreading upwards; and, across the tops of The Darling Range behind Perth the earth is carpeted in ephemeral gold. The silver white sands of the coral coastline of Currambine right up to Kalbarri, Ningaloo, and Broome reflect soft pink; becoming warmer against the cool transparent blues and greens of a gent1e lapping Indian Ocean. Viridian greens melting into turquoise, manganese blues criss-crossing into ultramarine which flickers tints of alizarin crimson through to cobalt. The headlands guarded by Australia's famous "Blackboy" trees with their flowering grass heads crowned with a five metre flower spear of massed tiny honey scented cream blossoms.

Try the south west of the state at Yallingup, Permberton and Margaret River. This is Karri timber country. Forests which can cover an area nearly as big as Flintshire where the fine Ironstone wines are made, and the Sterling mountains tower skywards. Head out to York, where, in western Australia's oldest inland town, time has seemingly stood still. Close your eyes for a moment there and imagine no cars and no electric lighting and you're back in the mid 1800s with every ounce of colonial architecture intact from "The Settlers Rest" hotel to "Balladong Farm". York lies in the Avon Valley on the Avon River, and was so named because it reminded early settlers of the rolling and pastoral countryside back home in England.

From here the further east you go the land gets more sparse, ochery and pinky coloured. Now your heading for the old goldfields of Kalgoorlie, Boulder, and Koolgardie - and how the skies widen. Horizons are thrown back like the view through an 18mm wide angle lens, and, if you can stick the heat (summer up to 120o+), flies, ants, snakes, spiders, scorpions, dust storms, sparse shade and even more, sparse water, this one state has more to offer the artist than any other Australian state, as it spans the temperate, Mediterranean, desert and tropical climates.

One memorable sketching session was at Bunbury, a short stop-over we made on the way to Margaret River. Bunbury is a coastal industrial town south of Perth and here we lunched on what seemed, a quiet and peaceful ocean front.

There's more than one good reason why Aussie bushmen wear arkubra hats, and we found one of them out pretty quick. Flies! The hats don't stop e'm but at least they keep the little buzzers at bay. Tiny round sand flies, on your nose, on your cheeks, on your ears, and in your mouth. There were times I didn't know whether my right hand was sketching or swatting. You've just about had enough fighting off the pesky wildlife and struggling to work at the same time when the worst pest of the lot arrives. It's funny, but you can't get away from them can you. Even at 12,000 miles away from home on the other side of the world in some god- forsaken outback. It slowly creeps up behind you. You've sensed. it coming and you can't pack up because you're at that critical stage where its paramount that you keep working. You can't avoid it. A shadow falls across your work, and a voice says.

"Are you an artist? It must be lovely to be gifted and do something so relaxing". After sweating under a mid- day sun, wrestling with a not too certain drawing and fighting off the indigenous six legged and winged inhabitants with no success I smile and say "Oh yes".

And my mental screams can be heard echoing off Ayers Rock - one and a half thousand miles away! And if you want to sketch roo's then early mornings and late evening are best; any other time of day and they'll drive you hopping mad trying to find 'em and painting watercolours wet-in-wet is fun too, and it wasn't even summer. Probably the subject wouldn't demand it but you'd be fighting the odds anyway. It dries the second it touches the paper. Here the line of least resistance must prevail, as I discovered, on my first full day at Beaumaris beach in Currambine, Wanneroo. I spent a little time thinking before I started. Is there a need to go all out for a finished work on the spot in this heat? or go for a quick colour sketch, backed up with pencil drawings and notes, plus some photographs? It takes a split second to weigh up all the for's and against's. The against's win hands down. I pattern my subject out in pencil then work in a method of filling in the drawn spaces with each basic colour and appropriate tones then add a few details after; go for the "essence" of the subject. Then I draw," dry" medium and photograph at leisure. I believe, in awkward conditions as this, in having my cake and eating it.




Author: Chesters, Joe


Year = 2000

Gender = Male

Landscape = Private Garden

People = Single

Extra = 2000s

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