Saturday, 6 September 2014

Itinerant artists and street perfomers I have known

I have no photos of monkeys, itinerant or otherwise, and was almost not going to post this week, but then the concept of itinerant workers made me think of my uncle Graeme Morrison and another more distant relative, Jon Petrie,  both of whom were accomplished artists who painted for their living at certain times.  
Jon Petrie was a son of Frank Petrie and grandson of Jessie Petrie, who was the sister of my great grandfather Charles Murray Cruickshank.  I've written about Jessie previously. Jon worked in various parts of the world as a photographer and columnist, but he was also a mural painter, and I understand that he would not infrequently offer to paint something for the hotel or place he was visiting in return for his accommodation.  Here is an example of one of his works, which was painted in situ at the Reef Lodge, Sigatoka, Fiji. This establishment doesn't appear to exist any more, so presumably neither does the mural.

Here's another of his paintings, this time of boats somewhere. Boat owners would no doubt also be interested in a painting of their prized possessions, but this may or may not have been painted for that reason.

Below is a snap of my Uncle Graeme's studio, which he built in the back garden of his parents' family home in Christchurch New Zealand, c. 1951. That may be Graeme sitting on the step, together with his mother Mona and his sisters Pat and Jean.

The caption to this newspaper clipping describes how Graeme would pay his way when travelling in the USA, by painting houses and then offering to sell them to the owners. I'm not sure if he painted them first and then asked the owners if they would like to buy them, or if he painted on commission, but it could have worked both ways. His mother noted at the top of the clipping that they got a great surprise to find the photo in their local Christchurch paper, the Star, one night in the late 1950s.

Graeme and his wife Ann settled in California but at one stage in the 1970s or 1980s  they decided to return to NZ. To do this Graeme held a garage sale to get rid of his remaining artwork, so my mother who happened to be visiting them at the time bought the following three paintings and drawings.  They subsequently returned to California, where Graeme passed away in 1988. Consquently his family have very few paintings, but hopefully some of his work still graces the walls of some attractive Californian homes.

Street performers in the family
Our son Kim taught himself to juggle at age 10 and it wasn't long before he became quite skilled at juggling balls (5/6), clubs, rings, knives, fire torches etc. His older sister Claire picked up the balls soon after, and little sister Laura did likewise a few years later. Our other son Strahan took a while longer but now he too can juggle 3 balls quite well. It's very good for coordination and even I could do the basic juggle at one stage. So here for your entertainment are a few collages of family juggling shots from the 1990s in various guises and locations. Kim sometimes earnt himself pocket money by busking at Circular Quay on Sydney Harbour. He and Claire joined a juggling club in the city where they learnt club passing, numbers and all sorts of complicated juggling tricks.

Unicycling seems to go with juggling, so that was the next skill to be mastered, and then came unicycle hockey, which looks chaotic but is fun to play and to watch.

We even attended a week long juggling convention in Las Vegas in January 1996 while on holiday there (photos on left of 3rd collage). Some of the artists who performed nightly at the hotels would come and join in with the amateurs after they finished their acts each night. The three centre shots were taken at Darling Harbour in Sydney, where Claire and her brother earnt money teaching juggling to passers-by at a juggling booth during a couple of school holidays. Top right is a line-up with cousins in Paihia NZ, although only two of the kids could actually juggle at this stage, but the others had fun trying! Kim showed his school mates how to unicycle and Claire had a few jobs as a juggling clown at children's parties. These days Laura is a primary school teacher, and she occasionally brings out the unicycle and balls to give the kids a demonstration, but otherwise the clubs, knives, rings, diabolo and unicycles are here in the shed or attic, just waiting for the next generation to come along and have a go, whenever the time is right.

Performing and busking, 1996. B&W photos taken and developed by yours truly.

Now for more performers, artists, monkeys and other entertaining takes of all kinds on the topic this week , just click here.

                          ps. I'm not sure that moneys can really juggle, but here is one that makes a pretty good attempt!  

And finally, as a couple of people have expressed an interest in my Uncle Graeme's shed painting, which has been hanging on my wall ever since my mother gave it to me in the 1980s, here is another one that you might also like, which my brother owns. Neither are for sale, sorry to say. I understand that Graeme's children don't have any of their father's work, so perhaps I will leave mine to one of them.



La Nightingail said...

Those were a couple of rather talented painters in the family. It appears Graeme was left-handed?


You certainly have talented people in your family.
I am impressed by their work.
But what amused me most is the idea of unicycle hockey.
Now that is something I'd be curious to see.

Wendy said...

Painting a mural in exchange for hotel accommodations! I'd say the hotel made out on that deal.

Love the street performing family! How could you think you had nothing for this week?? This is fantastic!

Anonymous said...

Your travelling artists fit the theme very well, and you've continued the entertainment theme right through. I enjoyed this post.

Postcardy said...

The mural painting is beautiful. Too bad there aren't pictures of more of them. The studio design looks is interesting. It looks like the big slanted window let in a lot or natural light.

Alex Daw said...

I really liked the photo of the studio too...such an interesting design. I liked the paintings too...I wish I could paint like that - particularly watercolour. I smiled when I read about unicycle hockey. I always learn something on Sepia Saturday.

Anonymous said...

I like the paintings. I'll have the one of the old shed please when everyone else has finished with it :-) We should do a bit more bartering like he did. Now I wonder what I could swap for one of the paintings !

Lorraine Phelan said...

All I can say is 'Wow", Jo. It all looks like a lot of fun. And I'm putting in a bid for the old shed painting too.

Little Nell said...

A very talented artist indeed. I like the sound of ‘adventure-artist’.

Kerryn Taylor said...

What wonderful paintings Jo! Great post I enjoyed reading, you had a lot to contribute.

diane b said...

What an interesting story and family you have.

Bob Scotney said...

The painting of the shed is superb, Anyone would be proud to own it. Great post.