8 Oct 2012

BikeFest Newcastle

Posted by Mike Rubbo

Newcastle held its first weekend Bike festival last weekend, Oct. 6th and 7th 2012. The city is coming on fast as a bike friendly place   and  this was a way to anchor that fact in the public mind.

I was invited to show my bike  art. At first,  it was planned that we’d show  in the historic museum buildings but then we got moved to a  marquee on the Boardwalk which was much better in terms of passing foot traffic.

The organizers had supplied us with heavy carpet covered screens to which my light art works were  easily affixed with the help of Velcro dots.

Those dots are the  way to go, one can play around with the arrangement so easily. But what to do, I wonder without  those screens which are way  too heavy for us to lug around in our tiny Getz?

Katya was with me for the whole weekend and was a superb seller. Here’s me in front of our stall  and…

….my darling helper, the exotic Russian.

A huge asset in terms of  getting people to stop and look was our Sociable, a strange side by side bike which we think is the only example in Australia. Parked out front,  it was a great draw-card.

See the two seats side by side? If you don’t believe this works, take a look at these two  who’ve taken it for a spin, managing to master its peculiarities.

It is not an easy beast to ride, though.

And it’s been in danger of being sold to some sucker for some time now, ever  since I bought it from the Canberra Bike Museum 3 years ago. (Museum since Closed)

But now, the old sociable  has proved it’s drawing power as a two wheel freak, and so I’ve decided not to sell it

Nearby,  were interesting stalls . Our immediate neighbors had  beautiful bikes of the sit-up sort on show.

They were  Suellyn Everett and Jimmy Stephenson who seem to share a business called Morgan Cycles.

We could not stop looking at the superbly crafted machines from Belgium and Denmark.

Suellyn admitted the color of the one  we liked best, was not her favorite,  a Belgian machine I believe.

I’m always on the lookout for  bikes and riders to draw. I’m not interested in bikes alone, no matter how elegant. They have to have a rider , and a graceful rider moreover.

When I saw this woman browsing opposite,  caught her easy graceful stance,  I knew I had to see her on one of those bikes

Photograph her and and transform her, eventually,  into a  bit of my art.

Doesn’t that bike look like it’s just begging to be ridden ?

Well, we both got our way.

Here’s the pic . I’ll probably work with. I think she was working for the Bikefest, and so she’ll hopefully get to see all this and follow the fortunes of her image. .

Or maybe  I’ll use this one.  What do you think?

She’s not completely comfortable, holding her head a little tensely. I may change that,  or make it the point of the drawing.

Soon after that, I tried a cargo bike for the first time.  It was surprisingly easy to  to steer and rider friendly,  though   I still felt  a bit decrepit compared with she on the blue bike

That is, until I got momentum. Then, I  saw myself a  compelling image,  suitable for a nation-wide cargo bike ad campaign.

Picture credit goes  to Katya who applauded helpfully.

The Sunday was our big selling day, the weather being better, the crowds thicker,  and our message more resonant

As people came in past the Sociable,  into the tent…

…I explained how I saw buying bike art as a political act. Sort of like GetUp in the art world

I claimed that when people put good bike art on their walls,  it becomes  a statement about the value of the activity. Art  brings status and cachet to the beautiful business of biking.

People seemed to like  the idea and began buying, especially rubbings, no doubt pedaling home fast to politicize their walls before the visitors arrived.

As the numbers grew, we  felt that  Bike art was on a roll at last!.

What sold? Well, the digital prints of the rubbings sold best, being the cheapest,  I guess. They went for $40. They’re certainly a way to have a nice image, but there’s nothing handmade about them.

The rider reflecting on the banks of the Seine, is always snapped up.

Being a rubbing, means that I coat the paper with glue, apply color all over,  and then rub it off the make shapes and highlights. No brush work involved.

This one, two  riders in Prague, is loved for the colors and often sells well.

The third digital print sold on the weekend, is one of my most popular rubbings.  The original left Australia in early 2012, bound  for for the US, fetching  a nice price.

Again,  the digital copy was $40. It’s called, Reaching for her Purse.

We sold old one drawing which surprised me. I thought the simple lines,   the economy of the  drawn images, would appeal more.

Of course they cost more. We’ were asking $150 but settled for less because the buyer was so helpful in helping us with the setting up

Actually,  it’s not true  Late Sunday, we sold this drawing too, done with heavy Indian ink.

It shows workers leaving a factory in the 40′s,  their handlebars turned up . It was bought by a guy who’d worked in a factory like that here in Newcastle, and remembered the rides to work.

My picture framer thinks this is one of my best, and urges me to do more such dribbly ink work. Anyone agree?

Lino cuts are always a goer, being so bold. I was happy that this Tapestry of bikes sold,  since it’s usually passed over. No more.

I’ll probably start a numbered addition of this one, now that it’s proved itself popular.

I was equally delighted that we sold two artist proofs of  Riding through the Bois de Boulonge

It’s a strange and subtle image, full of story as art often is.

Who’s the faceless man she just passed?  Did they look at each other briefly as she headed deeper into the Bois?

Lastly, the image of a Velib, one of the public bikes of Paris, see here  lost in traffic.

As well as pitching and selling furiously, we had   a few snatched moments to drop by other stalls and greet colleagues also committed to a stately sort of riding.

There was Tom  and partner at the trendy Treadlie magazine   stall. Treadlie comes from  Melbourne.

And I saw Paul from Gazelle Cycles.  He distributes  an amazing E bike. Paul also led a study tour to Holland two years ago which is still talked about.

Maurice Wells I somehow missed getting into a  photograph.

Maurice runs Glow worm bikes in Sydney, selling new high quality E bikes,  and second hand regular sit-up bikes he imports from Holland.

I can’t help ending with some juicy images from the stall right in front of us, Morgan Cycles.

Or should I end more menacingly with this Knuckle duster bike?

Or end with a really nice pair of baskets?

This is certainly the way to end,  and yet not end,  because I haven’t mentioned the  great talk I heard on Smart Moves  by Anne Lusk, Research Scientist  at  Harvard School of Public health.

Anne talked about the  health and economic benefits  cycling delivers to a city, saying Newcastle had great potential to become an Australian leader . (Bikefest Newcastle bought her out, I gather.)


Anne also  touched on matters germaine to those  baskets and my current interest, namely how to get more Australians shopping on bikes

It seems to me there’s a natural alliance just waiting to be created between Chambers of Commerce which  work to promote small businesses on the high streets of the land, and the bike shopper.

If Chambers of Commerce were to get their members to promote shopping by bike, installing  bike racks out front,  and perhaps offering discounts to those who come on a bike, we could get a win win situation going quite easily.

We mostly live quite close to our local shops as opposed to supermarkets, often more distant.  We can thus shop easily and frequently,  using basket rigged bikes. That’s  for us both heath and money-wise,  and will also help keep    the friendly world of high street shopping,  going strong.

Mike Rubbo. Oct 9, 2012





Subscribe to Comments

4 Responses to “BikeFest Newcastle”

  1. Hi Mike,
    Love your artwork. Would love to fill my house with lots of it one day. Perhaps with savings I could make from shopping locally by bike. On that, I don’t think cyclists should ask for a discount at the local shops, just somewhere dignified to bloody park would be enough to attract me to mine. The discounts would come naturally as a consequence of the much lower vehicle operating costs and the “free” exercise involved in getting there compared to driving and paying for gym membership.

    Kind regards,


    Jim Moore

  2. Sounds like a great weekend and glad to hear your artwork was popular. Definitely like the “dribbly ink work” of the facory workers on bike, more please!



  3. Hi Mike,
    Glad to read that you had a successful couple of days. I have my print of the bumble bee circus couple in my office and people often comment on it. (even though only a print it looks wonderful!) Maybe one day I’ll get the real thing.

    About the Sociable bike. I saw one at the Ford Motor museum in Geelong Victoria. I think it was red but can’t find the photo. I think it was part of a traveling exhibition but am pretty sure it’s not the same bike as the one in your photo. Maybe there’s two in the whole country?


    David F

  4. “…suitable for a nation-wide cargo bike ad campaign.” Totally agree, Mike!

    Nice photos, nice paintings, nice writings. Keep it (sitting) up. :-)



    Adam J

Leave a Reply