The story of a painting ...


 Gemma Black: maker of written artifacts with pen & ink-stone 

Artist: Neville Dawson


I met a man on a bus


I arrived into Hobart Airport from one of those long haul trips that I have taken from time to time. I was exhausted after an enjoyable teaching tour. I boarded a mini-bus to take me into the city centre as David was working in Orchestra and had taken the car. A gentleman asked was the seat next to me taken. It wasn’t, so I said he was welcome to sit there. Invariably a small-talk conversation started though I could hardly keep my eyes open with the tiredness. Suddenly my senses piqued when he said he was an artist and all my concentration was suddenly focused on this quietly spoken man sitting next to me … "An artist? So am I”, I said … “well sort of”.

The gentleman, whose name is Neville Dawson, turned out be so interesting and charming that our trip into the city ended so very quickly. It saw us swapping names as he exited down the steps getting off the bus. “Look me up” I called.

I had just met Dr Neville Dawson, Head of Art Newington College (Rtd.), Master Portrait Painter and a true gentleman.

Not long after our serendipitous meeting on the bus, we met up again at a lecture I was giving at the NSW State Library for the Australian Society of Calligraphers. It was lovely to see Neville again as I could introduce him to David.  A few years had gone by though we corresponded during this time. Neville shared a great deal of his portrait work with me. Then out of the blue he asked would I sit for him to have my portrait sketched then painted with the aim of entering it into the Archibald. Gosh, what a very special treat. 

The Painting

 I had always loved a particular fresco portrait of a young woman since I was a child. We had a magnificent library with many wonderful art books and the paintings around the house were poster facsimiles of famous paintings. From all the paintings I liked the Blue Boy the most, but from books my favourite was what I called my Pompeii Woman. After I started learning calligraphy I found her again during my studies and I have used her ever since as my muse. Some claim she is Sappho the Greek lyric poet but I doubt this is true. She is holding a stylus and wax tablets so I would say she was a young woman of some wealth who had the good fortune to learn to write.

I showed her to Neville and I asked if we could use her somehow. So we took the concept from the Pompeii Fresco and Neville used it to direct his approach to the painting. And as Neville says “The idea of linking two women 2,000 years apart by their gifts and talent is very special” and that it’s a “comment on the continuity of the written word within our culture”. 

I hope you enjoy the painting as we have both enjoyed the journey. As for the Archibald … well who knows … it’s a lottery!


Unknown said…
What an honour, Gemma. Wonderful inspiration and regardless of the prize you have a winner there!
Gemma Black said…
Thank you Dear Unknown, I appreciate you lovely comment.

Go well! x g
Deb Carraro said…
Beaut portrait, Gemma. All the best for the next phase . . .


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