Today is the day Australian’s honour our fathers. The event is celebrated in many ways – big breakfasts, picnics, the fun footy match in the backyard, gifted socks and chocolates. But could you imagine painting your fathers portrait? KAB Gallery artist Sally West is working on a series of portraits and her father’s has captured the attention of many. This honourable work measures 120x150cm and was a FINALIST in the prestigious Fisher’s Ghost Prize, coinciding with Campbelltown’s annual Festival of Fisher’s Ghost (held over 10 days, the Festival dates back to 1956 and celebrates Australia’s most famous ghost – Frederick Fisher).
Portraiture is an important genre with which Sally West has had a long connection. She tells me that she has always wanted to paint portraits, and consequently always has. The first oil painting she ever created was a self portrait painting during her first year of high school. This painting still hangs in her old bedroom on the farm she grew up on (“Belleforest”). Since this painting, portraiture has become somewhat of a fascination of hers. She told me that it is possibly because its so challenging.
The genres of landscape and still life are very close to Sally too, but there is something very different about painting portraits. “Painting a landscape is so alone, private however painting a portrait feels like you’re being watched. I always worry about that awkward moment of revealing the portrait to the sitter too. Wondering what they really think.”
Sally West’s series of portraits includes an array of personalities, ranging from her beautiful daughters, musicians, actors, politicians, and even a former Prime Minister. But her parents have been subjects she has mulled over painting for a long time.
I painted this portrait when I was staying at “Belleforest”, the farm that I grew up on in Central NSW, where my father still lives and works. I was working on a series of en plein air paintings whilst I was staying there. On this particular day it was very windy and not good conditions for painting outdoors. I asked my father if I could paint him, on the verandah of the old cottage which I was using to store and dry paintings. He reluctantly agreed.
I have never painted Dad before even though he is an important subject for many reasons. One of which being that, like I said, I am working on a series of en plein air paintings from the farm. I am telling the story of the working farm “Belleforest” which is close to my heart. I have been including landscapes and the machinery that operate on the farm. It seemed logical to include my father in the series too, the worker.
My father most certainly is a man of many hats. He has his work hat and several different going out hats. Most of them are basically the same style. Pretty sure he also has different hats for summer and winter. After a lifetime of working in the harsh Australian sun he struggles with keeping skin cancer at bay. His hats are extremely important to him.