Once upon a time, there was a bricklayer who was an artist. His bricklaying was beautiful, but he wanted to paint pictures too. I met this bricklayer when I tried to get someone to give me quotes for a plan I’d drawn up for laying pavers and bricks around our house. He was the only person polite enough (or brave enough) to return my call and to come and look at the work I needed done.
When we bought our rammed earth house over 20 years ago, the house itself was never quite finished and the grounds around it were in a sad state, having never been landscaped. There were at least four different levels that needed to be joined so that one day, in our dotage, if one of us is in a wheel chair, we can be pushed around the outside without having to negotiate stairs.
Scott, the ‘brickie’, it turned out, was also a painter. Of pictures. I was a member of the Art Society and so we struck up many good conversations during his weeks creating our outdoor space. I made him and his offsider coffees and occasionally a bacon and egg sandwich, and he deftly turned the area into the outdoor space I’d imagined. Sometimes we talked about art, sometimes about plants and other common interests. Over the coming years I became quite a fan of his work and asked him to paint something for me, whatever he wanted as long as it was a landscape, which was his speciality.
Asking an artist to ‘paint me something’, I now know, is a ‘never, never job’. The artist never knows what you would like and so they never contact you. He seemed to sell everything as soon as it was finished and so years later I still had none of his work—except the beautiful patio, of course.
In August this year, the Art Society held its annual Advocate Art Award. Local artists of all levels and disciplines enter their work for sale. It is well supported by both artists and viewing audiences. The week before we headed to Adelaide to see the surgeon for Don’s cataracts and to visit our daughter, I needed to have a painting for her framed (see lemons still life). Scott now has a framing business called Desert Edge, which gives his back and knees a rest from the paving and bricklaying. I went to see him about the framing and while there he showed me the preliminary painting he’d done for this year’s entry to the AAA. It was lovely. While there he told me how busy he’d been with the framing work and really he would have liked another week to finish his entry. This is a frequent artist’s lament.
The following week he rang to say he’d finished framing our daughter’s painting and I could pick it up. On my way there I had to drive by the gallery hosting the Art Award and knew I wouldn’t have another chance to see it before we headed to Adelaide. So I stopped. The very first painting into the exhibition was a beauty, a large one of a tree in our central Australia landscape. Wait…as I reflected on the smaller study he had shown me, I realised this had to be Scott’s. After confirming this with the exhibition catalogue, I couldn’t believe my luck, it had not yet sold! Taking no chances, I turned straight around and went to the desk and told them I wanted to buy it. After the business was sorted the sales person asked if I wanted to place the ‘red dot’ on the painting number, indicating it was sold. I readily accepted–it made the purchase even more memorable. I went back to the gallery, admired my purchase and placed the red dot on number 9, Black Cockatoo Highway. And then I viewed the rest of the show.
When I got to Scott’s shop I casually mentioned, ‘Oh, I stopped to see the Art Award and your painting has sold.’ He looked stunned and thought for a moment and then looked at me and said ‘Did you buy it?” I very quietly said ‘mmmaybe….’ And then he excitedly asked again ‘Did you buy it?’
‘Yes, I bought it.’
He seemed pleased. Phew. I wasn’t sure there for a moment, thinking there might be some horrible satanic secret I was unaware of…if you buy a painting of a tree you will lose a limb or some such nonsense.
I said to him, I had a couple of requests, however…could he collect it because we would be in Adelaide when the show closed, and then could he take however much time he needed and finish it? It looked perfectly finished to me, but this was for him. I would also need him to hang it for me because of its size, to which, he happily agreed, as I hoped he would.
Later that night I awoke in a panic. Where would I hang Black Cockatoo Highway?? Our house doesn’t have many spare walls, being mostly rammed earth and windows. I had one space in a spare room that was sort of large enough but wouldn’t show it to best advantage. All that day I ran around with the tape measure in between packing my bags for Adelaide. Finally a stroke of genius came to me, I would move the hat rack in our entry way and hang it there so it could be viewed the way it deserved.
Once we returned from Adelaide our very handy next door neighbour agreed to move the hat rack for me. I resurrected my interior painting skills and patched, sanded and painted the wall, ready for Scott’s creation. A few days later he brought the finished painting and hung it for me.
Life is such an interesting journey, and the story of how Black Cockatoo Highway came to me warms my heart.