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Gordon Hanley’s life took a new twist with a Christmas present from his wife Shauna in 2006.

It was a metalpoint pen and some formula.

To most of us that would sit right up there with jocks from Nan, but to a renowned artist with a science background, it offered endless possibilities. Manna from heaven.

‘’I’d been reading a book on Da Vinci and the metalpoint art they used at the time, and it intrigued me,” Hanley, 61, explains. And wives have a habit of noticing these things.

All the same it took him six months or so to get around to experimenting with it. He was a busy man after all, one of Australia’s most successful watercolour artists.

Metalpoint art had its heyday in the 1500s so don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of it.

To do it you need specially coated paper – hence the coating, which artists refer to as “ground” – and a metal-tipped stylus (think pencil – but with a piece of silver or gold wire instead of the lead). It’s a slow, even laborious process of drawing, but as the graphite pencil hadn’t been invented back then, it was all they had.

When the pencil came into being, metalpoint art quickly died out and it stayed that way for the best part of 600 years.  Until a Hanley family Christmas in Brisbane.

His earliest attempts at metalpoint weren’t too successful, and he realised the coating for the paper needed improving. It was fertile ground for a man with a scientific background and a love of art, so he started experimenting.

Fast forward ten years and metalpoint art – or, more precisely these days, his goldpoint and silverpoint art – has made him one of the hottest artists anywhere in the world.

He has refined the coating process, but still tinkers. In his own words, the paper has to be “perfect”. He adjusts formulas to get the best ground for the image he is about to draw, and the process can take five days before he’s ready to even draw a line.

The metalpoint has evolved too. He now uses pure gold or silver, sometimes a combination of both, sometimes with some carbon added, depending on the depth of tone he’s after.

The result are drawings that can fetch between $1950 and, say, $45,000 each. Images that have propelled Hanley to be officially recognised by the US-based Art Renewal Centre as Australia’s first Living Master, a title he wears with equal parts pride and humility.

Think about it. $39,000 for a black and white drawing that isn’t all that big – 80cm x 110cm is about as big as they get.

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He has done still life – he loves playing with the light and transparency of crystal glassware – wildlife images such as his eerily beautiful Barn Owls, and in recent times he is doing more and more portrait work.

Invariably there is an intricacy to his drawings and wonderful tones of shade and light.

“I think light is one of the consistent factors through all my works,” he says. He names three or four pieces that stand out in his own mind because of the way he has nailed the light and shade.

Mind you, it’s painstaking business getting it right.

A drawing will usually take more than 100 hours to complete.

If in his desire to get the tone right, if he presses too hard and breaks through the ground, he has no option but to start again.

“I reckon there has been half a dozen times when I’ve broken through the ground after I’ve done 60 or 70 hours on a drawing – of course Murphy’s Law operates well in that it will always happen at the end of a drawing, but then I start again. There’s no choice.

“You can’t correct a metalpoint. It’s virtually impossible.”

The upside is that metalpoint is receptive to incredible detail, and subtleties of light and shade that even a top shelf camera would have trouble achieving.

Also when the ground is right, and with the advancement in the quality of paper, his drawings can theoretically live for thousands of years.

“Think about it,” he said. “My coatings are far superior to what they used hundreds of years ago. So the people I’m drawing now are immortal in a way. In 500 years’ time we could have some person come up and point at one of my portraits and say that was my great great great grandmother.

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“I find that really exciting.”

He also believes it’s one of the reasons he never has to advertise for a model.

“No, now they contact me and ask if they could pose. I think it’s that sense that the image will live forever.”

And when he’s finished a piece, what does he do?

“Turn it around so that it’s face is to the wall. I don’t look at them after I’ve finished. I’m thinking about the next image, and how I can make it the best I’ve ever done. For an artist it’s the creation of an art work that is all-important, not admiring it afterwards”.

“I can’t start the next piece until have every minute detail of it worked out in my mind about how it’s going to look, so I need to put the previous piece behind me and move on. No looking back.”

But if you think Gordon Hanley is at the top of his game right now, the man himself is not convinced.

The tweaking of paper … the combination of gold, silver and carbon … the fact he only started learning his new skill 10 years ago … he’s perfecting his art still.  The best is yet to come.

Welcome to the world of Gordon Hanley.

Gordon will exhibit 37 pieces in Mt Cootha Botanical Garden from August 6th to 13th. All pieces will be for sale, with prices ranging from $2250 to $45,000. Free entry.

He has been a member of Jindalee Rotary for 10 years and 10 per cent from all sales will go to support Australian Rotary Health.

Richard Randall Art Studio
Mt Cootha Botanical Gardens, Brisbane
Saturday 6th August – Saturday 13th August
Open: 10am- 5pm FREE ENTRY

For more information click here.

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The Romantics Art Exhibition

Meet the five artists over the weekend who call themselves the Romantics. Werner Filipich, James Hough, Max Mannix, Ramon Ward-Thompson and Ian Hansen’s works will be on display at Morpeth Gallery from Thursday 7th July until Sunday 10th July 2016. Free entry.

Originating in the late 18th century, romanticism is an artistic movement stressing strong emotion, imagination and freedom. Artists of this romantic period aim to capture these ideals in their work, hoping to inspire an emotional response in their audience.

From its inception, romanticism was preoccupied with landscape. It evokes feelings of nostalgia, stirs life’s mysteries and portrays a grandeur of nature. Nature has the ability to transform the artist’s inner most thoughts onto the canvas, portraying a breathtakingly fresh look of the beauty in the world around us.

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No other Australian painter presents the harsh Australian bush or cold city streets with such softness and subtlety, like Ramon Ward-Thompson. Ramon captures the soft mood of any setting, whether it is the urban jungle of New York, or the flowing streams of River Avon in England. Each is romantic and intimate.

Throughout James Hough’s artistic career, his deep passion for Australian wildlife and the environment has combined with his other love, Fine Art. James’ work reflects the deep respect he has for the natural environment. He revels in the idea of his work capturing one particular moment in time, favouring emotion rather than correctness.

Werner Filipich is one of Australia’s last traditional artists who practices in the true tradition of the Heidelberg School of Impressionist Artists: packing up his easel and ‘going bush’, painting in the environment he wishes to capture. Werner takes regular painting trips to refresh his eye on the colours of the natural environment from season to season.

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Marine artist Ian Hansen’s paintings portray his deep love of the sea and ships. He loves to paint the square riggers which today are the romantic period of sea travel. The ships Ian has seen throughout his lifetime from Navy ships to his own yacht, are what he draws his inspiration and great understanding of the sea from. Ian began painting the romantics of the sea in watercolours when he was eight, and graduated to oils at the age of eleven.

Australian artist Max Mannix paints stories or ‘yarns’ based on his years growing up in Victorian country towns and working on cattle stations in the Queensland outback. Max’s time spent living in these rural landscapes have given him endless inspiration with colourful characters enabling him to depict life in a light-hearted vein with keen insight and gentle humour.

For more information on the exhibition and when the artists will be at the gallery, head to our Facebook page or the Morpeth Gallery website.

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Thursday 2nd June – Sunday 5th June 2016
Morpeth Gallery
5 Green Street
Morpeth NSW 2321

The World Wildlife Art Exhibition brings together some of Australia’s most spectacular and award winning wildlife artists to Morpeth Gallery for the four day exhibition, Thursday 2nd June through until Sunday 5th June. Come in and meet Stephen Jesic, James Hough, Natalie Parker, Heidi Willis and Garry Fleming. Watch as they paint away at their easels creating masterpieces before your eyes throughout the weekend! Free entry.

Internationally acclaimed artist Stephen Jesic won Best Painting in the Wold in 2014 with a gorgeous painting of a Koala, followed by a Top 10 finish in 2015 with another stunning painting; this time a Military Macaw, and has entered an amazing painting of a Scarlet Macaw into this years competition. Stephen is unquestionably talented with each of his paintings selling faster than he can produce them. Regardless of the size, the fine details in Stephen’s paintings look as though they have been meticulously woven into the image like an intricate piece of finely woven silk.

Hunter Valley wildlife artist James Hough has been named in the Top 500 wildlife artists in the World, after receiving recognition in Canada by the Artists for Conservation. James’ paintings have been exhibited in art exhibitions throughout Canada, and has again entered his works into this year’s awards.

Another of the Hunter’s best wildlife artists’ Natalie Parker, has just finished writing and illustrating her 24th children’s book on endangered Australian animals which is to be released later this year. After struggling with painting last year, Natalie’s output is back up and the quality of her paintings has escalated with it. Where adding fine details like a water droplet on a leaf was once a strain, it is now a pleasure and customers are the real winners, as the more you look into a work the more you find!

Natural history watercolour artist Heidi Willis has been selected every year for the past six years, as a finalist in the prestigious Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize held in Adelaide. It is regarded as one of the richest art prizes in Australia and is just one of the many spectacular achievements Heidi has under her belt.

Australian wildlife artist Garry Fleming is currently signing off on some exciting major projects. Garry is currently in negotiation with an internationally acclaimed sports star, he has signed off on a major book series project with the biggest zoos around the world including London, Berlin, San Diego, etc., he has been contracted to a major bank developing a character and IT series of books for their big birthday, and there is a test run underway in the US on Garry’s Love To box sets.

With such a plethora of talent, Morpeth Gallery will be buzzing! There are new paintings from all of our artists in the gallery as well. There will be plenty to see, and with the opportunity to meet and have a chat with the artists behind the incredible works, it is an exhibition not to be missed!

About Morpeth Gallery, located in the historical village of Morpeth in the Lower Hunter Valley – just two hours driving time from Sydney – has an excellent selection of fine traditional Australian landscape and wildlife art by artists who are recognised and awarded painters both in Australia and internationally. The gallery specialises in investment art with pieces that not only enhance your home or office, but also appreciate in value over time. The gallery opened in 1991 as a part of the Campbell’s Store Craft Centre complex in Morpeth’s main cobblestone lined street, and has since doubled in size featuring 150 original paintings on the wall at any one time.

Trevor Richards
Morpeth Gallery
info@morpethgallery.com
www.morpethgallery.com
Facebook: Morpeth Gallery
Instagram: morpethgallery
Telephone: 02 49331407
Fax 02 49342107
PO Box 36
Morpeth NSW 2321

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WILLIAM T. COOPER AO,

1934 – 2015

THOSE who knew him, and knew his work, believe William T. Cooper should have been a household name.

The internationally acclaimed ornithological artist, who was born and bred in Newcastle, died on May 10 at his home in Queensland’s Atherton Tablelands.

He was 81.

Legendary British wildlife filmmaker Sir David Attenborough described Cooper, or ‘‘Bill’’ as he was known, as being one of the world’s best bird artists.

The self-taught artist was the subject of Attenborough’s 1993 TV documentary Portrait Painter to the Birds, and the two men became good friends.

Attenborough viewed Cooper as ‘‘Australia’s greatest living scientific painter of birds,’’ adding, ‘‘he is possibly the best in the world’’.

Cooper was born in Newcastle on April 6, 1934. He spent his early years running around the bush at Adamstown, and developed a keen interest in the environment, particularly birds and snakes. He attended Newcastle Boys’ High, and worked as a teen taxidermist at the now defunct Carey Bay Zoo.

Although fascinated by the work of 19th century bird illustrator John Gould, Cooper began painting commercial landscapes and seascapes from 1964.

‘‘I always wanted to paint like Gould but there was no market, no niche, for bird painters in those days,’’ Cooper once said.

His mother, Coral, had also been an artist. Coincidentally, her maiden name was ‘‘Bird’’.

Cooper worked as a window dresser and as a salesman at a Newcastle clothing store, and painted life-sized murals at local hotels including the old Westminster and the Great Northern.

 

In his 2014 biography, An Eye for Nature, The Life & Art of William T.Cooper, author Penny Olsen writes that fellow Newcastle artist, Sir William Dobell, befriended the young, aspiring artist.

 

Dobell advised Cooper not to go to art school, but to instead develop his own style.

During his time in the Hunter, Cooper lived in New Lambton, Redhead, Belmont and Bungwahl, as well as in an Adamstown shack near the Fernleigh Track where his family squatted for a short time.

Those who knew Cooper’s work, adored it.

His meticulous attention to detail set him apart.

He had a reputation for accuracy, as well as a personal mantra that each new work must be better than his last.

Cooper’s last visit to the Hunter was in October 2013, when he held a sold-out exhibition at Morpeth Gallery.

The gallery sold his 29 paintings in 11 minutes.

‘‘It was $237,000-worth,’’ Morpeth Gallery’s Trevor Richards said.

‘‘If they’d been twice the price, or twice as many paintings, we still would have sold them in the same time.

‘‘People flew in from all around Australia.

‘‘There was one couple who drove for four hours to get to Alice Springs, where they caught a flight to Sydney, then hired a vehicle to drive up to Morpeth just to get to the exhibition and buy one painting.

‘‘People came from Melbourne and Cairns and Canberra. They came from everywhere, and there were a lot of people who said to me after the exhibition that they were walking away with a cheque still in their pocket because they were too slow.’’

Cooper was the subject of a documentary, called Birdman: The Art Of William T.Cooper, by film-maker Sarah Scragg.

In the years leading up to the 2013 Morpeth Gallery exhibition, Scragg filmed Cooper painting the pieces for it.

The documentary culminated with the exhibition at the gallery.

‘‘He has only done three exhibitions in his lifetime,’’ Mr Richards said.

‘‘Two of those were at Morpeth Gallery. One in 2003, then 10 years later in 2013.

‘‘He travelled around galleries, unbeknownst to anyone, and picked our gallery out as the one he wanted to exhibit in.

‘‘Both of the exhibitions here were sell-outs. The first one did take an hour  and 10 minutes though,’’ Mr Richards joked.

 

‘‘He was a very humble man, and he was meticulous.

‘‘If there were 27 wing feathers in a bird, that’s how many were in the painting, and each feather was the correct feather in the right place.’’

Cooper illustrated many books, including A Portfolio of Australian Birds, Parrots of the World, and Birds of Paradise and Bowerbirds.

His last book was Pigeons and Doves in Australia, written by long term collaborator Joseph Forshaw.

Cooper and his wife Wendy also released Fruits of the Australian Tropical Rainforest and Australian Tropical Fruits: A Field Guide.

Cooper was the first and only Australian to ever receive a gold medal from Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences in the US in 1992.

In 1994 he was awarded an Order of Australia for his contribution to art and history.

Then in December 2014, Cooper and wife Wendy were awarded honorary doctorates in Science by the Australian National University.

The Australian National Library and the Papua New Guinea government own entire collections of Cooper’s work.

He also designed two sets of postage stamps for the PNG government.

Family friend Leesa Warren said Bill’s passing was a huge loss.

‘‘His beautiful artworks will live on for future generations to admire,’’ she said.

 

 

 

William T Cooper with a print of a 2010 painting he did of two Gang Gangs in March 2014. Picture: Graham Tidy.

William T Cooper with a print of a 2010 painting he did of two Gang Gangs in March 2014. Picture: Graham Tidy.

Bird artist William T. Cooper dies aged 81

William T. Cooper: Artist of avian splendour

WILLIAM T. COOPER AO,

1934 – 2015

THOSE who knew him, and knew his work, believe William T. Cooper should have been a household name.

The internationally acclaimed ornithological artist, who was born and bred in Newcastle, died on May 10 at his home in Queensland’s Atherton Tablelands.

He was 81.

Legendary British wildlife filmmaker Sir David Attenborough described Cooper, or ‘‘Bill’’ as he was known, as being one of the world’s best bird artists.

The self-taught artist was the subject of Attenborough’s 1993 TV documentary Portrait Painter to the Birds, and the two men became good friends.

Attenborough viewed Cooper as ‘‘Australia’s greatest living scientific painter of birds,’’ adding, ‘‘he is possibly the best in the world’’.

Cooper was born in Newcastle on April 6, 1934.

He spent his early years running around the bush at Adamstown, and developed a keen interest in the environment, particularly birds and snakes.

He attended Newcastle Boys’ High, and worked as a teen taxidermist at the now defunct Carey Bay Zoo.

Although fascinated by the work of 19th century bird illustrator John Gould, Cooper began painting commercial landscapes and seascapes from 1964.

‘‘I always wanted to paint like Gould but there was no market, no niche, for bird painters in those days,’’ Cooper once said.

His mother, Coral, had also been an artist.

Coincidentally, her maiden name was ‘‘Bird’’.

Cooper worked as a window dresser and as a salesman at a Newcastle clothing store, and painted life-sized murals at local hotels including the old Westminster and the Great Northern.

In his 2014 biography, An Eye for Nature, The Life & Art of William T.Cooper, author Penny Olsen writes that fellow Newcastle artist, Sir William Dobell, befriended the young, aspiring artist.

William T Cooper: Princess Stephanie's  Bird of Paradise.

William T Cooper: Princess Stephanie’s Bird of Paradise.

Dobell advised Cooper not to go to art school, but to instead develop his own style.

During his time in the Hunter, Cooper lived in New Lambton, Redhead, Belmont and Bungwahl, as well as in an Adamstown shack near the Fernleigh Track where his family squatted for a short time.

Those who knew Cooper’s work, adored it.

His meticulous attention to detail set him apart.

He had a reputation for accuracy, as well as a personal mantra that each new work must be better than his last.

Cooper’s last visit to the Hunter was in October 2013, when he held a sold-out exhibition at Morpeth Gallery.

The gallery sold his 29 paintings in 11 minutes.

‘‘It was $237,000-worth,’’ Morpeth Gallery’s Trevor Richards said.

‘‘If they’d been twice the price, or twice as many paintings, we still would have sold them in the same time.

‘‘People flew in from all around Australia.

‘‘There was one couple who drove for four hours to get to Alice Springs, where they caught a flight to Sydney, then hired a vehicle to drive up to Morpeth just to get to the exhibition and buy one painting.

‘‘People came from Melbourne and Cairns and Canberra. They came from everywhere, and there were a lot of people who said to me after the exhibition that they were walking away with a cheque still in their pocket because they were too slow.’’

Cooper was the subject of a documentary, called Birdman: The Art Of William T.Cooper, by film-maker Sarah Scragg.

In the years leading up to the 2013 Morpeth Gallery exhibition, Scragg filmed Cooper painting the pieces for it.

The documentary culminated with the exhibition at the gallery.

‘‘He has only done three exhibitions in his lifetime,’’ Mr Richards said.

‘‘Two of those were at Morpeth Gallery. One in 2003, then 10 years later in 2013.

‘‘He travelled around galleries, unbeknownst to anyone, and picked our gallery out as the one he wanted to exhibit in.

‘‘Both of the exhibitions here were sell-outs. The first one did take an hour  and 10 minutes though,’’ Mr Richards joked.

William T Cooper. Red-Tailed Black-Cockatoos, 2009

William T Cooper. Red-Tailed Black-Cockatoos, 2009

‘‘He was a very humble man, and he was meticulous.

‘‘If there were 27 wing feathers in a bird, that’s how many were in the painting, and each feather was the correct feather in the right place.’’

Cooper illustrated many books, including A Portfolio of Australian Birds, Parrots of the World, and Birds of Paradise and Bowerbirds.

His last book was Pigeons and Doves in Australia, written by long term collaborator Joseph Forshaw.

Cooper and his wife Wendy also released Fruits of the Australian Tropical Rainforest and Australian Tropical Fruits: A Field Guide.

Cooper was the first and only Australian to ever receive a gold medal from Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences in the US in 1992.

In 1994 he was awarded an Order of Australia for his contribution to art and history.

Then in December 2014, Cooper and wife Wendy were awarded honorary doctorates in Science by the Australian National University.

The Australian National Library and the Papua New Guinea government own entire collections of Cooper’s work.

He also designed two sets of postage stamps for the PNG government.

Family friend Leesa Warren said Bill’s passing was a huge loss.

‘‘His beautiful artworks will live on for future generations to admire,’’ she said.

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