Max Mannix is an Australian artist who 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.
“From 1966 until 1973 I managed a cattle station for Dalgetty. It was about 1300 square miles with 8,000 head of cattle and 300 working horses, the property was near Thargomindah in the far southwest of Queensland on the Bulloo River. It was called Heartbreak Corner because it didn’t rain much and there were long droughts. I’ve always been able to see the humour in even the worst situations and that’s what inspires me. In those days, I always had my pencil and paper with me when I was mustering or taking a break from working the cattle. I carried my sketches and drawings around in a small leather bag like a school case and I never went anywhere without it. I suppose it was like a security blanket and the drawings were a statement of my thoughts and experiences and the things I had seen as I grew up. One of the greatest disappointments in my life was having that bag full of drawings stolen from a pub room on one of my rare trips to town from the cattle station.
When I came back to Melbourne in 1973 I needed a job. I was told that I had to fill in all this paper work to apply for unemployment benefits. They told me that this was the first step so the government could help me look for a job. The next day I found my own job as a screen printer and a few days later an unemployment cheque arrived in the mail. I’ve still got it. I taught myself to paint with the help of a correspondence course from America. It was called ‘Famous Artist’s Painting Course. ‘I also did some etching lessons with George Eddy who was a print maker.
There are four artists that have inspired me- Vincent Van Gogh, Peter Breughel the Elder, Russell Drysdale and last but not least Thomas Hart Benton a mural artist from the USA who was painting during the 1900’s.
I remember when I went from sketching to painting in Oils. The pure colour fascinated me. I absolutely loved creating images and my life flowed before me in oil on canvas. I worked each day at the screen printers until 3.30, came home and painted til midnight then started work at 7 the next morning. Something had to give so we decided to take the big step and give up the security of a job so I could paint full time. It was a giant step for a young family; we had 4 daughters to support and a household to run. We had saved enough money to last us a couple of months if I didn’t sell any paintings. I knuckled down and got into it. I was lucky. My art took off.”