My Dad Lied to Me.

Hmm, that’s a provocative headline. My Dad Lied to Me. Well, in a way he did. And in a way, he didn’t. Let me explain.

Dad has been trying to get me to go with him to his weekly art classes in Mt Waverly on a Tuesday afternoon for several years. He thinks, because I haven’t painted much since high school, that my Rembrandt-esque talents are going to waste. My artistic dreams and enormous potential are not being fulfilled. (huge sigh…)

Like most parents, he has an over-inflated perception of his child’s ability. I am not Rembrandt, not ever will be. My artistic talents compared with the great master would add up to the amount he had in one atom of his smallest toenail. But Dad is right in one sense. In Year 12, I studied art as a subject and had visions of being accepted into the Victorian College of Arts. Yes, I thought I had a future as a painter.

But look at what I painted back then…

Painting by teenager aspiring to be impressionistic pre-Angry Penguin Australian painter

Murky waters by teenage Jennifer.

Ewww. A muddy, impressionistic interpretation of Aussie landscape and as far from the sort of work accepted by the College of the Arts as you could imagine. So you can picture what they thought, this hip school of laid-back cool, when I stupidly turned up for an interview dressed in my Sunday-best. Naively, I thought it was appropriate and respectful to arrive on time and dressed conservatively, in a pleated skirt, neatly ironed shirt and new shoes. FAIL. I remember their comments as they looked me up and down in disbelief:

‘So you liked 19th century Australian art and the likes of Frederick McCubbin, huh?’ ‘Hmmm, did your art teacher do that for you?’ ‘How do you think you will survive as a painter?’ ‘You do realise that most artists have to waitress or stuff sausages to get by? Can you see yourself stuffing sausages??’

Stuffing sausages was something I hadn’t considered.

Then they suggested I go downstairs to visit the studios where the students worked. I knew straight away I wouldn’t get in. Abstract images in huge slabs of colour were plastered over massive canvases – aka artist Mark Rothko – alongside soaring geometric sculptures. Students dressed in goth garb, ripped t-shirts and paint-spattered black jeans eyed me disparagingly.

When I returned to the interview room, my paintings had been packed up and placed outside the door. Goodbye.

I didn’t paint much after that.

In recent years, I decided to experiment with modern art. Here is what I made for the main dining area of our sunroom. It’s my abstract interpretation of a mouth, because, after all, the dining room and the mouth go hand in hand. Eating, laughing, conversation, tasting etc…

Weird abstract mouth painting

Weird abstract mouth painting

I know. It really looks like an obscene internal intestinal organ.

But back to the bit about Dad lying. So he’s been harping on about art class and for years I’ve been ‘too busy’. In a couple of weeks, he’s going into hospital to have a pace-maker fitted. Apparently in the great scheme of medical practices, this isn’t a big deal. But by my reckoning, anything that messes with your heart is pretty major. A guilty conscience started eating away at me. YOU STILL HAVEN”T BEEN TO ART CLASSS WITH YOUR DAD!!! It was a loud voice.


Alright already, I’ll go to bloody art class then. And that’s what I did yesterday. Dad was working on a piece from a photo he took on a trip to Europe. Today, his mission was to paint ducks on the lake.

Dad won't 'duck' the work at hand...

Dad at work…

Artist John Hansen

Artist John Hansen









He did a great job. But he lied. He made out everyone in the class just brought along something they were playing with – that everyone was basically a beginner and I wouldn’t feel out of place. And I knew it was a low-key art school in a back-shed somewhere in Mt Waverly, so I agreed, thinking, ‘This will be a breeze.’


Sue at work

Sue at work



Not exactly. Meet Diana. Practically a professional artist who’s just sold several pieces at her local art show and paints fruit so life-like, it just about jumps out of the bowl.









Then there’s Elaine. Elaine can whip up a Matisse-like still life in a matter of seconds. She’d half-finished this number before I’d finished unpacking.







Jennifer's painting of girls washing hair

Jennifer’s painting of girls washing hair



And what about Jennifer (not me) who has a painting of Black Caviar with trainer Peter Moody on show right now at  THE HIDDEN FACES OF THE ARCHIBALD PORTRAITS EXHIBITION until 28 September? She captures light streaming through a window like Renoir.





Art teacher Peter Smales

Art teacher Peter Smales


Yep, Dad had definitely lied. This was NOT a group of beginners. These were seriously talented artists and professionals. Still, you never stop learning and it was amazing to watch art teacher Peter Smales step in and help tweak a painting, improving it with the lightest touch.

So I guess the time has come for me to overcome my pride and and show you what I came up with…. I went in a completely different direction to everyone else. I’ve got a thing about the fluro fashion that’s everywhere right now, so thought I’d buy some neon paints and experiment.


Keep in mind the masterpices you just saw.


Wait for it…



My finished masterpiece

My finished masterpiece

Work in progress...

Work in progress…










As Peter said, I didn’t paint the best piece of the day but I did get first prize for ‘Boldest Picture’. I think that’s a compliment? Bidders welcome.