Jun 28 2013
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Archibald Prize entrant Yvette Gilroy certainly looks the part of an artist – right down to the colourful paint smears across her jeans. The inspired portrait painter has been working prolifically in her rural studio. She is currently exhibiting 36 portraits plus 20 other works at the Black Swan Gallery at Binalong until the end of April. The exhibition, called ‘Binalong Characters’, features many familiar faces around the village and has created quite a stir.
Yvette studied at art school in Canberra in the 1970s and, after pursuing a number of different paths, has recently returned there to refine her skills. In between she has travelled overseas, established a career in graphic design, public relations and the public service, and earned an arts degree in psychology, philosophy, anthropology and languages.
Yvette bought and renovated the Black Swan five years ago, turning it into a gallery and wine bar.
She is now indulging her passion for painting and is operating the Black Swan Gallery full time. It’s her psychology training which really shows through in her work, Yvette says, because she has the advantage of being able to assess and judge a subject’s character beyond their looks.
Being creative is “an innate ability we all have but, as with the mastery of any skill, it’s the perseverance and what you decide to cultivate [that’s important].” You have to be prepared to make mistakes and keep practising the craft. She felt it was also important not to be discouraged by what others thought about your work. “It is a bit lonely when you do something like this – you put yourself out there and become a target… but I think it’s good that some people disagree or don’t like it.” She has learned not to rely on positive feedback as motivation to create.
Her process involves taking many photographs and making sketches of a person before beginning to paint. She says with poor photography skills she usually needs to make adjustments and enhancements with painting techniques. It was “a real treat” when she was able to get people to do a sitting.
She didn’t have to do a lot of persuading to convince Hume MP Alby Schultz and his wife, Gloria, to sit for her. The retiring MP said he was surprised. “I was quite overwhelmed and very touched. I’ve never had that happen to me before,” he said. Two paintings resulted, one of Mr and Mrs Schultz, which was quickly snapped up by a Binalong man who bought it for the Harden Arts Society. It is now on display in the Harden Courthouse.
The second painting, just of Mr Schultz, was entered in Australia’s richest portrait prize, the Archibald. Although it did not make the finals, Yvette was pleased that her entry made the record books in another way, by being the only painting of a politician entered this year. She plains to enter the Archibald again.
During the exhibition, Yvette is also showing her original illustrations published in ‘Voices of the Fire’, a book of original poetry by Binalong bush poet Robyn Sykes.
By KATHARYN BRINE and KARAN GABRIEL YASS TRIBUNE April 26, 2013