Trees and colours an inspiration to create

Inspiration: 98-year-old John Brown still likes to produce landscape artwork. Photograph: Olivia Henning



THE drive to create something is what pushes our thought process on a daily basis.

Whether it is through art or through regular day-to-day life, we are creators of stories in many ways.

Ninety-eight year old John Brown, soon to be 99, is sharing his work, alongside 89-year-old Patricia Dennis’ work, with the public at the Matchbox Gallery in Yinnar.

The exhibition started on September 16, wrapping up at the weekend.

“I like to call it playing God with a paintbrush when I create something,” Mr Brown said.

“Not copying, not something exactly as it is, but creating something, how you feel about it, how you see it, how your emotions change the way you see things. That is what art is.”

Both artists are great friends with the Matchbox owners, Pip and Marie Nikodemski.

Unlike Mr Brown and Ms Dennis, the Nikodemskis have other opportunities they have taken on.

Mr Nikodemski told the Express that on some of the journeys, he often found inspiration wherever he was, which has helped continue his art.

He said that as an artist he would get any jobs that he could, which allowed him to talk to lots of different people who have lots of stories of their own.

“I start playing pool with the young guys, and they would say ‘What are you talking to old Jack for, he always just tells the same old stories’, and I’d say ‘I love those stories, I love to hear them’, just as a creative person because then it builds a picture inside my head, then I get a vision,” Mr Nikodemski said.

“If you can feel that in the heart, and in the soul, it comes out easier.”

Mr Brown and Ms Dennis have different methods to Mr Nikodemski.

Mr Brown likes to get inspiration for his works from gum tree landscapes, while Ms Dennis prefers colours.

Both have explored mediums across the board across the years, including textiles and films.

Ms Dennis started with textiles back when she was young, where she was previously being held in a Japanese concentration camp in the Philippines, with not much choice for clothing.

Not being able to design or be able to express herself through clothes helped spring her creative life into action.

Since then, she has made clothes for many people, as well as putting out her own clothing line, hosting her own segment on Hal Todd’s Midday Show on Channel Nine, to now wire, canvas and paints.

“Colour offers a wonderful playground for yourself. Colour also holds a vibration. If you are looking at something bright you lift. I encourage people to pick up a brush and go to surprise themselves,” Ms Dennis said.

“Painting with colour fascinates me and painting with colour is energising. Working with colour is creatively healing, you can’t feel unhappy while you are working with colour. Colour forms a bridge of an emotional connection from one part to another. It creates a sense of optimism and uplifting spirit.”

Mr Brown started his art career quite differently to Ms Dennis.

His work in art goes back to when he was in school and was drilled into drawing shapes over and over, then moving onto hands as he progressed.

“I’ll never forget my very first art lesson. The teachers in those days had discipline that was very strict back in the ’30’s where you had to do as you were told. So you’d sit there, behaving yourself,” Mr Brown recalled.

Mr Brown also does classes in his spare time so that he can connect with other artists like his wife’s son.

Mr Brown met his wife when he was 30 and she was 16 where they used to sing in the Traralgon Eisteddfod, but then didn’t meet again for a while.

Later on, Mr Brown started going to workshops where he met his step son and then met his now wife, again at the son’s exhibition.

“John turned up and I was there, and he said ‘What are you doing here?’ And I said, ‘Well Wayne is my son, and all this art, that’s my son’s work.’ John then said ‘I’ve been doing art with Wayne for 10, 12 years and I didn’t know’,” Mr Brown’s wife June said.

Both artists are quite humble about their work and are happy to have a chat about their life’s work and challenges that they have gone through.

Colour: Patricia Dennis finds inspiration in colour. Photograph: Katrina Brandon