The Lakesider: ‘Dressed to Illustrate Philosophy’

The Lakesider, Vol 10 No. 9.  Otago painter Grahame Sydney opened the Wanaka Arts Centre wearing conventional dark jacket, tie and what he called his “grubby jeans.” He told the audience his half-and-half dress illustrated his advice to all artists – respect tradition, but don’t take any notice of what people say about your work.
Mr Sydney said artists must pay attention to traditional art forms of the past, but they must also develop a “phenomenal arrogance” which ignored the opinions of others. There were too many imitators in the art world. Artists had the fascinating and difficult task of acknowledging and maintaining their uniqueness. It was vital to “leave the house and go to work.” He rated an outside studio as a necessity and said he liked to lock himself away while painting, and make as much mess as he liked.

Mr Sydney said he preferred to paint from pencil sketches. He recalled how once working outdoors he was embarrassed by the attention of a watcher. After a long silence, the man sidled up, looked at the easel and commented: “So you’re a bit of a painter, eh?”.  “And that’s what I am,” Mr Sydney said, ” a bit of a painter.”