Hepburn Shire is home to an abundance of artists and creatives. This week the locals came out in force to celebrate one of their own treasures, Brian Nash.
The self-taught artist has been capturing the landscape and buildings across this incredible region for more than 20 years. Now he’s brought his art collection together in an exquisite book called, “The Golden Shire.”
What inspired you to create The Golden Shire?
It’s because every town within the Shire of Hepburn is involved with gold, either by mining it, or propping it up with timber. I’ve been living here 23 years and I’ve been struck by the diversity of the landscape and the small towns, which a lot of them haven’t changed much since 1861. I wanted to leave a mark on this particular shire, like a legacy of Hepburn.
In a lot of your paintings there’s a goldenness to them as well.
A lot of them, there’s two reasons why I called it The Golden Shire. One was first the gold and second was the Autumn. The Autumn up here is sensational. Everywhere you go it’s full of golden colours and that’s my favourite time of the year. I love colour and that’s where you see it at its best.
How do you choose your subject matter?
If I see something that resonates with me, I’ll do a painting of it. I’ll take a photo, do a sketch of it and then I’ll come home, and I’ll start working on it. You could do a thousand paintings of this shire and never repeat yourself.
Tell me how you stumbled across Elvis.
Roberta and I, my partner, we were driving back from Yandoit along Limestone Road. It was late afternoon and I saw all these rocks and I’m fascinated with rocks. We pulled up to have a look at them and it was just lucky that the sun was in the right position. I looked at Roberta and said, ‘gee that looks like Elvis,’ and she said, ‘yeah it does.’
Even the hairstyle, it’s him wearing that white suit in Las Vegas. So, I called it the Elvis rock. And if anyone can get up there at that certain time in the afternoon and see it, you’ll be amazed. A woman that I know lived next door to it for 20 years and never even noticed it. (laughs)
Have you ever trespassed for subject matter?
Oh yeah. I’ve jumped a few fences. I figured if someone asked me, I’d say well I’m an artist. I’d have to prove it with my phone to show them that I wasn’t sort of making it up.
Once you’ve chosen the subject matter and taken a photo, what’s the next step?
I do sketches and if I’m doing something that people know, I have to make sure it’s accurate. Otherwise, I’m going to get all the criticism in the world, saying, ‘oh you’ve left out….’ It’s got to be done properly. Not so much with the landscape, I can move a tree 100 metres and it’s still the same landscape, because you’re looking at it overall. And to suit a composition, I will move a tree.
I noticed in the book you mentioned how you put a horseman in a painting to make it more romantic.
Yes, because it just adds an element of romance, I think you know a horseman or a person walking along the street or something, it just adds a bit of mysticism. I’ve been told, ‘oh I don’t like it when you put a person in a landscape.’ I love people in landscapes. A it scales things and B it tells a story and that’s what I really like.
How did your love affair with painting begin?
I’ve always had it, I can’t remember not drawing, I thought everyone did.
You loved comics, tell us about that.
I made my own comics, and I did that when I was at school.
Were you a superhero?
I made him up, his name was Kimbell Kane of the Space Patrol, and it was the first comic in Cinemascope. I did all the drawings, elongated rectangles, not little, like you see in a comic, I thought that was being pretty smart.
You failed Art at school, is that true?
Yes, I was given a fail for Art. I’ve had this problem all my life, my father said to me, ‘what are you going to do for a real job?’ I said, ‘Dad I’m going to try and survive painting.’ He didn’t give me any encouragement, more ridicule than encouragement. I think they thought I was being a bit of a sissy doing drawings.
What advice would you give your younger self?
You’ve got to be determined. No one can do it for you. You can go to art classes, you can learn things, and you can shortcut things but it’s up to you to create your own style and your own work.
At any time did you doubt yourself?
Oh god yeah, totally, full of doubt, I’ve still got doubts. I look at them and I think, is this any good?
That’s interesting, you’re still asking yourself.
Always learning, always. I like to change subject matter, I like to change my media from acrylic to watercolour, to pastel.
Is there a subject matter that you steer clear of?
I don’t like doing portraits because I think people have got a preconceived idea of what they look like. I’ve done a few and they’ve gone, ‘oh!’ Then I’m thinking, ‘oh is it going to end up in the dunny or something?’ (laughs)
I’ve done my partner, Roberta, I don’t care what she says.
Is Roberta your muse?
Yeah, totally, a beautiful woman. The most beautiful woman I ever saw.
Two artists, one very long partnership, what’s the key to its success?
We argue a lot. I call a spade a shovel. I think that’s the best way to think of it.
What’s the weirdest item we would find in your art studio?
Oh God, it’s untidy. Probably the weirdest thing there is me.
If you were sent off to Wombat State Forest for the rest of your eternal life, what three items would you take?
I would obviously take a sketchbook. Definitely a book to read, and a CD with a lot of classical music.
What’s the strangest comment someone has made about your work?
I did a painting of a bridge once, and there must have been about 350 bricks in this bridge, and some guy came up to me and said, ‘oh you missed out one line of bricks there.’ Who would ever bother counting bricks?
Do you have a favourite painting?
The car. I’ve always driven through town wondering about that car. It used to sit in the same position all the time. It was there for 15, 20 years.
It’s just so weird, there was grass coming out of it, and it was registered every year. I don’t know how they got away with it.
The Daylesford Art show is coming up. Do you have some pieces in it?
I’ve got three. One nocturne of Frangos and Frangos. A nude, and one of the Rhododendron Gardens in Olinda.
If you were a hashtag, what would you be?
I don’t even know what that means, hashtag?
I’ll draw it for you. Fancy that, me drawing for an artist.
The emoji things?
# It describes you in one word.
I’d say determined.
I love that, because I asked a few people around the room, how would you describe Brian? They said,’ romantic, humbled and genuinely a nice person.’
Oh, thank you.
It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you, and I look forward to having The Golden Shire on my coffee table at home.
Listen to the Brian Nash interview with Raquel Stevens. (There’s more in the podcast!)
The Golden Shire is available for $69.95 at https://briannash.com.au and is also available at Paradise Books in Vincent Street, Daylesford.
The Daylesford Art Show is on at the Town Hall from November 2nd to 7th.
Raquel Stevens is a former Network Ten News Journalist. She has been a part time local for more than 25 years, and one day hopes to be a full time local.