A Portarlington watercolour artist will launch her own book this weekend which shares her life’s journey in the hope of inspiring others.
Anne Prendergast, 85, has published “Sunshine and Shadows”, which contains more than 104 of her paintings, plus prose, thoughts and the journey of her life and art career.
As Anne is self-taught, her paintings are highly individual in style and most of them record her love of nature in general, but mainly the unique scenery and the bird life of the Murray River Region, the Gunbower State Redgum Forest, the Gunbower Creek and environs, and the lakes and the marshes of the Kerang area.
Anne and her husband Don farmed for many years at Mead, until they retired to Cohuna.
Being a wife and a mother of four, and helping on the farm left little time for art until retirement, when she was able to take it up seriously.
Anne’s book is dedicated to the memory of her youngest child Bruce, who sadly drowned at the age of two, after he wandered into a channel on the farm.
“We had a chain on the gate and we’ll never know what happened but Don had come in from milking and was in the bathroom shaving, and I was in the kitchen preserving apricots and I got this cold feeling all over me and it ran through me, and I said to Don, “Is Bruce with you?”, and he said “No, I thought he was with you?”, and we both tore outside and the gate was open,” Anne said.
“By the time I found him he was gone, trying to give him mouth to mouth and screaming and yelling in between.”
A photograph of Bruce’s little boots feature in the book, tied exactly as they were when he was found.
Anne said after her children had grown up and left home, and at the insistence of a friend, she again started painting, at the age of 40.
She sold her first work one month later at a steam rally weekend at Cohuna.
“My husband, unknown to me, took my first painting into a steam festival which was being held in the local showgrounds and then came home and confessed,” she said.
“Don was very clever and said you’ll have to go in at 4pm and pick it up because I’m milking.
“I didn’t want to go in because I was so annoyed with him for putting it in because I didn’t think it was good enough.
“But when I got there, they told me it had been sold – the only one sold – and to a young Melbourne couple who had been waiting for me all day.
“I thought I’d died and gone to heaven!
“And they finished up being really strong supporters of me and it mushroomed from there.”
Over the years, Anne has been painting seriously, she has received awards at many Victorian and New South Wales art exhibitions, but her real aims were not only to show the beauty of the land, but to enable people from all walks of life to love, and be able to purchase a painting at a reasonable cost.
Her paintings now hang on walls in countries across the world, and the City of Echuca has two large watercolours in their art collection.
“I felt I needed to tell people through this book that you can go through terrible times and terrible things in your life, but then along with the help of people you can be lifted up and find something and it becomes glorious,” Anne said.
“Because no matter what I painted, people loved it and I loved the people, and it’s been a marvellous time of my life.”
Anne said she originally published the book for family and very close friends, but then when people who had brought paintings from her heard about it, they wanted one too.
“So, within two hours of printing the first lot they’d all been sold and I couldn’t believe it!”
Now currently living in Portarlington, Anne said she and Don promised each other before they got engaged that one day they’d live by the sea.
“And it took us more than 60 years to get down here!”
Don sadly passed away three years ago.
A friend of the couple, Rod Needham, promised Don he’d look out for Anne after he left this earth.
“I’ve taken her up to Cohuna a couple of times in the country and walking down the main street is like walking with Marilyn Munroe,” Rod joked.
“People come from the other side of the street, and say ‘oh there’s Anne, there’s Anne!’.
“She is so well known in her area and so loved.
“And the joy of Portarlington is that beneath the surface there are so many retired people with stories to tell, and when she does the book launch it will give everyone the chance to look at her works and talent.”
“An evening with Anne” will be held at the Portarlington Neighbourhood House in Brown Street on Sunday, July 21 at 2.30pm.