From hidden nooks in Numbaa to spots along Bolong Road, local artist John Downton has intricately painted many hidden treasures in the Shoalhaven for his new exhibition.
Shown at the Shoalhaven Regional Art Gallery, 'Sensational Shoalhaven' will be shown until April 10, and aims to showcase the diverse natural landscape of the area to locals and visitors alike.
"This exhibition has been a delight to paint and is inclusive of all aspects of Shoalhaven life," said Mr Downton.
"I hope the beautiful landscapes, marine environment, weather, humanities and many hidden treasures of the Shoalhaven that I share in my work, gives you the incentive to go and enjoy all this region has to offer.
"Even people have been in here that live in the place that haven't seen half of the places I've painted here."
From small-scale paintings to large, the entire body of work of over 20 paintings took Mr Downtown around 12 months to complete.
Capturing the beauty of the Shoalhaven, Mr Downton's landscapes are stunningly realistic. He said his process involves 'plein air painting', a technique which requires painters to leave the four walls of their studio and set up in front of the landscape they choose to paint.
One of the artworks is a large oil painting depicting an orange blaze with a small koala in the foreground playing a violin.
"Many of the koalas' relatives were killed or displaced in the Shoalhaven bushfires," he said.
"I put the violin in there as a conversational touch and for any kids that come in, you could tell them a little porky that the koalas were actually playing the violin when they were grieving."
Sitting pretty on the back wall of the studio room is 'Meandering Melodies' - a large one metre by two metre oil painting showcasing the beauty of the Kangaroo Valley.
"This one is when you come through the township of the Kangaroo Valley and you're going around north and you see the beautiful farmlands in the famous valley," said Mr Downton.
With an illustrious career as a painter for the last 50 years and with over 85 solo exhibitions under his belt, Mr Downton has established himself as a leading artist in the area with his breathtaking oil paintings.
Awarded with the Order of Australia in 2017 in recognition of his valuable contribution to Australian art, Mr Downton said the best thing about being a painter is that not two days are the same.
"The challenge means there's something new all the time," he said.
"You learn to type, and then you can type. But with painting, you're always learning new things as there are different landscapes to paint.
"Once you start painting, you just can't put the brush down."
Originally trained as a watchmaker, Mr Downton said he later realised his dream to become a professional artist, and rarely took days off from painting.
"I worked seven days a week for 40 years as a painter and only took Christmas day off," said the 82-year-old painter..
"Now I usually take a day or two here and there off."
Mr Downtons work is held in public institutions and corporate collections in Australia and overseas. In 1982, he was made a fellow of the Bega Art Society and the Royal Art Society in 2000, and the Australian Society of Marine Artists in 2004.
In 2019, he was awarded a life membership of the Shoalhaven Art Society. Passionate about the sea, Mr Downton has travelled as an official navy artist and documented naval and peacekeeping activities in his paintings. A gallery has also been named after him at the Fleet Air Arm Museum at HMAS Albatross.
For more information, visit: https://www.shoalhaven.com/events/john-downton-sensational-shoalhaven
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