“John Carr was my inspiration for beginning watercolour. In May 2006, I met John sharing his professional knowledge at a free class at the Redcliffe Art Gallery during the RASart Exhibition of Excellence workshops. I now paint and teach watercolour after attending every class he tutored at Redcliffe Art Society, and (I now) try to perpetuate his spirit of giving to the arts community, which I experienced from knowing John over the last 11 years. I cannot thank John enough for his guidance, encouragement and inspiration.” Heather Delaney: Artist and RAS Tutor
From early childhood John Carr had an interest in and talent for art. On leaving school he trained as an industrial chemist. With this technical background and his deep interest in colour, John became the head of the dye department of several textile factories in Australia and New Zealand. John’s keen eye for the composition of colour and its harmonious and contrasting qualities informed his later years as a watercolour artist and teacher.
John’s chosen speciality is watercolour and he has enjoyed successes in that field with his paintings. His work can be found in both private and public collections.
In the late 70s and early 80s John won awards and sold paintings in local shows around Brisbane, but his commitment to raising a family meant his art took second place for some years, though he continued to practise and develop his watercolour skills.
After retiring, he became more active in developing his own practice. He moved to Redcliffe in 1999 and joined the Redcliffe Art Society (RAS). John became a regular winner of awards for watercolour and pen and wash at the Redcliffe Show. In 2001, his painting ‘Pot o’ Gold’ won the watercolour award at the RAS Members Exhibition and was acquired by the Redcliffe City Council for their art collection. John continued to win awards in Redcliffe, Roma, Pine Rivers, Woodford, the Gold Coast and at the Australian Society of Miniatures Easter Show (2002).
In 2006 and 2008 he was invited to participate in the ‘Fifteen Artists’ exhibition at the Redcliffe City Gallery, and one of his paintings ‘Cold Day on Moreton Bay’ was acquired by the Council. After Council amalgamations, ‘Pot o’ Gold’ and ‘Cold Day in Moreton Bay’ became part of Moreton Bay Region Council’s Art Collection.
In the 2008 RAS Members’ Exhibition, John won three awards for his portrait of a year 12 student’s experience of waiting for an OP score, ‘Rachel’s OP-OK’ – the Ken Boyce Award, the Watercolour Award and the Overall Winner for 2008. The following year he won Overall Winner and the Watercolour Award for the painting ‘Who’s That?’; done in a contemporary style.
In 2008, he was selected to exhibit in the newly amalgamated Moreton Bay Regional Council’s first regional art exhibition: ‘Talent Pool’, which was held at Bribie Island Community Arts Centre and focused on regional talent. It showcased nine artists with works from both the newly amalgamated art collections and from the artists themselves.
Throughout his painting career, John’s art has been known for its mastery of traditional watercolour techniques, with beautiful washes seamlessly blending eye-catching colours. His range has been wide, from still life to landscapes to commissioned portraits. But he has not been afraid to extend himself by trying new contemporary approaches as seen in ‘Rachel’s OP-OK’ and ‘Pony Ride’.
John’s interest in art has not only been to develop his own practice but he has an ongoing interest in promoting and extending the practice of art in the community. His contribution has been freely given and effective in many areas of artistic endeavour – art education, major arts projects, public relations and the promotion of art in the community.
He taught watercolour classes at the RAS, where he has been unstinting in sharing his knowledge and skills. His ex-students still praise his research and preparation, clear guidance and ability to inspire confidence in students, especially beginners. Some students have gone on to teach.
John’s lessons were based on the need for aspiring artists to understand the medium and materials, to accept that skill comes with doing, and that colour can be the most important ingredient in a successful painting.
He spent a year as artist in residence at Studio Red – Redcliffe High School, where he had the facilities to work on his own art as well as interact with art students, helping them widen their concept of art practice through discussion and demonstration. He has regarded this as one of the most stimulating periods in his art career.
John presented regularly at free events at festivals, the Redcliffe Jetty and the annual RAS Members’ Exhibition at the Redcliffe Art Gallery.
COMMUNITY ARTS PROJECTS
On occasions John has been approached to help enable public art projects, responding with generously volunteering his time and expertise.
He was commissioned by the Redcliffe Museum to produce an artist book: to record the historic annual mullet fishing off Redcliffe beaches. Observing the ‘run’ as it took place, John captured the actions of fishermen in a series of paintings which were collected to form a professionally bound book. It was used in a special display by the Museum to celebrate this local tradition. The book is now in the public collection.
When the Redcliffe Historical Society celebrated its 40th year of operation, an art exhibition was held in the Redcliffe Museum from October 2007 to March 2008. John was one of the six artists invited to present works depicting his vision of Redcliffe.
In 2009 Queensland celebrated its 150-year anniversary. As part of this Q150 Mosaic, a gigantic mural was created. This involved more than 60 local councils producing sections which were then fitted together. As part of the group of artists from the Moreton Bay Regional Council area, John was given the added responsibility to produce the paintings used by the mosaic artist to complete the mural. The legacy 40 sqm artwork is still on display at Brisbane Exhibition Grounds in the Fresh Food Pavilion.
In preparation for retirement, John took a Diploma of Counselling. He then volunteered as a visitor to patients at the palliative care ward at Redcliffe Hospital. Approached by medical staff to organise a group of artists to design and paint a mural within the Oncology Ward, led to an important project which took the time and enthusiasm of a team of artists led by Tricia Reust.
THE BENEFITS OF ART IN THE COMMUNITY
With all these activities, John believes in the community benefits of art. A long-term member of the RAS and Moreton Bay Arts Council, he has been available for public relations or promotional activities in the region. At exhibitions and other events, he has worked quietly behind the scenes.
He has demonstrated at festivals and gatherings such as ‘What’s Cooking in the Gardens?’, Suttons Beach Festivals, Sundays at the Redcliffe Jetty, the Redcliffe Show and at regional galleries and competitions. Here he engaged with the public about art, answering their questions, urging people to visit local galleries and become a member of art organisations. He has a hands-on response to individual interests in practicing art in his classes. He has also been a volunteer judge at local art. In his own words:
“An artist must acquire the skills, and practice them. There is no easy shortcut. But there is so much enjoyment in the journey, it’s worth the effort”
John Carr is a respected, prize-winning artist with works in the Moreton Bay Regional Collection. His art is collected by individuals who enjoy his distinct style. He is especially known for the principle that he models in all his activities – hard work, openness to new approaches, a willingness to share knowledge, and a belief in contributing to the community.
– Compiled by Margaret Cleland from original documents and photos.