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Bonded by love and art

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Bonded by love and art

Geoff and Anne McKenzie not only share a special bond as husband and wife, they also are celebrating more than 50 years as professional, full-time artists.

Ballarat-born Geoff McKenzie, 87, filled his quiet moments with drawing and painting from quite a young age. Over the decades, he has built a reputation for high-quality work as a painter of traditional oils depicting the Australian bush and the Outback –  from the characters and bush race meetings to horses and wagons, plus a variety of other subjects.

The oil paintings from his wife Anne, who exhibits under the nom de plume of Allison Shaw, are atmospheric impressions of the Australian bush, with mountains, creeks, lagoons and waterbirds – a very different landscape from her English upbringing. After training as a nurse in London, Anne worked and travelled in Europe, Canada and the US before arriving in Australia in 1968 – always with oils  and brushes in her luggage to preserve  the ever-changing scenery in her individual style.

The pair have painted and exhibited all over Australia and around the globe, operating their own studio-galleries at Guildford and Anglesea in Victoria and Burleigh Heads, Miami, Woombye and Montville in Queensland. At one time, they had their studio overlooking the beach at Alma Bay on Magnetic Island, off Townsville in North Queensland, until, as Anne laments, “Cyclone Althea chased us away at Christmas 1970”.

Over the years, they have had a series of highly successful exhibitions, and their artworks hang in collections throughout the world. Now based in Bli Bli, in their small Wallaby Studios (so-called because they were constantly on the move), they boast a collection of almost 200 of their paintings. They continue to travel every year to find new subject matter and inspiration. But they also have found a new lease on life after settling on the Sunshine Coast.

“We are now both in our 80s and as masters swimmers (Sunshine Coast Masters Swimming life members), we swim four times a week at Cotton Tree Pool,” Geoff says. “It keep us fit enough to maintain our art interests and will hopefully keep us painting to a ripe old age.”

In creative lives well-lived, Geoff and Anne can look back on a host of memories.

“While travelling in the early days, we would rent empty shops or banks (painting in the tellers’ boxes) for $10 a week,” Anne remembers. “Geoff painted the Tenterfield Saddler’s shop before it became famous.

“We later bought a 120-year old shop and cottage in Guildford, Victoria, which became our home and studio-gallery.

“We are most happy about our lives, knowing that our works will always be out there – throughout Australia and other countries – long after we are gone.”

Geoff and Anne are taking part in the Sunshine Coast Open Studios Art Trail curated by ArtsConnect Sunshine Coast from May 18-26 (openstudiossunshine coast.com.au) and are having a 50-year anniversary exhibition at Wallaby Studios.

 See their artwork via wallabystudios.com.au and Facebook/WallabyStudios

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