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Kate Vella

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Words: Michael Sharp. Photography: Ashley Mackevicius.

After running barefooted with her brother and sisters through the fields on her family farm in Malta, the young Kate Vella would retreat into the corner of her bedroom and draw. She would sketch the houses in her village, which was named Zebbug after the Maltese word for olives, as well as plants that grew on her island of Gozo and portraits from her imagination.

“Creativity has always been a huge part of my life,” she says. 

The farm had been in her father’s family for a century and they grew vegetables and fruit, including a small vineyard, and raised chickens, sheep and goats. They enjoyed fresh eggs and milk and her mother made cheese.

“We had a very free lifestyle. We were free to roam and play and we were very happy.”

Kate and her siblings helped with the farm work from a young age and she believes this played an important role in developing her creativity.

“We made everything ourselves,” she recalls joyfully. “We cooked and baked from scratch, we made our own preserves and cheese and we sewed our own clothes. This was how creativity was instilled in us by our parents.”

Art was always Kate’s favourite subject at school, and she began to dream of being an artist.

“I knew I wanted to be a painter, but I was in awe of painters and didn’t think I was good enough,” she says with characteristic modesty.

After school she married a boy from the same island of Gozo and they decided to move to Australia. English is taught alongside Maltese at schools in Malta, so there was no language barrier when she and her husband arrived in Sydney.

She soon had two young children and there wasn’t much time for her art.

“Their interests came first but we always had a garden and a sewing machine. I did lots of gardening, because it keeps my soul happy, and when the kids were in high school I worked as a dressmaker for a while, and I really enjoyed that.”

As her children grew older, Kate gradually found she had more time for drawing and painting. “It was profound to me. The need to make art was really strong.”

Kate moved to The Southern Highlands 20 years ago and immediately felt at home.

“Wherever we’d lived before, I didn’t think it was going to be permanent. It wasn’t me. It was lacking something. But I knew straight away the Highlands was home to me. I love the nature and the cool climate and there is a great community. And I like being close to the coast. In Malta, we lived on a farm but it was a short drive to the beach. So it’s very similar to how I grew up.”

Significantly, the Highlands inspired her to do more art and she began painting regularly at the home of a local artist who became a close friend. The pair also shared ideas and Kate gradually grew in confidence. In 2018 another friend insisted she participate in a group exhibition in Moss Vale. Though extremely hesitant and nervous, she eventually agreed to submit a painting – and to her great surprise it sold. This further boosted her confidence and she became a founding member of SHAC, the Southern Highlands Artisan Collective based in her home town of Robertson.

“I had a space to work there and it was good for the soul. You can become isolated working on your own and the interaction with other artists was important. We shared ideas and discovered that we were going through similar experiences.”

It was at this time that Amber Creswell Bell (who is now Director, Emerging Art for the Michael Reid galleries) noticed her work and this resulted in Kate’s first solo show in 2019, titled Antidote. Kate describes this as the turning point in her creative career, and she has enjoyed a series of successful exhibitions in the years since.

When you visit Kate in her home, it is clear that art is her life. The walls are covered in paintings, salon style, and there are piles of art books on shelves, coffee tables and the floor. Her current works in progress stand on easels in the garage, in the main living room and in her small downstairs studio. As she prepares for an exhibition, she may be working on ten or more separate paintings at the same time. Throughout the house, tables and chairs are crowded with her favourite subjects – flowers, fruit, boiled eggs, vintage vases, kitchenware with character and beloved books – as well as dozens of half-squeezed tubes of acrylic paint and palettes encrusted with her distinctive colours.

“I just love what’s around me, my surroundings,” she says. “When I include something in my work it’s because I’ve been emotionally drawn to it for some reason. I see it and I react to it – there is something about it that I love. I am always looking in antique shops because I love old things and old books – they have soul. It might even remind me of my childhood, because our home was full of things that had been handed down from generation to generation.”

Gardens have always been important to her, from those childhood days on the family farm in Zebbug to her lush garden in Robertson today. This boasts vibrant violet hydrangeas, a range of roses, a magnificent magnolia tree, orange day lilies, cottage plants, herbs and an array of natives. For her paintings, she supplements the treasures from her garden with flowers and fruit sourced from local suppliers.

Kate’s daily ritual is to rise early, drink a coffee and meditate – a practice she has been following for 15 years. She then walks through her garden with Layla, her 12 year old Keeshond, before painting for several hours. Her house faces east and she finds mornings the most productive time of day for her. In the afternoon, she walks through the quiet country lanes of Robertson, gaining further inspiration from the nature she loves.

The title of Kate’s latest exhibition is Stillness.

“I called it that partly because of my still life subjects and partly because when I am painting I feel very still. I am totally immersed and engrossed in what I am doing. The world stops for me. It is very meditative. It is my happy place.”

Explore Kate’s solo exhibition at Michael Reid Southern Highlands online here.

Elizabeth Beaumont

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Words: Michael Sharp.

Photography: Ashley Mackevicius.

In late February 2022, when Elizabeth Beaumont was raising her one year old toddler while pregnant with her second daughter, when she was working as a psychologist while also completing her Masters degree in Psychology, the Director of Emerging Art for Michael Reid galleries, Amber Creswell Bell, called her to ask if she would like to put on a solo show in May, just two months away, at the new Michael Reid Southern Highlands gallery in Berrima.

“I said ‘yes’ straight away because I know you don’t get that kind of an opportunity very often,” Beaumont recalls. “I remember calling my mum and she said: ‘You’re nuts!’”

That exhibition, Everlasting, which celebrated the winter flowering of wattles and everlasting daisies and embraced “the repetition and the noise that characterises this woodland landscape” sold out in less than a week. 

Beaumont now lives in The Southern Tablelands but she grew up in The Southern Highlands after her parents moved there from Sydney when she was two years old. 

“I had a very happy childhood,” she says. “My parents spent decades transforming a large paddock into a beautiful garden and I grew up with plants and birds and space.”

She is softly spoken and not very comfortable talking about herself. 

Art and creativity have been a constant in her life. “When I was five years old, I sold my first art work on the main street of Bowral for five cents. A friend and I were selling our drawings outside a shop that her mum worked in. I’ve always drawn and painted and I’ve always loved making things. At primary school we had a pottery studio, and I loved that, and I went to art classes where I made miniature shops, and also fruit and other objects to go in them, out of ceramics.” 

Beaumont studied art at high school and her art teacher entered one of her paintings in a competition when she was in Year 11. She came runner up “and that painting is now hanging on a wall at Frensham”.

Despite her love of art, and her clear talent, when she finished school Beaumont studied Law at the Australian National University. 

“I wanted to study art, but I didn’t really understand that you could be an artist.” 

She worked as a criminal lawyer for five years, first in Melbourne and then in Brisbane and Darwin, and her employers included the Director of Public Prosecutions, Legal Aid and Aboriginal legal services.

During these years of studying and lawyering, Beaumont continued to draw and paint at night and on weekends. When she moved to Brisbane, she had a two month break from work and the house she was living in had a spare room. This allowed her “to paint a lot more and begin to create what could be close to a body of work”.

In January 2018, Beaumont and her partner Mal went on a multi-day hike through the Western Arthurs Traverse in Tasmania’s Southwest National Park. The adventure and the magnificent scenery inspired her to produce a large painting of one of the park’s glacial lakes. It was titled Descending into Lake Oberon.

“I submitted it to an art prize in Tasmania and was amazed when it was selected,” Beaumont recalls. “I actually got Highly Commended, which was quite a shock.”

With characteristic self-effacing modesty, Beaumont doesn’t mention that the competition was the Glover Prize for paintings of Tasmanian landscape, one of Australia’s most significant awards for landscape painting and open to artists from anywhere in the world.

Her Glover Prize experience, which included meeting some very encouraging people, gave her greater confidence and motivation.

“I found myself in an environment with other artists and I could see that this was a thing. I didn’t go to art school, and I don’t have many friends who are artists, so it’s a world that I’m still learning about.”

In late 2019 Beaumont moved back to Canberra. “I was turning 30 and I had set myself the challenge of having a show on my own. It was in my sister’s Pilates studio [Scout Pilates in the inner Sydney suburb of St Peters] which is like a warehouse space.”

The exhibition was titled Painted Desert and consisted of about 20 drawings and paintings produced after a visit to that spectacular region in the far north of South Australia. 

“The night before the opening I was thinking what a terrible idea it was and that no one will want to buy anything,” she recalls. “I had a bit of a freak out and was convinced I should pull the show. But I didn’t – and they all sold.”

COVID and its lockdowns had its benefits for Beaumont because she didn’t have to travel for work or study. She continued to paint and sell some works online and she was selected as a finalist for the 2020 Tony White Memorial Art Prize for “a young, emerging Australian artist” (part of Kangaroo Valley’s “Arts in the Valley” festival). 

Beaumont’s first daughter was born in December 2020 and while there was little time for art in the first six months after the arrival of Olearia (the proper name for the plant commonly known as daisy bush), she decided to enter the inaugural National Emerging Art Prize in 2021. NEAP had been established by its founders “to provide a highly visible national platform to identify, promote and support the most promising emerging visual and ceramic artists in Australia”.

Although Beaumont was not selected as a finalist for the NEAP in 2021, the Director of Emerging Art for Michael Reid galleries, Amber Creswell Bell, invited her to participate in a group show titled ACB Selects. As we have learned, that led to an invitation for a solo show at Michael Reid Southern Highlands in May 2022.

“As the curator of the NEAP, I have the great pleasure of reviewing each and every submission before they go to the selection panel for judging,” says Creswell Bell. “During this process, invariably some artists really capture my attention – and quite often not the judges. I will take note of those artists and later pull those that I think are worthy of attention into an online show called ‘ACB Selects’, of which Elle was one. I was so convinced of Elle’s ability as a painter that I very quickly also offered her a solo show at our Southern Highlands gallery.

“Elle has a fabulously sophisticated sense of mark making. She knows exactly when to hold back, not overwork a painting. Her compositions and sense of colour are just beautiful and she is able to work at a variety of scales, which is harder than it looks. I couldn’t love her work more!”

Until now, Beaumont’s work has explored the plants and landscapes that have been part of her life.

“I tend to focus on painting the environment around me at the time. When I was in Brisbane I was painting a lot of coastal heathland, in Darwin there was a lot of desert painting, when I returned to Canberra the bushfires had a major influence and now here in Carwoola it’s a very different landscape.”  

However Beaumont’s second solo exhibition at Michael Reid Southern Highlands, which opens on 27 July 2023, is titled: I Came Looking for Birds and I Found Them.

“I’ve been trying to paint birds for a long time,” Beaumont explains, “but I’ve found I can’t force a bird into my painting, it just doesn’t work. 

“Then a couple of months ago I cleaned a large window and the next day a Scarlet Robin flew straight into the window and died. It’s such a beautiful, black and orange bird – and it just popped into my painting. I’ve now created an environment to allow other birds from around here to come through into my paintings. There are so many and they have a rhythm – they come at different times of the day and different times of the year. That’s what the show is about.”

Beaumont, whose achievements across a range of disciplines are extraordinary, started studying psychology at the University of New England two years after she completed her law degree. She recently completed a Masters of Psychology through Macquarie University and works three days a week as a psychologist in a Canberra hospital. She considers herself “a painter with a part time job”. 

This Renaissance Woman is only in her early 30s but worries about how little time she has left in her life to produce all the paintings she wants to create and, being unjustifiably critical of herself, she wants to produce a lot more good paintings.

“When Olearia was born I put ‘artist’ as my occupation on the birth certificate,” she says. “I’m going to hold myself to that.”

Julz Beresford

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Words: Michael Sharp

Photography: Ashley Mackevicius

Being outdoors and in nature has always been at the heart of Julz Beresford’s existence, from her early years roaming around the family farm to today’s tinny trips on The Hawkesbury River and solo hikes in The Snowy Mountains.

“I love going to different locations and landscapes,” she says. “I’m happy outside and totally inspired by nature. I head out with my paints and I don’t have any pre-fixed ideas – it’s more about how the day evolves, the light, the weather, the seasons. I make gouache studies and when I come back to my studio I use them as a reminder of what it was like when I was out there.

“I’m interested in not just painting what I see – I want to paint how I feel in the landscape too.”

Beresford enjoyed a happy childhood on a property in rural New South Wales.

“I was a really busy kid who lived outside and loved riding bikes, climbing, playing with our horses and chickens, always creating and making things.”

The property was only a few hours’ drive from The Snowy Mountains and her family would go camping there in summer while in winter they would ski at Mount Selwyn. So began a lifelong love of this landscape with its meadows, mountain rivers and snow gums.

When she was seven years old, her family moved to Sydney. 

“My parents became really keen boaties. We’d hire yachts and go sailing, so I experienced the Hawkesbury from a very young age. I just loved being out on the water. It was how I was brought up and it was part of who I was.”

It was on these cherished sailing trips that she first learned to draw and paint.

“Mum liked being creative. She would take drawing stuff with us and I’d draw with her using charcoal.”

A seed had been planted and Beresford studied Art at school, including 3 Unit Art for her Higher School Certificate (HSC). She was inspired by the local bushland, walking and jogging through the Ku-ring-Gai Chase National Park whenever she could.

“There had been bad bushfires north of Sydney, so I collected charcoal and used it to draw with in my major work. I was pretty dedicated in Year 12. I used to paint at lunchtimes, which the Art Department thought was quite unusual. But I just loved it.”

After finishing high school “I wanted to do what I loved and I Ioved painting. It’s all I wanted to do. I wanted to go to COFA [College of Fine Arts] and fortunately I got in.”

She specialised in painting, drawing and printmaking and was inspired by tutors such as Idris Murphy. It was a wonderful three years but she laughs and admits: “I was partying far too much and just passed in the end.”

I’m in London still

After graduating from COFA, Beresford travelled overseas with friends. She bought a one way ticket “because I knew I’d be there a long time”. After six months of travelling she ran out of money and found a job in the ski fields of France before crossing The Channel to London, ready for a new challenge.

“A girl I studied with at COFA was working as a photographer’s assistant. She said: ‘Julz, I’ve found this great career for you – food styling.’ I said: “What’s that?” 

Her friend gave her a brief description and Beresford decided it was a great idea.

“I visited the local library and went through food magazines. I made a list of all the best food stylists that were busy and in the good magazines. I found their phone numbers and just rang them.”

This old fashioned cold-calling soon produced results.

“I was really lucky,” she says. “I worked with some of the best food stylists in London, giving me a great foundation in the industry.”

Busy in her new career, her art was placed on the back burner. She would draw or paint occasionally in her bedroom “but nothing consistent, which you need to do to get better”.

Creativity calls

Beresford returned to Australia after eight years abroad and set up her career as a freelance food stylist. As time passed, however, it became increasingly apparent that this career wasn’t creative enough for her any longer. She decided to limit her work as a food stylist and paint as often as she could in her garage.

She summoned the courage to post some of her paintings on Instagram and these images attracted the interest of Amber Creswell Bell, Director Emerging Art for the Michael Reid galleries.

“Amber kindly offered me the opportunity to exhibit in a group show and that led to an invitation to participate in A Painted Landscape, a group exhibition at the Michael Reid Berlin gallery in late 2020.”

She participated in two more shows the following year at the new Michael Reid Northern Beaches gallery before being invited to hold her first solo show, in March 2022, at Michael Reid Northern Beaches. This was followed by solo exhibitions at Michael Reid Southern Highlands in November 2022 and Michael Reid’s Sydney headquarters in January 2024. All three of these solo shows sold out.

On the water

Beresford’s Sydney home is about 10 minutes from Cottage Point, a secluded Sydney suburb of just 50 homes that is less than an hour’s drive north of Sydney. It sits serenely at the junction of Cowan and Coal & Candle Creeks and is surrounded by the beautiful bushland of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. This is Beresford’s favoured base for exploring the Hawkesbury River and, as a regular customer, she is welcomed warmly by the staff at Cottage Point Kiosk and Boat Hire.

She usually books a tinny for two or three hours “but I often lose track of time and am out there for longer and have to apologise. There is something very peaceful and restful about being on the water. You are on your own, miles from anywhere. There is no mobile phone reception and you can really tune into nature. It’s like a release for me, being on the water. I feel alive, I feel amazing.”

Asked if she has any favourite spots, she replies: “I love being in a little bay with a hill in the distance. And I love the shadowy side of the Hawkesbury. There is always a sunny side and a shadowy side and I stick to the shadowy side. I like its moodiness and the depths of colours you can find. I’m really interested in colour and every time I go out it’s different because of the light, the time of day, the season, whether it’s rained the day before. I want to find the uniqueness of that day.”

In the studio

With her gouache field studies around her, Beresford gets to work.

“I am quite expressive in the way I paint. I’m very physical. It’s a fast, back and forward, back and forward, on the painting, off the painting, joyful and intense time. And I paint wet on wet, alla prima. It’s all about the moment, trying to convey the energy of the place and, I suppose, my relationship with it.

“I always scratch and draw in the composition, putting in the darker tones and building up. I use a brush for most of the early stages – I put on and take off, put on and take off – and I love keeping those brush marks visible in the painting.”

Beresford’s use of a palette knife “goes back to my food styling days of icing cakes and getting the cream perfect. I love the yummy ooziness of the oil paint and I use a medium to thin them out a bit and give them that luscious, velvety feel.”

Not everything will go to plan but Beresford revels in the problem solving aspects of her craft: “That bit’s not right, fix it; and that bit’s not right, fix that – it’s constant.”

Even during this brief visit, her passion for painting is evident.

“I am really focused when I’m in the studio,” she admits. “I literally fall into a trance. I have to set an alarm because otherwise I forget to pick up the kids from school.”

As Time Drifts on a River’s Path

Beresford’s latest exhibition, titled As Time Drifts on a River’s Path, features paintings from the two regions she has had a close relationship with since her childhood and with which she still has a deep connection: The Snowy Mountains and The Hawkesbury River.

“I tend not to paint the Hawkesbury all year because I yearn to improve my trade and I believe to get better I need to shift gear to a different landscape. It’s important for me to jump around a little bit. It keeps me alive and makes me really think about what I am trying to achieve.”

And what is she trying to achieve?

“I am always questioning myself, asking if I am expressing the feeling of the place when I paint. I want to capture the moments when I was on the water or the magic of the mountains. I want to remember the way I held the paintbrush while I was out there ‘plein air’ because it felt right. Each painting has its own story.”

Pieces of paper attached to her studio walls have handwritten notes reminding her to “express the purpose of place”, “celebrate the paint” and “lose yourself in the moment of expression”.

Remarkably, Beresford has only been painting full time for three years. She has built a strong following and is looking forward to the future with her characteristic calm yet energetic determination.

“I’m totally addicted. I can’t get enough of it. I know the only way I’m going to get better is to keep practising, to keep working every day. It’s who I am now.” 


As Time Drifts on a River’s Path will be showing at Michael Reid Southern Highlands from 22 February until 24 March.

Ben Waters

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Words: Michael Sharp.

Photography: Ashley Mackevicius.

When Ben Waters was growing up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, surfing helped him deal with his adolescent emotions.

“I found a sense of freedom in the ocean,” he recalls. “Getting smashed by the waves was a way of dealing with testosterone. I liked the unpredictability and the fact I couldn’t control things. I would get totally humbled and put in my place.”

Today, still living and surfing on the Northern Beaches, Waters has discovered that painting provides a similar outlet and peace of mind.

“When I come back from my walks around the headlands, I drive my family nuts trying to explain the way I’m feeling. So I paint, because it’s the only way to get it out of my system.”

The Waters family home was in Newport and Ben went to primary school and then high school in nearby Avalon.

“I was always aware of nature, checking the surf each morning as I rode my bike to school. My days were determined by tide and swell and wind.”

He and his sister Missy, who is three years older, spent a lot of time at the beach.

“Our parents said we had to swim seven laps of Avalon pool before we were allowed to have a foam surfboard. On the day my sister was doing her swim, she was 10 and I was 7, I just jumped in and swam seven laps. I so desperately wanted to get a board and be out in the waves.” 

Ben’s father, Terry, was a highly skilled signwriter who had his studio in the garage and worked with leading designers and artists including Gordon Andrews and Ken Done. This had a significant influence on young Ben.

“He had paint, he had charcoal, he had chalk – it was all there. As a young kid, it looked to me like Dad was painting on the wall, so one day I did a drawing on the wall in the house. My mum was so cranky, but Dad was like: ‘He’s expressing himself!’”

In his primary school days, Ben was a huge fan of Star Wars and he would make back drops for his Star Wars figures out of leftover materials found in the garage and discarded polysterene packaging. Still today “I drive my family crazy unless I’m making something. Even when I was a full time teacher, I was making handsurfers and little boats out of building material offcuts.”

His mother, Tanya, was also creative, making the family’s clothes as well as picture frames, which she sold for some additional income. His maternal grandparents also had a significant influence as he was growing up.

“They lived in The Rocks and we would visit them every second weekend. So, unlike a lot of my friends in the ‘insular peninsula’, I had a sense of the city. We would wander around the back streets of The Rocks and, as I got older, we would go to art galleries. I didn’t tell any of my mates about this, but it was definitely a calling card of me knowing there was a space outside of here that I really loved.”

Waters “did what he needed to get by” at high school, but he loved studying art and remembers having wonderful art teachers.

“Our school was pretty much right on the beach at Avalon. My favourite day was doing art at lunch time and then after school I’d run to my mate’s house, which was across the road from the school, we’d have a surf and then I’d ride my bike home to Newport.”

When he finished high school, “I wanted to study Fine Arts, but I put the wrong course code on the form and got accepted into Art Education at the College of Fine Arts. I thought, oh well, I’ll just do that. I still did art courses, but we studied education and psychology and I really enjoyed that side of things. I stuck with it and did four years of Art Education.”

After graduation, instead of going straight into teaching he accepted a job with Atelier Paints.

“They were starting up a process of going to art schools, art colleges and art societies and demonstrating the materials they made. I travelled all over NSW, and to Queensland and Victoria, and technique-wise it was a great education for me because I’d missed that training at art school.”

He worked for Atelier for 18 months and then travelled overseas for a year before returning to start work as a teacher. He has taught at Stella Maris College, Manly in various capacities for the past 25 years

While teaching is “incredibly fulfilling”, Waters soon realised “there was something missing, and that was the ability to make stuff”. So he started doing some creative jobs after hours, including producing black and white line drawings of houses in Mosman for property sale advertisements.

He also began working for a surf company.

“I met a guy called Jim Mitchell at Whale Beach. He was an artist working for Mambo and we got on really well, with our shared loved of surfing and drawing. He established a company called The Critical Slide Society and I was involved for about seven years. 

“My favourite memories of this time are drawing with my kids as they were growing up. I used to play a game with Dad when I was young. I was totally into Star Wars so he would draw a rocket and stick it on the fridge. I would draw another rocket blowing his rocket up and we would go back and forth for a week or so and at the end we would have a drawing of a full inter-galactic battle.

“With my kids, I would do a drawing and then they would come in and just draw all over it, with no sense that it had taken me two hours to do. For me it was the purest form of happiness, because I was doing something and the kids were involved and it was like we were in a flow state. There was no talking, we were just drawing together.”

Ben’s wife Natalie was literally the girl next door. That is, she moved to Newport to stay with a friend, who was Ben’s neighbour. She is also a trained teacher and it was her decision to apply for a two year placement on Lord Howe Island in 2017 and 2018 that would have a huge impact on her husband.

“We’d been there for a family holiday and fell in love with the place,” Ben explains. “I’d always struggled to devote enough time to produce a full body of work and Nat saw Lord Howe as an opportunity to get some great teaching experience for her, give the kids a wonderful experience that they wouldn’t otherwise have and give me some time to develop a body of work that I could do something with – and that’s literally what happened.

“It was the sliding door moment of my life.”

After making the mistake of doing too many part-time jobs in the first few months – as a bike mechanic, tree lopper and laying out the local newspaper – Waters settled on one job while grasping the invaluable opportunity to observe, draw and paint. 

“I spent time with the kids before and after school and then in the middle of the day I had time to paint and go on long walks and immerse myself in nature. From that point, I really connected back to when I was a little kid. That feeling I used to get out in the surf, I got that same feeling on these bush tracks, realising that nature is awe-inspiring and it does wonderful, healing things to your mind. It calms you, it slows down your pulse rate, it allows you to open up to different thoughts – and it’s intoxicating.”

Before Lord Howe Island, Waters had not exhibited much of his work. He sold a few paintings while he was there and this gave him some confidence that others might be interested in what he was doing. His wife’s support through this time was invaluable. 

“Nat always says: ‘I knew that you had this in you, you just had to realise you had it in you.’” 

Waters was in his mid-40s when the family were living on Lord Howe Island. Is this when he realised he wanted to be an artist?

“I was always scared of the word ‘artist’ because I thought it sounded too wanky,” he replies honestly. “It was more that I thought I couldn’t come back to Avalon and not do this. I didn’t want it to be just a little blip in my life. The reason we had gone to Lord Howe was because we felt a bit comfortable and we wanted to challenge ourselves. So it was more about challenging myself.”

On his return to the mainland, Waters joined the Pittwater Artists Trail and connected with Sydney Road Gallery. He met “a lot of like-minded people” and, because the gallery is run as a collective, learned about the logistics of how an art gallery works. 

He also caught the eye of Amber Creswell Bell, who invited him to be part of a couple of group shows before he was offered a solo show with Michael Reid Northern Beaches (titled A Place to Breathe) in May 2021 and again in May 2022 (Quiet Moments). The sell-out success of both these exhibitions led to a solo show at Michael Reid Sydney in January 2023 (Shared Places) – and all the paintings from that show also sold.

The title of Waters’ new exhibition is Come Walk With Me. 

“When you go out on your own with a sketch book and pencil and no agenda, you find out all sorts of stuff about yourself. In many ways for landscape painters, the landscapes they paint are portraits of themselves.

“When we returned from Lord Howe Island, I went on long walks around the Palm Beach headlands trying to get some sense of what it meant to be back and wondering how we would replant ourselves. I realised that is what I want to paint – I want to paint the way it makes me feel. Once I decided that, I steered away from painting a particular scene and my works have morphed into capturing some essence of this area but also some essence of myself. That might be memories of walking with my kids or I’ve had something tough going on and I need healing in some way – that is what I’m chasing.”

Waters looks forward to seeing how his audience responds to his work.

“I want to share my paintings with other people even though that can be incredibly confronting. As artists, we spend so much time producing our work in solitude, I want to see what it does when it goes out into the world. It’s like I’ve started a conversation.”


If you would like to join the conversation with Ben Waters, Come Walk With Me is showing at Michael Reid Northern Beaches from 20 September with the artist attending the opening event from 2-4pm on Saturday 23 September.

Explore the Northern Beaches

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Nestled in the beachside suburb of Newport, Michael Reid Northern Beaches enjoys a splendidly sunny aspect along the main strip. Palm trees and busy shoppers abound in this little neighbourhood and with many options surrounding the gallery for a spot of shopping or a delicious lunch why not make a morning of it.

Newport Shopping
Splice – womenswear – Robertson Rd, Newport
Pony Rider – homewares – Robertson Rd, Newport
Le Petite Marché – homewares and cafe – Robertson Rd, Newport

Newport Cafés and Restaurants
The Newport – lunch and dinner – 2 Kalinya St, Newport
Le Petite Marché (French) – lunch – Robertson Rd, Newport
Queen Ester (Israeli) – breakfast and lunch – Robertson Rd, Newport
The Woods – breakfast and lunch – 4/364 Barrenjoey Rd, Newport
Zubi – breakfast and lunch – 323C Barrenjoey Rd, Newport

For those with more time head a further 5 minutes up the road to Avalon and Palm Beach and explore these great spots:

MamaPapa – French Homewares, Womenswear/Childrenswear – 11/20 Avalon Parade, Avalon Beach
Bookoccino – Books/Gifts/Coffee – 66 Old Barrenjoey Rd, Avalon Beach
Haven & Sarah – Florist/Homewares – 33 Old Barrenjoey Rd, Avalon Beach
Bassike – Womenswear – 41 Avalon parade, Avalon beach
The Boathouse Homewares Store – 1 Beach Rd, Palm Beach
Elvina – Dinner – 50 Old Barrenjoey Road, Avalon Beach
Bistro Boulevard (French) – Dinner – 40 Avalon Parade, Avalon Beach
Alma – Lunch/Dinner – 41 Old Barrenjoey Rd, Avalon Beach
Sunset Diner – Lunch/Dinner – 47 Old Barrenjoey Rd, Avalon Beach
Leonardo’s Deli – Lunch/Dinner – 1 Simmonds La, Avalon Beach
Palm Beach Wine Co – gourmet foods and wine – 1109 Barrenjoey Rd, Palm Beach
Barrenjoey House – Lunch/Dinner – 1108 Barrenjoey Rd, Palm Beach
Dunes Palm Beach – Lunch/Dinner – 1193 Barrenjoey Road (located inside Governor Phillip Park), Palm Beach

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