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Art by Melope Blog

A fond farewell to a wonderful woman


Barbara Joan Davis

9.12.1931 - 10.5.2017


A few weeks ago we said goodbye to my dear Nan, Barbara Joan Davis (nee Maddock).  She was not only a wonderful grandmother to me, but a lasting inspiration.  From the time when I was a little girl, Nan taught me how to love art and, most importantly, how to paint.

When I was little, I remember going to Nan and Gramp’s house and being fascinated with the downstairs rooms.  In a little apartment, tucked away under the house, Nan and Gramp had an art and photography studio.  Gramp had turned the tiny kitchen into a dark room for developing his photographs, and Nan used the two bigger rooms to paint.  All over the walls, layered one above the other, were scenes of rivers and mountains and twisted old gum trees.  Oils, pastels, watercolours, there were big, blooming flowers and miniature landscapes dotted up the doorway.  The rooms were permeated by the smells of oil paint and medium, and mineral turpentine.  Those smells now take me straight back to childhood, and that little studio under the house.

When I was old enough, Nan taught me to use her paints.  She taught me watercolours, but I never really like them so much.  I played with pencils and charcoals, and finally she taught me to use oil paint.  I would go along to her studio on the days she painted with Pauline.  She would set me up at the folding table in the second room, they would play classical music on a little old radio, and the three of us would spend hours painting.  She gave me paints and brushes from her own collection, a little pot for mediums, and a bright orange flannelette shirt to wear as a smock. 

Every now and then my family and I would get ourselves dressed up and go to Nan’s art group exhibition openings.  It was always such an occasion, and I would feel so grown up drinking juice from a wine glass and strolling with my mum around to see the paintings.  It seemed such an important and wonderful event, I could never have imagined that one day it would be my paintings on the wall.

When I had my first art opening in Salamanca, Nan was too unwell to come to the opening night.  But a few days later she came to sit with me in the gallery, parked in her chair in the middle of the room she surveyed my paintings and told me her thoughts.  I was so proud to have her there to see my work.  “You’ve done well, Love” she told me.

Visiting Nan only a little while ago in her room at the nursing home, I looked through folder after folder of her work while sitting with her.  Even then when I asked her where each painting was from, she could look at it for a brief moment before describing exactly where it was.

A few weeks ago, after years of pain suffered with little complaint, Nan slipped away.  She is at rest now, and much as I will miss her and mourn her, I am glad to know she no longer suffers. 

At her funeral, I was overwhelmed by the stories of Nan, and what stood out the most was the way everyone described a loving, gentle and kind woman, and her sparkling sense of humour.  Even when she was in great pain she still had a twinkle in her eye and a smile for her family.

In my studio today, covered in far more paint stains than when I first got it, I still have that orange shirt.  I have the brushes and palette knives she gave to me, and when I paint I am often taken back to her art studio. I see the world through the eyes of an artist, and a large part of that is thanks to inspiration from my grandmother.

Rest easy, Nan. 

With love.

Mel Andrewartha