Fern Hill artist has eyes for Archibald prize

Fern Hill artist Rose Wilson has been selected as one of 41 finalists for the 2012 Archibald Prize. Picture: Justin Whitelock
Fern Hill artist Rose Wilson has been selected as one of 41 finalists for the 2012 Archibald Prize. Picture: Justin Whitelock

WHEN Fern Hill artist Rose Wilson entered this year's Archibald Prize, the paint was literally still wet on the mat board.

But her last mad rush to finish her portrait of silversmith Dan Flynn didn't deter the judges, and last Thursday Ms Wilson was selected as one of 41 finalists for the 2012 Archibald Prize.

"This has been so overwhelming with the community support. I feel as if I've won already," she said.

"I was surprised because we were limited with time and you get sick of looking at your own work.

"There is a very small window of opportunity to catch the judges' eyes when there are 839 paintings submitted.

"They walk by your work and you just hope you can attract their attention in some way."

Ms Wilson said she'd known Dan Flynn for 10 years and originally had intended to paint both Dan and his brother John.

"John couldn't sit for it so I called it Brother of John as a dedication to him," she said.

Ms Wilson said she liked to paint people she knew and choosing a good subject was very important.

"Everyone I've chosen so far has a cheekiness or wittiness about them, and is quite charismatic," she said.

"People say I have an ability to paint eyes quite well and I like to have a look that makes contact with the viewer."

"I put in warts and all. I don't think I would be good as one of those commissioned artists."

She said Mr Flynn "buckled over chuckling" when he saw the painting and was very gracious and seemed to enjoy the portrait.

This will be the third year that Ms Wilson has entered the Archibald Prize and the Doug Moran Portrait Prize, two of the premier portrait competitions in Australia.

In her first year she was a finalist in the Doug Moran Prize with her portrait of neighbour and music composer Ian McDonald.

She said she used oil on paper, or mat board, which made things "very immediate".

"I paint in the details and then use my fingers to mold the face," she said.

"It gives it a fresh and immediate feel.

"I lived in Arnham Land with my husband for two years and that's where I learnt the technique of using hands to paint. I've been using this technique for the last 11 or 12 years."

Regardless of the outcome, Ms Wilson said she was looking forward to painting her next portrait for next year's competition and she'd already approached potential subjects.

This time she said she would start it a little earlier so that the paint had time to dry.