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Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. Simonides

Betty Anderson

"Born in 1936, art was the last thing that my family were interested in, collecting eggs, feeding the laying hens, moving the sheep, helping with the harvest and other farm activities took precedence over anything else. Schooling fitted into the farm activities, and although I excelled in science and mathematics, I was not able to continue education beyond University Matriculation (Leaving as it was then). Art was a subject that those who were not academically oriented, such was the thinking of that era.

On leaving school, I started working in Balaklava, the main centre near Halbury, and would do all the posters for the activities in that town, decorating them with relevant pictures, and all with various types of script. There were not computers to grab Clip Art, or to change the size of the various fonts - we do have it so easy these days!

Then came marriage, with a move to the Northern Territory where my husband, Barry, was employed by the Aboriginal Department of the NT Administration. We moved, and moved, and moved, around Alice Springs and Amoonguna initially, then to Sydney for a year of training, back to Yuendumu and then to Warrabri. It was here that I had my second child, but he died as a result of an accident in the Alice Springs Hospital at 24 hours. With time on my hands, and an oil painting kit, I started painting. I had no tuition so got despondent with my feeble efforts, so another move to Hooker Creek meant that my paints were packed away.

We eventually moved to Darwin, and my paints were found again, so I dabbled a little more, with quite some success, but, with time on my hands, started full-time work, resulting in my paints being packed away again. Then came Cyclone Tracey - an interesting night, I might say! In the aftermath of this, I further dabbled in my art, still without tuition, received a number of small commissions, and sold well - those days were more affluent and there were not many artists around.

Again, I returned to full-time employment, qualified as an accountant (NIA), became proficient with computers and packed away the paints again. On retirement from full-time employment, I continued with relief work as a legal accountant, till finally working one day a week at the church I attended, as well as another day a week for a pool company in accounts work. I forgot all about painting.

Early 2008 saw a situation arise whereby I needed to be completely absorbed so that I had no time to think. I grabbed my paints and started once again, building on the knowledge I had gleaned over the years, painting flowers to learn graduation of colour, the effect that shadow had on various colours and the like. Someone heard that I had done several portraits and saw what I had done - he was astounded and said I "had to get my work out there!" But I didn't know how, so he introduced me to various Art Societies, and I started exhibiting. I was greatly encouraged to receive a number of Highly Commended and People's Choice Awards, but particularly to become a Fellow of the Royal SA Society of Arts, an award I value highly. It was during this time that I finally got some tuition that honed my technique and gave me many valuable tips to improve my work as well as what mediums and the like to use - things that I had no knowledge of.

I was so excited when my first entry in the Archibald Prize 2012 was selected for the Salon Des Refuses Exhibition (the alternate Archibald and Wynne Prizes). I had painted Doris Younane, a TV actress who had been introduced to me by a friend who insisted that I enter the Archibald, in a pose that I had as a mental picture when I first spoke to her by phone. I subsequently found out that she often sits in that position. Being a strong Christian, I firmly believe that God had shown me what to do!"

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