It’s 50 years next month since The Beatles released their iconic ‘Abbey Road’ album. KATE MEIKLE meets a local artist who is bringing his love of the band to his students.
THE Beatles have always been special to local artist and teacher Greg Devenny-Mackay.
“I relate to their music and lyrics, and they were always cool,” he says.
The Beatles played their famous rooftop gig on the top of Apple Corps in London, on Greg’s tenth birthday on January 30, 1969, and later that year released “Abbey Road” (September 26), the second last album before the band split publicly in 1970.
On the birth of his daughter 20 years later, Greg says he suggested to his wife Elita that Abbey would be an ideal name for the baby, inspired (of course) by “Abbey Road”.
“Abbey seemed like the perfect name for her,” says Greg of his now 31-year-old daughter, also an artist who lives in New York.
Greg and his wife are the directors and owners of Lavender Art Studios. Four years ago he embarked on a personal artistic project by deciding to paint large-sized, individual oil and portraits of each of the four Beatles, based on black and white photographs taken of them in the grounds of John Lennon’s Tittenhurst Park country house near Ascot. The photos were the last Beatles photo session, taken one month before “Abbey Road’s” album release.
Greg says that he interpreted the photographs through his painting, adding colour and creating mood, adjusting the backgrounds and adding his own interpretation to their facial expressions.
Starting with George Harrison, Greg’s favourite Beatle because he admired his depth of spirituality, he took about a year to complete each of the portraits, playing a lot of Beatle albums as he painted in his home studio in Theodore.
“I paint fast and mix paint fast, I like to keep my energy up and the music helps,” he says.
“I would play the music and paint my heart out!
“When I did the first one of George Harrison, I didn’t think I’d do more but all of them surprisingly flowed. It was very fluid and I resolved issues as I went along,” he says.
The result is four impressive oil paintings, each portrait different and with a unique colour base.
Teaching 250 students a week, Greg says he never tires of creating art.
“I love giving energy and teaching art. The more questions people ask, the more answers they get, but it’s up to them to make a technique work for their own artistic DNA, I’m not about creating ‘little Gregs’!” he says.
“I have always been interested in art, drawing and painting. As a young child I was awarded a prize at an arts competition and I thought at the time ‘they must like this!’ but I have never been competitive,” he says.
Greg and Elita will bring a Beatles theme to their lessons in the lead up to Lavender Art Studios’ open day on August 24 that features Greg’s paintings as well as the students’ work on the subject.
Greg says as Beatles music crosses generations, it will be a fun subject matter for his young students.
Will Greg be selling his “Fab Four” collection? As The Beatles sang, “money can’t buy me love”… the paintings will stay in the family and be hung at his high-country art retreat in the Snowy Mountains.
Lavender Art Studios’ celebration of The Beatles open day, 10.30am-5.30pm, August 24. First Floor, 42 Townshend Street, Phillip.