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ART & WORDS

 

When people ask about the stories behind my paintings I normally find it easy enough to give a brief outline that satisfies their curiosity, however there are always a few stories that are not so easy to share; ones that involve my heart and other others where I have to challenge myself to figure out what the story really is all about because at the time of painting it felt like an escape with no underlying story whatsoever, even though that is never the case. It may come as a surprise to some people but I actually spend little to no time analysing the meaning behind my pictures. 

 Inspiration for my paintings varies considerably and can range from a place I have visited, a moon rise, a conversation, a song or a dream. For the first time this year I sat down and began to write, allowing some of the stories to unfold and I will be sharing them in this blog. 

 

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  • kateeagle

Bella and the Bunny




If searching to buy a decent van before Covid was challenging, finding a van during Covid was going to require no less than divine intervention and a lot of patience.


I met a dog before I found my bus. It was at the very end of 2020 and I was driving my old car along a narrow gravel track around Greenhill Lake on the outskirts of Ararat when I noticed an older gentleman with a black dog walking in my direction. I stopped the car to say hello and we got chatting. His dog sat very patiently by his side as we talked. After about five minutes of conversation I brought my attention to his loyal companion, commenting that she was beautiful and asked her name. Upon hearing her name and realising that the conversation had finally shifted focus with the spotlight now pointing in her direction, her ears pricked up, her tail started wagging and her eyes smiled as if to say, “yes I am VERY beautiful, I thought you would never notice, pleased to meet you”.



I began to regularly visit Paul and Bella who lived in a caravan by the lake, and we would chat and laugh for hours about a variety of things. There are some people you meet and it feels like you have known them a long time, life’s funny like that. He was a tough little fella having recently retired after spending his working life as an interstate truck driver; a bit of a loner and also a little bit lonely, he liked my company and laughed at all my stupid jokes. He had a moustache arrangement that reminded me of Chopper Reed but his heart was as big as the sun and it was this very heart that ended up being the reason Bella came home with me to my parent’s house to stay for a month when he was rushed to hospital to have a quadruple bypass. She was a chaotic bundle of joyful energy and she experienced big emotions. Being separated from Paul was not easy for her, but she adapted to a new routine and her foster family.


Paul was as tough as they come and he recovered well from his surgery. Meanwhile I was still struggling to find a van of any description that was suitable. In addition to Covid and the lockdowns, one of the roadblocks I faced was my chemical sensitivity. Many caravans and campers were fitted out with laminates and paints that I couldn’t tolerate. I was trying to stay positive but it was not easy.


One day as we were sitting watching Bella bounce through the lake reeds chasing rabbits, full of determination despite never quite being quick enough to make a catch, Paul said; “We need to get you a bus, we’ll deck it out and make it right for you”. I had finally found someone crazy enough to help me create a home and studio on wheels and so the bus search began.


I knew both finding and converting the bus was not going to be easy and I knew I knew Instagram’s depiction of van life was a lie but I was out of ideas and so in between Melbourne’s lockdowns I went to look at the only bus listed in the whole state within my price range. I didn’t have a great feeling about the bus. The owner was a nice enough young fella who had been using it for ‘tours’ but with Covid he had ‘stopped his business’. I was never quite sure what kind of tours he had been doing as all the seats were ripped out and rubbish and dirt were strewn from floor to ceiling. It was unregistered, rusting and second gear didn’t engage properly, but he assured me that the gear problem was: “standard in these buses”. I listened to all his bullshit, trying my best to look convinced, I knew it was all a game, this buying and selling. I decided to get a mobile diesel mechanic to give me a report on the bus to see where I had bargaining power. With a reasonable list of repairs needed to make it roadworthy I suggested that we both start phoning around to get prices and reconvene in an hour or so. And our findings were dramatically different with his costings being considerably less. So I asked him who his mechanic was, and this was his biggest mistake, because he actually told the truth.


Frank was a one man mechanic operating out of an old shed in an industrial area in North Coburg. Turns out he happened to be a Toyota Coaster guru, having spent more than 20 years working with a private fleet of school buses and although he no longer had the contract, he was the middle man whenever the school needed to upgrade their fleet and sell the older vehicles. I liked Frank a lot from the first conversation we had. I just knew he was a good man, I have a radar for goodness. He knew the bus I was considering buying and it didn’t rate highly in his opinion but the prices he had quoted to repair it were correct. He was a fair man, not a greedy one. “If you are able to wait a few months, there will be a couple of buses being released from the school’s fleet and I will make sure you get a good one" he told me. A couple of months seemed like an eternity when winter was around the corner and my mother and I were close to killing each other, but I felt this serendipity was too obvious to ignore and so I waited. I didn’t really have a choice.


One July morning I received a phone call from Frank telling me that he had a bus for me to look at. And it was a beauty ( as far as buses go, not that I was an expert back then). And so Paul and I went down to collect it and we parked it at the lake’s almost empty campground, much to the Ararat council’s absolute disgust, and so began the conversion. It took almost six months, persevering through the depths of winter and multiple lockdowns including one where Bunnings closed. I would stop in at a local cafe most mornings and buy hot drinks and something for lunch for both of us and after we had reviewed the plan for the day we would get started. Both being fiery Aries, we got a lot done at a rapid rate but we also made a lot of mistakes at an equally rapid rate, however at the end of the day we worked really well together, had a lot of laughs and Bella the bus dog was there supporting us the whole way when she wasn’t off chasing rabbits.


Sometimes there are times in a person’s life that are so special that they just need to be painted. This painting was exactly that. I still keep in touch with Paul and Bella every week although we are now miles apart. An unlikely friendship maybe, but one that I wouldn’t change for quids.











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