A Palette of Classical Talent Hidden in the Hills
Louise Smithers

An awarded and world-sought-after portrait artist sits quietly exacting his oil painting talents overlooking a  green sunny rural backyard in Dural.

Paul Newton paints portraits in oils that radiate serenity and  glow with a ferocious authenticity that compels you to stop  and stare. Very often the subject is serenely gazing back at you in  deep communication.

It is this talent that has made him sought  after to create timeless portraits that have  been ‘final’ listed ten times in the Archibald  prize and a Finalist 2012 (for David  Gonski AC). His paintings are exhibited  in the Australian National Portrait Gallery,  Parliament House Canberra, Princeton and  Columbia Universities. His commissions  include the Domus Australia Chapel in  Rome, Deans, CEOs, celebrities, cardinals,  chancellors, icons, politicians and football  stars. All have been rendered timeless by his  brush. Paul is aHills boy with a science degree.

His self-confessed ‘loose’ youth was spent  playing his guitar in pubs and restaurants,  whilst doing the usual ‘get-by’ student jobs,  (he can tell you how to cook ‘french fries’).  During this time he came to a realisation that  art was his metier.  At the famous Julian Ashton Art School,  he became shaped and launched into illustration. His studio  walls attest to his successful early talent, with his illustrations  telling a narrative that has become gentler and more subtle in his  portraits. I was met at the door by this tall charming man.

I am eagerly  led to his new studio building under construction ‘down the  back’. There sits a modern imposing and sweepingly elegant new  work space. ‘Southish’ facing, sweeping planar roof line and giant  windows let in the light, with a mezzanine and patio overlooking  the rural view, to allow the type of convivial sociability, endemic of  the art world. Between talks at Sydney Art Gallery, commissions and trips  overseas to New York and US, Paul undertakes commissions  from corporations and families.

The US south has a big  tradition of family portraiture that doesn’t exist in Australia.  Research and collaboration follow his visits. Frozen in time,  these slices of life or history reflect a realistic image and subtle  narrative about the subject. The results are breathtaking. Asked if he sees a division between science and art, Paul  reminds me of one of the greatest classical artists and scientists, his  idol, Leonardo Da Vinci, who flowed between one and the other,  “as one feeds into the other.” Paul also cited the eccentric creatives  in the mathematics department of Sydney University as one of the  most inspiring he’s witnessed, despite their deshabille… With four children nearly grown, a busy life is a given, yet  he remains intensely interested in all his projects. A commission is always undertaken in very close collaboration  so there are ‘no surprises’ with the finished piece. He comes to  these through an agent, word of mouth or chance encounter.  Often confined to finely defined briefs, they hang in corporate  headquarters, lounge rooms or chapels. Research and spending  time to become familiar with the subject is crucial, he submits  sketches or oil cameos and sets to work. A  month or two later, the work is finished.  The freedom to paint himself is  cathartic, “I only have to please myself!”

This pictured work: Self Portrait #2 Dark  Night of the Soul, he fondly feels reflects  his sombre mood, painted while bereaving  his father nearly a decade ago. It was a  finalist in the Archibald Prize 2010.

Paul reminds me a painting is a  handmade creation, with nothing  mechanical about it. He likens himself to  being an editor, interpreting and editing  details that are meaningful, setting it firmly  apart from photography. He also admits to  feeling the insecurity of a painter, with a final  listing, gallery or competition award being a  stamp of approval that is “just lovely!” With Kylie Minogue, Maggie Tabberer,  John Doyle, John Laws, Kate Fischer, Alan  Jones, Roy and HG, among others, he has  been in interesting company.

You will recognise many of his  works, including his gorgeous 2013 Christmas postage stamps,  at paulnewton.com.au Just one of many fabulous creative souls who enrich  the Hills!