“I was good at art as a kid and had done a bit of sign writing but never painted a picture,” he said. ” flogged a few pictures to some mates and thought it wasn’t such a bad way to make some extra cash.”
Over the years Tony has experimented with a wide range of art forms but his love of the Australian landscape and environment is a theme he keeps returning to.
That love was sparked in the early 60s when Tony’s parents moved the family to Woomera, then a one-mile town surrounded by desert as far as the eye could see.
“That landscape meant freedom to me. My mates and I went camping on weekends and would walk for miles exploring.”
“There’s more to the Australian environment than first meets the eye,” he said.
“A lot of people see it as something harsh that needs to be conquered. I’m trying to show through my art that our unique landscapes should be celebrated and protected.”
Never one for city life, in later years Tony moved to the Victorian countryside to be close enough to visit Melbourne for his art exhibitions, but far enough away to avoid the hustle and bustle.
He settled in Glenrowan – Ned Kelly country – before moving to Benalla where he has set up studio in an old dairy.
Tony explored the area – combining his love of art and fishing – to discover new spots to paint.
One of his first inspirations was the local Broken River and Lake Benalla which he captured in a series of works.
“One afternoon I was out fishing near Casey’s weir and spotted a platypus that swam around for a while before coming right up on the bank. I had my camera handy and took some great shots. He let me right up close. It was amazing.”
But Tony says there’s far less chance today of seeing a platypus or enjoying a good day’s fishing on the Broken.
“If we’re not careful we’ll end up with creeks and streams that are little more than a series of puddles strung together,” he said.
“We can’t get away from the fact we use far too much water both in our homes and on our farms.
Tony strongly believes the entire community – governments, city residents, businesses and farmers – have all played a part in creating and continuing our water problems.
“We need to reconsider how we use the natural environment to ensure it’s sustainable in the long-term. But to make those changes is going to require a lot of investment from governments.”
“And we’re all going to need to adopt far more sustainable lifestyles to ensure our rivers get the water they so urgently need.”
“I’d hate to think that the next generation will never see our rivers healthy. And all that will be left are photographs and paintings to show how magnificent the Australian countryside once was.”
Story by Tracey Cheeseman