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  • Writer's pictureJack Ward

Jill’s art returns home

Published in The Ararat Advocate, Ararat's weekly newspaper published by West Vic News Pty Ltd.

ARTIST Jill Richardson may be labelled a Dobie local, but her heart still lies back home in Outback Queensland.

For 20-years, Mrs Richardson has lived on her property just outside of Ararat with her husband Richo. Raising her four kids on their farm whilst painting on the side.

She is now putting more focus into her creative flare, planning exhibitions, and keeping connected with the land she knows best up north.

PHOTO: Dobie artist Jill Richardson (Jack Ward/Ararat Advocate)

Mrs Richardson is one of four girls who grew up on a sheep and cattle station near Longreach, 1,181km north-west of Brisbane. As a child, she was surrounded by art and outlets to support her creativity.

“We always drew, we always painted, we always made stuff. Outback Queensland, even though we were really isolated, had this wonderful thing called Arts West,” she said.

“It was a club, and in each town all the women would gather and usually an artist, or a silversmith or hatmaker - someone would come, and we would have these days.”

She remembers one day, when South Australian artist Trevor Weekes attended with stuffed birds as art subjects.

“I really had a crack and they were really good. That's when a lot of people made a lot of comments about how well I could draw,” she said.

“You get labelled a little bit as a kid, so I was labelled as the artist. I lived up to that as well.”

Mrs Richardson moved to boarding school on the Gold Coast at the age of eleven, graduating in 1991. Her love for art continued to blossom through her pastel drawings but she never saw it as a profession.

“I was going to be a Vet so I went to uni, did first year of science and realised it probably wasn't what I should be doing,” she said.

Despite being accepted into the prestigious Queensland College of Art, Mrs Richardson’s love for the land pulled her away from the opportunity.

“It wouldn't kill me to stop painting, it would kill me to not live on a farm,” she said.

“I knew I'd always paint and draw, but I didn't think it was the answer to what I was always going to do. Retrospect, it's so wonderful. I should have gone.”

After the attempt at uni and the decline of arts college, she returned home to farm the land and paint full time. That was until agriculture student, Richo, swept her off her feet and proposed.

Having moved to Victoria, married Richo and had four kids who she adores, it wasn’t until four years ago that she returned to her passion to give it a “real crack.”

“I'm 46, I think, and I’m finally doing it. All my friends from school up on the Gold Coast and in Queensland have just punched the air. They’re all like, ‘yay, finally’,” she said.

Mrs Richardson was supposed to have two exhibitions to showcase her paintings this year as she builds up her presence in the art industry. Both were cancelled.

The first was going to be a pop-up shop style exhibit at Mount Macedon with twelve to fifteen paintings but the one she was most excited about was her big return home in August.

“August was really exciting because it was bringing the paintings, bringing me back to Queensland,” she said.

“We were aiming at 20 to 25 paintings, and sort of three themes: sheep, cattle, horses.”

Although her plans couldn’t come to fruition, she has still been able to return home in a different capacity.

This week Mrs Richardson’s long-time friend opened a café, shop and gallery in Toowoomba, and five of her pieces will be on prominent display.

“I'm really excited, I wish I was there. It's almost like coming home. I've got lots of friends who can't wait to see it there,” she said.

“It's not the usual way you would do it but we're just sort of trying to make it work. The plan is, as soon as we can, is to do a small exhibition in Toowoomba,” she said.

In the meantime, Mrs Richardson is illustrating a children’s book that she is working on with her youngest sister. That project will then likely lead into six months of extensive work to build up pieces for a ‘real’ return home.

“I still call it home. I’ve been here 20 years but there’s always a connection," she said.

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