1) The original photographs were in black and white, and 2) they were not in very good focus. This presented a dilemma of how to get the face to be recognizable, the hands were blurry, moving fast in the twilight and there was no detail visible in the socks, shoes, pole or crossbar. I obtained help from friends that knew which poles Joe used on the day (we couldn’t ask him) and their colours. One of my friends Steve Rippon, today national PV coach in Finland, even competed against Joe when he was in Australia around 1985 when the picture was taken. He provided me with old colour pictures of the original poles and crossbar Joe used and were not distinguishable in the newspaper picture. To do the hands I employed an old artist’s trick, which was to draw my own hands the way Joe waved them in the actual jump, but in focus and detail. I ought to say Shawna graciously offered to get the originals from the newspaper, which I didn’t pursue as it could have meant a long wait for little gain.
I reckon that from a possible 100% realism, I achieved an 85%. Not bad considering all of the above.
Having said that, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and they all loved the finished painting as I believed Joe deserved it, after 30 years of passing on his best at ORU for athletics and the future of pole vaulting as Head Coach.
In despite of the above this is my best painting in many ways. It’s about the sport that is my passion, painting is also my passion, and commissioned by Christians. Then Joe told me that the painting “looks just like the jump felt ( AWESOME )”… So, that was my goal and it looks like I achieved it.
I’m a happy Vegemite today.
These preliminary studies provided me with another idea. The writing on Joe’s singlet was more visible in the picture Shawna didn’t like so much, so I transported it from there to the singlet in the second pastel and from there to the main painting. Thus it was much more legible than in the original photo and still true to history.