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Article by Paul McDonald Smith OAM


Paul painting en plein air

Paul McDonald Smith is the Victorian Representative
of the Royal Art Society of NSW pictured here in
Sydney with the RAS Secretary Manager, Christine Feher.


Every painting has a story – 45 years between portrait sittings.

In the late 1970s – aged around 21 – I shared a studio on Russell Street, in Melbourne’s city centre where the Hyatt Hotel now stands. It was a large open studio space and gallery where my friend (and first tutor) Don Cameron and I worked and exhibited. Occasionally we painted portraits of city workers who were keen to commission a painting and sit for us.

In 1978, TMPS member Judith Wills called in to catch up and see what we were painting. Judith was accompanied by her young daughter Jane and suggested that I might like to do a quick portrait study of Jane. I was never one to refuse a portrait sitter so I jumped at the opportunity.

It was great fun and both Judith and Jane loved the resultant portrait. Judith bought the painting from me, framed it in her preferred manner and kept it her collection until she passed away in 2016. She often spoke about the portrait to me over the years.

In 2023 – 45 years later and during my 3rd term as TMPS president – I asked Jane if she might like to sit for a second portrait and happily she agreed. It was great to catch up during our sittings and to reminisce about so many mutual artist friends, past TMPS members and related stories. Once again – great fun.

I was very pleased to feature this latest portrait in the 105th annual TMPS exhibition in 2023.

The late Judith Wills (FVAS) was an exceptional still-life painter and one of our longest serving members, being elected to the TMPS in the early 1970s. The society was a very important part of her life and work and she contributed significantly to its success. I like to think she may approve of our second, more mature portrait  – just as she did the first.

The building in Russell St. was demolished around 1980,  but it was a very rewarding time in my early career and the memories remain.

The portraits are below.

Portrait of Jane Connard (daughter of late member Judith Wills) when she sat for me in 1978.

Portrait of Jane Kennedy (Nee Connard) painted in 2023.