Auction Highlight Autumn 2016 Jonathan Snowball

Jonathan Snowball” I said identifying the painter to a friend who had just called in to the gallery for a quick reconnoitrer “each picture has taken months to complete.

Lot 176 Jonathan Snowball -  Railway Bridge
Lot 176 Jonathan Snowball – Railway Bridge

Upon learning the identity, my friend explained that she had taught Jonathan when he was a young man. “He would come into the studio and sit for ages before picking up a brush or crayon and starting to work “ she explained. “Everything took time with Jonathan and he would work away at the one piece for ages – he was never in a hurry to finish a picture and it doesn’t appear that he has changed.”

These observations were similar to my experiences. I had discovered early in my dealings with Jonathan that urging was pointless – threats of deadlines were futile. The picture has to be just right and to his standard – he sets a very high standard. Colour and tone must be to his liking; composition accurate but not clinically so, the hand of the artist should never be lost. It’s enlightening to have him discuss his work with you – he causes you to look again, glancing is not an option – take nothing for granted, all the marks are there for a reason.

George Haynes also taught Jonathan and like Haynes Jonathan enjoys painting the effect of light on an object. “I enjoy painting nocturnes, I can get up to ten variations of tone with a nocturne and only three with daylight – the light is so subtle and variable. I like artificial light and the challenges it presents.”

Haynes considered Jonathan to be one of his most talented students and was a bit miffed when the responsibility of marriage and family caused the student to choose a career other than painting. Jonathan chose metal fabrication and started a business. “Children like to eat regularly, they need warm clothes and an education” he said “I wasn’t confident that the income from selling paintings would afford all of that.”

In time, he eventually sold out of the business for other pursuits, one of which happened to be gold leafing the domes of Buddhist temples across Australia

Jonathan’s output is not large, it’s the way he works and it’s a trait he has displayed since his days at art school – probably before. He likes to draw and treats it as a form of therapy. Often when he’s stuck on a picture and the resolution is evasive, he will set down the brushes and draw for a while – sometimes for a week. He considers drawing as a confidence builder and an important tool in every artist’s chest.

When I told him of my teacher friend’s comments about his student habit of sitting and considering before starting to work, he sat for a while considering his response, as spontaneity is not in his nature. “As a student” he said, “I think the pain of hangover was confused with that of consideration.” Did I get around to mentioning his sense of humour?