June 23 - 29, 2024: Issue 629


Stephanie Galloway Brown - finalist in the 2024 Archibald Prize

Issue 100's Profile of the Week featured renowned Elanora Heights Artist Stephanie Galloway-Brown, as she was bringing out her 'Face of Extraordinary: Volunteers' exhibition and accompanying book. Stephanie has been a long-term member of the Pittwater Artists Trail, which holds its Winter Open Studios Weekend this July 27-28, 2024, was very active in Pittwater Community Arts as well as pulling together and overseeing the great Pittwater ArtFest 2012, and has offered classes to others - all atop being a wonderful mum, wife and pursuing her practice in an approach that lends insight into what it means to be a working Artist.

Her 'Face of Extraordinary: Volunteers' project not only celebrated local volunteers, it brought into sharper focus the extraordinary work being done by Stephanie herself.

At the time Lorrie Morgan, the lady who was the dynamo behind so many years of promoting Pittwater Artists, said - ''You watch, Steph will be in the Archibald one day, she's so good''.

This year Stephanie has done it, and become one of the 2024 Archibald finalists. 

When her portrait of  Kathrin Longhurst was announced as a 2024 Archibald Finalist Stephanie said:

''I’m absolutely thrilled my portrait of Artist Kathrin Longhurst has been selected as a finalist in this year’s Archibald Prize. Thank you Kathrin for trusting in me, you are such a huge inspiration.''

Kathrin Longhurst - by Stephanie Galloway Brown, Oil and wax on Canvas, 121.5cm x 91.5cm

German-born, Sydney-based artist Kathrin Longhurst is best known for her large, highly realist portraits of women. She has been a finalist in the Archibald Prize on three occasions, winning the Packing Room Prize in 2021 with a portrait of singer Kate Ceberano.

‘Our childhoods couldn’t have been more different,’ says Stephanie Galloway Brown, a first-time Archibald finalist. ‘Kathrin grew up behind the Iron Curtain in East Berlin, while I spent my early years in quiet tranquillity on our family farm. And yet there is a deep connection. Not only was I an accidental witness to the revolutionary protests in Berlin before the wall came down in 1989, I am also inspired by Kathrin’s empowering support for women.

‘The background of the painting is an allegory. The grey represents the Berlin Wall; the red ochre, our sunburnt country,’ says Galloway Brown. She has included the text from the sign at Checkpoint Charlie, the best-known Berlin Wall crossing, which reads in English, Russian, French and German: ‘You are entering the American sector / Carrying weapons off duty forbidden / Obey traffic rules.’

‘In her early work, Kathrin was inspired by war-propaganda imagery and the promise of life on the other side of the wall. She reworked the propaganda by replacing powerful male figures with female warriors, rewriting history. She continues to champion feminism today.

‘I have portrayed her as strong, determined and itching to get back to work.’

On June 8, 2024: 

''All I can say is WOW what a party! 

Such an incredible opening night at the Archibald, Wynne & Sulman Prizes 24. Still pinching myself and so honoured to be a part of this prestigious exhibition among many of my idols. 

Huge thank you to my extraordinary sitter Artist Kathrin Longhurst so ecstatic to share this momentous occasion with you, such a privilege  and thank you to my suffering +1 hubby Craig Brown .

Here's few pics from the last couple of days, wish I’d taken more but too much excitement for one little gal.

Thank you also to the Art Gallery tour guides for the wonderful Artists Lunch event, lovely to meet so many incredible people. My heart is full! '';

Stephanie was a Finalist & Peoples Choice 2023 at the Mudgee Precinct Portrait Prize for her portrait of fellow Elanora Artist Mignon Parker.

On this recognition, Stephanie said:

''I’m thrilled to be announced as the People’s Choice Award winner in the Mudgee Arts Precinct Portrait Prize with my painting of Mignon Parker. So very grateful to everyone who visited, voted and supported and to Mudgee Arts Precinct for hosting such a wonderful art prize in their beautiful regional gallery. 

Special thanks goes to Mignon Parker my little art buddy for all the giggles while sitting for this portrait, we always have so much fun! 

Mignon and I have been great friends for years. We also happened to live just around the corner from each other. We admired each other’s artwork long before we met the artist behind the art. 

Like many artists Mignon paints, eats and sleeps in the comfort of her home studio. She managed to raise two boys on her own and carve out a successful career as a popular art teacher and prolific painter known for her vibrant colourful still life’s that feature her love of flowers, Australian natives and tea cups of which I truly admire. 

I wanted to portray an essence of Mignons colourful clutter having her sit comfortably within her cherished homely space where she has lived most of her life surrounded by her incredible art book collection, paintings and beloved knick knacks. ''

Mignon Parker, oil on canvas, 91.44 x 101.6 cm - by Stephanie Galloway Brown - Winner People’s Choice Award Mudgee Precinct Portrait Prize

Her 'High Tide Church Point' was selected as Finalist Bluethumb Art Prize 2023.

Bluethumb is Australia's online art gallery.

Stephanie said:

''It was a huge thrill to be selected as a finalist in the 2023 Bluethumb Art Prize this year with my painting High Tide Church Point in the landscape section.

I’m still shaking my head that there were over 8000 entries from which 350 were short listed so I’m feeling extremely grateful to be selected.

This coastal seascape came about accidentally while out early for Saturday morning breakfast with friends. Church Point Waterfront Store Cafe is one of my favourite local spots to grab a coffee and sit and watch the world go by. The tide was particularly high that morning and I was stopped in my tracks by the old dinghy’s bobbing around hanging on to the old boat shed. The reflections were gorgeous I only had my iPhone with me so snapped a couple of really bad shots but from those bad shots I was able to reconstruct a painting I was actually happy with. Sometimes you’ve just got to work with what you can get at the time. I like the nostalgic memory it evokes and I removed a lot of figures as it was busy there and left the one figure looking off to the distance or he could be fishing, whatever.''

''I have a Bluethumb online gallery listing where you can shop my selected art pieces, so if you get a chance please pop over and check it out.''

High Tide Church Point - by Stephanie Galloway Brown, oil on canvas, 103.8cm x 93.2 x 6cm

While late last year Stephanie was selected as a Finalist in the Portia Geach Memorial Award 2023- for The Paper Crane, her portrait of another local Artist Midori Furze.

Stephanie explained:

''Midori Furze is a Sydney-based multidisciplinary artist. Born in Japan, her early years were immersed in the traditions of Japanese culture. She draws Sumi-ink drawings on Japanese paper but Midori is known mostly for her unique origami projects within the community and her incredible installations. Her time is dedicated to teaching adults and children origami which is how I first met Midori many years ago in a paper crane origami workshop. A highly respected teacher, she has been invited to run origami workshops and projects in many places including for the Japanese Embassy. 

The Paper crane - by Stephanie Galloway Brown, oil on canvas, 76.3cm x 101.6cm

''In 2022, she was one of 197 people in the world to be awarded the Japanese Foreign Minister’s Commendation for her contribution towards origami in Sydney and Australia-Japan cultural exchange. She was also awarded by the Consulate General of Japan, Sydney in 2016. Although Midori has made hundreds of thousands of paper cranes I wanted to feature her with just one crane crafted with deep care and respect emerging from the protective palms of the creator awaiting release into the world to symbolise hope and peace.

I’m so very grateful to Midori for her time and patience. It’s not always a comfortable process to be painted and then strung up under spotlights.''

So who is Stephanie Galloway-Brown? Where does this passion for producing these beautiful works come from?

“It’s never too late to follow your dream. Take that leap of faith! Live your life’s purpose and become the person you were meant to be. Remember, a dream is just a dream until you take action.”

It came completely out of the blue, like a lightning bolt. One minute I was sitting there at work frantically trying to get something completed before rushing to collect my daughter, the next I was sitting, staring at the drab, grey office walls. It was my ritual for two years: racing to finish my work, cutting through peak hour traffic madness to pick up my 4-year-old before day care closed, cooking dinner, bath time, bed time, collapsing on the couch and doing it all over again the next day.

Looking around the tiny office I was in, boxed-in in a sterile environment, I felt suddenly claustrophobic. Knowing I had to make a move now. Now or never! Something shifted in me and instead of fighting or ignoring it, I moved with it. It was calling me. I walked outside and phoned my husband, telling him I can’t do this anymore, I have to create. Thankfully he agreed and said: “Then I guess you’ll have to leave.”

I immediately walked back into the office, resigned and never looked back!

At this time I was just the other side of 40 and hadn’t picked up a pencil for years. My Dad had just died unexpectedly in a car accident and the shock of his loss and realisation of our mortality jolted me. I started really living and resolved to find the long lost artist within. Off I went to the nearest art supplier and bought paper and pencils. It was time to face the fear of the blank white page. I made a mark and then another one. Slowly, carefully and patiently I rendered an old man’s face in pencil. (I thought it best to start on something simple). To my surprise I could still do it, after all this time. I could still draw. Ok, I was a bit rusty, but it was something to build on.

Gradually, it started to come back to me as I recalled how much I loved drawing faces. So I enrolled in Julian Ashton’s Life Drawing class. I’d never done anything like this before and discovered I loved it. I had found my bliss and quickly fell back into my creative zone. As with anyone else who follows their true purpose, life just seemed to align and flow.

I had never attempted a painting with oils before (apart from the paint-by-numbers Mum used to get me as a kid) and decided to attempt my first oil portrait of my daughter. The painting was titled ‘Good Morning Tiger’. I’d just finished when a couple of ladies knocked at the door on their religious rounds. One of the ladies looking at the oil-smeared paint brush in my hands asked, “Do you paint?” I replied I was trying to and turned the painting of my daughter around for them to view. One of the ladies gasped and suggested I enter it into the Shirley Hannan portrait awards. I asked her if she was serious and she said yes. She told me the entry deadline was in a week.

I’d never entered anything before so figured, what’s there to lose? A few days later I got a call to say I’d made the finals. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I was stunned. The whole family made the exciting trip to Bega for the exhibition of the finalists and there was my painting, larger than life, hanging alongside some of the very talented Australian artists I’d admired.

My confidence grew immensely and I studied ferociously about art, artists and techniques I liked. Obsessively, I practiced by day and read at night. I started taking on portrait commissions and was accepted into Portrait Artists Australia and eventually onto the committee. I was then accepted into more awards as a finalist. Every little step was new, fueled with passion and fear, but I kept pushing past the fear because of my passion for what I was doing.

New creative ideas were coming thick and fast for paintings and projects I wanted to bring to life. I also always wanted to write books. I had huge admiration for unsung heroes and extraordinary individuals who were trying to bring about positive change in the world and felt that we all needed to hear more of these people than ever before. The daily news was so depressing, negative, doom and gloom. Always focusing on violence, horror, sadness and criticism. I decided to combine my love for portraits with the celebration of real characters in our communities, telling their stories for others to gain inspiration. The end result was the Face of Extraordinary project.

 Opening Night of Artspot 2013: Stephanie with some of those who featured in the Face of Extraordinary: Volunteers project - A J Guesdon photo. Visit: Face Of The Extraordinary: Volunteers by Stephanie Galloway Brown - Author Talk (January 2013 - Issue 93)

For two years I went on an incredible journey meeting one amazing person after another. There were so many I wanted to include and each person made my life richer. I learned so much from them.

The wealth of experience I’ve gained over the last few years, creating the portraits, exhibiting, interviewing, writing stories, designing books, publishing and public speaking has enabled me to move into yet another new role: teaching portraiture. I discovered I love that too.

Where were you born and where did you grow up?

I was born in New Zealand and bought up on a dairy farm on the North Island near a small town called Matamata. It’s an area known for its farming, horse racing and lately for the filming of the Hobbit. Dad was a farmer and I was the eldest of three girls. I was day-dreamy and creative, not at all cut out for hard-working farm life, although I dearly loved the vast open spaces, old barns, bush, creeks and critters. It was an explorers dream and you could let the imagination run wild.

We did calf club at school and had to rear and look after a calf or lamb for a season. Come show day my sister and I would get thrown into the calf tray on the back of the tractor and putter on into town with our calves. I was so excited when my calf won a ribbon one year and then horrified when she ate the ribbon on the journey home.

As kids we used to spend holidays at our grandparents farm. They lived in an old house right next to the Manawatu River. The cows used to cross the river to get to their paddock and one day a huge flash flood came roaring down the river and washed half of them away. It was crazy and wild in the middle of nowhere. The toilet was a long drop down a path some distance from the house. My dad’s brothers were hunters and my sister and I used to sleep underneath huge tusked boar and stag head trophies that decorated the walls and skins over the floors. I would gaze at them for hours and wonder about the life these beautiful creatures once had.

I loved my grandmother but she had a really tough life. I used to watch her pluck pheasants and skin rabbits. At dinner we’d have to spit the gun pellets out on the side of the plate and try not to break our teeth. We really got to experience the rawness and reality of life. I still have fond memories of haymaking time and swimming in streams and finding eels, driving tractors and riding motorbikes, growing our own vegies, climbing fruit trees and gorging ourselves on wild blackberries.

New Zealand is a huge part of who I am. I’m heading back there in April to help revamp a mural I painted 30 years ago (which amazingly is still there but in need of a serious facelift) at the front of Firth Primary School in my home town. They’re celebrating the school’s 50th anniversary this year with a reunion.

What is one seminal moment from your growing years you often recall?

When I was about 10 years old I had a brilliant male teacher who encouraged my talent for drawing, music and poetry. I really blossomed under his guidance. We all breathed a huge sigh of relief that year when he told my parents not to worry about things I struggled with and just focus on what I could do well. He was the most amazing teacher I ever had and I never had another like him. Many years later I tracked him down and thanked him for making such a positive difference in children’s lives, especially mine.

Years later I met an older woman who passed through my life very briefly. She said to me: “You are so selfish being gifted with all this talent and not sharing it with the rest of us”. It suddenly dawned on me it was easier to accept that artistic talent didn’t belong to me, it come from somewhere else. It was a responsibility to nurture this creative gift, help it flourish and get it out there just as other artists do with their writing, music, filmmaking etc. We’re just the messengers or conduits It’s funny how one little statement can alter your perspective on how you look at life.

When did you first notice you had a creative streak in you?

When I was younger I thought it was normal for everyone to be artistic. When I first started school I painted my fire engine green and had the ruler wrapped around my legs by the teacher for producing a green fire engine. I was mortified and hated school from that moment on. I wasn’t brought up in an artistic family so never knew any artists until later in life. I guess I probably noticed when I was about 10 years old. I was always drawing or singing and I loved to write poetry and songs. I guess I realized because my teacher told me I had talent and I decided I wanted to be a cartoonist and draw for Walt Disney. I told the boys next door I was going to be an artist and they told me artists were weird, kooky people, so I tried not to bring too much attention to my artistic side for fear of not fitting in. Now I embrace the crazy, weird kookiness in me!

What was your first creation?

I remember being 3 or 4 years old and drawing a frog that actually looked like a real frog. Mum kept asking me: “Did you really draw this?” I was pretty chuffed with it and put it in the bath with me but it went all soggy and fell to bits.

Your main subject is people and Portraits; why do you prefer capturing the essence of people?

Faces fascinate me. Especially the character and soul behind a face. It is the character I like to try and interpret. If a face is well lived-in, it is more beautiful to me. There are billions of people all over the planet, all roughly the same size and shape, but each face is so different, carved and sculpted by culture and experience. I marvel at the way our faces form to look much like our geographical landscape. The first thing a new-born does is open its eyes and look into its mother’s face. I remember my daughter doing this. We communicate with our faces and hands. You can read a lot in a face and I enjoy the challenge of portraits. Every face tells a story.

Every artist and creator is different; if you could describe where or what that passion is in a few sentences; what would they be?

I guess my passion is fuelled by people and our natural world around us. Not just any people but people who inspire me. I've learned to rely more on intuition and feeling to guide where my creation process goes. It's got to get you right in the pit of the stomach and overwhelm you with some kind of emotion, anger, sadness, elation, a gut feeling. I'm inspired by the underdog and people with vision, courage who overcome extreme challenges in life, who try to change the world, extraordinary thinkers and worldly wisdom. It's like scratching around in a flea market and coming up with a hidden gem. I have what I call my ‘hit list’ of people I’d love to paint. I would have loved to have painted Rosa Parks, the most extraordinary courageous African-American woman who started the freedom movement with one word 'NO'. Now that's extraordinary!

If you could be another creature for one day, furred, feathered or finned, what would you be and do?

I’d have to be the ‘fly on the wall’, everyone’s wanted to be one at some stage and imagine the stories you could tell!

What is your favourite place/s in Pittwater and why?

There’s no place like home. When you live in the Pittwater you've got a lot to be grateful for. When I wake in the morning I sit up and look straight out the window to tree ferns and bush, a beautiful waterfall that cascades from the Elanora cliffs into our backyard. If there’s been rain overnight the sun glistens across it and the lorikeets have fun taking their morning bath. It's just magic! I just have to breathe it all in and pinch myself that I'm actually living in a big city. Seriously, do we know how lucky we are to live here? We should have a gratitude day!

I also love to indulge my passion for a good cup of coffee, gorgeous vistas and a bit of daydream time. I love The Boathouse at Palm Beach and often take myself and my laptop up there early in the morning and enjoy a coffee gazing across the Pittwater or the Waterfront Store Cafe at Church Point. Then when I've got some paperwork (daydreaming) done I head back to the studio to start painting.

What is your 'motto for life' or a favourite phrase you try to live by?

Step outside your comfort zone, that’s where the magic happens!

All images ©2024 Stephanie Galloway Brown All rights reserved.

Commission an Artwork

Stephanie is currently accepting commissions

Stephanie Galloway Brown has completed many portraits that hang in private and public collections. Stephanie’s portraits are painted in oil and often beeswax, building up richly textured realistic layers. She also draws portraits in charcoal or pencil. Artworks can be hung framed, unframed or free standing sitting on an easel or buffet. 

Stephanie prefers to work from a combination of life drawing and photo reference, due to time restraints & busy lifestyles. Drawings however can be easily completed in two or three life sittings if preferred.

Stephanie can be contacted at: www.gallowaybrown.com.au

The Pittwater Artist Trail July 2024 Open Studios weekend trail map is available at: www.pittwaterartiststrail.com