Art in the elements

By BRAD ILOTT 

It’s the content smile on Col Nation’s face that paints a picture. His eyes darting around the surrounding environment, he seemingly immerses himself in the Moffat Beach headland as he reaches for the paintbrush. When he doesn’t find it, he playfully smacks himself on the forehead before cursing himself. The brush is in his other hand.

It’s that sense of self-deprecation and overbearing modesty that endears Col to others. A young couple walks past and admire his canvas. “You can look, but not touch!” he says. But upon closer inspection of the man’s glistening Rolex watch, Col reconsiders. “Then again, looking at that, I’ll trade you. The watch for the painting. They’d be about the same price.”

Passionate is one word that springs to mind. Col is a painter who subscribes to the theory of active living and being outdoors, even if it means going about his work in a torrential downpour.

“I enjoy this type of painting with its many challenges. Weather conditions changes in an instant, clouds move, the sun moves, shadows draw longer in the afternoons and the tide will either come in or go out, which changes the scene all the time. All these elements make painting interesting and exciting,” he murmurs, as if consciously trying to be unheard through the strong breeze.

What started as a hobby and pure experimentation with colours, shades and shapes has turned into a real profession for the “66 years young” surfer and artist. A carpet cleaner by trade, Col’s hands have taken a visible beating over time with multiple scars to be seen on both. But it was an injury to his back that saw Col temporarily get off his surfboard and his tools and reattach himself to a passion he’d had an affinity with from an early age.

“I became very bored and soon started to feel depressed. My wife Rose brought home some art supplies and suggested I get back into my painting while I recovered. It’d been something I’d always loved doing in my spare time, but while I was working… that was just non-existent,” he says.

Fast forward 25 years and the Yandina resident now sees his work take him all over Queensland to various art galleries and events, with his “plein air beach and surfing” art in high demand, and his work has led to the creation of a group where artists can meet and share ideas and skills.

“Plein air painting means to be painting out in the open air and being at one with the elements. I think it’s this natural colour matching I get from each scene I paint that really connects with people,” he says.

It’s this local connection Col is hoping to expand this weekend at the annual Yandina Street Fair, where not only he’ll assist as a volunteer, but have his work on display. “A few years ago, the fair committee added a new dimension called ‘The Sunshine Coast Plein Air Paint Out’ which saw artists from all over Australia come to this region to paint local scenery and then display and sell their artworks at a pop-up gallery held at Connections Yandina during the fair. I’ve been involved ever since.”

Surprisingly, Col still articulates his work as a hobby. His main, and “more reliable” source of income, is through running a small industry business called Abbsolve Services, which offers specialty cleaning of upholstery and oriental rugs. Col’s tone changes abruptly as dark clouds form over the Moffat Beach rockface, seemingly distracted by talking about something other than painting. It’s as plain as the beard on his face that being in nature painting is where Col’s passion lies.

“This all started as a bit of fun and although there’s good money in selling my paintings, that’s not why I do it. That’s a very commercial and selfish way to view this type of work for mine. I do it because I love it and it’s worth more to me knowing people genuinely love it and would be happy to have it hanging up in their home.”

That seems to be the common theme of Col’s life. Happiness and passion. He scratches his beard furiously before breaking into a beaming smile as the returning sunshine does the same.

“There we go. A good way to end things.”

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