ArtChat [Blog Interview #77] – John Beeman

On Friday 20 November, Red Hill Gallery opened its doors for an Exhibition by Master Artist John Beeman. John‘s unique paintings of people are full of personality and character, captured by him in oil on gesso. His latest body of work captures a timelessness of everyday moments and his meticulous artistry imbues a true quality to his work.


John Beeman was born in Sydney Australia on the 5th May 1926 the son of a Church of England minister and the youngest of eight children he grew up in Manly on Sydney’s northern beaches. In 1945, after completing war service with the RAAF 102 squadron as an air gunner, he enrolled at Julian Ashton’s art school where he studied painting and drawing under the tuition of Henry Gibbons. In 1949 John began working at the Australian Museum. In 1950 he received a private grant to attend London University to study painting and drawing at the Slade School of Fine Art, and art restoration and art material chemistry at the Courtauld Institute.

As one would expect, the disciplines and techniques that John learnt at Ashtons, the Slade school and the Courtauld Institute have given him a firm grounding in traditional oil painting and a thorough understanding of the theory and history of traditional and contemporary fine art. His subject matter varies widely although his focus over the years has been people, in and of their environment. He portrays his subjects with keen observation and at times a sharp and subtle wit. Johns subjects can perhaps be best described as ‘the art of every day life in Australia’ past and present. Restaurants, court rooms, funerals, weddings and rural life are just some of the diverse subjects that inspire Johns art and the characters he portrays are always represented with an elegant drama that provokes the viewer to think about the lives and thoughts of the subjects he portrays.

Legal JB

John has an extremely disciplined approach to his painting. His method is without fault when it comes to his technique. He paints exclusively on panels prepared with traditional rabbit skin gesso ground and, in the tradition of the early European artists, develops his work by underpainting, tonal modelling and glazing resulting in finished work that has atmosphere and luminosity that direct painting can rarely, if ever, achieve. There is nothing quick about Johns work and the end result of this approach is a body of work that, apart from its artistic merit, has archival quality that will ensure that it will endure.

AC:  When painting you use a special technique. Can you explain your use of oil of gesso?

JB:  Artists throughout the centuries found the great advantage of painting on gesso is that it allows one to sort out the problems of the subject in sequence:

( a)  the initial drawing, usually in charcoal to develop the concept.

( b) progress to a tonal statement.

( c) the introduction of colour and refinement of all the elements of the painting.

 Teapot JB

AC:  What first inspired you to start painting?

JB:  I cannot remember a time when I was not interested in painting. Due to my father’s interest in art I was surrounded as a child in a home with many books on painting, anatomy and design.

 AC:  What is your favourite book?

JB:  I do not have a favourite book. My preference is for technical, historic, autobiographies and books related to the arts.

 AC:  How does your outlook on painting now, differ to when you first started?

JB:  As Longfellow quoted “Art Is Long and Time is Fleeting” I agree with him –  I have not changed my outlook on painting.

 JB 3

AC: Having accumulated a lifetime of experience, what advice would you give to the next generation of painters?

JB:  Learning to see – choose your teachers well – work hard and learn – base your decisions on quality and don’t accept limitations.

 AC:  How do you source your subject matter and has this changed over the years?  

JB:  Observations of people in everyday life and how they relate to various situations and each other and their environment. Critical observation over many years has provided a source of information that can be accessed when needed.

 JB and RH

AC:  Do you ever see yourself not painting?

JB:  I’ll probably be cremated with a paint brush in my hand.

Master Artist John Beeman will be on exhibition at Red Hill Gallery, 61 Musgrave Road, Red Hill until Sunday 29 November 2015. Make sure you don’t miss out on seeing this stunning collection from one of the legends.


© Red Hill Gallery

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