Chance plays its part in Archibalds entry

WAVE OF COLOUR: John Druce with his Ross Clarke-Jones portrait for the Archibald Prize. 155755


BARWON Heads artist John Druce hopes a chance meeting with a giant-wave surfer will help him win this year’s Archibald Prize.
John’s latest entry into Australia’s most prestigious portrait competition depicts daredevil Jan Juc surfer Ross Clarke-Jones with a giant wave crashing in the background.
Earlier this month John watched the Clarke-Jones on Netflix at his son-in-law’s Sydney home.
“Some of the waves he rides are incredible,” John said.
A week later he ran into him at a Torquay store. A man held the door for John’s wife, Sandra, who she recognised was Clarke-Jones.
“We just watched you in a movie and you’re mad,” Sandra told the amused surfer.
After a friendly chat he agreed to pose for the portrait which is now on its way to the Archibalds.
John, 77, said he had entered the prestigious portrait competition at least 20 times since 1977.
“I’ve lost count,” he told the Indy.
“I’ve been putting them in for a while.”
Perhaps his most noteworthy entry was of Geelong AFL legend Gary Ablett Snr in the late 1990s.
When he met Ablett for the first sitting the footballer brought sons Nathan and Gary Jnr but forgot his jersey, John said.
The raw power of the football legend, stripped to the waist, awed him.
“If you were on him and he gave you an elbow to chest that would be you out for the day.”
John has painted tattooed gypsies, a Northern Territory Administrator and original West Gate Bridge chairman Sir Oscar Meyer.
The son of a fisherman, John has lived at Barwon Heads his whole life, apart from 10 years working in England’s film industry during the 1960s.
He started drawing at an early age and was an illustrator at the Sun Newspaper before moving to the UK in 1966.
His portrait work also stretches back to the era when he’d paint pictures for a pound each in Torquay.
“I’d paint 10 or 15 a day,” he said.
John was a graphic design teacher at Gordon Institute of TAFE for 25 years.
After retiring 12 years ago he travelled around Australia by caravan with his wife and he met hundreds of interesting people who inspired his painting.