Portrait of Jane Devine by Monica Batiste
Oil on canvas
1.5m x 1.2m
Jane Devine was a professional ballet dancer with the Royal Ballet Company. She has graced the stages of the most famous opera houses in the world and danced with the greatest dancers of our time.
Jane was born in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) and had a passionate desire to dance. She began dancing at the age of five and at 12 decided on her life path as a professional dancer. At 16 Jane left her family and moved to London to dance in the Royal London Ballet School. It was a huge decision for the young dancer, but Jane was determined to overcome all obstacles and make it work. Her teachers during this time, Julian Farron (OBE) and Eileen Ward, supported her and helped her reach her dreams. In Jane’s first year at the Royal Ballet School she won the prestigious award of the Adeline Genée Gold Medal.
At 18 Jane was invited to join the Royal Ballet Covent Garden Company.
‘I stayed with the Royal Ballet Company for many years.'
I asked her about Margot Fonteyn.
‘Oh yes, she was still in the company when I joined. She was at the tail end of her career, and was still performing.
'I’ve danced with so many beautiful dancers,’ she reminisced, ‘and many of them are still my good friends.’
‘Tell me about some of your tours?’
‘We did a lot of tours in the US during my time with the Royal Ballet. We would usually start at the MET in New York, for two weeks, then one week in Washington, Philadelphia, Boston and some others before returning to the UK for some other tours.’
‘When we toured the US, we would arrive in the city about two days before our first performance to rehearse with the US orchestra, light, stage and crew. We travelled with our own Royal Ballet Company Conductor who knew exactly how the music was meant to be for each performance.’
‘Did you perform everyday?’
‘Almost. We usually performed six evenings a week, plus two matinees, for about six weeks.'
Jane mentioned the Royal family’s involvement in the ballet.
‘Did you meet the Queen?’
‘No,’ said Jane. ‘The Queen was the patron of the Royal Ballet Company, but it was Princess Margaret who loved the ballet. Princess Margaret came to many of our performances and I met her on several occasions.’ Jane paused and smiled, ‘It was remarkable how complicated the security was when Princess Margaret came to a performance. Every step and turn was accounted for in her itinerary, but she loved the ballet and was very sweet.’
Jane Devine with Princess Margaret in Toronto, Canada.
Photograph by Bill Cooper
'Do you have a favourite Ballet?'
‘I love so many,’ Jane paused, ‘ I really loved Romeo and Juliette. It was choreographed by Sir Kenneth MacMillan.. The music score was by Prokofiev. So very different to "The Rite of Spring," with music by Stravinsky, which I also loved, and was also choreographed by Sir Kenneth MacMillan.
Jane picked up her phone and opened a page, she showed it to me, ‘Watch this.’
The dancers wore orange and white. The moves were more modern than classical ballet.
There were no pointe shoes, it was organic and raw.
‘This is the Rite of Spring,’ she said, ‘Look at the dancers. So beautiful. This ballet was so different to Romeo and Juliette and yet, both genius.
'Sir Kenneth was amazing. He actually married an Australian painter named Deborah Williams. She was very pretty.'
‘What did you do after the Royal Ballet Company?’
‘I was offered a position as a soloist with Festival Ballet. Now known as The English National Ballet. This Company was very different to the Royal Ballet Company as they did more provincial tours, but I loved it and I had the best of times with them.'
‘What was it like with Festival Ballet?’
‘In the Royal Ballet Company we stayed in the best hotels, ate gourmet dinners and were invited to glamorous functions. Festival Ballet showed me how hard dancers can work. We began the day at 10am with dance class, then dance rehearsal, followed by our performance. We would finish after 10pm and on our way to bed, we’d grab some food. We did this for at least six days a week and on the seventh day we travelled to our next gig.
‘It was exhausting, but, we did it, and we did it well,’ she paused. ‘and as tough as it was, it was the best time of my life. One of the things I loved most about Festival Ballet was the fantastic camaraderie. The friends I made are still my friends today. We laughed and learned so much from each other. I loved this company so much.’
Jane Devine in Prince Igor. Photograph by Bill Cooper
We paused from our interview to have a cup of tea. I wandered around Jane’s modest house. One of the things I noticed was how her home reflected more of who she is now, rather than what she has achieved.
At first she was reluctant to share her accolades.
‘I’d rather talk about the present, than who I was then,’ she said.
The books on her shelf are about poetry, philosophy, and anthropology. A guitar stands in the corner that she plays on occasion, and a woodturning she created from a course on the gold coast, adorns her simple shelf.
We sat on her back deck and sketched.
Jane has been in Australia for more than 20 years. After migrating to Australia, Jane has taught ballet, fitness and in the summer holds a position of adjudicating for ballet competitions.
‘I decided on Redcliffe for my home because it’s such a beautiful place with everything here.’
We draw and chat for a little longer and I leave with a plant under my arm to add to my garden.
At home I start some preliminary paintings, and I think about the time Jane invited me to watch a performance at QPAC by the Queensland Ballet Company.
‘I have a spare ticket,’ she said, 'We will have lunch with my mother and friends.’
When we arrived at QPAC we were greeted by many of Jane’s ballet friends. Jane introduced me to the Queensland Ballet Director Li Cunxin and his wife Mary McKendry.
Mary and Jane are still very good friends since dancing together at Festival Ballet.
At the completion of my painting, I invited Jane to my house for a painting launch.
One of Jane’s guests to our painting launch was Graeme ‘Connie’ Collins who danced in Festival Ballet before her time. Although they hadn’t met in London, they knew of each other and became friends in the last ten years in Redcliffe.
Graeme has spent his entire working life in the ballet as a dancer, teacher, and for twenty years before his retirement, he was head of Hong Kong Ballet.
They reminised about Festival Ballet and the subject moved on to Rudolph ‘Rudi’ Nureyev.
Graeme said that he danced in 18 stage performances with Rudi and that he was a wonderful and generous man, but, when he was working on a ballet, everything had to be right. There was no room for error. They laughed about his thunder and revelled in his grace. They agreed, 'It was an opportunity to work with some of the greatest dancers of our time.'
My Painting Process
I began this portrait in January 2023.
As an artist, I want to paint people who are making a difference. Especially women, as women’s achievements and voices are not always heard.
I approached Jane for a portrait a few years ago, we did some sketches and I took some photos, but the timing wasn’t right and the painting was not completed.
In 2022 I approached her again to paint her portrait, and I did more sketches, photographs and interviews.
I knew Jane was a world-class ballet dancer, but because she is so humble, I didn’t know the extent of her career until our interviews.
I chose the size of the painting to be as close to life size as possible. I chose a limited palette to reflect Jane’s humble demeanour. I wanted to keep the tones as close together as possible, to reflect the nuances of grace Jane demonstrates in her voice and posture.
I did some preliminary strings of colour using raw sienna and ultramarine blue for the black, titanium white, yellow ochre and cadmium red for the colour.
I wanted to include an image of Jane dancing in the background of this portrait, and for this I referenced a photograph by Bill Cooper, of Jane dancing in 'Prince Igor.'
I noticed her dancer’s feet when we were doing our sketches, and I include them in the painting to remind viewers that dancers always have their dancer body, no matter how much time has passed.
Jane’s face shows the calm and happy place she is in now. I wanted to demonstrate that she is delighted to have done what she has done, but still maintains a life of interest in many areas.
it took me two months to complete 'Portrait of Jane Devine.'
After our launch, we made the long drive to Sydney and enjoyed friends and galleries along the way. I entered my painting into the Archibald 2023. It was not accepted for the exhibition, but I had a lot of fun .
Thank you for reading about Jane and her portrait.
lots of love, Monica.
Like most people, my desire is to love and to be loved.
From a wounded child I became a wounded adult.
Matching the scars from the inside to the scars on the outside.
I don’t know if I am ready to be seen, but I am ready to find out.
Without the perfect body.
Without the perfect age.
Without the perfect art,
and to admit the truth.
I just want to be me.
I want to paint.
I want to draw.
And I want you to love me,
Just as I am.
This is me.
A Thousand Shards of Glass
As I am shattered over the pain from a friend, I am reminded of how it begins.
When you are raised with the validation that you are okay, when you hear ‘I see you, I hear you, I feel you.’ And you are acknowledged for being hungry, tired, sleepless, stressed, broken, abused or abandoned. And there is someone to hold your hand and tell you that they hear your words, they see your pain, they know your worth. And they tell you yes, I get it.
You know you are valued.
Then, when a wounded soul comes along and says you are not lovable, you cannot receive it. Because every fibre of your being has been strengthened by the validation that you are loved. You see it for what it is; Someone else’s pain coming at you.
But when you’ve been abandoned, beaten, raped, abused, neglected and sneered at. When the people who love you, can't. Every dismissal of how you feel and who you are, are like nails driven into your nervous system, until there are so many nails, your soul shatters into a thousand pieces.
And when that wounded soul comes to shout their pain at you, you fall apart. Because it slides right down on sharpened nails into your nervous system, and cuts like glass.
Their disapproval feels like it used to feel. The way they used to treat you. And before you can take your next breath you’ve been triggered into agony, and you spend your life trying to please strangers because that pain is too much.
There comes a time when you believe it would be easier on the other side, that if you just slid your soul out of this body, there would be relief.
But you can't. Because you love. You love so deeply these people you have birthed and the family you have created.
So you go back to finding a way through.
Every morning before you step out of the house, you wear your cloak of protection. But in your loneliness, and in the dark of the night, you pray to your guardian angels to do for you what your parents were unable to, and that is to love you. To tell you that you are safe, and it’s okay to cry and feel broken and sad and messed up. That even if you can’t keep the house clean and your art is shit. That you are okay, and loved, and worthy of a good life. That you will be forgiven for all the mistakes you made, just like you are forgiving those who hurt you.
You mend each wound with care.
And you show the world who you are.
Just as you are.
And know that you're going to be ok.
I met Richard Lancaster at an art exhibition in Redcliffe 2009. I had hung some small paintings and I was feeling insecure. I had only just returned to my passion of painting after a long hiatus. I was struggling with long-term depression. I had let go of my joy. I was trying to come back.
I moved to Queensland in 2001 and was seeking an arts community to belong to.
Richard was an enigma. He spoke with passion about the arts and spoke kindly about my work.
Two years later I attended Richard’s book launch where I met actor William McGinnes. I bought a copy of Richards book, and noticed the wonderful illustrations by local artists.
My arts practice was difficult. The depression relentless. I worked in and out of windows. I focused a lot on study and expressed my pain through drawings.
I seek my expression through art. I lean towards figurative and portraits. I love capturing people. I am fascinated by their subtleties. I spend a lot of time in healing and learn more about myself. I move in and out of dimensions. I visit past lives. I do a lot of clearing work and tap into ancestral connections.
I kept drawing and writing. I write and illustrate books and attend Atelier Art classes in Brisbane.
I love traditional art for its capacity to bring me into a new space and time. I love the impressionists and post-impressionists because they are fresh and present. My faves are Singer-Sargant and Monet. I also love many current working and living Australian artists, and I believe that I’ve been taught and worked alongside some of Australia’s best artists.
Inspired by Monet I paint 'Windy Day'. Inspired by Singer-Sargent I paint my daughter Madeleine 'After the Formal.'
In 2011 Richard invited me to be interviewed on a series about Brisbane Artists for TV channel Bris31. High Time was about showcasing artists and their work. It was a great interview and I talked about how I write about emotions and healing through yoga. I had created a book for educators called Yoga for Little Bears. We discussed how mental health influenced my work and the difficulties I had experienced several years before when my daughters and I were without a home.
My work always has a component of what I am going through or have been through.
'Sorry' and 'My Mother in Dresden'
In 2017 Richard invited me to act in one of his movies. The part was a sexy wench who was in love with a gay convict (but she didn’t know he was gay) I said to Richard ‘You know I’m a grandmother, don’t you?’ He laughed and said, ‘You’re perfect.’ Well, it was a spoof after all. Acting in his movie was so fun. I was a bit embarrassed that I was busting out of my costume but my convict love interest said ‘don’t worry, it suits your character.’
6 months later we were in another movie together. Richard’s character was really funny. I talked to Richard about my intentions to paint portraits that demonstrate people making a difference to the world. I ask him ‘Would you like to sit for me ?’ He says ‘Yes’.
Toby and Monica on the set 'The Third Commandant'.
Director, writer and producer Richard Lancaster with Monica Batiste
I wanted to paint Richard for the positive impact he makes in the community with his passion and enthusiasm for all things historical and artistic. Every time we meet he is encouraging someone to follow their dreams and offering advice or support for them to achieve their goals.
By this time I have been focusing on portraits and figurative for several years. Spending a lot of time at The Atelier learning about traditional oil painting and life drawing.
Our first interview in his office, I take several photos and do some sketching. While I am there, Col Trethaway comes in to talk about Richards upcoming documentary. I am invited to have my portrait filmed during it's process. It sounds very exciting.
I learn that Richard worked with Queensland’s longest serving premier, Sir Joh Bjelke-Peterson.
Well fancy that, I thought. We decide to include Joh in the portrait because of his impact on Queensland and Richard.
Richard showed me some clips and tapes that he had created with Joh during the Fitzgerald enquiry. They are now available on the ABC.
Col Trethaway and Catherine Cox came to my art studio for another session of drawing and interview.
I began Richard's portrait in November 2018 but a stint of depression stopped me working.
I make some huge changes to my health and my life, and I take time off work. I have to have some surgery, but I recover from depression. This is the first time in a decade I have moved into recovery. I am so happy I cry every day for weeks.
I sketch onto the canvas in charcoal and I make many changes. Even after I have decided what is where and how it will look, I make changes. I paint Richard inside a movie set, then I paint the movie set out and paint in more sky.
During each painting I find myself lost in the essence and following intuition. I never knew Jo, but I couldn’t help feel his spirit. I felt the dark clouds around him and the angst of his political life. I felt as though he felt misunderstood.
I finish my portrait of Richard in August 2019 and I study it for a few days. I can find spots here and there that would require more work. But I know that for now it's best I can do. It isn’t perfect, but it tells a part of Richard's story.
Richard and I go on Radio station 99.7 to talk about the Brisbane Portrait Prize
August 7th 2019
I invite Richard for my 'Painting Reveal'.
I am nervous and start to have self-doubt about my work. What if it isn’t good enough? What if he doesn’t like it?
Richard came with his beautiful partner, Gabrielle, also an artist. I was sweating. Catherine Cox came to film. The Redcliffe Herald came to interview and gave us a lovely piece in the local paper.
There is a sheet over my painting as I begin my introductions.
I talk about Richard, my process, and my painting.
'This portrait of movie producer/director, journalist, author and activist Richard Lancaster, in my mind reflects the vibrancy of modern day Brisbane. Arriving in Brisbane 52 years ago from India, the then 30 year old entrepreneur set about establishing a series of Brisbane based businesses, which pioneered private enterprise management recruitment and training as well as celebrity management in Queensland. His last client was Queensland’s longest serving premier, Sir Joh Bjelke-Peterson, whose ghostly figure features in the portrait’s background and whom Richard assisted with his post political career. More recently, he played a major part in re-introducing the Bee Gees phenomenon back into the local Redcliffe scene.
Subsequently, he created several successful businesses involved with the production of television programs and movies for both local and overseas consumption. His activism covers such diverse causes as the successful banning of proposed fish farming in Moreton Bay, successfully preserving the endangered Moreton Bay dugong herd and more recently, establishing The Gayundah Preservation Society, which is dedicated to preserving the remains of the 19th century warship HMQS Gayundah, which was instrumental in saving colonial Queensland from an imperial Russian invasion in the 1880’s. He is a published author and is a regular columnist to several Brisbane newspapers and magazines, one of which celebrates it’s 20th birthday, this year. '
I swoosh off the sheet to reveal my work and Richard says ‘Oh my’.
I step aside for peeps to photograph. I feel like Anh Do. Then I thought I could BE Anh Do! Later I ask Catherine if she would like to create a series of films of me doing what Anh Do does, and she asks ‘Who is Anh Do?’
I submit my painting to the Brisbane Portrait Prize and to celebrate I buy more brushes and paint. I’m going to experiment with Venetian Red. One of my art teachers from Atelier, Kay Kane, uses it. Her work is amazing and subtle. I’ve tried to remain subtle in this work, and I used some new strategies to complete it.
My next painting is a nude one of myself, it’s about recovery from depression. I am so grateful that I am finally able to be myself and paint. That I am ME again. My life is on it’s way.
Painting myself nude is not something I’ve ever wanted to do before. And I may never show anyone. But what I’ve learned is that I am art. I am paint. And everyone I paint has a piece of their soul in my work along with me.
ART is important, and finally I am home in the place where I belong. The war is over. The battle has been won. I’m coming home to creativity where my heart has been all along.
I can smell the roses.
Come with me.
The best is yet to be.
PS I was not accepted into the Brisbane Portrait Prize, and Richards painting is now hanging in his home.
PSS A few months later Col Trethaway entered his film 'The Artist and the Storyteller' and won first prize. How exciting! He's very talented.