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.