Grant and Kathy McFarlane with Kathy’s ARTYball sketch of Grant’s Lionfish
The McFarlanes are a quiet pair, you’re more likely to see them on the beach than at the pub. They’ve lived on the Cooloola Coast for 23 years, most of that time in Rainbow Beach. Grant’s a builder, and Kathy has spent most of her time as a homemaker – and between the two of them is a trawler load of creative talent.
I cornered Grant and Kathy McFarlane at the ArtyBall last year, in front of Kathy’s artwork.
Kathy smiled as she told me, “I was working on my sketch of Grant’s Lionfish for such a long time. Grant decided he’d enter and his sketch of Leonie was done in 20 minutes! He just puts it down and it’s perfect.”
In fact, Grant has enough commissions to keep him busy all year! Some custom designs have included heirlooms, old fishing reels and knives – generations of memories are incorporated into a contemporary piece.
But Kathy emphasises, “He likes to have the freedom to see what inspires in the timber he is working with.”
He is governed by the materials, it is the character of the timber and its natural beauty that make each piece unique.
The Lady in Skeleton Dress is his ultimate creation to date, at 1.9 metres – it stands taller than Grant (which is saying something), where the raw materials created the vision.
Grant and Kathy love to travel out west, he said, “l headed to Cape York in search of some unique pieces of wood.
“With permission, l had access to a large cattle station and, from a previous excursion to this area, l headed back to where l had seen some extremely rare and beautiful wood pieces from a Normanby Skeleton Tree.”
Grant says the age of some of these pieces is estimated at over a century old, only growing in an approximately 20 kilometre radius of this area.
“The colours are extraordinary and fade from white to red and into a weathered grey. With around 50 pieces in total, l have left some of the natural grey and also hand-polished selected parts of each individual piece.”
Silver Dory – growing to about 60cm these little fish are found in cool deep southern waters of Australia. This one is made from mixed hardwoods by Grant McFarlane @ saltwoodart Image by Rainbow Beach Wedding Photography
Kathy said the impact of the Lady in Skeleton Dress has been overwhelming, “Truly, people have come to see it in person, they are just amazed at it. She is such a statement piece, people have suggested that it should be in a hotel foyer.
The couple say big things are happening with the lady this year, with an entry into the Luxembourg Art Prize, a prestigious competition which discovers artists from all over the globe, and launches their international career (with a free trip thrown in for finalists).
Meanwhile, Kathy says, “Grant fits in some building work between his stand-up paddle boarding and artwork. That’s basically his life.”
Kathy is industrious with her crafts – sewing, jewellery and more. “My latest thing is macrame – just as a hobby. I’m always doing something.”