Opal Pastro’s current exhibition, ‘Bright Eyes’, a series of animal paintings that celebrate joy, quirkiness and beauty, is showing at the Federal Hotel Bellingen until September 1st. This exhibition marks Opal’s return to creating visual art, after a hiatus of twenty years. “Being a dedicated wife, mother, working gal and home maker has kept me busy. My family has been my main focus,” says Opal. Opal’s idiosyncratic animal paintings “convey the individual character of the animal through gesture, composition, light and colour.”
“A lot of emphasis is placed on the expression in the subject’s eyes, because just like humans, we can connect on a very special level with an animal if we look into his eyes,” explains Opal.
During the early 90’s Opal and partner Lawrence were engaged in a period of ‘self-development’. “As part of our re-connection to our true selves we attended a few yoga and meditation retreats at Bundagen. A couple of years later, we were done with the Big Smoke and went for a drive around Australia. Eventually, like so many others, we ended up back in the Bellingen Shire and she locked her charms into our hearts. We’ve been here ever since,” says Opal. Opal admits that the beauty of this region has influenced her work. “Every day when I’m walking my dogs, I have gratitude to be fortunate enough to live here. Everywhere I go, there is some element in the landscape that is amazing. I carry my iPhone with me just so that a camera is at the ready for a potential painting. I’m always snapping pictures of clouds, hills, the beach, mountains and cows – especially cows. I get excited by the way the light changes and also how you can tell the season by the colours of the flowering trees. Bellingen is a kaleidoscope of colour. It’s awesome.”
Opal has always been involved with the arts in some way. “I was always drawing and making stuff as a kid. I think Mum and Dad liked having a quirky arty kid in the tribe.” Opal completed her schooling at TAFE which provided her with the opportunity to wholly focus on the arts. “We did the HSC standard English (of which I remember very little) and every other subject was art based – drawing, printmaking, life drawing, sculpture, photography, art history and painting. What young artist wouldn’t love that? It was an incredible foundation that gave me a fabulous body of work and allowed me to go to whatever art college I wanted.” Opal attended the Gippsland College of Advanced Education, majoring in painting. Opal admits that this training was wonderful creatively, but left her “with no idea on how to pursue a career as a professional artist.” As with many who complete the training, “other creative expressions, interests and life took over.” Despite leaving painting for many years, this next period was still very satisfying creatively. “I learnt to play music, sing, perform, knit, crochet, sew, make toys and do lots of wonderfully creative things that kept my artistic juices flowing,” says Opal.
Opal’s artistic influences are varied. “I’m a bit of a bower bird when it comes to artistic influence. I love Impressionism for its beautiful painterly brushstrokes, snap shot compositions, use of light and colour. I enjoy Expressionism and Romanticism for portraying a mood or emotion. I love any painting that gives me goose bumps of pleasure and brings me joy.” Opal admits to “having a quirky way of viewing the world, and this is represented in my artistic style. It’s fun, it’s quirky and a little bit cartoony.”
‘Bright Eyes’ certainly reflects Opal’s view of the world. “As this body of work consists of my developing style, you will see varying techniques, from traditional representational portraits to more expressive contemporary pieces. I’m finding that as I get more techniques under my belt, I’m becoming more explorative and bolder in my painting. Even though I have experimented a bit, there is a flavour of humour and light heartedness in all of my work. I can’t help it. It’s who I am. My art style comes intuitively to me, and no matter how hard I try to be serious, it always has the quirky and slightly animated element to it.”
Many visitors to the pub have already enjoyed these fun-filled paintings. The artist’s lament of the difficulty involved in ‘getting an exhibition together’ only makes Opal’s achievement more stark. “I bought my first paint and brushes only a year and a half ago and began with a tentative portrait on paper of my Australian Terrier, Layla. I quickly discovered that I had retained my basic skills, so I did another, and another, and another. It shocked me to discover how much I enjoyed the challenge of painting and relearning something that I used to do every day. It shocked me even more how I had managed to not miss it for so many years.” Welcome back Opal.
‘Bright Eyes’ appears on the walls of the Federal Hotel in Bellingen until September 1st. To view other examples of Opal’s work: Etsy Shop www.BrightEyesByOpal.etsy.com/ This is where you can purchase a beautiful portrait of your special furry friend, or an original painting. There are also archival quality art prints available. You can contact Opal on Facebook: – Bright Eyes Animal Portraits or Instagram: Opal Pastro