I am excited to have finished my portrait of ‘Chan’.
Chan Dissanayake is a Canberra based, multi-award winning watercolour artist. He and I spent several hours, early one autumn morning, painting ‘en plein air’ on the shores of Lake Burley Griffen. In his portrait, I endeavoured to capture his look of sheer concentration and determination and then skillfully, using quick bold strokes how he allows the watercolour to do its thing.
Commencing with a photo shoot by the Lake and at a later date at my home studio, I asked Chan about his journey as an artist. This allowed me to learn more about him and also reflect, grow and learn about myself in the process.
In the painting, I designed the compositional focus to be on his eyes and hands. I painted Lake Burley Griffen in the background with its rows of tall poplars and dazzling reflections. Far in the distance the Telstra tower on Black Mountain, a recognisable landmark for Canberrans. The green algae in the water’s edge and the falling Autumn leaves denoting the changing season as well as our fast changing world with Covid 19. The pathway leading to Chan represent the artists journey and the twisting branches of the trees and their shadows connect Chan to the landscape. I added Chan’s portable umbrella attached to his well-loved handmade wooden easel glowing in the sunshine, along with his carefully selected brushes, water jug, pallet and favourite hues of lavender, blues and reds.
Finally, the Australian watercolour artist Hans Heysen was a major influence on Chan’s work, so I included just a hint of Heysen’s pink swirling clouds in the sky. You have to really look to find them, but they are there.
I met Chan in 2019 in his ANU School of Art and Design evening watercolour classes. He is not only a highly regarded watercolour teacher but a well-respected judge of local and regional art awards and great inspiration to other artists with his strong focus on mastering whatever he puts his mind to. You can see this in his work and the subjects he chooses to paint.
In 2017, Chan received the ultimate accolade for an Australian watercolourist when he was elected to the elite Australian Watercolour Institute. Also many people may not realise that Chan is one of the very first watercolour artists in the world who mastered how to teach watercolour painting online, Chan has an IT background and masterfully uses cameras and technology to teach. I was very fortunate to learnt this as his co-host for the past 16 months. Chan has also contributed many articles to leading art publications including the Australian Artist and Artists Palette. His passion for being the best he can be and his direct approach to watercolour has earned him much success and respect nationally and internationally. It has been a great joy to paint his portrait and to call him my friend.