WATERCOLOURS OF OUYEN: Ouyen artist Graeme Drendel in his Melbourne studio, holding one of his Ouyen sketchbooks. Photo: supplied.


OUYEN’S lesser known landmarks are being memorialised in watercolour, thanks to 2018 Archibald Prize finalist Graeme Drendel.

The Melbourne-based painter usually returns to his hometown every few months, to visit his mother, and paint the town.

“I’ve got a couple of sketchbooks that are almost full of little drawings and watercolours from around Ouyen,” Drendel said.

As a gift to Ouyen, and because he has been in Melbourne lockdown, Graeme is now publishing dozens of landscape paintings to social media.

“While I’m biding my time up there I do a lot of walking around town, to re-familiarise myself with the place,” he said.

“I take a sketchbook with me and just draw things that I come across. When you go back after a long time (away), you sort of appreciate the place in a different way and you see things that you find quite attractive, beautiful, that maybe you hadn’t noticed before.”

Paintings feature venues including the Roxy Theatre and Victoria Hotel. And there are less obvious places like the back entrance to the P-12 College, grain silos and an old shed at the back of the pub which used to hold bush dances, that are equally as worthy of Drendel’s brush and palette.

“It’s really just a wandering thing, and choosing things that take your eye at a particular time,” he said.

“Things that you walk past every day and you don’t notice, but when you see them either photographed or painted, they sort of take on a different aspect and the next time you go past them you might see them a bit differently.

“When I walk around, it might be seeing a building or a shed at a particular time of day and the way the light’s falling on it that attracts you. That can be the thing that makes me paint it,” he said.

Drendel’s early days growing up on a farm at Ouyen still inform his practice today, with paintings set in fields and paddocks.

His Italian Renaissance inspired style juxtaposes modern, often metro Australians going about their daily business but in a vast, arid, desolate landscape.

“It sort of gives you a little jump in a way − quite often the figures look quite urban, well-dressed, yet they’re in the middle of nowhere,” Drendel said.

“And the first thing that comes to mind is often, ‘What the hell are they doing there? What’s going on?’” he laughed.

His motivation for the Ouyen series is more about making locals smile, than anything else. “As long as people are getting some enjoyment out of it, that’s the main thing,” Drendel said.

“I like to think the Ouyen people are chuffed at seeing their own town, and sometimes they’re really well-known aspects of the town and sometimes they’re sheds and things that people don’t even notice.

“So I just hope that next time they go past some of these things they go, ‘Oh that’s that thing we saw in that painting the other day,’ that sort of thing.”


Shop front in Oak St, with the Roxy Theatre reflected in its door, watercolour by Graeme Drendel.