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Local Artist: Kevin McKay from Waverley Woollahra Art School

By James Hutton on April 20, 2021 in People

Always learning. Photo: Kent Johnson

Kevin McKay has been commuting to the Eastern Suburbs for over 15 years to teach at Waverley Woollahra Art School (WWAS) and run weekly painting classes…

How long have you been here? I have been teaching at WWAS on Bondi Road since 2009, and I run my own weekly plein air painting class at various locations throughout the East.

Why do you work here? WWAS is an artist run co-operative, where teachers and students have a say and, like the suburbs it is part of, has a positive energy of doing things and going places.

What’s your favourite beach? I like the family friendly vibe of Bronte, and the picnic shelters with great views to paint.

What’s your favourite eatery? I tend to eat badly to save money for art supplies, but my budget options closed during the lockdown and I have enjoyed the Italian pasta and sandwiches at Favoloso on Belgrave Street, Bronte.
Where do you like to have a drink? Between you and me, I have been known to have a drink in the studio.

Best thing about the East? Lots of hidden gems to discover with a range of architectural subjects that are never far from the water. I am partial to the P&O style houses and brighter colours that suggest we are by the sea.

How would you describe your art? I mostly paint urban streetscapes. It’s fun to explore new locations, but I also enjoy painting places so familiar we have stopped noticing them. My work has been described as eerily empty. I think I look for classical stillness, and the drama of light, in the everyday and in the midst of urban transience.

Where can people see your work? Many things changed over the course of last year, including my gallery, which is now a totally virtual experience – May Space Online (mayspaceonline.com.au). I also have kevinmckayart.com, and entertain the occasional visitor to my studio.

Who are your inspirations? Edward Hopper, Corot and Vermeer are on a long list of favourite artists. I can’t escape comparisons to Jeffrey Smart, but my favourite Australian urban landscape painter is Rick Amor.

What are you working on at the moment? I’m painting iconic structures on the South Head Peninsula. This includes the Macquarie Lighthouse, Signal Station and a stone church near The Gap.

Do you have any exhibitions coming up? I will be ‘exhibiting’ these works through May Space Online in November.

When did you discover you had a gift for your craft? I had an ‘epiphany’ at age nine when I stumbled into a family friend’s studio, saw work in progress, and knew that this is what I wanted to do. That ‘gift’ still drives me to realise that sense of purpose.

Any other local artists to look out for? Agnes Tyson lives in Bellevue Hill. She responds to architectural spaces and her home environment with hard edge planes and the eye of an abstract formalist that also evokes a sense of memory.

Did you study art? I am a ‘self-taught’ artist who spent 9 years at art school. I earned a Master of Fine Arts from National Art School, and am still learning.

Any words of wisdom for young aspiring artists? Be wary of ‘style’, which is often defined by one’s limitations. Be open to learn new things, even from the past. Treasure your primary inspirations, and never give up.

Do you have a favourite quote? I like the paradox and humility in a quote from Gandhi; “Everything you do in life will be insignificant, but it’s very important that you do it anyway.”

Any other words of wisdom for our readers? Every artist was first an amateur; join an art class!

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