Scott Marsh, who sat with Hawke in February this year to paint him for the Archibald, said the late Prime Minister was the last leader most Australians felt trust in, calling him a “hero of the people”.
Marsh met with Bob at his home on Sydney’s north shore, and said when he arrived, Hawke was seated on his balcony, overlooking a beautiful view, set up with his newspapers, a cigar, and a milkshake in a takeaway cup.
“It was one of those ‘pinch yourself moments’ when you’re hanging out with him,” Marsh told news.com.au.
“Just getting an opportunity to paint someone that iconic and legendary in Australia.”
Marsh praised the late leader, and said the love Australians hold for Hawke goes deeper than the “iconic moments” like his ability to scoll a yard glass or recognise him in and his Australia jacket.
“I think all Australians identify with Bob. Australians are real nostalgic for a time when you had a prime minister you wanted to have a beer with. He was the last one. The last one I can recall.
“He connects with the people and he was a hero of the people. So they can relate to him. And because of that, they trust him. And they trust his judgment.
RELATED: Bob Hawke predicted his own death: ‘I’ve sung my last song’
Australia is in mourning over the loss of the great former prime minister, whose death last night shocked the nation.
Mr Hawke’s beloved wife Blanche d’Alpuget announced the tragic news in a statement last night, saying he died “peacefully at home”.
Hawke was the prime minister from 1983 to 1991.
Unfortunately, Marsh’s painting Captain’s Knock was not selected as a finalist for the Archibald. “Which is a shame, because it would be hanging in the Art Gallery of NSW right now,” Marsh said.
Marsh, who is a Sydney-based painter, muralist and graffiti artist, came to be sitting with the late prime minister through work he was doing with Hawke’s Lager, a beer brewing company which raises funds for Landcare Australia, the beloved charity of the Labor leader.
Through his work with Hawke’s Lager, Marsh has painted large murals of Hawke on pubs around Sydney, of Hawke shirtless and smiling, clutching a schooner. These murals are at the Carlisle Castle in Newtown and the Chippo in Chippendale.
“I was aware his health was not the best. He was entering into his twilight,” Marsh told news.com.au “The way I wanted to portray him was sitting on his balcony, doing crosswords, which is what he generally does. And just being reflective on the great life that he’s led. Happy and content.”
The portrait is littered with iconic images Australians know and love about the late prime minister, but Marsh said what’s shown in the portrait is not props; it’s mostly how Hawke appeared when they sat together. Hawke even started his day with a milkshake.
“That’s him in his natural habitat I think. He’s got a beautiful view there, he’s literally like that when I arrived, he was drinking a strawberry milkshake in that kind of milk bar cup.
“Which you don’t even see anymore, so I don’t know where he got that.
“We brought some beers over and were like, ‘Do you want a beer Bob?’” He was like, ‘Mate I just got up, I’m having a milkshake!’”
“So we just sat on the balcony, smoking cigars and drinking milkshakes with Bob Hawke. It was pretty surreal.
“We had a chat and got the papers out, I showed him the murals I’ve painted, particularly the Carlisle Castle, which is him in his prime. Short footy shorts, drinking a schooner and doing a crossword by the pool.
“He had a real good laugh about it. He loved it.”
Marsh said he “played with the perspective,” when putting the images together, so when you look at the painting you can see every item on the table clearly.
“The table is a bird’s-eye view and Bob is painted front on, so you can take everything in.”
“You could almost just paint the items on the table without putting Bob in the painting.
“It’s the most time and energy and consideration I’ve put into any painting. It took me probably three weeks. All day, every day, I was working on it.
The painting includes sections that were screen printed, and Marsh was assisted by Arcade Screen Printing; embedded in the yellow and blue in the background are historical news items detailing different achievements from Hawke’s prime ministership.
“You can only see it when you’re with the painting, but different achievements like floating the dollar, Chinese student visas, touring South Africa during apartheid with the footy team, and a bunch of other things.”
Marsh said Australians long for a leader who they can trust like Hawke.
“These days, there’s a lot of politicians who, you just know they’re full of sh*t,” he said.
“It’s just the choice between a douche and a turd sandwich. You’ve got to vote for one of them.”
Currently, the portrait is being displayed in the Vincent Prize in at the Duckrabbit Gallery in Redfern, Sydney.