Capturing the wizard

Cal Osborne with Baba Desi. 194903_02

By Mitchell Clarke

Hobby artist Cal Osborne loves the challenge of trying to capture people in his artwork.

His latest project, painting the alluring Belgrave wizard, known personally as Desi Baba, is the most challenging piece he’s tackled to date.

“Trying to capture his character but also capturing everything else about him, the jewellery and the jacket and everything else, there are a lot of challenges in the portrait itself,” Cal said.

“But I like that challenge and I wanted to paint someone of significance.

“Everyone knows Desi. He’s kind of an icon around the area, I couldn’t think of anyone better.”

Cal tracked Desi down in Belgrave Main Street and asked to sit down for a coffee. It didn’t take long for the project to come to light.

Desi is a 90-year-old artist and activist. He’s a local legend and is used to being approached by members of the public, so there were no hesitations when it came to accepting Cal’s request.

“I know he’ll do a good job because it’s coming along quite nicely,” Desi said.

“I look younger there!”

Cal’s artwork will be entered into the John Dudley Portrait Prize through the Emerald Arts Society. This year marks the 50th anniversary.

President Wendy Lindrea said the 2019 prize is the inaugural running of what is hoped will become a regular exhibition on the Arts Society calendar.

“In its first year the Dudley family are contributing the $1000 prize money,“ Ms Lindrea said.

“The exhibition celebrates the life of John Dudley, a staunch supporter of the arts, a valued member and past president of the arts society, and twice winner of the Emerald Citizen of the Year award.

No stranger to art competitions, Cal entered the Art Show in Pakenham earlier this year and won the Cardinia Award, with a portrait of former Star News Group managing director Ian Thomas.

“I really wanted to do a portrait of Ian Thomas and it turned out quite well and was received very well,” Cal said.

“I was pleased to win and sell the portrait.”

Despite this success, he’s only just beginning to explore the art form of portraits.

“I’m new to portraits,” Cal said.

“This is the second one I’ve ever done and the first I’ve done in paint.”

The hobby artist has always had the touch for art, but it hasn’t been until recently that he’s followed through with some of his passions.

“When I came out of school, my impression was that artists don’t make any money,” Cal said.

“I became a graphic artist because in my mind they get paid and go to work every day.

“I pushed the art aside and it’s only recently, the last six months or so, that I’ve picked it up again.”

As to that inspiration, he attributes it to the Pakenham Art Show and his partner.

“I had always wanted to get my (Ian Thomas) portrait done and my partner really pushed me to enter that and get it done,” Cal said.

“Once I won that section, it gave me a lot of confidence to do other things.”

The John Dudley Portrait Prize exhibition opens on Saturday 27 July.

“I’d encourage art lovers to get along and have a look,” he said.

“It’s a local initiative from Emerald and people should get around and support the cause.”

The 10 finalists’ paintings will be on display in the Emerald Library in August and the Cardinia Shire Arts and Cultural Centre in September.

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