Wednesday, January 02, 2013


SILVER JUBILEE ART AWARD: Me receiving my award from Queen Elizabeth 11 in 1977 at Queensland Government House. The Silber Jubilee Art Award was for school-aged children in Queensland. There were about 4-5 sections, and I won the senior section.
The man with his back to the photographer is the then Director General for Education [don't know his name]. My painting Family Conversation is top left. 


During the Christmas school holidays of 1976-77 I decided to enter an art competition which was being held to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee. I was home from boarding school and painted a couple of paintings inspired by the theme of the competition, the family. This theme had been chosen by the Queen herself.

I painted a few images of my family; Mum, Dad, and my two younger brothers. With my Mum's help I chose the painting below as the one to enter the competition. My Mum did not wear glasses a lot back then, but she was studying a Masters Degree [research thesis] remotely from the University of Queensland, and the glasses must have made an impact on me. I posted [snail mail kind back then] the painting and it won the Senior Section prize! This was long before digital image art prize pre-selection processes!

By the time the award was announced I had returned to boarding school for my senior year. I remember I was sitting in a class when I received a request from the principal's office to immediately see her. A sudden thought pounced into my mind...I had won the art competition! And no..... I did not think I was in my school friends, even over 30 years later say...I was a bit of a boring studious goodie goodie. 

So, I went to the office and people were smiling broadly. I was told my Dad wanted to speak to me on the phone. Oh! I picked up the phone and he told me that my painting Family Conversation [below] had won, and that the award would be presented by the Queen at a reception at Queensland Government House. Mum and Dad were allowed to attend too. We would be given various protocols prior to the event. I was very excited! Whether a you are a monarchist or not, at age 16 the prospect of meeting the Queen was pretty damn exciting.

 Family Conversation Acrylic on Paper 37 x 53 cm  1976-77

Family Conversation Acrylic on paper 37 x 53 cm
So, as you know from reading above, the painting is my family, inspired by the theme of the family, which was chosen by the Queen. I am in profile against my Dad's face, then there is Mum, with glasses. My youngest brother, Douglas, is on the far right beside Mum, and my other brother, Wilfred, is on the left behind me. I used a palette knife and brush to create Family Conversation. It was painted at the kitchen table.

Some short time later learning I had won the art prize , my parents and my two younger brothers picked me up from school in Toowoomba and we drove to Brisbane, where we stayed is a swish hotel...well it was back then. My brothers were to stay in the hotel room while my parents and I attended the function at Government House. A bit boring for them... but no! They found a wad of money hidden behind the curtain rod. Very exciting for two teenage boys [goodness knows what they had been doing when they found the money]. We reported it to the hotel management, who made attempts to find the owner. Luckily for my brothers, they did not trace the owner, and the money was given to them. It must not have been a large enough amount of money to warrant further investigation...and who knows how long it had been there?

The reception at Government House was reasonably informal. Although we had received various edicts about what to wear ie: hat, gloves etc, at the last minute we were told we did not have to wear either. I defiantly did not wear my school uniform, which my school's headmistress had wanted me to wear. I decided that because I had been on school holidays when I painted the painting, plus I had found the entry forms etc on my own, I would wear my own dress. I was also pretty disappointed with the art education I was receiving at my school and felt the school did not deserve any accolades! I had gone to boarding school for the last two years of my secondary schooling after previously attending the local state high school in Dalby where the art education was fantastic. I did love boarding school though, and the other subjects were taught well [Biology particularly well with a wonderful teacher].

At Government House we were ushered into a smallish reception room. The 4-5 age group winning paintings, plus runners' up, were displayed on screens. Each of the winners had to stand with their painting. The disconcerting thing was that a huge number of journalists and photographers were also in the room, grouped in front of us. They nudged and jostled each other, and flash lights flashed. When the Queen entered the room the flash lights went into overdrive, like a strobe! She spoke for a few minutes to each of the winners, presenting us with our awards. I shook her hand, which felt like a fleeting butterfly. I had been told she does this to protect her hand from being constantly squeezed or squashed. You can imagine the kind of repetitive strain that shaking hundreds to thousands of hands might cause! 

PARENTS: The winners' parents were not supposed to meet Queen Elizabeth, but because so many journalists and photographers packed into the room, as the Queen turned from the last winner, the line of parents was very close to her. All the parents met her. My parents are the two on the far end of the line, near the doorway. 


Shaking hands is an art! I imagine if one was a Queen, or some other major dignitary, that you would have to think about protecting your fingers and hand from constant squeezing. But, there is another problem for those of us who shake hands off and on, and that is, having your fingers squashed, so much so that you feel a lot of pain. 

I was taught how to shake hands without having my fingers squashed by my Mum. She'd been shown a trick by my paternal grandfather, Wilfred J Brimblecombe CBE, who apart from being  a successful farmer, had also been a federal member of the Australian  Parliament...and had to shake the odd hand or two. He was the member 1951-1966 representing Maranoa, the largest electorate in Queensland straddling approx 731,297 sq km. He and my grandmother had also attended the Queen's coronation in June 1953, as one of Australia's official representatives. As a child I remember my grandmother telling me what it was like in Westminster Abbey. They had to arrive very early, but they also had a view of the entire coronation ceremony. My grandmother also had to get ball gowns made for the trip. As a young child I loved seeing these gowns. I remember she showed me a dark blue silk fitted one. All hazy memories now.

As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, I wore my own dress - a bright red one. I also wore high heeled sandals that made me even taller than my normal 180cm. The Queen is quite short and I felt gargantuan beside her, but I seem quite happy in this photo! We spoke for a few minutes about my painting and my inspiration before she moved on to the very excited young boy next to me. The whole experience was great and certainly very memorable.


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