I couldn’t draw before grade 12 until my art teacher did a learning to draw module. A few simple concepts surrounding tone, perspective, shape and space. After that, I drew the farmhouse we lived in and Mikhail Gorbachev from the cover of a magazine (because I thought he looked so kind). Both drawings were really good. In just 2 hours, it looked just like Mikhail. Then uni happened, travel, partying, a career in the wine industry and drawing was long forgotten.
At the age of 40, I left the corporate world and became a self-employed gardener at home on Bribie Island. My close friend Vikki suggested I do something creative with the extra time I had to spare while my business grew. I said, “I think I can draw”. It had been 25 years since I drew well at high school and I wondered if I still could. Vikki gave me a photo of herself and after about half an hour, I had drawn a good likeness of her. Then I drew my children from photos when they were little. It looked just like them too.
To branch out from there, I wondered what would be both enjoyable and commercially viable. I took a photo of Brisbane CBD from the top of the wheel at South Bank and started to draw a 15x15cm drawing. After a hundred or so hours and nine months later, my gardening client Ruth suggested I put it up for sale at the Bribie Island Community Arts Centre.
“What price will you put on it?” she asked. I said $345 and she suggested I put another zero on the end of that. “It’s rare. There’s you and only about three or four other people in the world who draw whole cities in the photorealistic style.” I didn’t think it was worth that much and while it didn’t sell at the Arts Centre, Ruth bought it from me privately for $1900 a few weeks later. She was used to buying art for big prices so it’s thanks to her that I realised the value of my art and of course thanks to Vikki for taking up drawing again.
After the excitement of selling my little Brisbane drawing, Ruth then asked me to draw her house, roughly A4 size for $1200 – my first commissioned work.
I then moved to Adelaide where I embarked on drawing my Australian Capital City Collection. All roughly A2 size. Sydney was first, then Adelaide. By that stage, I had started selling limited edition prints for $225 as recommended by an Adelaide art gallery. I also set up a Facebook business page called “Drawing Inspiration – Peter Schinkel” and sold the prints there for $150 instead.
I attempted to sell the Sydney drawing to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. While it was not in their budget to purchase the art at that time, I received a really nice letter from the Minister for the Arts commending my “masterpiece”.
In 2013, I submitted the Adelaide drawing into the Royal Adelaide Show but it was bigger than the allowed size for drawings. The organisers decided to increase the limit for the drawing and it won first prize for its category which I think was “Other Drawings”.
Then on Sunday 21st July 2013, Tim Noonan of Channel 7 News in Adelaide ran a story on my drawings. Things were getting pretty exciting. They called it a “revival of a lost art”. Cityscapes were often drawn in the 1800s to showcase the Australian capitals to England, other Australian colonies and the world. They were called “baloon’s eye views” But with the advent of aircraft and some improvement in the quality of photography, the drawings/ etchings faded out of practice.
Brisbane was next, the first to be drawn from my own photos taken from atop the Wheel at Southbank. I was delighted when world-famous cityscape drawer Stephen Wiltshire had drawn Brisbane from the same viewpoint. While his drawing took 5 days, mine took a few months. Melbourne was next and again I was both delighted and amazed that Stephen Wiltshire had drawn Melbourne from the same photo I copied from. I started to hold exhibitions in a gallery or two and a few council libraries to keep active in the art world. One of the most fulfilling projects was the year I spent teaching other people to draw at the U3A in Adelaide CBD. With just the basic concepts of tone, perspective, shape and space – the success rate was 100% and we all had a good time. It was lots of fun too.
By 2015 I decided to see if the National Gallery of Art in Canberra would be interested in my Capital City project. I called them, and as instructed I sent an email to the relevant department. About a week later I received a call.
“Hello, this is Peter.”
“Yes,” I said.
“WOW!” came the enthusiastic response. I had no idea who it was. Turned out to be the Head Curator of Prints and Drawings who agreed they were a revival of a lost art. No one has ever drawn all of the Australian capitals either, so he said the Gallery “may be interested in acquiring” the set once complete.
I started drawing Hobart and then took a four-year hiatus before returning home to Bribie Island in 2019. Hobart was completed that year, leaving Perth as the last state capital to draw, which I’m doing now. When that is complete, perhaps by mid-2021, I’ll see if the National Gallery will consider the six capitals to be a complete set. If not, I’m looking forward to drawing Canberra and Darwin, either way, to make the set truly complete. For the month of May 2021, I’ve gratefully accepted the offer of displaying my drawings on the “Artist of the Month” wall at the Bribie Island Community Arts Centre.