After one day waking up with a burning desire to become an artist, 75-year-old Derek VanDenberg has wasted no time in learning all of the techniques to get his creative ideas on to canvas.
The Bundaberg man, who started painting 15 years ago, will soon have his work displayed at an upcoming exhibition hosted by The Baldwin Swamp Art Group, in partnership with Bundaberg Regional Galleries and Cross Gallery.
The exhibition will not only celebrate Derek's talent as an artist, but it will also be a celebration of his life after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only a short time left to live.
The exhibition will be filled with a range of Derek's paintings in different mediums, which Derek said he had been experimenting with over the past 15 years.
“One day I woke up and I just wanted to paint so I grabbed the kids paints and I did a landscape as such and thought ‘this is total rubbish', so I ripped that up,” Derek said.
“Then, I thought do a portrait, but that was even worse so I though this is going to take 10 years and I wasn’t that interested.
“Then lucky for me, I thought well I have 10 years so just calm down and do simple things.”
Realising his age had no limit to creativity, Derek pushed on with his artwork and even decided to take part in classes at Rosedale State High School at 60 years old.
“I was out in the bush and I got the urge to paint, first of all I thought it’ll go into Bundy to art classes,” he said.
“Then I thought hang on I have a school down here that accepts mature age students, so I went down there and joined year 11 to get into art class with the idea of having art lessons.
“Little did I know by grade 11 they have taught the curriculum and it was just assignment based, so I did the assignments and got straight As.”
Derek worked with a range of mediums, going to university after completing his grade 11 studies, and taking different multimedia subjects.
“My teacher was doing computer work and he said to me are you interested in this? I said no, I want to learn art, not computer stuff,” he said.
“But then when I saw what he was doing I thought this looks okay, so I did multimedia modules and that is where I came into being a better artist.”
DEREK JOINS BALDWIN SWAMP GROUP TO FOCUS MORE ON ART
Joining the Baldwin Swamp Art Group 15 years ago, Derek said he loved everything about the art group and enjoyed watching everyone’s artworks come to life.
“By being in the swamp it enables you to see pictures progress, that is what I like about it, you get to see how people work on the different paintings,” he said.
“I guess you could call my art pop or poster art as it is not traditional or conventional art.
“It is a bit different, I guess that is the word everyone uses.”
Baldwin Swamp Art Group member Sue Draney said the group wanted to put on an exhibition of Derek's work so everyone could enjoy his unique art.
“We believe his works shouldn’t go without being seen by the public,” she said.
“Since he got sick we decided that we wouldn’t wait to celebrate him and we would instead celebrate him in life with an exhibition.”
Sue said Derek's work had brought a different and unique style to the group.
“His artwork is different, I think his art is inspired by digital media after he completed a course in digital media at one stage,” Sue said.
“He is very contemporary and is a different artist to the rest of us who come here, but we are all different.
“It is nice to have a wide variety of art and a wide variety of mediums used.”
The Baldwin Swamp Art Group meet every Wednesday and are open for anyone to join.
“This is a fantastic group as anyone can come along and it is a very friendly group, you just bring what you want art wise and help each other,” Sue said.
“It is a great place for people to get together and share their talents and show what others are doing.”
Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery was approached by the group to host the exhibition, but with no availability until 2023, remained determined to help see the dream come true.
Working with the Clinton Cross Gallery, the Baldwin Swamp Art Group and BRAG have bought the exhibition to life.
The exhibition will be held on Friday 6 August and Saturday 7 August at the Cross Gallery with the official opening at 5.30 pm on Friday.
Derek said he was excited to be able to showcase his art and encouraged everyone to do what they loved in life, whether you feel you are good at it or not.
“Just go for it,” he said.
Derek remains very humble, believing that you never stop learning in life.
“If you have no ego, no one can hurt you and if you have no ego you keep trying to get better.”