Griffin artist Todd Whisson’s stunning landscape The Road to Kilcoy won the prestigious 2022 Lethbridge Landscape Prize in May.
His piece was judged number one from more than 850 entries in this year’s $20,000 award and he followed that success by being named a finalist in the Clayton Utz Art Prize and the Kennedy Art Prize.
The Lethbridge Landscape Prize was established by artist Brett Lethbridge after the demise of the prestigious Tattersalls Landscape Prize, whose entrants had included such luminaries as John Perceval, Margaret Olley, Charles Blackman and Judy Cassab.
“We launched last year and in terms of the number of entries, the quality of entries and the number of people attending the show, it’s just been out of this world,” Lethbridge says.
“We loved Todd’s painting – it was classic in many ways, with nods to the Heidelberg School.
“It just felt vigorous, energetic, it had moments of balance but matched the time we’re living in.”
After more than 30 years of Impressionism, Whisson made the transition to Contemporary art in a journey he describes as one of self-discovery.
Whisson was humbled and gratified by the recognition and planned to use the prizemoney to spend more time refining his craft.
“It’s great confirmation that I am on the right path as a painter,” he said of the win.
“There can be a lot of time and years invested in trying to find who you are and what you want to say.
“It’s taken about seven years to really confirm – I have had splashes on and off with it.
“I would just visit it again with research, looking at my temperament and understanding myself and my journey.”
Whisson says the transition from Impressionism to Contemporary art has presented challenges and led to a diploma and a degree from the Queensland College of Art – something he would never have contemplated when he began his career.
Now, he’d give his younger self a piece of sage advice: “Do a degree”.
Whisson’s desire to get more out of painting led to him exploring techniques other than Impressionism.
“Impressionism can only take you so far.
“I was interested in Abstract, but I had no idea how I could look at the same hillside as another artist and mine turns out Impressionist and his turns out Abstract.
“It took six or seven years to find my voice, to have something to say that’s important to me.
“It’s really just a lot of experimenting until you feel that really strong conviction that it’s you and I feel that there’s room to improve because it’s me.
“Because I painted as an Impressionist all those years, I have kept a percentage of that, but with a Contemporary feel.”
Whisson says having wife Julianne dedicated to promoting his work and planning behind the scenes makes a difference when he’s striving to find the right touch on a new piece.
“It’s the judgement and that’s what everyone struggles with, so having amazing support is extraordinary - someone who’s a team player and has the discussions for you.
“I’ve wanted to throw it in 100 times, but there’s something that just makes me want to do it again.
“After 10 or 15 minutes and a cup of tea you get over the disappointment (of not having a piece express what you’re aiming for).
“Over the years you just learn how to play with this (he points to his head) and say, ‘I am just going to enjoy this painting’.”
About Todd Whisson
Originally a picture framer, Whisson’s been painting full time for about 20 years.
“It was a juggle while I was picture framing full time and painting on the side,” he says.
“It took time to get better and start selling a few and teaching a bit before I made the transition.”
Whisson believes art should reflect the heart of the creator.
“The painting is more of a portrait of the painter than the subject,” he says.
“To look at a painting you should be able to read the personality of the person who painted it.”
As well as winning the Lethbridge Landscape prize for 2022, Whisson exhibited in the Lethbridge Small Scale Art Prize, the Clatyon Utz Art Prize, the Kennedy Art Prize and held a solo exhibition, Sign of the Times, at the Red Hill Art Gallery.
His work is in several collections, among them the Moreton Bay Regional Gallery, the Queensland State Library, the TAFE Queensland Corporate Collection and the Toowoomba Grammar School collection.
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