I have loved the act of creating a painting since I was a small child. My understanding of the goal of a painter was the recreation of the three-dimensional world on a two-dimensional surface. And as a child, I was never shown how to do this in any meaningful way. So during my early school years, I painted away at school. I would get the typical praise ‘that’s beautiful,’ and it would get stuck on the door of the fridge. I did, however, enjoy the process of painting, and the challenge of trying to paint something in a realistic manner.

At the age of 27, I was stuck in a rut of a dead-end job. When I would come home from work, I would find myself itching to create art, so I started painting again. I still hadn’t any training whatsoever and started with a few abstracted-realist works. Since a young child I had been in awe of the 17th-century Dutch painters and wanted to paint as realistically as possible, so I taught myself how to paint in a dedicated photorealistic style. I enjoyed the process of painting, and my confidence and skill grew.

After completing a few photorealistic paintings on canvas board, I eventually switched to painting on MDF board. Which introduced a problem of the board bowing inwards due to uneven tension from the paint being on one side only. So I was advised to paint the reverse side of my photorealistic work to pull the board flat again. When I painted, I would use several ice cube trays of acrylic paint for my palette of colors. So once I finished the photorealist painting, I would then use these to paint the reverse side. At first, I would just brush them out, layer by layer. But little bit by little bit I would start to experiment with the idea of creating an altogether new work of art on the reverse on my photorealistic work. I did a few of these before deciding to paint the two distinct styles separate from one another.

I completed about 40 photorealist paintings and 30 totally abstract paintings in the following twenty-two years (with a few breaks). I tried everything to be a successful artist and failed – I entered in numerous art prizes and shows, and I approached art galleries regarding representation. I never achieved anything beyond selling one commissioned photorealist painting.

In April 2016, my brother Luke committed suicide. With an enormous amount of grief in my heart, I found it impossible to paint with any real conviction – either photorealistically or in the abstract style. So once again, I gave up all forms of creating art for some time.

In May 2017, a very dear friend committed suicide. I was shattered yet again with grief. Rebecca Parker was someone who believed in me as an artist, and she left this world in tragic circumstances. I felt incredibly alone at this point. I was in a very depressed place despite being surrounded by a very beautiful rural environment – Yarra Glen in the midst of the Yarra Valley.

One beautiful spring day in 2017, I had an awakening – I realized I should return to making art but with a new approach. The goal was to create the most beautiful abstract paintings I could as a way of celebrating life, instead of wallowing in depression. I knew I had a talent for making visually appealing work with both of the styles (photorealism and abstraction) – but with the abstract work, I believed I should focus on the real beauty of the painted surface. So I started painting again. I painted ‘Field of flowers – Yarra Glen #1’. I haven’t stopped painting since.

One hell of a sad old man - Bert Ernie in 2020
One hell of a sad old man - Bert Ernie in 2020

Artist statement

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Curriculum vitae

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Abstract painting technique

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Photorealist Painting Techniques

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Discover Bert Ernie's crazy ideas about political matters

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Discover how Bert Ernie tries to earn a few dollars with his other ventures

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