Echuca artist John Stevens honors former Echuca-Moama tourist icon

By Anna McGuinness

JOHN Stevens has been a professional artist in Echuca for 44 years, but still draws fresh inspiration every day from the town he knows inside out.

As the latest local artist to be exhibited in the foyer of the Riverine Herald office, Mr Stevens shows his diverse range and the depth of his talent — lending his hand to any medium that sparks his interest.

One of his works will bring back fond memories for locals who remember an old thong tree on the banks of the Murray River.

“I think they might’ve chopped it down, but for years and years people were nailing up their old thongs and sandshoes and it became a bit of a tourist icon,” Mr Stevens said.

“I had a lot of fun doing this painting because there’s all sorts of different shoes and I really loved getting into the details of the picture.”

Despite being well and truly local, Mr Stevens said he still played the tourist in Echuca.

“I’ll go down to the port to get some inspiration and even though I’ve lived here for so long it still inspires me.

“I love the bush and the river; Echuca’s a good place — it’s not to be scoffed at,” he said.

Mr Stevens dabbles with various mediums and a broad range of materials from oil, pencil and acrylic to sculpture and lino.

He said COVID-19 restrictions had really slowed things down.

“It’s very slow-moving, people aren’t going to invest in art at this stage,” he said.

“But it doesn’t stop us to keep producing art; hopefully next year it might be a little bit better.”

Like many people who have had their business affected by COVID-19, Mr Stevens has taken his works online through Echuca’s Customs House.

“They’ve very kind in putting on a virtual gallery on Facebook and Instagram, which is great for all of us artists,” he said.

With two exhibitions in his 2021 plans, Mr Stevens is continuing to pour everything into his passion for art.

“The restrictions are killing things but at the same time you’ve got to be optimistic,” he said.

“I’m not going to be put off by this COVID-19 lockdown, I love making art, it gives me pleasure and hopefully it gives other people pleasure too.”

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