The sublime beauty of Tasmania’s wilderness has captivated Val Whatley since she was a child, serving as an inspiration for her impeccable oil and watercolour paintings.
Now a selection of the 78-year-old’s work has been collected in a book, Val Whatley’s Tasmania, published by Ms Whatley’s friend Bob Brown, the former leader of the Australian Greens.
Dr Brown had 300 copies printed in Hobart and, since the book was released on Friday, already half of them have sold.
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That’s not to mention the paintings of Ms Whatley’s that have also been snapped up since they were put on sale. Of those 42 paintings, 18 have sold, some for around the $4000 mark.
Ms Whatley, who was raised in Launceston, resides at the Grenoch Nursing Home at Deloraine.
However, she is currently in the Launceston General Hospital, where she is battling health problems.
Ms Whatley said the immediate popularity of the book had lifted her spirits.
“I didn’t expect it,” she said. “It has made me sit back and take notice and realise what I have done. I think it was just something I did for a living.”
“It was just a real pleasure in my life.
“It’s wonderful to look back over it.”
Tasmania’s natural beauty always spurred Ms Whatley’s creative instincts.
“It was what made me [paint],” she said.
“I thought, ‘No-one else knows what’s there’. So I wanted to do what I could to bring it to ordinary people.”
Ms Whatley and Dr Brown met during the formative years of the Wilderness Society and forged a strong bond during the gruelling but ultimately successful campaign to stop the Franklin River from being dammed.
“Val is not just an artist but an adventurer and a wilderness campaigner,” Dr Brown said. “She’s a Tasmanian artist who deserves to be much more widely known.”
“This book’s going to do that.
“She was a great friend to me during the Franklin campaign, which was a very long and stressful period. So it’s really nice for me to do something for her in return.”
An exhibition of Ms Whatley’s work will be held at the Red Dove Cafe on Paterson Street from September 19 until September 27. Entry will be free.
Val Whatley’s Tasmania ($59.95 including delivery) and a selection of the artist’s paintings can be purchased online.
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