Passion for art leads to award

John Downton was awarded the OAM for his service to the visual arts.
John Downton was awarded the OAM for his service to the visual arts.

Christmas Day is the only day John Downton puts down the paint brush. 

The former Eden resident, now a Worrigee local, was awarded the OAM for service to the visual arts as a maritime artist and to the community.

Mr Downton retrained as an artist in 1973, after many years as a watchmaker. 

“When all the electronics came in I had to retrain as something and I thought I may as well retrain in something I like,” Mr Downton said. 

“That was 48 years ago and I’m still painting seven days a week – Christmas Day is my annual leave.” 

Mr Downton has exhibited work in Sydney, Melbourne, Ireland, Japan, Korea and America.

He spent 15 years travelling across rural Australia with renowned artist Leonard Long, painting the rugged landscapes he explored. 

Mr Downton is also the official artist for the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Nowra, with the gallery named in his honour in 2014.

Between 1999 and 200 he travelled to East Timor and painted around 50 pieces depicting the naval and peacekeeping activities. 

When he’s not painting, Mr Downton spends a lot of time judging at regional shows. He judged many exhibitions, including Sydney Royal Easter Show, Nowra Show, Kiama Art Show and Bega Valley Art Awards.

“I’ve been all over the country judging and it’s all about giving something back,” Mr Downton said. 

“I also spent 50 years collecting Australian art so I added a few of mine and I presented it to the people in Eden to be on display in their new Killer Whale Museum.” 

Mr Downton has also donated works to various nursing homes, the Eden Foreshore Committee, Southern Councils Group, Fleet Air Arm Association of Australia, Foxground Rural Fire Brigade, Shoalhaven Cancer Clinic and the Illawarra Police Charity.

In 2015 he was inducted into the Kiama Arts Honour Roll by the Kiama Municipal Council. 

With no shortage of work to keep him busy, Mr Downton has no plans of retiring the easel just yet. 

“Everybody keeps commissioning me – I have to keep it up,” he said.