What we love about Newcastle: John Earle

Hollywood was the centre of the world no longer NEWCASTLE: Artist John Earle down at Bar Beach. Picture by Simone De Peak
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NEWCASTLE: Artist John Earle down at Bar Beach. Picture by Simone De Peak

NEWCASTLE: Artist John Earle down at Bar Beach. Picture by Simone De Peak

TweetFacebook Meet JohnAS a kid, John Earle wondered why he was stuck in Newcastle, when, in his eyes, Hollywood was the centre of the world.

Half a century on, as one of the city’s best known artists, Earle sees his hometown differently.

“This place is like the centre of things to me,” he says. “It’s where it’s at.”

Many have seen Newcastle through the eyes and paintings of John Earle. He has meticulously recorded the city’s most beautiful features with his paints and brushes, from the harbour to the ocean pools.

But Earle’s favourite spot for converting life into art is the long strip from Bar Beach to Merewether.

“This is just gorgeous,” he murmurs, as he stands at the northern end of Bar Beach, with a paint-smeared palette and the bones of a new work just waiting to be fleshed out by his brushes. In front of him, the sand is speckled with sunbathers and the sea is a luscious green and blue, its colours being flushed out by the early afternoon sun.

“And look at all those colours there,” he gestures towards the array of swimsuits. “Turquoise, pink, all against the beige setting of the sand. “And when the tide is going out, the rocks look like blue lumps, they add complexity to it.”

When he was a teenager, this place was a source of recreation more than inspiration. He loved surfing and would coax his mother to drive him from New Lambton Heights to the beach. It wasn’t until he was at art school in his early 20s, when he saw the sea on a grey day, that Earle quickly sketched the scene and realised the beach was where he wanted to be artistically.

Earle lived in Sydney and travelled the world painting, but about thirty years ago, he returned to Newcastle to live and work. He’s been painting his home ever since.

“Newcastle’s got an incredible amount of variations,” he says. “I could paint this place every day of my entire life.”

More than being a source of painting subjects, Earle and his wife Amanda Pitcairn love living here. They often stroll along this band of sand that he has painted in hundreds of images. For a holiday, they sometimes travel all the way from their Merewether home and studio and book into Noah’s, “just so we can wake up in this incredible beach city”.

“You’ve got the ocean, the harbour, it’s almost like an island,” he says. “In 100 years’ time, it will be Manhattan by the sea.”