Keith and Loretta Sommer won the judges hearts with their mural “A post card from Tasmania”.
“When I read the poem: ‘Food Bowl – The Golden bloom of fertility lies on the land, and feeds us with flavour’, I looked around at what I thought was Tasmania as neither of us had never there before,” said Keith Sommer in his newly decorated Main Street studio gallery.
Keith and Loretta Sommer had recently travelled to Tasmania to enter the Wilderness Gallery International Mural Festival.
The festival is held every Easter in Sheffield – the Town of Murals - in Tasmania.
Sheffield is in the Kentish region of Tasmania, halfway between Davenport and Cradle Mountain near the central north coast.
Keith said both he and Loretta were mesmerised by the fields of canola and Tasmania’s national flower, the Blue Gum, with its beautiful golden bloom.
For Keith, the Tasmanian landscape sparked an inspiration that lead to him winning this year’s competition.
“I basically envisioned a pair of young girls eating together in a field of canola with items of food featured around in a café board menu style and called it ‘The postcard from Tasmania’ as I saw this as our opportunity to get there,” he said.
Mural Fest attracts over 10,000 tourists to the once deserted town and has featured the works of some of Australia’s most talented mural artists.
Each year, nine artists compete in a public paint off over six days, using a poem as their mural’s central theme and inspiration.
Entering as a husband and wife team, Keith and Loretta were selected as one of nine finalists in the 2012 Mural Fest after sending in a submission of their creation.
It was this cleverly crafted masterpiece that won over the hearts of judges and visitors alike with the devoted couple winning the 2012 Tasmanian Judges’ Award and Visitor’s Choice Award amounting to $10,000 in prize money.
“It was the first time we have ever entered and the first time I knew about it,” said Keith, who heard of the event while painting a mural for Brisbane Railways from a fellow artist.
“We were able to do it as a team and Loretta had worked with me on murals before and helped paint backgrounds. She’s a potter and creative stain glass artist – she’s not a mural painter as such but it was a good opportunity to go to Tasmania with her to get a holiday together which we hadn’t done for a long time.”
Keith has been an artist and mural painter for almost 40 years and it was his passion for art which caught Loretta’s attention.
“We met so long ago, we won’t remember that,” said Loretta laughing.
“We actually met at the relaxation centre in Brisbane doing personal growth courses in those days and we’d been going through the hippie-sort-of-stage, it was back in the 70s,” said Keith.
“And I fancied him because he was an artist and I still tell him that’s half the reason why I married him,” finished Loretta.
After 30 odd years together and nine beautiful grandchildren to boot, it’s clear these two artists are the perfect soul mates.
“I depend on her to tell me when things don’t look right or needs changing because I’m often too close to look at it objectively,” said Keith.
“If I wanted to design a piece of pottery, he would draw it up for me and I would work from that, we do a lot together,” said Loretta.
On the final days of Mural Fest, organisers marched around the event telling everyone to get their poem entries in for next year’s theme: ‘Wild and Free’.
“We sort of just had an afternoon free at the time and we went back to the motel and curled up to write some poetry,” said Loretta.
Judged by two published poets, Loretta’s poem was selected out of 75 entries to be the theme of next year’s Mural Fest.
“I definitely have some ideas but I’m still throwing them around and changing them every day but we do intend to entre again next year,” said Keith.
Until then, the purple building down the end of Main Street ‘The Gypsy In Me’ is where you will find Keith and Loretta most weekends.
Selling hand-painted furniture, bird bowls, crafts, giftware and a host of Keith’s latest art works, the shop is every bit apart of them both.
“We’ve been coming up here for years and we couldn’t even really afford this shop when it became available but we just thought we have to make a move or it’s never going to happen so we are halfway to living on the mountain,” said Loretta.