Renowned artist Bob Landt is also a motor mechanic who collects cars when he’s not creating bush scenes.

Story By Pat Gillespie

For Bob Landt, water and oil do mix. Bob is a watercolour artist of renown, who has also made a living among the grease and grime of the mechanic’s workshop. It is hard to reconcile his big, gnarly mechanic’s hands with the delicacy needed to execute a painting. He also sports a beard that has not seen scissors for 10 years, laughs easily, and has a passing resemblance to some Renaissance images of God.
Bob has exhibited in major shows throughout Australia and his paintings of the Australian bush now hang in the US, Germany and many other countries. But if it wasn’t for adversity, Bob may never have painted at all.
“It all started when my parents bought a mechanical workshop,” he says. “I was a skinny, bespectacled runt who spent a lot of time at home sick. My mother Elva – like most mums – wanted to give me something to do and being very good at sketching, she thought a paint set would be ideal to show off her talented son. Sitting up in bed, I found inspiration for a painting in an English book on travelling.
“A painting of a village soon appeared with thatch-roofed cottages and a bubbling brook in the foreground. Mum was so thrilled she even invited the local priest, Father Witt, over to deliver judgement. Dad – tongue in cheek – immediately took credit for the talent being in his side of the family. But my brother and I were both in strife as the priest had to step over a half-full chamber pot to see the amazing work, which was displayed in our bedroom!”
The “skinny, bespectacled runt” now has more art prizes than he can count and has exhibited works all over Australia. The images of English villages were left behind with the sick young child in favour of a more local landscape.
Bob lives and works in the Maitland farming community on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia, not far from the Flinders Ranges, famous for its changing colours and light. This and other places give Bob inspiration and bush landscapes are his most common works. All are done in watercolours, a medium considered too difficult by some painters.
“Generally [watercolours] are not the way that people go about it,” he says. “Most people are scared of [working] in it.” Bob says he has been using watercolours for so long he has discovered his own technique. “The more you experiment the easier it becomes.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #59

Outback Magazine: June/July 2008