18 February 2011
Sonya Rothwell in her Sydney studio with Steve Crombie sitting for his Archibald Prize 2011 portrait submission 'STEVE CROMBIE – WARRIOR OF SPIRIT'
Sonya's thoughts about this portraits :
I really admire Steve Crombie, he is a true 'free spirit' – a nomadic philanthropist who turns his dreams into reality. He's like oil and vinegar assimilating work and play, serious and silly, showing us that the magic happens when you shake things up.
Steve Crombie is a 'do-er' with many weird and wonderful strings to his bow. My head spins just thinking about how he manages to fit so much into his day, which by the way, starts at 5 am with meditation and yoga. As a circus performer turned financial software analyst, he believed there was more to life. He loosened his tie, hopped on his motorcycle and headed for the open roads of South America on a journey – two years and 90,000 km later – to the Arctic Circle. Then went on to write an entertaining best seller about it called 'Lost on Earth'. Steve had found his calling. So began his career as a full time global explorer, documentary filmmaker, Lonely Planet / Discovery Channel presenter, author, journalist and keynote speaker (under his brand Lost on... ). All before he turned thirty.
Pretty inspiring. It is not surprising that Steve is also the ambassador for Inspire Foundation helping young people live happier lives. And is the only non-indigenous mentor for AIME (Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience). Even Steve's home The Treehouse is an epicenter for wellness where like minded people connect with each other and nature on adventures not for the faint hearted. His life's purpose is to "help people who want to help themselves, people who are willing participants in their own personal change by shifting their beliefs into a positive light." He is a role model who leads by example. He strives to be the best he can be and is not trying to be anything other than who he is. He is authentic, unique and lives his own truth. I believe Steve is a 'warrior of spirit'.
When I asked Steve if I could paint his portrait I think he was as excited as me about doing it, after he got over his initial bemusement of course. On our first sitting we just talked and talked. I wanted to get lost on... Steve Crombie; get under his skin and understand what makes him tick. I wanted his portrait to represent his true self – thankfully Steve is refreshingly open and self aware, so delving deeper was easy. We talked about his rights of passage that forged his path to this point, about his beliefs, influences, purpose and highest ideal which is "to be happy and to be present; in the moment every moment."
We also talked about the symbols surrounding him. The most obvious being Steve's iconic Mohawk (a tribal hairstyle that dates back to the North America Iroquois Indians – an ancient League of Peace and Power). With it he looks dynamic and battle-ready to brave the unknown – be it subconscious or physical. He often shaves the rising sun into the right side of his head reminding him that everyday is a new chance and that the past is exactly that. His spear, that now lives in his sitting room was given to him by a Matsigenka Amerindian in the Peruvian Amazon (read page 97-100 of his book for the full anecdote). It is symbolic of his will to risk his life for what is important and to stand up for what he believes in.
When Steve was young he went off the rails, but not in a good way. His turning point came when he tragically lost his friend Jimmy to drugs, then suicide. The Ankh or Key of Life above his head marks this transformation guiding him to love and happiness. As Steve set off on his journey to the Americas his brother Michael gave him a Hopi Indian ring. Carved into it is an alert and fearless rabbit that is said to help one overcome limiting beliefs. On the inside the inscription reads;
"Live the life you love." Steve Crombie does exactly that.
He spends most of his life on the road; it's where he feels most at home, most connected and comfortable. He follows the contours of the land – they are a true representation of the environment. Steve taught me that the Metawai people of Sumatra have contour lines tattooed on their body that move with them, grow and fade to reflect their 'true self'. In his portrait the contours ripple energetically as he does, influencing all in his path. People (myself included) are drawn to him – his wanderlust and effervescence is infectious. I wanted this energy to come across in his painting – for it to feel positive, playful and vibrant and at the same time reflect Steve's unwavering discipline and courage. I think the stencil highlights this contrast and lends itself to someone who is making his mark on life.
The colours used in the painting are there to describe and reflect Steve. He is 'attracted' to sky and navy blue – the colouring of his bike jacket that he practically lives in. Sky blue instills self-expression, inspiration, faith in oneself and trust in others. Navy blue helps communication, higher intuition and spirituality. I added yellow – the colour of our 'rising sun' – to emphasise Steve's boundless joy, optimism, enthusiasm, intelligence and wisdom.
During the process of creating this work I have reorganized my mental clutter, drop kicked myself into health, booked an Indian adventure and am planning to move mountains... a bit of the Crombie magic has undoubtedly rubbed off :-)