Water-colour paintings

                              Artist Jeffrey Service:  141,231 kms later…..  

..That’s just a conservative estimate of the distance artist Jeffrey Service has travelled in pursuit of a dramatic, creative life.

When people ask him where he gets his ideas from, the answer is simple. They come from the haphazard adventures of his everyday life. The difference is that Jeffrey’s everyday life has taken him to a lot of exotic – and far-flung - places. 
Jeffrey’s mantra has been “plunge in and see where life takes you.”
At one stage, Life took him to a close encounter with Elizabeth Taylor and Robert Redford in  Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he was invited to be the captain of the English croquet team playing against the locals. The event was scheduled at a garden party at the governor’s mansion to entertain the two Hollywood stars who were in town as part of the D.H. Lawrence Festival.
Rehearsals went well but on the day of the big event Life intervened and Jeffrey woke up with a bad case of flu. Even a visit to the hospital couldn’t get him well enough to attend. He came close to meeting the stars, but no cigar.
His “plunge in” mantra has landed him in places at interesting times. Crossing over the Honduran border on his hitch-hiking journey from New York to Panama, he stumbled into the civil war with El Salvador. He was taken in by the commander of the El Salvador forces and taken to a poker game in a blown-up village. After a few hands he was asked to go back and set mines on bridges on the enemy side.
Saying “thanks all the same but no thanks,” Jeffrey was taken to a border village for “drinks with the boys” all dressed in assorted camouflage gear. Their machine guns were leaning against the wall and “Snoopy and the Red Baron” played on a continuous loop on an old Wurlitzer jukebox.
But drinks were interrupted when the commander used the old Bakelite phone on the bar to check on the war’s progress and learnt that hostilities had started again. The army boys grabbed their guns and took off in their jeeps.
Jeffrey was left to find his way back to the Pan American Highway through the village’s main road, a dirt track. As he went, word spread and dozens of curious locals emerged from their mud brick houses to watch the tall stranger with the bright pink nylon backpack.
That night at the highway, and with no hope of a ride because of the war going on, a wonderful family of 15 invited him into their grass hut for the night and gave him their most comfortable bed – a hammock.
The following night at his room in the only hotel in town, which was actually a rundown brothel, he spotted hundreds of red bedbug bites, courtesy of the hammock. 
This is the raw material of Jeffrey’s continuing adventure through life and the source of his inspiration for his paintings. 
“It’s about what might happen in life and what an adventure that might be, by doing something, anything, and giving it a go,” says Jeffrey.
Following his mantra in Guatemala, he bought a dugout canoe for $20 and paddled down the Rio de la Passion to live with the indigenous folk.  He got married on the Navaho Indian Reservation in New Mexico and hitch-hiked barefoot from Sweden to Morocco.
In Australia he toured with the Queensland Arts Council for 10 years from the artist’s retreat he built at Tamborine.
 “I want to make people smile. No matter who or where, people want to have fun,” says Jeffrey. “An Indian in the jungle in Guatemala will smile at my work the same way as someone living in Toowong. That’s the joy of our common humanity.”
Jeffrey, born in Bundaberg, left Australia in 1969 chasing the Summer of Love to a hippie commune in California. Needing to pay his way, he took up batik painting and sold five thousand of them during a 20-year-love affair with that art form.
Several of his batiks hang in the U.S. Library of Congress, the King of Thailand bought one, and Elizabeth Taylor bought two.  
Now living in Auchenflower, Brisbane, he still gets emails from around the world about his batiks. Recently the producers of the TV series “Better Call Saul” contacted him to ascertain that a batik painting they had in their office was in fact one of his. It was. They bought it in New Mexico, where Jeffrey lived for four years.
He’s had exhibitions in Australia and America, and carried out commissions for projects ranging from the Queensland Pavilion at the Japanese Flower Expo to the Workers’ Heritage Centre in Barcaldine. 
Now working in water colour on paper, and in smaller sizes than the large batiks he’s famous for, Jeffrey’s everyday life continues to inspire his quirky vision.  
The recent residency in the Tiwi Islands brought about a series of paintings that capture the flavour, the colour and the heat of the islands off the coast of Darwin. Trips to the Outback inspire icons of Australiana – water tanks, kangaroos, horses – in the dusty sepia tones of the countryside itself. Parties inspire paintings of wacky dancing cats, and a glitter ball in one disco painting is real glitter. Rhinestones create a Bollywood mood in another series. Plain white dogs line up eagerly outside the ‘spot shop’ to emerge as Dalmatians.  
It’s impossible to look at a Jeffrey Service painting and not smile. And that, to him, is a sign of success.
Jeffrey can be contacted on (07) 3108 2975.

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