Mother of the late Bronte Steer, Deb Byron and  Goonellabah artist Ian Roberts with Beyond Bronte Blue on display at the Lismore Regional Gallery until September 23.
Mother of the late Bronte Steer, Deb Byron and Goonellabah artist Ian Roberts with Beyond Bronte Blue on display at the Lismore Regional Gallery until September 23. Francis Witsenhuysen

Heartbreaking story behind artist's painting

A WOLLONGBAR family has revealed the heartbreaking story behind a painting that captured the childhood memories of their late daughter.

The beautiful work, named Beyond Bronte's Blue, is currently on display at the Lismore Regional Gallery alongside other finalists in the Hurford Hardwood Portrait Prize.

It depicts the passions and memories of Bronte Steer, who was just 21 when she died in December last year.

Her mother, Deb Byron, has now bravely shared the reason for the painting and its importance to their devastated family.

During a stay in hospital last year, Ms Byron was trying to keep Bronte distracted on Facebook when a painting by Goonellabah artist Ian Robert popped up on the feed.

"Bronte said she loved his style and that she wanted him to draw all of her childhood memories," Ms Byron said.

In the weeks before her death last December, Bronte met with Mr Roberts for three hours, where they exchanged stories and bonded over the Dutch graphic artist Escher.

Bronte shared her thoughts, ideas and vision for the drawing.

After the meeting, Bronte continued to communicate with Mr Roberts on Facebook so she could watch the drawing develop.   

The last time Ian Roberts heard from Bronte was a brief Facebook message: "I'm loving it so much Ian... my childhood in a drawing".

"Shortly after sending this message Bronte ended her pain," Ms Byron said.

"I honestly believe, now that we have hindsight following her death, that she really wanted something beautiful left behind of her happier times.

"Bronte wanted us to have something tangible to remember her by."

Ms Byron said the established artist did a wonderful and detailed job with his creation.

"Bronte was a clarinet player, she was a singer, a soccer player, she did nippers, her dog Sam is in there, her childhood books and her favourite places," she said.

"We can sit and look at it and remember her, it's wonderful."

Ms Byron said she hoped people would understand the painting was not just a whole lot of little things about a kid, but a representation of parts of Bronte as well as an act of love for her family.

"I invite people to share and witness, in what to me, is such a beautiful act of love to leave for us," she said.

Sadly Bronte passed away before Mr Roberts could complete the original drawing.

"At that point I nearly gave up finishing it, because I was pretty much shattered," Mr Roberts said.

"I believe Bronte wanted me to finish it... I did it for Bronte and her family."  

On hearing about the Hurford Hardwood Portrait Prize running this month at the Lismore Regional Gallery, Mr Roberts contacted Bronte's family requesting to reproduce and expand the original drawing into the painting.

"It made it as a finalist," he said.

"It was emotional painting and it will hang in Deb and Phil's house after the competition. It really feels like I've done something important."

Beyond Bronte's Blue is on display at the Lismore Regional Gallery until September 23.

NATIONAL 24/7 CRISIS SERVICES

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467

beyondblue: 1300 22 46 36

 

          



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