Creative longevity

Mike and Janet Green are well-respected, award-winning career artists. They are also genuinely equal partners in a marriage spanning nearly six decades. They have travelled together and separately for work and leisure, lived abroad and raised two sons while building their respective careers. They now work in their home art studios in Rosebud.

Janet grew up on a seven-acre property near Melbourne. She enjoyed drawing with her mother. Her father was a brass founder with fabulous building skills which he passed on to Janet. Sometimes Mike would return from travelling to find Janet had built a new deck or summer house.

Mike is from Auckland, where his father was a journalist/writer. His mother, who grew up in Tonga, had wonderful sewing and crafting skills. Mike attended a small private high school where he was taught by politically progressive intellectual European WW II refugees. It was the opposite of Janet’s conservative private girls’ school.

After getting her Diploma of Fine Art at Melbourne Technical College (now RMIT), Janet went to Mercer House Teachers’ College where she learned invaluable art skills with mentor/sculptor, Clifford Last. She became a junior school art teacher covering everything from woodwork and pottery to drawing and painting. She loved her work and continued to teach for many years.

While Mike was passionate about painting, he didn’t feel the trends in Australian art at the time suited his skills so he skipped art school. He got a scholarship to University of Melbourne to study Commerce, but it wasn’t for him. Almost by accident, he moved into advertising. His talents suited that field better as there was a lot of experimental thinking going on.

Janet (20) met Mike (21) at a party in Sorrento. He was immediately attracted to Janet in her red top and tight jeans, but her interest in art was the clincher. She too, thought they were kindred spirits. It was a long courtship because Janet set off to hitchhike around Europe for a year. Mike proposed over a long-distance phone call to Italy.

The pair moved to Canada in 1966 escaping restrictive Australian society. They freelanced and sold their paintings door to door. Janet created magazine cover art. Both worked on Expo ’67, a world fair in Montreal. Their two sons were born in Canada. Then Mike and Janet took a year off to travel 27,000 miles around Europe in a van with the boys.

When they returned to Australia in 1975, Mike and Janet were determined to paint full-time. They built a house in Mount Eliza. Mike started exhibiting at Manyung Gallery before approaching Australian Galleries which launched his career in galleries across Australia.

In 1980 Mike decided to broaden his skills. He applied to schools in the US and UK and was accepted at Boston University. They sold everything and moved to the US. Mike transferred to Boston’s famous Museum School where he could work with artists in an unrestricted way. In 1982, Janet started painting again when they were living in picturesque Rockport, Massachusetts inspired-by-the-water view outside the window.

Both Janet and Mike enjoy exploring different mediums. Janet likes painting and ceramics. Mike thinks painting is the medium in which he can most make his mark, but enjoys ceramics and sculpture. He also loves printmaking. They are currently in Fiji at a printmaking residency with master printmaker, Peter Lancaster.

“We do check on one another, but only comment on the work if asked.”

Because they work differently, there has never been rivalry between them. “We generally don’t interfere with each other’s work,” Mike says. Janet adds, “We do check on one another, but only comment on the work if asked.” For Janet the subject is the most important thing, but for Mike it has always been about the subtext of the piece.

Signing her paintings as simply ‘Janet’ prevented her from being branded reductively as the wife of a well-known painter. They have established individual careers and each have exhibited widely across Australia and overseas. Currently Mike is represented by Magma Galleries, Collingwood. Both are represented by Nura Gallery, Sorrento.

While they have travelled the world, the couple love the Mornington Peninsula. “It is conducive to creating art,” Mike says. “We love walking in the bush and the beach. It’s very calming,” Janet says. While they share similar interests, each finds artistic inspiration differently.

“The subjects find me. I get a lot of inspiration from writers. As I get older, I’m more reflective. I want to express how I delve through life now. I look for a metaphor and build the painting around that. My work is surreal – objects are identifiable, but the composition is unexpected,” he says.

My work is surreal – objects are identifiable, but the composition is unexpected,” he says.

“I chose the background first and then decide what to put in the foreground. So, if I travel to Central Australia, I am looking for foreground objects that work with the colours of that place. Composition is really important. I go for realism with attention to detail. Then I rearrange the elements,” she says.

Mike and Janet find the art world today challenging, interesting and exciting. They get great pleasure following the careers of current young artists and seeing how they are progressing – especially on the Peninsula. Meanwhile, there’s no stopping Mike and Janet.
IG: @janet38green

Peninsula Essence – June 2024