World of art

By Andrea Louise Thomas Photos Yanni

McCrae artist Gary Goodrich is surrounded by art – in his studio, in his home and in his garden. He has spent his entire life creating, collecting and teaching art. Strangely enough, it all began with vegetables, his father was a market gardener. When he was eight, there was a doll-making competition at school. Gary entered a doll made entirely of vegetables. It was so remarkable that it won first place and was featured in the Herald Sun. An artist was discovered.

Gary was always making things as a child. His fertile imagination could transform ordinary, found, objects into artworks and he is still doing it today. It’s called assemblage and he is very good at it. He made his first carved sculpture in Year 11 at high school and he still has it on his mantelpiece. He always loved creating so it’s not surprising that he went on to art school.

At Caulfield Institute of Technology, Gary completed a degree in Painting and Sculpture in 1973. He couldn’t imagine making a living as an artist so he went to the University of Melbourne to get a Diploma of Education. He started teaching art at Rosebud High School (now Rosebud Secondary College) in 1975 and taught there for 36 years, guiding and inspiring young artists. All the while he was producing his own art.

Gary kept his students inspired, not only by exposing them to great art and artists, but also by introducing them to world music. He’d ask students to guess where the music was from. It opened up a new world for many students who hadn’t had exposure to other cultures. However, inspiration worked both ways as Gary found his students a constant source of inspiration and fresh ideas.

For Gary art is a way of life. “Art is about people and living. It’s part of the joy of living. There is uniqueness about artwork. It represents people,” he says. As for being an artist, he adds, “I don’t feel like I’ve had a choice in it. I can’t imagine a world without art. As my artist friend George Johnson says, ‘I need it to make sense of the world’.”

Gary doesn’t have a favourite medium. “I like everything. I like paint and wood carving and I love getting my hands on clay. I also like assemblage because each object inside it has a story of its own,” he says.

There are many sources of inspiration in Gary’s world. “ I am inspired by other artists, relationships with people and with nature. I am inspired by where I live. I look one way and I have the view of Arthurs Seat, I look another way and I see the bay, I look another way and I see the lighthouse.  There’s also the McCrae homestead. I am living in paradise,” he says.

The most interesting thing he has created is the place where he lives. His home, studio and garden are curated galleries where art is central to everything. You’ll find mosaic, carving, painting and assemblage in and around the studio and garden. It is an art lover’s paradise.

“I collect art to be inspired, to feel like I am near the artist. In original art you can see the artist’s touch.  My own work is an ongoing thing influenced by where I live – the spirit of the place. This is where the spirit of my art is,” he says.

Gary has many favourite artists, but he loves Frenchman Pierre Bonnard for his colour, Uruguayan Joaquin Torres-Garcia for his structure, Scottish/Australian Ian Fairweather for his vision and German Kurt Schwitters for creating art out of rubbish in the 1920s.

Being part of the Peninsula Studio Trail has been a blessing for Gary because it has connected him to other artists, like-minded people, and to an audience for his work. Because he worked as a teacher for many years, he did not put a lot of emphasis on exhibiting his own work. Now that he has retired, he has the time to focus on his art career.

If you ask Gary what he’d like to do next, he’ll tell you, “Another painting.” He loves that patrons in Australia and overseas have his work in their collections. Nothing pleases him more.

You can visit Gary’s remarkable studio by appointment. You won’t see anything like it anywhere else in the world.

Contact him on 0481 066 583 or

Peninsula Essence – February 2021