Artist Libby Hyett paints Archibald Prize entry of Macquarie MP Susan Templeman

HAWKESBURY artist Libby Hyett has created a 900mm x 1830mm oil painting of Macquarie MP Susan Templeman, which she plans to enter into the 2020 Archibald Prize.

"When we had the bad bushfires last summer I remembered how Susan had lost her home in the 2013 fires, and I came up with the concept of painting Susan in a scene with fire and debris," said Ms Hyett.

"She approved, so I got started straight away. We had two sittings, once at a trivia night and once just before the coronavirus lockdown."

Ms Hyett suffers from a bad back, and developed a clever way of holding up the canvas over a spare bed at her home so she could paint lying down, "like Frida Khalo", she said.

"I tied hanging cord from the picture frame over the curtain rod."

Due to COVID-19, the original March cut-off for entries was postponed to August, giving Ms Hyett more time to complete her work.

She estimated she had spent around 500 hours on the painting, and was still painting eight hour a day when the Gazette spoke with her last week.

"This artwork is on such a large scale, and I'm painting with a tiny paintbrush. It's like writing a novel compared with writing a short story," Ms Hyett said of her first Archibald Prize entry.

"I deliberately chose an extra long canvas because I wanted Susan to seem vulnerable and exposed. The Archibald Prize is about portraits of public figures, but in a way which shows their humanity."

Ms Templeman said she was "really honoured" to be the subject of Ms Hyett's painting.

"Libby is a highly creative person with many talents, including art and music," Ms Templeman said.

"It's a bit confronting because when I look at that beautiful painting, it takes me back to a really hard time after the bushfires.

"I suspect a lot of people trying to rebuild their lives right now, after the more recent bushfires, will be moved by it as well for the emotions that it captures."