Brunswick Heads artist Frances Baxter will soon hold her first exhibition since returning to Australia.
Brunswick Heads artist Frances Baxter will soon hold her first exhibition since returning to Australia.

Artist comes full circle after decades abroad

IT WAS the smile of a grandchild that led Frances Baxter to move back to Australia and the Byron Shire.

Born in Mullumbimby, Ms Baxter spent some four decades on the Spanish island of Majorca.

She’d met her husband, Juan Graves (the son of famous poet Robert Graves) there, and stayed.

But after Juan’s death in 2015, and the birth of a grandchild back in Australia, Ms Baxter said she was compelled to move her life back.

Following what was meant to be a visit spanning a few months, she said the thought of leaving her new grandchild was too difficult.

“When my husband wasn’t there, it was a big thing to give up the cosmic job of being a granny when the cosmic job of being my husband’s wife was not there,” she said.

And so she came to be in Brunswick Heads.

When she left Australia, Ms Baxter had only been painting for a few years; in the time she’d been away, that skill had developed over decades.

In February, she will hold her first exhibition since returning from Majorca.

“Over the 40 years that I was away, my whole development took place,” she said.

She regularly attends life drawing groups at Brunswick Picture House, something she loves for “the degree of difficulty”.

“It’s the most difficult drawing you can do,” she said.

“The human form contains every kind of thing there is to draw and you’re drawing it from all different angles and you must keep your vision; it stops you from fogging over.

“You’ve got to keep yourself open and look for the beauty of line, for example.”

When she was growing up in Mullumbimby in the 1960s, Ms Baxter’s father, Lew, was a sergeant of police.

Ms Baxter was trained as a teacher and worked in the NSW education system for several years.

She then studied painting and drawing under Australian painters Estelle Cotsell and Frank Hodgkinson, who coincidentally had also lived in Majorca.

She travelled to the Spanish island with her young children after both her parents were tragically killed in a car crash in 1976.

Ms Baxter’s exhibition, Full Circle, will include paintings and drawings, mostly portraits and nudes as well as still life, all demonstrating her beauty of line and dynamic colour.

The exhibition will be at Clem’s Cargo Marketplace in Brunswick Heads from February 1 to 26.