Monday, December 21, 2015

Robyn Sinclair: An Appreciation

I first got to know Robyn Sinclair as somebody who had an enormous talent for leaving encouraging comments and remarks on this blog and my sketch blog.

I feel absolutely certain this was an experience that I share with many other artists and sketchers.

I'm very sorry to have to share with those of you who knew her that Robyn passed away on Saturday evening after a long illness.

Robyn Sinclair waiting for dinner in Provence - in June 2011
Photograph by Ronelle van Wyck
This post is being written as my appreciation of her - and so that others may also leave a comment as to their memories of her.

It's also sprinkled with comments from Robyn....
I can do 'extrovert' when necessary but am introvert by nature..... It's a great advantage in life to be a good listener.
Robyn was somebody who registered with me very early on after we found each other online.

The title of her blog helped.  Have Dogs, Will Travel is not a title you forget easily! The story of how she came to be living in Italy was also rather good!

As the months and years passed I got to know Robyn very much better and she became one of a very small group of art blogger/artist friends with whom I corresponded on a regular basis 'behind the scenes'.

Robyn also became an active member of a small group of friends who did projects online.

  • First we had 'Sketchercise' which I started as a project to lose weight. The idea was to incorporate walking and sketching and lose weight and fill our sketchbooks! Our group is still going and to say we are all devastated by the news is an understatement.
  • Out of that grew A Postcard from my Walk which was a blog project that records a monthly postal exchange of sketches on postcards between 14 members of Sketchercise over the course of one year. The idea was that by the end of it we all ended up with a postcard from every member of the group.
  • Finally, we did the next best thing - and went on holiday together - in the Postcard from Provence house in the south of France. This generated another blog - Four Go Painting in Provence covering the activities of Sarah Wimperis, Ronelle van Wyck, Robyn and myself. We had a really marvellous time.

My sketch of Sarah and Robyn - after the order was placed and before dinner arrived
sat on the terrace of the Restaurant Vieux Four in Crillon Le Brave, Provence 16th June 2011
See Dinner at Restaurant du Vieux Four, Crillon Le Brave

I've got many happy memories of Robyn

My sketch the cheese course
from our lunch at
Fortnum & Masons
.....of a wonderful day in the summer day in 2008 when Robyn was in London - see A day out in PiccadillyWhat was so wonderful was Robyn loved doing all the things I love doing. We often corresponded round about the time of the Summer Exhibition and reminisced about that almost perfect day.  Every time I visit the kitchen gadgets floor in Fortnum & Mason I remember walking around with her trying to find the perfect present for her husband the chef extraordinaire!
When I started making my 'Must See' list, I began with my blogging friend, Katherine Tyrrell of Making a Mark. Until now Katherine and I had never met face to face, so we exchanged a couple of candid photographs and arranged to meet outside the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly. Katherine had offered me an incredible choice of itineraries for our day and we settled on visiting the Summer Exhibition, preceded by coffee and conversation in the Friend's Room at the Royal Academy and followed by lunch at Fortnum & Mason's across the road. We were chatting like very old friends from the moment we met. London Sketches by Robyn Sinclair
I remember learning that day about her less well known 'past' as a writer and producer of very many television shows for Australian television - she has an IMDb entry and these are her credits on Screen Australia. She was extraordinarily helpful when I started making videos of exhibitions - advising on which skills to work on and which shots worked well. I have Robyn's voice in my brain every time I sit down to try and edit a video. [Update: This is a Vale: Robin Sinclair on the Australian TV blog TV Tonight and based on the Vale for Robyn from the Australian Writers Guild]

I also remember how much she enjoyed writing and reading good writing. Robyn arrived in Italy with a husband (a writer) and two dogs - the wonderful Dermott (who had his own blog) and his little accomplice Snowy.  As we got to know one another better our pets decided they'd like to join in and over time a  lengthy and intermittent correspondence ensued via blog comment and email between the wonderful Dermott (I loved that dog!) and my cat Cosmo - engineered with help from their respective 'parents'.  I was never very sure whether it was Robyn or her husband writing - I suspect it was a bit of a joint enterprise as I know how much they both enjoyed good writing.  I do know I was really upset when Dermott died and just how big a hole he left in both their lives - especially after the earlier loss of Snowy.  

She was also a good critical friend when it came to 'important stuff' with respect to writing. She was one of the few I trusted to read my first drafts of my book.

When it came to the art side of things, I loved the fact she Robyn was always keen to try all sorts of different approaches to art. She kept trying new art materials and new ways of doing things. She hit her stride when she found her own particular approach to painting a still life (which always reminded me of Mary Fedden) and printmaking.  I used to love seeing every new print she made.

This is a photo of Robyn sketching - I think she's trying out my Art Pen with the extra fine nib!Photograph by Ronelle van Wyck
Robyn with her innovation - a replacement for a lost water jar
- in the grounds of the Abbay de Senanque
see Abbaye de Senanque and the Lavender Fields
There are very many happy memories of our trip to Provence.

I vividly remember an epic walk back to the house from a visit to the market in Bedoin and the boulangerie with the bread - when we'd set off too late (my fault) and lingered too long in the market (my fault) on what turned out to be a very hot morning. We both wilted in the heat!

Robyn loved watching me sketch. She never made me feel self-conscious and never asked too many questions (which is usually what stops me sketching when people start watching). She watched as carefully as she listened.
    Robyn watching me sketch - sat outside on the terrace waiting for dinner
    Photograph by Ronelle van Wyck
    This was my sketch - including Robyn's head

    My sketch of the House and fields - and the back of Robyn's head
    and this was her sketch - which is much better than mine!

    The House by Robyn Sinclair
    She wrote when she posted this
    So much to paint, so little time. What a joy it is to live with three other painters!

    and finally...

    Robyn wasn't the sort of person who ever wanted to talk about her illness - we got short updates from time to time. I guess the fact that she has been seriously ill for quite some time will come as a big surprise to many people - even those she was corresponded with. Indeed this time last year, it seemed as if things were looking up and possible that things might be getting better. I know I'd been very hopeful for her.

    She was also hugely supportive of all the various ailments and illnesses that crop up as one gets older - or suddenly arrive out of the blue with no notice whatever your age. Nobody was a better support than Robyn when things looked grim!

    I am only sorry now that I hadn't corresponded more with her of late but I really dislike intruding on people when they're dealing with serious illness and 'go quiet'. I guess like many others it's always difficult to find the right things to say.  More fool us for not making the effort....

    Instead I thought it worked better to respond to comments made on blog posts she liked or Facebook Group threads she participated in - as and when she was able to do this.

    My condolences go out to her husband Graeme, her daughter Helen and her grandson Hugo - who she was determined to be around to be able to see - and so she was!  I was so pleased for her that she made that milestone and knew the pleasure of being a grandmother and making books for and hugging her grandson

    I'm really happy for Robyn that she's no longer challenged by her condition or in pain.

    I'm happy for all of us who knew her - for the fact we knew her and for the way she dripped joy into one's life - a little bit at a time - and always knew the right thing to say......


    Robyn's Facebook Page has been deactivated. So I'd like to take the opportunity to share this post with anybody who would like to make a record of their memories of Robyn and what she meant to them. Please leave a comment below and I'll send the link to this page to her husband.


    1. I met Robyn on Wetcanvas. I really enjoy her, her art, and her dogs. I was happy when she was able to get a new puppy. I had no idea she was ill so was totally surprised when I read Katherine's Facebook post saying RIP. I remember all the posts about her home, life in Italy, the garden, neighbors, walks, and especially Dermott. I am so sorry she is no longer in her family's life. She was a treasure and even though I didn't write to her very often, just knowing she was there made me happy. Now I'm sad. Bless you Robyn. And thanks for being my friend.

    2. What a lovely collection of memories. I remember being very impressed with her glamorous glasses chain! She was a lovely, kind and happy soul, I agree with you Katherine, we should always try harder to stay in touch. Robyn's family are in my thoughts.

    3. You speak of your friend Robyn so warmly. How wonderful that you found each other and had fun and love and laughter together by the sound of it. I'm sorry for your loss, and glad you clearly have many happy memories to keep with you.

    4. I am so hugely pained to read this news. Robyn and I worked together on A Country Practice, and she became a friend as well as a fine colleague. We lost touch when she moved to Italy, and now I feel wretched that I didn't try to keep in contact.

      Vale, Robyn. You were a gift to this world. And Graeme, if you're reading this, my deepest sympathies and fondness.

      Margaret Morgan, Sydney.

    5. "I really dislike intruding on people when they're dealing with serious illness and 'go quiet'."

      From experience, please don't go quiet, don't ask how am (will say if want to), and write not needing a reply (which may not be up to). And don't beat yourself up later with should'ves.

    6. I was one of the artists in the special group with Robyn. I am also so shocked and saddened to have lost such a special friend and talent. She had a special spirit of compassion and generosity. She loved her Dermott as did we all and I can remember clinging to every word of the stories she would tell. Her home, gardens, and her love of art! I will miss her and my postcards from her will become even more valued! My prayers to her family whom she loved so dearly and to all of us who loved her back.

    7. I found Have Dogs Will Travel through Making a Mark as I found most art blogs and kindred spirits in those days. I had no idea it would lead to the online friendships that it did, including the warm, supportive and uplifting one with Robyn. Always generous with encouraging and thoughtful responses and with a huge sense of fun, I loved reading her and Dermot's blogs and our more personal interactions in Sketchercise and the postcard exchange. She felt like a real friend that I was sure I'd meet some day as a few lucky cyber friends did. I too will treasure the small, beautiful paintings I received from her. My deepest condolences to her family who she adored, she will be so missed.

    8. What a lovely tribute Katherine. I am truly sorry you have lost your friend, it looks like you were such kindred spirits in art and life.

    9. I will always treasure the postcards on A Postcard From My Walk, and have been reading and re-reading the one I received from Robyn, as well as all her wonderfully funny and encouraging comments on postcards and blog posts. And I'm still heartbroken at the news.

    10. Truly beautiful reflections of special times treasured with a true friend. I have watched on over the years through the lens of 'Have dogs must travel' after staying with Robyn and Graeme in Italy in 2008. I have always held the memory close to my heart of those very special few days when both of them welcomed me into their home with open arms and the warmest of hospitality when in a foreign land. Robyn gave me so much of her own time during that stay and Dermott never ceased to bring a smile to my face and still does. Graham cooked a feast only to find me allergic to his home grown tomatoes however ever understanding. Life is full of regrets and I wish I had reached out through the blog and kept closer contact. Robyn will be greatly missed and may she rest peacefully now.

    11. It was with total sadness and disbelief that I read of Robyn's passing. We were extremely close friends in what one now refers to as "a previous life". Going back well over 40 years I first met Robyn and her second husband Ian Barry through my late husband Russell Toose. Robyn & Ian came to our wedding, but we missed out on theirs when we were on our honeymoon. Robyn & I had babies 3 weeks apart and ran around the North Shore like Tweedle Dumb & Tweedle Dee baby shopping. We shared much fun and many secrets as our children grew and played together. Dan & "Woody" as Helen was called by family in those early days went to each others parties for years including their 21sts. Robyn was a true friend when I lost Russ to cancer when Dan was 7 she helped where ever she could. She came to my wedding to Ian Warburton 24 yrs ago and Dan & Helen caught up again. The last time I saw Robyn was on the set of GP the ABC drama series. We lived out of Sydney and catching up was not easy with our busy lives. I discovered by accident that she'd moved to Italy and I just hoped that she'd found happiness and love. It is impossible to put on "paper" how I feel at the news of her death. I do know I was so very blessed to have shared some of the most important moments of my life with her when we were younger. My heart goes out to Helen and her son Hugo, but I'm sure they will feel Robyn's presence around them as they cope with their loss. Farewell dear lady, you will always be so very special to me. Pammy Warburton xx

    12. I was on wetcanvas for a brief stint and remember Robyn from those days.. It is not easy to forget her, one for a unique way to spell the name and second(and more important), for her very constructive comments and appreciation on everyone's posts.. Thanks for the thoughtful tribute Katherine.. My thoughts with one and all who knew Robyn.. She will be missed..

    13. Katherine thank you so much for sharing your time with Robyn with us. We old friends in Australia are devastated, I can't tell you how heartbroken we are. But to have that insight into how lovely her life was there with all of you makes her abandoning us just a little bit easier to cope with. I'm glad she had all of you, because we missed her so much from our lives here.

    14. Robyn was my aunt although only six years older than me she was more like a sister. My mothers younger sister she was much loved and sadly missed. She was beautiful inside and out and talented....a true artist in every sense of the word. It was great to read how loved she was by all who knew her. My thoughts go out to Graeme and Woody.....much love Kerrie Hamilton

    15. Robyn was my aunt, being the youngest sister of my father David Lawrence (photographer).
      I spent a lot of time as a young child with Robyn when my family and Robyn both lived in Sydney in the 60's & 70's. In my mid teens I'd grown enough to inherit her beautiful hand-me-downs. She had a great fashion sense so I felt special wearing her clothes. She was such a beautiful warm person whom I had great affection for. I always picture her smiling. It came as a huge shock to learn that she had passed away. I'm so happy she got to enjoy a wonderful life in Tuscany and was loved and remembered by so many. My heart goes out to Woody. Love & hugs,
      Joanne Armstrong (Lawrence).


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