An artist’s face, hewn in stone

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Paul Deans, who did the sculpture of his father, Austen, and Esther Deans, who unveiled it, at the sculpture on Sunday.

The great block of Mt Somers limestone was draped in a giant kilt.

Near its crest there was a giant tam o’shanter, just as Austen Deans wore.

The limestone block was carved by Paul Deans, son of celebrated artist Austen.

He lived at Peel Forest, and loved the landscape he painted often.

Graham Carr, of Peel Forest Estate, thought the life of Deans, and his connection with Peel Forest, should be celebrated, and asked Mr Deans’ son, Paul, to create a sculpture of him.

He did, and it was unveiled – the kilt removed – by Mr Deans’ grand-daughter, Esther, herself an artist of note, at a ceremony at Peel Forest on Sunday.

The sculpture is across the road from the Peel Forest store – the original of which had its veranda knocked down when Mr Deans’ horse float came adrift.

Peel Forest veteran John Acland told the story at the beginning of the ceremony.

He said Mr Deans had the wrong ball (tow ball) on his vehicle and the horse float came off and knocked out four posts off the veranda.

Mr Carr said he was in the Mid Canterbury foothills when he saw a statue and “something clicked and I thought, this is something we can do with Austen, so I got in touch with Paul Deans, who was delighted to do this sculpture of his father”.

He said it was “so appropriate” that in the sculpture, Mr Deans was facing the mountains.

Mr Deans said when Mr Carr suggested a sculpture of Austen in Peel Forest he thought “great idea, I’d like to be involved in some way, and somehow I ended up being in charge”.

“Someone much wiser than me said that if you want to carve an elephant you simply take away everything that doesn’t look like the elephant – that’s not what I’m saying about my dad – but taking away bits of stone to leave something behind has always fascinated me.”

Esther Deans said she felt privileged to be one of Mr Deans’ many grandchildren and was “lucky enough to have picked up painting from him”.

She said she spent a lot of time out plein air painting.

“I think what he taught me was the value of really looking at the world and really trying to see, not what you thought was there, but what was really there in the natural, visible world.

“He wasn’t always a patient teacher, though … I remember one time pestering him with lots of questions about ‘what colour do I put there, how do I do that shadow, what colours are you mixing’ and he looked at me and furrowed his big eyebrows and said, ‘well, Esther, I recommend you look at the mountain and paint it’.”

A selection of Deans work, including some he did as a prisoner of war, were on display at the Peel Forest Hall all Sunday.