Tim Hocking prowls his garden studio searching for a particular drawing.
It’s a big job.
A lifetime of putting pencil or charcoal or pastel to paper means he has quite a few drawings.
Probably about 2000 at the moment — and that’s not counting the ones he has discarded, lost or given away.
Some are scattered across benchtops, others are arranged in piles — most are out of sight, stored one on top of the other in drawers.
Eventually, Tim pulls out a charcoal sketch of a teen model with blonde hair hanging over her face and breasts.
Her fingers are long and her shoulders emerge from the paper softly rounded and sculpted.
The same female emerges from another charcoal drawing on his bench — this time the form is fuller, more rounded.
‘‘She’s modelled for me since she was 17.’’
‘‘I’m gifting that to her for her 50th birthday,’’ Tim says.
Drawing has been a lifetime obsession for Tim.
As a child in Port Fairy he would draw anything he saw — faces, landscapes, animals, the sea.
‘‘My folks sent me to the local artist Irene Bartlett — she had a little gallery.
‘‘On Saturdays, instead of footy and sport I was going up the road to Irene’s place.’’
He went on to study art in Years 10 and 11 before heading to Warnambool Institute of Advanced Education for a Diploma in Art and Design, specialising in his other obsession — pottery.
After a further two years at teaching college in Hawthorn, Tim found himself in Shepparton in the early 80s — poached by fellow artist Creagh Manning who was already teaching at North Tech on Verney Rd.
‘‘He needed a potter and he already knew me — so I shipped up here,’’ Tim said.
By the mid-1980s North Tech had separated into two campuses and Tim was among four art teachers, including Creagh at Goulburn Ovens TAFE college.
Tim spent the next 17 years at TAFE before being made redundant under the Kennett government cuts to secondary education — a move he remembers with some bitterness.
For the past two decades he has worked as operations manager and skills assessor at Shepparton and Wodonga training group Partners in Training. He has also done stints on orchards and canneries in what he calls his ‘‘wilderness years’’.
Alongside everything his drawing has continued.
For 20 years he has been the convenor of what is loosely called the ‘‘Wednesday-nighters’’: a small group of Shepparton district artists who enjoy the challenge of drawing together with a live model once a week.
Tim realises not many people make a living out of life drawing, and even less people really understand it.
He sees the human figure in terms of light, structure, movement and space.
Although he does remember the first time he drew with a nude model.
‘‘ I had just turned 17 at school and there were about 14 boys and a few girls and a life model showed up for class, but the teacher wasn’t there,’’ he says.
‘‘We stood there and waited — she was a third year art student wearing these knee-high boots.
‘‘Eventually she took off her coat and said ‘d’you mind if I leave my boots on’?’’.
He says when drawing the nude figure, he’s not after a realistic portrait.
‘‘You’re looking for mood and tone. It’s a constant challenge — the anonymity of the model is assured. But some people just don’t get it.’’
Tim believes times have become more conservative since he was young.
‘‘The social revolution of the 60s and 70s has tailored off,’’ he says.
‘‘You were pushing the boundaries then — but times have changed. You work more in isolation now really.’’
He remains continually occupied by the challenge of drawing the human figure or making pottery in one of his three kilns — despite knowing his work will probably never command the attention of large galleries or big auction prices.
‘‘When you draw it blocks everything else out.
‘‘No matter how hard the day has been — everything disappears and you focus on the drawing.
‘‘When I was 17 someone said, ‘don’t hurry’ — art comes to you.
‘‘I think art is a calling or a vocation. When I found life drawing — it was like, ‘where have you been all my life’?’’.