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Five to nine - A picture of retirement

by Michčle Nardelli

AT THE EASEL: Dr John Daly rediscovered a passion for painting after retirement When lecturer and elite athletics coach Professor John Daly figuratively hung up his mortarboard and stopwatch in 1996, few would have imagined he would pick up a paint brush.

But drawing was a passion from his earliest years and returning to the world of art was long overdue.

"I grew up in a very working class environment, so the idea of pursuing art as a career was one that just didn’t hold up – no one considered that you would earn a decent living from painting and drawing," Dr Daly said.

Like his father, Dr Daly was a keen sportsman, joining the athletics club Adelaide Harriers and competing at Adelaide University while he was studying. The progression into coaching and, ultimately, teaching physical education, was natural.

Dr Daly’s career blossomed. A keen interest in the history and sociology of sport and Australian history, and his success as coach of Australia’s Olympic athletics team from 1974 to 1992, fuelled his teaching and his ability to engage and inspire students.

"UniSA was the right sort of institution to work for because it valued and supported my practical engagement with elite sports," Dr Daly said.

Before retiring in 1996, Dr Daly had coached Glynis Nunn to a gold medal performance in 1984 and was a founding board member of the Australian Institute of Sport and a leader in its formation in 1980.

He also established the national coaching accreditation system and for his long service to sport was awarded an Order of Australia in 1991.

Today in the peaceful surrounds of Bridgewater, Dr Daly’s life is a world away from the intensity of Olympic sports and busy teaching schedules, but his commitment to excellence and dedication to learning have not flagged.

Starting back with sketching and drawing, he has been developing his artistic skills with the same passion and dedication. His home features a striking portrait of Germaine Greer, a collection of still lifes and animal portraits.

He paints in the realist style and has found his excellent understanding of human physiology has been a real boon for painting figurative studies and portraits.

"Two years before I retired I picked up art again and I knew then it was something I wanted to do full-time – I find it so enjoyable," he said.

"I regularly go to life drawing classes and I have had the benefit of great teachers including portrait artists Peter Findlay, Robert Hannaford and Trevor Newman."

Dr Daly is also working on his eighth book since retiring, From a Dusty Paddock: A History of Trinity College, and still takes the occasional call from the media.

He will exhibit his work at the Artistic Licence Gallery in Melbourne Street from August 24 to September 24 2006.