Mark Coombe’s heart has always belonged to the bush, but only in his later years has he translated his love for the outback into art.

“It took a long time to be able to say I’m an artist,” he said.

It is a passion he has passed down to his son Stephen Coombe, who has turned his enthusiasm for fishing into art.

“My father, his work is kind of the real inspiration for me,” Stephen said.

Together, this father-son duo is on a mission to capture life on the land and the sea in their own artistic forms.

Drawing inspiration from a life on the land

Growing up in the cattle country of central Queensland has had a profound impact on Mark Coombe’s career.

A painting depicting a man on a horse mustering a herd of cattle through trees and shrub.

Coombe is inspired by the “cowboy artists of America” to capture the daily work of those living on the land.(Supplied: Mark Coombe Outback Art)

“I grew up on a big cattle property, so riding horses and working cattle was all we ever did before school, after school, it’s all we knew,” he said.

Coombe always had a passion for “capturing moments” in rural life.

“I was a keen photographer and I got stuck into the photography of outback subjects, the same sort of subjects I’m painting, back in the 80s, 90s,” he said.

“There’s so many things about living on the land and working every day that seem like everyday occurrences for the people that do that work.”

Coombe is inspired by American artists, who use painting as a way of recording aspects of life on the land.

“The cowboy artists of America’s a really big thing, and you see all of those paintings,” he said.

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Staying connected to the bush

Coombe was inspired by American artists, but he said there was less work capturing the reality of life in rural Australia.

“I don’t see that many people painting the outback life, the horses and the cattle,” he said.

“I can capture and record all that stuff that happens.

“It might be just a guy on a horse closing a gate, but they’re special parts, they’re just part of everyday life.”

Coombe said his art also allowed him to stay connected to his roots.

“I don’t get a chance to get onto cattle properties much, so I really love the opportunity that my art gives me to get onto properties,” he said.

“I don’t find inspiration a challenge, there’s so many things I like about the bush, about horses, cattle, the people that work the horses and cattle.”

Painting of a white cow licking a white calf, only the nose and mouth of the mother are visible.

Coombe says his art allows him to stay connected to his roots.(Supplied: Mark Coombe Outback Art)

He said rural art particularly resonated with those who grew up in the bush and had migrated to urban areas.

“A lot of people in cities have a connection to country, to the land,” he said.

Passion runs in the family

Coombe’s son Stephen also believes in the importance of “capturing moments”, but his style of art is much less known in Australia.

Two men stand on a boat each holding a fish, the ocean is visible in the background.

Mark Coombe’s son Stephen credits his father with giving him an appreciation for the power of self-expression.(Supplied: Stephen Coombe)

It’s a Japanese method called Gyotaku dating back to the 1800s.

“Fishermen, whenever they caught their fish, would actually paint the fish and press paper over the top of it, and get the life-size impression of the fish,” he said.

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“I feel like this is a really awesome way to preserve the fish that we catch and we eat, in a way that can respect them and look upon them with a sense of beauty.

“I think there’s a real appreciation in Queensland for marine life and obviously raising awareness for the actual challenges that it does face around Queensland.”

Giving art a go

Stephen Coombe credits his father with giving him an appreciation for the power of self-expression.

“Growing up, I always saw my father chasing his pursuits and chasing an artistic background and I really spent most of my life looking for a medium that I could try and express myself in,” he said.

“I’d encourage people to experiment with all different types, even weird and wacky artistic pursuits.

“But as long as you’re enjoying it and having a good time, then that’s kind of all that really matters.”

A life-size impression of a fish produced using the Gyotaku method.

A life-size impression of a fish produced using the Gyotaku method.(Supplied: Stephen Coombe Ocean Art)

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Meet the artists on a mission to capture life in rural Australia
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