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Why Wy?


Artistic origins of The Principality of Wy

Vanity , vanity, All is vanity.

It is a question for reflection

I have been drawing since I was a child.  I didn’t know that what I was doing was drawing. It was just something I did.  Most artists start that way.  Here is a pencil self portrait made when I was about 16.

Why Wy? you ask?   The artistic “Principality of Wy” commenced with a long look in a cracked shaving mirror in 1959.  A tiny painting of a slender 17 year old,( illustrated below), was the result, rendered on a ceder panel.  It was painted in my second last last year at Sydney Grammar School.  The following year, influenced I suppose by the self portraits of Rembrandt,  I dressed up as ” The Prince” and experimented, battling with the oil paint, to make this picture work.   I lived then, as I do now, by Wy ar gine Point, in Sydney Harbour which was my playground as a child.

This was the first major “Wy” painting to be entitled “The Prince of Wy”  and was completed in 1960.  A year later I started at the Julian Ashton Art School as a night student of the great art teacher, Henry Cornwallis  Gibbons.

The self portrait has many guises , whether it is on the majestic scale of Shakespeare’s complex autobiographical character “Prospero” in “The Tempest” or Rembrandt’s theatrical tableau’s involving himself decked in elaborate costumes as an eastern potentate or a Dutch/Greek God – or an equivalent in music:  Beethoven’s passionate opera “Fidelio”.

It is the cry for help of Vincent Van Gogh. Michelangelo carved himself as a slave emeging from the marble. Leonardo Da Vinci drew himself as inscrutable, as the bearded sage. In Australia George Washington Lambert saw himself as a very superior gentleman with not a trace of humour whereas William Dobell. an equally fine draughtsman showed himself disarmingly whimsical and casual.

Prince of Wy aged eighteen in 1960

In my grandfather’s library was an art book illustrating the work of Anthony Van Dyck.  I remember being impressed, when I was very young, by the palpable energy reflected in the self portraits of the highly strung  Dutch Master.

The artist is grounded by his self portrait.   This fine fellow in front of you will never let you down.   He understands.  But who is this strange person in the mirror today?   Is it me?   Have we been introduced?   Who is “me” anyhow?   This “me” changes all the time.   Given fluency of technique in any one of the arts and the time to indulge in a little soul searching, this is a lifelong journey of surprises that any creative spirit can make.

It is not a good idea to try to go back to rework on a old self portrait.  The subject is no longer there.  You have  grown and changed.   See – this face is making expressions.  A smile a frown – but who is it there?   It is a riddle that is only explained by doing it.

It would be wrong to tell the artist creating a self portrait that he is -“infatuated with himself”,  The reality is that, “This time, it is the real thing”

My own early attempts at the genre were variously self entertainment or soul searching.   Costume or catharsis, sometimes both.  The model has left or didn’t arrive.  It may be five finger exercises,  waiting for the arrival of the portrait sitter.  A dawdling brush, a nearby mirror.

It might have been the effect of love  –  Has anyone else ever felt like this?

A painting is like a worm hole in space/time. Scientists have postulated that this is the way the time traveller may enter another time scale.  Every painting is a worm hole for the artist who created it, especially the self portrait.

Ah yes!   You are entering this other painting from your youth now and what is it that you were thinking?.   You called it – “The Sorrows of Young Werther” from a poem by Goethe.    The picture says it all.

Enough about self portraits.  The actor, Charles Laughton portrays Rembrandt in a  black and white motion picture portraying the life of the Dutch Master.  In the last scene Laughton, who has been entertained by one of his flamboyant students who has been showing off to some pretty girls, turns to the camera and adopts a pose reminiscent of his late self portraits. He looks quizzically  into the lens as the final scene closes and says, “Ah,  Vanity, Vanity ………  All is Vanity”.




The Serene half century in 2010

The iconic 1960 self portrait by Paul as The Prince of Wy is the first creation in the continuing journey of The Principality of Wy and reflects a unique provenance in Micro national History in Australia.

The Artists’ Principality is celebrating, in 2010, its fiftieth year.

Members of The Court of Wy and The Serene Family have great pride in Formally Commemorating this Anniversary.

The Prince modestly accepted the Serene Toast and thanked all those present and around the world who believe that both courage and humour were the way forward and that all disputes between nations large and small should be solved with art competitions.   Equerry

Ex Municipalis Vincit

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The Big Magnifying Glass of Wy


A sense of frustration and mystification was the cause of the creation of The Big Magnifying Glass of Wy by Prince Paul. 

 How could these bureaucratic errors keep happening?  Just when he felt that the family were about to achieve the legitimate goal of access to their home another obstacle appeared in their path.

He half jokingly speculated . “What we need is a very big magnifying glass to keep a close eye on council.  To identify mistakes.”  

He knew that there was a wide distribution around Australia of “Big” things like the “Big Banana” and the “Big Sheep” or rather the “Big Ram” which he  had visited and parked his car behind,  a location that had provided a salutary and monumental view.  

So he embarked on the construction of the Big Magnifying Glass of Wy.   A shiny chromium steel table leg provided an excellent handle and an aluminium boat hatch rim provided the lens holder.  All the elements were joined together and “Hey Presto.”   The Big Magnifying Glass of  The Principality of Wy was created.


The Equerries were most impressed and photographed Prince Paul, not in a Sherlock Holmes style Deerstalker Hat, but in the Summer Crown of Wy, which has a wide brim to shelter the Prince from the harmful  rays of the Australian sun.  The Equerries have done considerable research and concur that this is the first crown of its type in the world and believe it should receive endorsement from the Cancer Council.  

 The Prince however finds it a little top heavy and inclined to fall off. 

Paul has a collection of Travelling Crowns which can be slipped into his breast pocket, rather like a bulky folded handkerchief.  He prefers these foldaway crowns for day to day use should a little impromptu  formality be required as he goes about his duties around The Principality.  

A serious game of chess or billiards may require a little bit of dressing up.  The Prince is quite relaxed about formality. He was asked in his city club, by the Secretary, at the time of secession, how he would like to be addressed by the stewards.  Prince Paul, ever the egalitarian, insisted that there be no fuss.  The secretary tentatively enquired whether “Prince Mate” would be alright.    The Equerries though that this was a trifle presumptive.   

The couturier in the Prince expresses itself effortlessly in garments of grace and practicality. The Prince is inclined to favour coolness in both the costume of ladies and gentlemen and suggests that the classical toga could be on the horizon, at least for beachside suburbs.

Equerries have noticed that around Mosman, fashion leading matrons and in some cases their daughters have been favouring garments with a distinct Wy flavour.  

Because the Prince prefers flowing garments there is a certain non sexist androgynous style in his creations which is appreciated by those for whom intellectual passion is the prerequisite desired catalyst for romantic engagement.


The elegant Principality of Wy T shirt, an economical, yet priceless,  fashion statement  which bears a signed self portrait of Prince Paul, is very popular with both ladies and gentleman, when it is available.

WyT, 1 - T Shirt of the Principality of Wy

Created in pure cotton it comes in all sizes, especially XL and 3XL.   Artists in The Principality have been known to use use the larger sizes as practical painting smocks.   

This is where they put the U into Unique

Equerries inform that, regrettably, due to demand, the above tantalising creations are currently unavailable. Should you wish to be placed on the waiting list please send an email entitled “Serene Wy T” via The Equerry.