previous arrow
next arrow
Slider

The Art and the Story of Phil Whatmore

Phil’s life was ordinary in many ways but in other ways, quite extraordinary. While not famous or successful in traditional terms, Phil Whatmore, the artist, has left a legacy of beauty and complexity that fills the heart with joy. Donna Berthelsen

The following is an excerpt from the Biography “Artist Skydiver Cripple Saint - The story the art of Phil Whatmore” By Donna Berthelsen

Get a digital copy
Phil Whatmore Biography Book Cover

About

Phil’s Story

By Donna Berthelsen

A Brief Overview

PHIL WHATMORE WAS BORN ON THE 21.7.1945 AND DIED ON THE 27.5.2012. PHIL’S LIFE WAS ORDINARY IN MANY WAYS BUT IN OTHER WAYS, QUITE EXTRAORDINARY. PHIL WAS INTERESTED IN DRAWING AND PAINTING FROM HIS TEENAGE YEARS. WHILE NOT FAMOUS OR SUCCESSFUL IN TRADITIONAL TERMS, PHIL WHATMORE, THE ARTIST, HAS LEFT A LEGACY OF BEAUTY AND COMPLEXITY THAT FILLS THE HEART WITH JOY.

In the late 1960s Phil attended a weekly art group run by a well-known Brisbane water colourist, David Fowler, whom Phil valued highly as a teacher.

Phil’s talent as an artist provided opportunities for endless self-expression through his adult life.

When Phil began jumping, his parachuting friends were always welcome at his home by his parents. Their hospitality was legendary. After a weekend of jumping during the late 1960s up to 20 people might turn up at the Whatmore’s home in Manly for drinks and food. Friends recall seeing his easel in his room when he lived at his parent’s home.

Phil enjoyed this sociability yet he was basically an introverted person. He never sought to be the centre of attention. While he was always determined in pursuing his goals, he did not seek attention or any fanfare when he was successful. Phil became an expert skydiver. It was Sport Parachuting and Skydiving that held his interest through his twenties. He represented Australia three times at the World Championships.

Life can be tough. Phil was tested in an extreme way by a parachuting accident in 1976 when he was 30 years old. His main parachute malfunctioned and he ended up under his reserve parachute. Strong winds blew him backwards onto powerlines that caught him behind his knees on both legs and left him with nerve damage that made walking without aids impossible. Subsequently he always walked with two sticks, assisted by callipers or boots with straps to position his ankles and feet.

The accident dashed his dreams to continue in competitive sport parachuting. From the outset, after his accident, he was determined that he would

not give up on independent mobility. Later, when he was able to return to skydiving, when he landed, someone would be waiting with his sticks so he could make his way back to the packing area.
Phil’s sister, Bonnie, notes his determination and single-mindedness as a child, qualities that served him well as an adult to deal with the challenges. A happy childhood in a supportive family helped Phil deal with life’s trials.

The love of his parents was always evident to his friends from the early days in parachuting. After his accident, he did not want sympathy from others, which he found patronising.

In the search for meaning in his life, Phil became a Christian. His evangelical fervour was initially overwhelming for his friends but, in the decade before his death, he found contentment through his church at Gatton and the fellowship that it offered. Phil was happy.

Phil left many representations of his life and the contexts in which he lived. Phil’s artwork provides some message about how through art we communicate about life. He continues to speak to us clearly. We can hear his voice, feel his pain, relate to his vision and, above all, appreciate his talent. Donna Berthelsen