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It’s not every day an artist approaches you to be the subject of his entry for the Archibald Prize.

But that’s how local MP Darren Chester this week found himself having his portrait sketched by Robert Milton, an artist and a veteran from Bendigo.

Mr Chester worked at his desk in his Sale office as Mr Milton composed a detailed pencil sketch of Mr Chester’s face in around an hour.

This will be the second time Mr Milton has entered the prestigious portrait competition: last year he submitted a self-portrait entitled RAW depicting his battle with PTSD.

Mr Milton studied fine art at Glasgow University of Art before he joined the British Army. Mr Milton served 22 years and rose to the rank of Master Sniper before transferring to the Australia Army as a sniper supervisor. He left the army in 2010.

Mr Milton said he selected Mr Chester, who is the Federal Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, as the subject of his entry for the Archibald Prize after the pair met last year.

“I connected with Darren when we met in Canberra and I have a respect for him,” Mr Milton said.

Mr Milton now teaches art through Bendigo RSL as a rehabilitation therapy for veterans and their spouses, which he says gives them an alternate, less threatening way of expressing themselves.

Mr Chester said it was an honour to be asked to be the subject of Mr Milton’s portrait.

“The work Robert has done to support veterans and their families through his art classes is remarkable,” Mr Chester said. “I want to visit one of his classes to see how other veterans might benefit from similar activities.”

Entry submissions for this year’s $100,000 Archibald Prize were suspended in March due to the coronavirus. Submissions have re-opened and must now be received by mid-August.

The pencil sketch will be the basis of a painting, which will measure around one metre by one metre and take a few weeks to complete.


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