Artistic voyage

• 101-year-old Bill Newbold and his wife of more than 70 years Iris, holding the portrait of him by 16-year-old Finn Brophy. Photo supplied.

AN unlikely friendship between 101-year-old retired cray fisherman Bill Newbold and 16-year-old Coogee artist Finn Brophy has been the catalyst for a touching artwork.

They were paired up as part of The Centenarian Portrait Project by Teenagers, which sees young, budding artists chat to centenarians and create a portrait of them to help dispel negative perceptions around ageing.

During the portrait sittings, Newbold shared tales of his colourful life with the wide-eyed Brophy, including his tough life as a fisherman, his passion for making sundials, and his love for his large family with a beloved wife, three children, eight grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren, two of whom now live in Norway.

Initially they didn’t have much in common, but soon a bond developed over their shared love of art, and despite the 85 year age difference an unlikely friendship blossomed with both feeling enriched by the experience.

“It has been a once in a lifetime experience to speak with Bill and paint his portrait,” says Brophy, a year 11 student at CBC Fremantle. 

“I will cherish the interactions we have had always and forever.”

Born and bred in WA, Newbold lived in Geraldton for most of his life, working as a cray fisherman. He was also a bit of a talented artist back in the day and has been married to Iris for more than 70 years. Newbold now lives in a Regis aged care residence in North Fremantle, which held a morning tea to celebrate the unveiling of the finished artwork.

“I am absolutely honoured to have my portrait painted; Finn is such a talented young man and I have enjoyed sharing my stories with him,” Newbold says.

“It’s amazing what his hands have created, I’ve enjoyed the whole experience and the portrait is now hanging in pride of place in my bedroom.”

Regis North Fremantle general manager Maree Thomter says it was touching to see the pair becoming friends during the dozen or so sittings for the portrait.

“It has been quite incredible to witness William and Finn’s relationship develop over time, and also see the end result, which is such an outstanding portrait of an incredible man who has lived life to the full,” Ms Thomter says.

“How wonderful for Bill who, at nearly 102, had the opportunity to experience something new, and to make a friend 86 years his junior. And how interesting for Finn to spend time with someone of a completely different generation.”

To find out more about the The Centenarian Portrait Project by Teenagers visit


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