Playing to your strength

• Zvi Yom-Tov took up painting last year, and presented Perth MP John Carey with a portrait this week.

OFF-key piano playing led retired engineer Zvi Yom-Tov to discover his talent for portrait painting aged 74.

Inspired by his anthropologist daughter Sagitte, a talented painter and musician who died age 36 in 2013 and is remembered by Yomtov Lane near her Hyde Park home, Mr Yom-Tov took to tangling the ivories.

After four years of private lessons, he was to music what Liberace was to minimalism, and his wife eventually put her foot down.

“So, so bad it was, she would shut the bedroom door,” he laughs.

Mr Yom-Tov switched to painting and turned out to be a natural, as Perth MP John Carey recently discovered.

The amateur painter asked the MP for a quick photo when he spotted him having a coffee break one day, having already been a fan from Mr Carey’s time as Vincent mayor.

“He was very helpful, you call him and you mention and issue and he’ll follow it up … on a number of occasions, he was excellent,” Mr Yom-Tov said.

Mr Carey was holding a garage sale on the weekend when Mr Yom-Tov popped in to surprise him with a new portrait.

“It was just so touching. This job, this game, is tough,” Mr Carey said – and he cops a fair bit of flak.

”That’s the nature of the job and I accept that. So to get something so lovely out of the blue was just so touching, it blew me away.

“It’s going up in my office, I’m deeply proud and tickled pink.”

Mr Yom-Tov remains humble about his fast-found talent: “I had a course last year in Morley Community Centre, and the teacher was Angela Verhagen, so all the credit actually belongs to her!”

A retired chemical engineer who earned his qualifications in Israel in 1968, his work did involve highly technical sketches.

“It’s a kind of a picture, a sketch, but not of people, not of flowers. Maybe it started there. I was sketching tanks, vessels, pumps, piping instrumentation, circuitry diagrams. It was never anything alive, anything human,” he says.

He painted his first portrait in April this year and found the dimensional precision from his career was useful.

He now paints local figures, friends, and people he sees on the news, keeping an eye out for interesting faces with distinctive features.

“I don’t have to tell you about Boris Johnson and his hair, it’s unique! And Netanyahu was so controversial, and for so long he was prime minister, and he was very recognisable… Kim Jong-un has a very square hairstyle, very recognisable.”

Mr Yom-Tov says more portraits are in the works: “I have about 60 or 70 people on my list I’d like to do when I have time.”


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