Neil Douglas

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How do you define love?

Honesty, it's an honest emotion. Putting somebody or something above yourself. I think there also has to be a flip side to that, in being able to love yourself.

Love is honesty.

Who or what do you love?

When I think about love, it's strange how my first thoughts go to romance, so I'll think of my girlfriend. But then I wonder how much of that is directed by our culture, by film, by music. So I think my first response is going to be love as a big romance. But it's also much bigger than that. There is love of a country, there is love of an activity, and love of God for instance - and when you weigh it all up, it belittles to think about love as just a romantic notion.

What are some examples of the way you love Shushma (girlfriend)?

It's putting someone above you and in front you. Which is something I've been guilty of neglecting in the past - that I would associate love for something or someone with how if affected me and what I could get from it.

I would definitely say that I have a love for painting. Whereas in the past that has been confused with what painting could do for me, painting can earn me a certain amount of money, and get me a certain amount of publicity through exhibitions. I think ultimately there comes a point where that changes, where true love takes away what you can get out of it for yourself.

Coming to Brisbane was a big part. We came here for Shushma's work (from England). It was a case of - I'd never been to Australia, I had no intention of going to Australia. But it was the best thing for her career. There is something beautiful in regards to saying: "Let's just pack up and go." We didn't know anybody body here, but there was never a choice as to whether I would go or I wouldn't because I knew that it was the best thing for her. There was never a doubt. As soon as she got the job here, I knew we'd go.

You're a painter, when did you fall in love with painting?

Art has always been there.

I grew up in Bristol, we were poor. My school didn't have paints, you'd be lucky to get a pencil. Art was such a random thing to be interested in but at the same time it felt completely right. It's something that I didn't understand as a kid. I could lose myself in art, I could lose myself in drawing. And I always knew that it would lead me to the point where I'm at now. I'd spent a lot of my time drawing and it wasn't until I went to art college when I started to use paint.

As I said before, when I was a kid art was always there but I never really understood it, and it goes against everything from where I've come from, my family weren't artistic, my friends weren't artistic. It's something now that's tied into faith for me. Faith has answered a lot of questions.

Do you think God was at act in your life through art?

Definitely! Again I never knew it at the time. There were a lot of times back then where it was very confusing to me. I sort of knew that it was there for a purpose but I didn't know that purpose. I think the best way I can explain it is, that whenever there was a difficult time, art was always an escape.

Years ago now, when I was living in London, I had the idea to paint a series of churches. I'd never set foot in a church before. The idea of a church interior was on my mind for years before I thought: "Look, I'll stop and I'm going to go and spend time at St Paul's Cathedral." From there it kept building and building to a point now where I can look back now and see that God had laid that down. Coming from a place where there was no religion, there was no talk of God, there was never any exposure to faith. But God, He'd laid this trail that I could follow to where I am now. That's a lot to be thankful for.

If you could inspire people to be more loving, how would you?

I would hopefully be able to inspire through helping somebody to be content. I think that loving comes from when you're content, that you're not chasing something.

There is this constant need that you're defined by your 'stuff'. That you're defined by your belongings. Stop and look around. You're not defined by the trainers you have, you're not defined by what car you're driving. If you can find that contentment in your life, you can stop looking inward and look out.

What does God's love mean to you?

It's a blinding love.

My life up until recently was just walking in the dark. You're looking for answers when you don't know the questions. There was a time a couple of years back when I turned to face God, I acknowledged God, and God's grace and God's light was absolutely blinding. And having that light on you, it shows how filthy you are. 'It shows you who you are but He loves you beyond that.'

God's love is very humbling, it's something I'm still struggling with now, but it's also very inspiring. It shows me the way forward. It shows me a purpose.


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