If you’ve been following the artistic duo 2 Men Drawing, you might be surprised by the rare pop of color, added in collage detail, of a golden-crusted lasagna and the recognizable red neon sign in their latest works. They’ll adorn the rotating gallery wall of Fitzroy stalwart Marios Cafe, with profits from any sales to be donated to Parkinson’s Victoria.
Peter Mills, an architect, and Bruce Harvey, a former advertising executive, usually stick to the chiaroscuro effect of pencil and charcoal when drawing. “Colour scares me,” Mills confesses as we meet at Harvey’s garden studio in Brighton.
It’s hard to imagine this remarkable team being unnerved by anything. Their first show together, some 40 years ago, was inspired by the owner of another of Melbourne’s beloved Italian eateries, formerly Collins Street haunt Vivaldi’s.
It was a handy lunch spot when Mills was at architecture firm Bates Smart, and Harvey worked in-house for Myer’s ad department. “We used to draw on the tablecloth and throw them away, but Joe, the owner, suggested we buy proper paper,” Harvey recalls. “He would keep our drawings, and we could have an exhibition.”
Lunch (plus wine) was on the house. They donated the $8000 proceeds to the Melbourne City Mission, a kind gesture that led the fledgling 2 Men Drawing to their next gig. “The fellow from the Mission changed jobs and became program manager at the ABC,” Harvey adds. “He rang us up and asked if we’d like to draw on the radio, which we thought was a bit unique.”
Harvey and Mills would sit in on shows, sketching the guests. “One was a guy called Trevor Green,” explains Harvey – then managing director of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
That meeting led to several years of capturing the orchestra while they rehearsed, and two exhibitions. “It was the best drawing exercise,” Mills says. “We had to learn how to draw people who weren’t static. They were moving with their instruments all over the place. We’d have to take photographs with our heads and remember where they were 10 seconds ago.”
One man at the MSO would pop up again. “One of the violinists had a huge beard,” Harvey recalls. “We love life drawing too, and one day we decided to go to the University of the Third Age in Malvern. There he was, but with no clothes on, playing his violin.”