Why I Paint

Inspired by nature and the everyday moments that make life special, I paint to find serenity, beauty, and meaning in the world. Each piece is a tapestry of stories, emotions, and memories, created to bring a vibrant, positive energy to any space they call home.

My Story

Growing up, my dad was my biggest inspiration. He could do anything—paint, play music, build things—you name it. His creativity and skill inspired me to create, and he always encouraged me to explore my artistic passions. Watching him work with such ease and confidence fueled my passion to never stop creating. He always told me, “Anyone can make art - all you have to do to get better is to keep doing it.”

I knew I wanted to be an artist when I was 8 and my parents encouraged me by surrounding me with art books, huge rolls of paper, an easel, and oil paints. When it came time to choose a path, I didn’t go to art school right away because they weren’t teaching the painting skills I was after. Instead, I worked full-time in various businesses, made some great friends, and gained valuable experiences. But my love of painting hadn't faded and I managed to study painting full-time for 7 years in Sydney and New York after winning several scholarships and art prizes. 

Earlier this year, I finally took the plunge and quit my job to focus on art full-time. For me, it's all about creating something that brings joy, wonder, and a touch of magic to people’s lives. When you look at my paintings, I want you to feel the layers of light, emotion, and energy. It’s like turning paint into feelings.

I draw a lot of inspiration from nature, from everyday experiences and from the Old Masters like Leonardo Da Vinci, whose works make you stop and wonder, "How did they do that?" That’s the kind of magic I’m chasing with every piece I create. Painting takes me to another world, a place where I can communicate through colours and shapes.

When I’m not in the studio, I love spending time with family and friends, making every moment count. I’ve also got a taste for adventure! I recently completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks - a 24-mile hike with a 5000 ft ascent - in 8 1/2 hours. Next up? Hyrox, where you run 1km and tackle a functional workout station, repeated eight times. Life is short, and I’m all about living it to the fullest and chasing dreams.

Take a look around and let me know if any of my pieces speak to you. Have a specific request? Drop me a line at info@marcuscallum.com.

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Reviews

 
“Marcus Callum’s painting has an arresting luminosity that matches the sensitivity of the treatment of his subject. It’s a virtuosic demonstration of contemporary realist portrait painting.” 

Dr Andrew Frost, Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award 2018 judge on Marcus's winning portrait | Art Guide Australia


"Marcus Callum has won the prestigious 2015 Black Swan Prize for Portraiture with his portrait of well known Australian artist Abdul Abdullah titled ‘Wrecking Ball’. Callum, who is currently completing a Masters of Fine Art at the New York Academy of Art, beat 39 other finalists to take out the $50,000 prize, which was donated by The Lester Group and awarded during a major ceremony at the Linton and Kay Galleries Perth.

The judging panel, which comprised National Portrait Gallery senior curator Christopher Chapman, Wesfarmers Arts curator Helen Carroll-Fairhall, and Perth artist Ben Joel, described “Wrecking Ball” as a “compelling example of the possibilities of contemporary portraiture. While the sitter is outwardly recognisable, at the same time the portrait gives a very strong sense of a resourceful inner life and the sense of flux that characterizes selfhood. The artwork has been filtered and processed in a particularly inventive way. A very deliberate sense of perfected craft."

Nicholas Forrest | BLOUINARTINFO

 

"Senior Curator at the National Portrait Gallery, Dr Christopher Chapman, nominates Marcus Callum's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and works by Fiona Lowry, McCulloch and Zavros as strong works... These works convey a powerful sense of psychological insight..."

Sydney Morning Herald | Archibald Prize

 

"Marcus Callum is an exciting addition to Trinity College's significant art collection. In 2009, he was awarded the prestigious Sir William Dobell Scholarship at Sydney's Julian Ashton Art School, and has since gone on to be a multiple finalist in the renowned national Archibald Prize in 2011, 2012 and 2013; an achievement that has assured his position as one of Australia's leading contemporary figurative realist artists."

Campbell Bearstow, Dean, Trinity College | University of Melbourne

 

"I would also single out Marcus Callum's work, ...virtually as good as anything that might have come out from the Parisian Ecole des Beaux-Arts under the tutelage of David or Ingres."

Eugene Barilo von Reisberg | Charles Nodrum Gallery

 

CV

 
Marcus has spent his career perfecting his craft, leading to a reputation synonymous with excellence. His artistic journey includes accolades such as the Dame Joan Sutherland Award in 2014 and a distinguished scholarship to the renowned New York Academy of Art in 2015. Further testament to his artistic calibre, Marcus was a finalist in the prestigious Archibald Prize for three consecutive years from 2011 to 2013. His commitment to artistic distinction was rewarded when he won two of Australia's top portrait painting prizes, the Black Swan Portrait Prize in 2015 and the Shirley Hannan National Portrait Prize in 2018.

AWARDS

2021 Finalist, Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art's International Biennial Portrait Competition, USA

2020 Finalist, Art Renewal Center International Salon, USA
2020 Finalist, Lethbridge Art Award, Brisbane, QLD
2020 Longlisted, Aesthetica Art Prize, UK

2019 Finalist, Art Renewal Center International Salon, USA

2018 Winner, Shirley Hannan National Portrait Prize, Bega, NSW
2018 Finalist, Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, Sydney, NSW
2018 Finalist, Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year, The Wallace Collection, London

2017 Semi-Finalist, Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, Sydney, NSW

2016 Finalist, Portrait Society of America's Members Only Commissioned Portrait Competition, USA
2016 Finalist, Art Renewal Center International Salon, USA
2016 Valerie and Harry Cooper Portrait Award, New York
2016 Academy Scholar Award, New York Academy of Art
2016 Finalist, Mosman Art Prize, Sydney, NSW

2015 Winner, Black Swan Portrait Prize, Perth, WA
2015 Finalist, Mosman Art Prize, Sydney, NSW
2015 Academy Scholar Award, New York Academy of Art
2015 Finalist, Art Renewal Center International Salon, USA

2014 Finalist, Eutick Memorial Still Life Prize, Coffs Harbour, NSW
2014 Finalist, Percival Portrait Prize, Townsville, QLD
2014 Dame Joan Sutherland Scholarship, New York

2013 Finalist, Mosman Art Prize, Sydney, NSW
2013 Finalist, Tatersalls Landscape Prize, Brisbane, QLD
2013 Finalist, Art Renewal Center International Salon, USA
2013 Finalist, Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of NSW
2013 Semi-Finalist, Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, Sydney, NSW

2012 Finalist, Alice Bale Prize, Melbourne, VIC
2012 Finalist, Black Swan Portrait Prize, Perth, WA
2012 Finalist, Shirley Hannan National Portrait Prize, NSW
2012 Semi-Finalist, Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, Sydney, NSW
2012 Finalist, Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of NSW

2011 Finalist, Alice Bale Prize, Melbourne, VIC
2011 Finalist, Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of NSW

2010 Finalist, Alice Bale Prize, Melbourne, VIC
2010 Finalist, Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, Sydney, NSW
2010 Finalist ("Honourable Mention"), Shirley Hannan Portrait Prize, NSW

2009 Joshua Smith Prize for Drawing, Sydney, NSW
2009 Sir William Dobell Scholarship, Sydney, NSW

EXHIBITIONS

2021 Iconic, Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art, USA
2021 Wausau Museum of Contemporary Art's International Biennial Portrait Competition, USA

2020 Ethereal Epiphany, 33 Contemporary, Chicago
2020 Ad Art Show, The Oculus, World Trade Center, New York
2020 Looking Up Looking Forward, 33 Contemporary, Chicago
2020 Razor's Edge, 33 Contemporary, Chicago
2020 Lethbridge Art Award, Brisbane, QLD
2020 Light Correlations, 33 Contemporary, Chicago
2020 Aesthetica Art Prize Exhibition, York Art Gallery, UK

2019 Accessible Art Fair, BOZAR, Brussels, Belgium

2018 Shirley Hannan National Portrait Prize Exhibition, Bega, NSW
2018 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize Exhibition, Sydney and national tour

2016 Justin Miller Art, Autumn Exhibition, Sydney, NSW
2016 Tribeca Ball, New York Academy of Art, New York

2015 Black Swan Portrait Prize Exhibition, Perth, WA
2015 Mosman Art Prize, Sydney, NSW
2015 Justin Miller Art, Winter Exhibition, Sydney, NSW

2014 Eutick Memorial Still Life Exhibition, Coffs Harbour, NSW
2014 Portrait Artists Australia, Embassy of Australia, Washington DC

2013 Tatersalls Landscape Prize Exhibition, Brisbane, QLD
2013 Mosman Art Prize, Sydney, NSW
2013 Archibald Prize Exhibition, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney and regional tour

2012 Alice Bale Prize Exhibition, Melbourne, VIC
2012 Black Swan Portrait Prize Exhibition, Perth, WA
2012 Shirley Hannan National Portrait Prize Exhibition, Bega, NSW
2012 Archibald Prize Exhibition, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney and regional tour

2011 The Blake Prize Directors Cut Exhibition, Sydney, NSW
2011 Alice Bale Prize Exhibition, Melbourne, VIC
2011 Archibald Prize Exhibition, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney and regional tour

2010 Alice Bale Prize Exhibition, Melbourne, VIC
2010 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize Exhibition, Sydney and national tour
2010 Shirley Hannan National Portrait Prize Exhibition, Bega, NSW
2010 Julian Ashton Art School Student and Teachers Exhibition, Sydney, NSW

PROJECTS

2015 Curator and co-Director, Project [504], Sydney, NSW

EDUCATION

2015 New York Academy of Art, New York

2014 National Art School, Sydney, NSW
2014 New York Academy of Art, New York (Dame Joan Sutherland Scholarship)
2014 Art Students League, New York (Dame Joan Sutherland Scholarship)

2009 Diploma of Fine Art, Julian Ashton Art School, Sydney, NSW
2009 Sir William Dobell Scholarship, Julian Ashton Art School, Sydney, NSW

1990 Bachelor of Arts Honours, University of Southampton, UK

SELECTED COMMISSIONS

2019 Kenelm Storey, UK

2018 Lez Brotherston, Theatre Designer, UK

2016 University of Western Sydney

2013 Trinity College, University of Melbourne