Real Life

How new artist Bobbi Magdalinos’ artwork has landed her a new gig

The new painter has found her rhythm working with an unlikely duo
Tony Nyberg

Bobbi Magdalinos has always loved art. But raised by an eccentric artist mother and married to two artists in the past, she was always too intimidated to paint herself, fearing she wouldn’t reach the high standards around her.

That was until a sudden stroke in 2017 left her in a wheelchair and made her realise there was no time to waste. “This stroke came out of the blue,” tells the septuagenarian former teacher. “Life can change in the blink of an eye, so why not just enjoy it and go with the flow? That’s what art allows you to do.”

Since she picked up a paintbrush, Bobbi has rediscovered a passion she thought was lost to childhood. She finds painting helps her focus and stay calm.

“It’s quite meditative and very soothing if I feel fluttery or a bit uptight,” she says, adding that nothing brings her more joy than drawing with her beloved six-year-old granddaughter Abigail.

“She is the light of my life and I think very soon she’ll be a better artist than her granny.”

But the most unexpected and delightful outcomes of her art have been a request to use one of her French impressionist-inspired paintings for a surf rock band album cover – and the unique friendship spanning generations that has come with it.

“I thought they were quite mad wanting my art, but I was extremely honoured and privileged, and I think it looks great on the cover,” says Bobbi, talking about The Honeybee Rocket Scientists’ second album Vita est Circo.

The three creatives have banded together on a cool album cover.

Smiling widely beside her are the musicians behind the album, Jimmy Bonar, 58, and Joey Vallis, 32, who met while working together as flight attendants and formed their band in 2018.

It was guitarist Jimmy who first spotted the painting in the hallways of Remuera Rise, the retirement village where Bobbi lives, after performing an easy-listening set covering the likes of Frank Sinatra.

Instantly taken by the painting, he wanted to meet the artist and knew he had to show bandmate Joey.

Luckily for Jimmy, Bobbi had been equally impressed with his musical talents and was thrilled to send her artwork home with him.

“When I met Jimmy, he was wearing this amazing sparkly red Lurex jacket and matching shoes,” recalls Bobbi with a smile. “Listening to him, I was moved to move in my wheelchair.”

Listening intently, Jimmy muses, “Moved to move, that’s a great idea for a song.”

Talking to the trio of unlikely friends, it’s easy to see the impact they’ve had on each other. And with their banter and obvious connection, it’s not surprising they continue to inspire and encourage one another’s crafts.

“I’m pleased I sparked a thought in these very creative minds,” enthuses Bobbi, who is not remotely fazed by the decades between them. “I had a very bad stroke and my speech is quite slow, but I don’t feel fixed in any generation. I love musicians and young vibrant men, so it’s been a pleasure for me.”

Joey continues, “Art doesn’t age, so it doesn’t matter all three of us are different generations, we can all experience something great through our art.”

Jimmy (left) and Joey are in tune with the residents.

It’s been more than four years since Jimmy met Bobbi and he still looks forward to their yarns.

“It’s always a big plus to have a chat with her, but on a deeper level, I learn so much and continue to discover surprises that lead into even more conversations and learning,” says Jimmy.

When the Weekly talks to the creative group, Jimmy and Joey are about to perform a concert at the retirement village for Bobbi and her peers. It’s a small token of appreciation for Bobbi’s generosity in gifting them her artwork for the album cover.

“Bobbi is super-talented and we really can’t thank her enough,” says guitarist and drummer Joey.

Both he and Jimmy grew up in musical households and followed in their family’s footsteps. They still work as flight attendants, but neither of them can bear to travel without a guitar in case inspiration strikes.

“My guitar is a great friend and good company,” says Jimmy, who lives and breathes music. “It gives me so much pleasure, and of course a sense of purpose being able to write songs, learning, getting better, trying ideas and collaborating.

“Even 12 hours into a long-haul flight, I’m often walking down the aisle singing. People say, ‘You look pretty happy.’ For me, there’s no point not being happy.”

It’s a sentiment the three of them can all agree on.

“I just feel so privileged to know Jimmy,” says Bobbi. “I adore him and to meet lovely Joey as well, I am such a lucky old lady.”

Jimmy continues, “Long may our friendship carry on, be joyous, productive and just be cool.”

Laughing, Bobbi chimes in, “That’s our motto – be cool.”

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