Art and laughs make Ken the richest guy around - Juniper
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Art and laughs make Ken the richest guy around

“I go to bed knowing the next day is going to be the best day I ever had because I get to paint,” says Ken Rich, who continues to bring contagious enthusiasm and humour to his 90 years.

“I think I’m the top rung of the ladder for happiness. This is a new chapter in our lives, and we’re having the time of our life,” Ken says of he and wife, Vanda.

Ken’s been painting his whole life. Starting school from the front room of a house amidst the chaos of a World War II London, he can remember loving art. He still has remarkable pencil portraits he drew as an 11-year-old.

“I wanted to go to art college but if I did, I’d likely just be smoking marijuana,” Ken laughs. Instead, he directed his imagination into horticulture.

“My creative drive has always been there. As a landscape designer, I still got to be creative on paper. I had a long list of clients, including celebrities here in Perth. I ended my career on 7776 designs – I didn’t want to end on a 7,” he says.

“While I can’t garden anymore, I keep taking cuttings. Can’t stop, won’t stop.”

Ken applies a no limits philosophy to his art. He dabbles in pencil, water colour and acrylic across nature, architecture, caricatures and portraits. He always like to inject comedy into his work.

“Cat’s faces, dog’s faces, bird’s faces, people’s faces. It doesn’t matter what I do, it’s always fun to add that comedy, after all, humour is what makes the world tick over.”

He points to an artwork of his latest phase, a compilation of blue wrens with comical expressions.

“I have so many choices of what to do next, I’m quite set on doing humourous animals at the moment and I quite like this baby kookaburra,” Ken says, flicking though his daily sketch book.

Left-Right: Ken with his blue wren artwork; some of Ken’s recent art; portrait Ken drew as a nine year old.

Ken and Vanda, described by Ken as being in “a 65-year romance,” arrived in Australia over half a century ago.

“I remember when I was about eight years old squatting in the assembly room at school on Empire Day and they showed us a film that said ‘come to Australia’. From then, I always knew I would go,” he says.

“Vanda and I came across as 10-pound poms, but we came to Queensland it was just too hot. We returned to England, and then in 1974 came back to live in Perth.

“I’m such a lucky guy, when we got to Perth I approached a wildflower nursery and they gave me a job and a house, where Harry Butler (the famous naturalist and presenter of ABC television series In the Wild) was our next door neighbour.”

Upon retiring, Ken and Vanda restored a derelict cottage in Darlington and were involved in the community through the Darlington Arts Festival. Seeking a smaller property, the couple moved into a retirement village and upon advice from his GP, sought a Home Care Package with Juniper.

Left to Right: Ken and Vanda Rich as a young couple; Ken Rich; Ken’s artwork of his and Vanda’s Darlington cottage.

“Juniper has been brilliant to us, absolutely brilliant. At the start they brought in an occupational therapist who was able to recommend things that made our life safer, stuff we never would have thought of like a magnet to keep the door open when we are negotiating our walkers through, and these chairs which are so much easier to get in and out of.

“Initially the personal care, like showering, for a guy it was like having to cross a big bridge, but the carer was so good and I was able to get over it.

“Every week Jenny comes in for physiotherapy and we do exercises to help with balance.

“I’ve got an army of Juniper people because while my mind is active, the feet don’t always follow the mind. It all means we are able to stay at home and I can keep painting a picture a day.”