Vendor Profile: Rob

11 September 2015 Peter Ascot

Vendor Profile: Rob

Photograph by James Braund

"I was born with a disability, with a missing right hand. And I had a stroke when I was six weeks old. It caused some difficulties, but nothing that I can’t overcome. I’m 41 now.

I’m the third child of four, all boys. My brothers are mainly in Geelong now. My parents are still in Ballarat, and come and see me every Sunday. They are both retired. Dad was an auto-electrician and my mum was a nurse, way back.

We have a very good person coordinating The Big Issue in Ballarat, Jacinta. Every second Thursday we have a meeting, she is very good, very organised.

I get the magazines from Uniting Care in Dana Street, Ballarat, then catch the bus back home to Wendouree. I work till all the magazines are sold, maybe three or four days.

I use the money for paint, and grocery shopping, food. I have got a place of my own, do everything myself. I’ve always been like that, independent, like to do things on my own terms.

I do art, I paint. I’ve been interested in art since 12 years of age. I had lessons from a professional artist, and proper tuition one-on-one. One day I would like to teach art, that’s my ultimate goal.

I paint landscapes, I go outside and paint what I see. In oils, watercolours and in pastels. Preliminary sketches before painting, for harmony, colour scheme, the balance, the tone, basically to get the composition.

I’ve had a few onlookers, and it’s fun. A few people have asked if they can buy a painting, and earlier this year I got a commission to do one. I have sold some pictures, seven or eight. And a few paintings won awards – last year I had a watercolour come in second place with the Ballarat Arts Society.

I used to do karate too, got up to my brown belt, but I gave it up two years ago, time for a change. I did it for 12 years, and was teaching it for over seven years, both to kids and adults.

I don’t play guitar and keyboard much any more, but I still listen to Elvis, love Elvis.

I’m still going strong. This is my 10th year selling The Big Issue, from October 2005. I’m still selling in front of Bakers Delight in Wendouree, nothing’s changed. I know a lot of people. I’m part of the furniture! When I’m not working they miss me. People stop and have a chat, sometimes they buy me a coffee or a cake. They say, ‘Get a chair’, but it’s not a good look. I like to look professional, standing there. It’s been freezing this winter, but there is no point complaining – no one listens!

I don’t know if I’ll be doing this for another 10 years. Does anyone know what they are doing tomorrow, or in five years? You can’t predict the future. But I still enjoy it, I enjoy meeting and seeing my customers. Thanks for being loyal customers to me."

Rob sells The Big Issue in Wendouree, Ballarat, Vic.

interview by Peter Ascot photograph by James Braund

This article first appeared in Ed#493 of The Big Issue.