Tracy Vo delighted with Christmas portrait surprise from Robert McKenzie

Robert McKenzie (75) has been in a wheelchair for 50 years, and took up painting in retirement. He recently presented his portrait of Tracy Vo to the Channel 9 presenter. Photo: Marie Nirme
Robert McKenzie (75) has been in a wheelchair for 50 years, and took up painting in retirement. He recently presented his portrait of Tracy Vo to the Channel 9 presenter. Photo: Marie Nirme

TRACY Vo had a special surprise waiting for her at the Channel Nine offices in December.

There was a portrait from a stranger, inspired by an old magazine photo shoot the popular presenter had done.

The work was by Robert McKenzie (75), who started painting a few years after his retirement around 1998.

Mr McKenzie is coming up to 50 years since his diagnosis of transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord.

“It came on over about a week, I was driving trucks at the time,” he said.

“It started in my feet; then I got out of bed on Sunday morning, fell over and couldn’t get up.”

Mr McKenzie took up painting at the Spine & Limb Foundation in Shenton Park in the early 2000s.

“I see something I like that catches my eye, like a seascape or a sunset; something jumps out and you think ‘that’ll make a good painting’,” Mr McKenzie said.

“Sometimes it takes a couple of days, sometimes a couple of months.

“Portraits take a while because they’re fiddly; you’ve got to get the eyes right.”

Ms Vo said she felt very special that Robert took the time to paint her.

“It was a pleasant surprise, I’ve never had a portrait before,” she said.

“It arrived in December like a lovely Christmas present.”

Spine & Limb Foundation recreation and leisure manager Fran Wallis said Mr McKenzie captured the human spirit with his photorealism style.

“I’d been here quite a few years, and one day Robert said ‘Do you think I can paint?” she said.

“You just have to want to.”

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