Gillie Schattner, 51, worked as a model before becoming a full-time artist with her husband, Marc, 54. The couple are known for their anthropomorphic dog and rabbit sculptures. They have two children, and a weimaraner named Indie.
Gillie: We met in Hong Kong in 1990. I was modelling part-time and was sent to a shoot for the Regent Hotel. Marc walked into the elevator and I just thought he was the gay hairdresser; I liked him straight away. He was really chatty and very cool. I found out he was the creative director. I said to my make-up artist, “Gosh, he’s so handsome.” She said, “Don’t go near Marc Schattner; he’s engaged.”
I thought, “Oh my god, this guy’s incredible. I’ve never had anyone ask me this many questions or show this much interest in me.” At the end of the shoot, I said, “I’ll call you for my tear sheets”, thinking maybe I’ll get to see him again, which is weird because I was also engaged to someone. But nothing else mattered, my fiancé didn’t even enter my head. It sounds terrible, doesn’t it?
A week later I called and he asked me out for dinner. I met him in the restaurant and he looked absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. My dream man. We sat talking until morning. At the end of the night, he said, “I really, really like you.” And I said, “Yeah, I really like you, too.”
We agreed to meet the following night. At this point I’m asking myself, “What the f… am I doing?” But I didn’t care, ’cause I knew that I really, really liked this person. Marc decided he didn’t want to be with his fiancée, and so he let her know. She got really stressed, so we decided to go to Nepal to get away. We’d already shagged by this time. That had happened on the second night.
Pokhara was exquisite; a primitive little town at the base of the Himalayas. We asked the hotel staff, “What do people do in Pokhara?” and they told us a lot of people came here to get married. We looked at each other and thought, “Yeah, why not?” We had a traditional Hindu wedding the next day. We didn’t tell our parents, we didn’t tell anyone. By this stage we’d only known each other a week!
We moved to Singapore, where both of our children were born. After that we lived in New York for four years, then moved to Australia. Marc was working in advertising, so he had long hair and a Porsche.
We worked on our art on weekends. We entered the Archibald Prize separately and were becoming competitive and it was causing a little bit of friction. So when we got the opportunity to paint [former Australian Olympic swimmer] John Konrads in 2006, we decided to do it together. We entered it as Gillie and Marc and were chosen as finalists. From that day on, everything got signed Gillie and Marc, and we paint every single canvas together.
Dogman and Rabbitgirl are very autobiographical. Marc’s the dog and I’m the rabbit. Like us, they are such an unlikely couple. Marc’s Jewish and I’m Catholic – he came from Australia and I came from England. But we still came together as soul mates.
At the moment we’re finishing a piece together for Sculpture by the Sea [which runs in Sydney from October 20 until November 6]. It’s a massive fibreglass rhino and will be half-buried in the sand at Tamarama Beach so kids can climb over it. We hope it helps raise awareness of the rhinos. I don’t think there will be any left in 10 years.
Most of the stuff that we bicker about is niggly little things because we’re with each other 24 hours a day. Things like, “You didn’t pick up the dog shit.” I don’t wish he’d give me more space, because I love being with him all day long. And he’s clingy, too. What’s amazing is that we always have things to talk about.
When Marc’s not creating art, he bodybuilds. He’s serious about going to the gym every day. His body is pretty good. He’s just like Dogman.
We entered the Archibald as Gillie and Marc and were chosen as finalists. From that day on, everything got signed Gillie and Marc, and we paint every canvas together.
Marc: When it comes to relationships, you have this checklist in the back of your mind but it’s never actually realised. I met Gillie and it was literally tick, tick, tick. I asked her out for a drink. We talked until about 3am. I think we kissed that night but didn’t do anything else. I knew I had to be with her, so I arranged to see her the next night. She said we’re not going to have sex, so don’t even try. I invited her back to my place and then it happened…
On the third day I told my fiancée I can’t be with you anymore, I’ve met someone else. The chairman of the agency asked me to leave the country for two weeks, so Gillian and I went to Nepal and got married. We were both insane. They made her kiss my feet. That’s the only part of the ceremony we got on video because the guy who used the camera pointed it at the ground the whole time.
She loved art and started doing illustrations for my advertising, so we were kind of working with each other from the moment we met.
The one thing that has caused conflict between us is my recklessness. I have made some major mistakes, including losing all our money when I had this compulsion to be part of the dotcom boom. We lost our car and house. We had nothing. Anyone else would have said, “You f…ing idiot”, but Gillie was fantastic; she said, “Don’t worry, we’ll get through this together.”
For two years I literally felt like taking a gun, putting it in my mouth and blowing my brains out. Gillie gave me a card and wrote a message in it: “I believe in you and I know if anyone can come back from this, you can.” Her support and her belief got me through it.
I’m the person who will push to take more risks than Gillie. I’m the one who is always trying to make Dogman’s penis as big as possible. She’s the one who says, “This is ridiculous.” We complement each other. You need that balance.
In our art we often say, “We go together.” And it’s true. I’m the Dogman and she’s the Rabbitgirl and we’re riding the Vespa together.