Contemporary realism -
Narelle Zeller, "'Dr. Watson and I," 2019, oil on acm panel, 34"x38"

Meet this week’s top Realism Today Ambassador, Narelle Zeller. Ambassadors get their paintings featured in the Realism Today newsletter and here at Simply sign up here for the Realism Today Today Ambassador program to invite your friends to join our free community, and your work could be shown next!

Narelle Zeller is an Australian contemporary realist portrait and figurative oil painter. Her refined oil paintings explore the beauty of the human condition and our environment, drawing inspiration from the people around her and her own personal life experiences. She aims to capture an honest and authentic representation of her subject and stir the viewer to question and connect to the personal and individual story behind each painting.

Largely a self-taught artist, over the past few years Narelle has undergone mentorship programs and has completed workshops with world-renowned artists, working primarily in oils. Narelle has been a finalist in prestigious awards such as the Shirley Hannan National Portrait Award, the Darling Portrait Prize, the Lester Art Prize and the International ARC Salon. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally.

Narelle Zeller on Her Contemporary Realism Paintings:

“Dr. Watson and I” (shown at top) invites you into an intimate lounge room scene with artist and musician Haydn Jenkins and his dog Dr. Watson.

Using a warm, welcoming light and friendly atmosphere, the viewer is invited to comfortably enjoy the many curious elements within the scene that contain Haydn’s personal stories.

With a strong 1970s theme throughout, this painting brings nostalgic items from Haydn’s past together with his present self, all of which helped to shape who he is today.

Contemporary realism -
Narelle Zeller, “Listen,” 2020, oil on acm panel, 26″x16″

This portrait, “Listen,” is of my 13-year-old son Tobias. I wanted to capture him as he is right now in this momentous time in his life, turning from a child into an adolescent.

In this painting I explored the juxtaposition of these two ages by depicting a moment of quiet beauty and innocence, using a soft reflective classical pose against a contemporary palette and appearance that resonates with his current life and experience swirling with technology, noise, and constant connection.

I want to say to him sometimes: “Stop and listen, can you hear the silence?”

Contemporary realism -
Narelle Zeller, “Bury Me with a Mandarin,” 2018, oil on acm panel, 26″x34″

“Bury Me with a Mandarin” is an oil portrait of a friend, Hope Jenkins, that was inspired during conversation whilst eating mandarins one day.

The title refers to a family in-joke illustrating her quirky, playful, and family-orientated personality.

Hope has a stillness about her which I wanted to capture. She is kindhearted and reserved, always putting others before herself. Both her contemplative demeanor and her placement to the side of the composition helped to portray this.

I used 1960’s inspired wallpaper & a knitted shawl to convey Hope’s appreciation for vintage patterns, clothes, and handicrafts.

Learn more about the artist at and follow her on Instagram at

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