Sentient Monster

This is my latest artwork ‘Melancholy Opera’

My reference photo was taken standing under the Harbour Bridge at Dawes Point looking across the bay at the world-famous Australian Sydney Opera House. 

You can easily find artist’s impressions of the Opera House sitting in glinty sunshine with great splashes of blue and yellow, or lit up at night with a riot of colour from one of the building’s dazzling light shows. 

I felt my overcast and moody depiction gave a different perspective of the iconic site. A nod to the cosy, subdued, sometimes melancholy performances inside. 

Sydney Opera House original artwork

‘Melancholy Opera’ by Candace Slager


You may wonder, why is this building here and why does it look so unusual? Given it is one of the most famous sites in Australia to which millions clammer for selfies, these important questions hardly seem relevant!  

According to the official Sydney Opera House website, it was a work of art built for the performance of works of art. At the time of its construction, a politician in charge claimed it was built to “help mould a better and more enlightened community”.

It’s been over 60 years since it was built. I don’t know about you, but I still don’t think we’re overly enlightened…

Above a sea of tourists, half-dressed Instagram models and exasperated parents yanking ice-cream covered children around by the armpits (all of which I conveniently left out of my artwork), sits a massive shell-like roof. Covered in over 1 million tiles, the roof is said to stand for a ship’s billowed sails. 

Unlike Queensland’s ‘Big Banana’, some serious architectural design went into this building!  

Sydney Opera House roof structure

The design and construction details of the Opera House make for simultaneously fascinating and boring reading. 

Did you know the original cost to build was estimated at $7 million but the final cost blew out to $102 million? Sounds like most projects I’ve had the earlier misfortune to work on.

But what really piqued my interest is what they keep inside…


“The Grand Organ” believed to be the world’s largest mechanical pipe organ. I mean, what could fill you with more melancholy than the sounds of pressurised wind releasing.

Apparently, the pipe organ is the largest musical instrument ever created. They range in grandness, with Sydney’s being the largest, measuring 15m, 37 tonnes, and housing over 10,200 pipes. 

Before the Industrial Revolution, the pipe organ was one of the most complex human-made mechanical creations alongside the clock. It’s a wonder the clock was ever invented with this old windbag clamouring away in the background. 

Grand Organ Sydney Opera House


Organs might be an acquired taste, but if you’re an introvert who always wanted to play an instrument but hated the thought of playing alongside others, this is the instrument for you!

They are an extremely complex arrangements of pipes, pistons, wires, and do-dads, with the sole purpose of cannibalising a full orchestra. That’s right. It’s designed to stand alone, playing all the instruments. Like an obnoxious loudmouth at a party, there’s no place for anyone else when this bad boy is in the room. 

It is a mechanical structure which feeds wind into the pipes. The multiple keyboards don’t even play any sounds until it’s turned on. Yes, this largely electronic machine is so sentient it barely needs a musician, just a janitor to switch it on at the wall. Not too dissimilar to Frankenstein’s monster - you know, the hideous man-machine that gets switched on at the wall and shuffles out into public only to be shunned by society.

Zoom in on moody clouds around Sydney Opera House and bay


If you “play” an organ, the technical term is Organist. 

I feel that in a lot of situations it would be a tricky profession to declare in public. Imagine saying you’re an organist while rushing around with an esky under your arm, as if there were a human organ inside. It all seems rather uncomfortably ghastly. 

It sounds like a condition you should tell a restaurant waiter, “Does anyone at the table have any allergies we should be aware of?” “Yes, my friend Barrington Toodle-pip here is an Organist. He only eats livers.” 

You might be better off just saying you’re an “electronics specialist”.

Work in progress of Sydney Opera House artwork


Anyway, I am rather pleased with how this piece turned out. The greenish teals and greyish browns are some of my favourite colours to work with. In fact, most pieces I draw use these same colours somewhere in the process. I definitely feel this artwork’s cloudy melancholy-ness is certainly more soothing than the windy bean machine inside!

I hope it strikes a ‘chord’ with you too! To view more of this piece, go to my online shop: ‘Melancholy Opera’

x Candy

Melancholy Opera by drawing artist Candace Slager
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