Inspiring Stories: Reflecting on Sam Johnson – “Anh’s Brush With Fame”

On Wednesday night, I caught “Anh’s Brush With Fame” on the ABC. What an amazing show! For those of your who don’t know about this show, it is Anh Do, a talented Australian comedian, artist and writer, interviewing famous and influential people while he paints them, revealing at the end of the show, his finished portrait. It truly is remarkable 1) the stories these people share and the lives they have led and 2) Anh’s  ability to capture their likeness and their ‘story’ in his larger than life paintings.

I always forget this show is on and am blown away every time I stumble upon it. I cry every episode and this week- the last for the season – was no different.

This episode’s guest was Samuel Johnson, who is an Australian actor and also cancer activist and campaigner for his terminally ill sister, Connie. To find out more go to Love Your Sister.


I know that I often bemoan my life as a 3 day a week teacher and very busy mum and wife, but I have my health and I have around me all of my beautiful family and they have their good health. I could never imagine having grown up with my mother dying when I was young, then dad dying and then to lose my first love to suicide, and then to be losing my sister, who I love dearly, to her third lot of cancer. It is just incomprehensible to me – and for him to still be smiling, still be positive, still be able to laugh. Such resilience.

How do we bounce back from these things? The only two people I have lost have been my Pa when I was 15 and my Nana when I was about 24. My Nana hit me hard and I still cry when I think about her. But I shouldn’t – I should be able to remember her and smile at her memory. I know she wouldn’t want me to be sad and I know they’re both watching down on me from heaven – I deeply believe that. But still I am sad.

I guess there is really something in that. I am sad and being sad is ok and normal. What I need to work on is finding the happy memories and reflect on the special times I had with them. While I can be sad they are not here, I need to not be overcome by this grief.

Is that how we cope? Is that how we keep going? Is that how we move forward?

As I get older, I need to improve my coping mechanisms for grief. It is a fact of life that we will lose the people we love – hopefully after long and happy lives, rather than a life cut short through tragic circumstances or illness. I will need to find a way to allow myself to grieve and to accept and deal with the emotions I experience.

I know there’ll be wonderful support around me from family and friends, but no-one knows your grief and emotions better than you do.

This is what struck me after this episode of Anh’s Brush With Fame. There is so much to be learnt from it about coping with grief and resilience of character.

I think Anh’s words at the end say so much. “Sam’s enthusiasm is infectious. His life has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, but all of that has made him what he is today. The complexity is what I need to capture in this painting.”

And he does capture it – the warm joy and optimism, but also the struggles he has gone through. Our life and the path it has travelled really is painted on our faces, in every crease and line and scar.

We must overcome. We must be resilient. We must teach resilience and instill it in our children. Nothing can prepare you for the feelings of grief when you lose someone you love. But we can choose how we let that grief control our lives.

This has been a timely reminder, while I am run down and worn out from work, to open my eyes and be more grateful for what I have and the life and good health my family and I have.

Do yourself a favour and iview this episode of Anh’s Brush With Fame.

Be kind.

Danielle x

For information on how you can bid on the final portrait to help raise money to fight cancer and for Love Your Sister, go to:


6 thoughts on “Inspiring Stories: Reflecting on Sam Johnson – “Anh’s Brush With Fame”

  1. Resilience is definitely an important skill. Everybody deals with grief in their own time and their own way. I find writing and music to be excellent outlets for emotions that are overwhelming. Given that you are searching for your spark, perhaps try to use your emotions as a catalyst to your art. Anh does such a thing in his show. You and I try to make sense of the world through art. Keep up the great blog Danielle.


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