Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Montsalvat Exhibition

Last Sunday was the official opening to my drawing exhibition titled THE ARTS IN PROFILE. It is now hanging in THE LONG ROOM at Montsalvat, a magnificent Arts Centre located at Eltham, until 12 June. The project was inspired by the profile portraits of Tom Roberts, one of Australia's most important artists, and spanned a six year period. My aim was to invite people who have something to do with the Arts to sit for a profile portrait drawing - from visual artists, framers, collectors, curators, musicians, writers, art shop workers etc because the art world exists through the efforts of many different professions.

I chose drawing mediums because a portrait painting demands so many sittings whereas a drawing can be done mostly in one sitting and on occasions, two sittings if the hands are included. Having said that, right at the end of the project I decided to add a few paintings which I thought enhanced the overall look of the exhibition. I intended to have more portraits but Covid essentially ended the project and too much time had elapsed to keep it going. Instead I applied to a number of venues to exhibit the work and Montsalvat agreed to host the exhibition.

Here are some pics of the opening.



                                            The arrival of some of the sitters 

Portraist of Kate Nodrum, and Deborah and I

From left - Tim Gresham, Simon Storey, Michael Nichols, Graeme Drendel and 
a self portrait

From left - Rachel Derum, Godwin Bradbeer, Priscilla Ambrosini

From left to right - Self portrait, Luke Ingram, Marguerite Brown

Unknown models painted from life drawings

From left - Rosa, Aaron McLoughlin, Rona Green, Priscilla Ambrosini, Deborah Klein, 
Shane Jones, Jasmine Mahon (front), Paul Compton, Gaye Britt, Tim Gresham and James Harrison

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Moonlight on Water

I was thrilled that Daniel Nistico played my recent guitar composition called Moonlight on Water. Daniel included this piece in a livestream concert with his other classical guitar students. You never really know what a composition will sound like until a great player performs it, and I'm fortunate indeed to have Daniel play my pieces. I was doubly pleased when Daniel chose one of my moonlight paintings as a background to the concert.

If you have the time, you can listen in at Moonlight on Water youtube. It goes for about an hour and twenty minutes and my composition opens the concert. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

A Summer Wind

A Summer Wind, 2022, oil on linen, 65.25 x 65.25 cm

As the title suggests, my aim was to capture a feeling that the wind was stirring the air and the landscape. There were four trees but I felt three was enough for the composition and they were the last thing I painted. This painting took about 8 sittings which is relatively short for me. I put a few additional brushstrokes in the studio but I never want to do too much in the studio as it defeats the purpose of painting on the spot.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

The Big Kitty at Ballarat

As the poster says, THE BIG KITTY made its Ballarat premiere at Cinema Eureka recently. The cinema is a 16-seater and is in a private house run by Bryan Putt and Megan Finlayson. They have regular screenings so it was doubly special to have Tom Alberts and Lisa Barmby bring the film  to Ballarat. Tom and Lisa made THE BIG KITTY over a 12 year period and they star in it as well,

Check out the poster more carefully as it lists all the awards it has won internationally.

Tom and Lisa checking out the hilarious sign 

Tom and Lisa standing next to a poster Bryan had
 printed especially for the occasion.

Deborah Klein, Shane Jones and Tom and Lisa


Talking to Bryan 

From left - Christine Hickson, Gaye Britt, Lily-Mae Martin, Tim Gresham. 
Background, Tim Jones and Bryan Putt.

Tom and Lisa giving a fascinating Q&A after the screening.

Pictured at top of poster - Lewis Miller as the DA. Deborah Klein as Madame F

 and Gavin Brown as a passionate artist

Megan Finlayson serving refreshments. Bryan and Megan are such generous hosts as 
they always provide drinks, snacks and supper after a screening.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Blue Twilight


Blue Twilight, 2022, oil on canvas, 40.5 x 50.75 cm

Lake Wendouree, in Ballarat, has always been an amazing sight for the eye. The ever-changing colours and light are a constant source of inspiration. This painting was done from the car and at around the time the sun has only an hour or two to the close of day. Sometimes the sheen on the surface of the lake looks like a mirror rather than water! This was a bit more difficult tp paint for some reason, but I persisted with it as there were a few passages I liked and I didn't want to throw that away. I'm glad I did keep going as it's now one of my favourite pieces.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

THE BIG KITTY, Melbourne Premiere

On April 7th, the premiere of THE BIG KITTY made it to the Classic cinema at Elsternwick. It took Tom Alberts and Lisa Barmby 12 years to make. Though it should be noted that Tom and Lisa are visual artists and were occupied with other projects during that time. As has been mentioned before in other posts, all the actors in the film are friends of Tom and Lisa, and most of them are Melbourne artists. 

THE BIG KITTY premiered at Cannes but none of the Australian cast and crew were present because of COVID travel restrictions so it was a special Melbourne premiere when we all got to see it presented at a major cinema. 

Afterwards there was a celebration at The Antique Bar just down the road from the cinema, which also nearly coincided with Tom's 60th birthday, several days before. The Jasmine Mahon trio sang two sets of songs from the 40s, which added some vocal class to the evening. Jasmine also performed in the film in an acting roll and a singing roll, and she wrote the lyrics to the song she sang in the film.

Photo credits - Deborah Klein

Cast and Crew photo credit - Mick Murray

THE BIG KITTY at the Classic cinema, Elsternwick

Tom Alberts and Lisa Barmby after the premiere

Steve Cox, Deborah Klein, Shane Jones and Terry Matassoni (rear), 
 artists who played a roll in the film.

Lewis Miller, Lisa Barmby and Tom Alberts
in a Q&A discussion after the film

The Jasmine Mahon Trio performing at the after party at 
The Antique Bar, Elsternwick - Ken Rogers,
Nikki Scarlett and Jasmine Mahon

The cast and crew


Sunday, March 20, 2022

Nearing Twilight

                                    Nearing Twilight, 2022, oil on panel, 39 x 35.75 cm

This painting was mostly invented with a bit of memory thrown in. It was inspired by the setting sun over Lake Wendouree. I drove to the Lake  and put a few brushstrokes on the panel then finished the rest of it in the studio. Occasionally I went back to the lake at sunset to refresh my memory. It took many months to complete, but not many months of continuous work. I always seem to need lots of time to finish a painting as I give much thought to it and thoughts seem to take their time to settle.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Moonlight and Fire

 Moonlight and Fire, 2021, oil on linen, 112 x 76.5 cm

This painting sat in storage for over two years. The only thing I had done to it was the moon and some clouds at the top of the painting. When I had a look at it after the two years has passed I wanted to continue working on it. I had intended to add more clouds all over the painting but I decided against it though I couldn't think of what to do to instead. Eventually I had the idea of adding fire and smoke which retained something of my first idea as smoke and clouds are similar as images. 

Monday, December 20, 2021

Moonlight and Rain

Moonlight and Rain, 2021, oil on canvas, 40.5 x 30.5cm

A variation on two of my themes, moonlight and rain, come together in this painting. It's a completely made up studio picture and although not intentional, it does have a Japanese feel about it. I've always loved the Japanese Ukiyo-e artists and their interpretation of nature's modes. The work of other artists can stay with you, always, and can influence one's work years down the track.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Deborah's Pictures

My partner, Deborah Klein, had her 70th birthday recently. Since it was a landmark birthday, something special was needed to mark the occasion. Since I've been taking guitar lessons this past year, and composing as well, I thought I would compose a short piece to celebrate Deborah's creativity, and so I had the idea of setting Deborah's pictures to music. The composition, titled DEBORAH'S PICTURES, is played by my guitar teacher, Daniel Nistico with whom I did the composition course as well.

Deborah's pictures are in the background, but a more expansive view of her work on her studio wall can be seen below and also at

You can hear Daniel's wonderful playing of my composition Here -  I thought I would show the opening few bars as it begins by spelling out Deborah's name. The score itself expresses the various aspects that make up Deborah's work and thoughts - intimacy, secrecy, elegance, intricate patterning and power. 

Hopefully I've captured something of these qualities.

Daniel Nistico playing DEBORAH'S PICTURES

Part of the score showing the first two bars spelling out DEBORAH

Deborah's studio wall with her work

Celebrating her birthday with a breakfast at the Ballarat Yacht Club 

Lunch in our cinema room with birthday cakes and coffee. 

And of course Alice has to be in the picture

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Lightning Strike

Lightning Strike, 2021, oil on canvas, 40.75 x 30.25 cm

Before I started this painting, I did a smaller version to see what problems, if any, might be for a larger painting. The lightning I painted was straight line zig-zags but I realised that that only occurs in cartoons. I had a look at a photograph of lightning and saw that its shape is like the vein network in the human body or the roots of trees with no straight lines. With this in mind I painted the next lightning picture from the imagination with the idea of vein like strains of light. Lightning illuminates the sky when it flashes so it was tricky to get a balance between how much sky to brighten and how much to leave slightly darker for compositional contrast. The idea of the fire was an after thought, which often happens during the development of a composition.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Wind Across the Hills

 Wind Across the Hills, 2021, oil on canvas, 51 x 76.5 cm

This painting was inspired by the Japanese historical drama/horror film titled Onibaba. It centres around a few people who live fairly isolated lives near a river with very tall reeds. Throughout the film, we see the wind racing through the reeds and it was these moments that inspired me to do a painting of the wind.

Although it was imagined, I actually painted it at a sight I often visit when I do outdoor painting. As mentioned in a previous post, although I often don't paint the actual scene in front of me, being there seems to keep the idea in my mind. 

The grass was the hardest part of the picture to paint as it can be difficult to achieve an effect of grass that is bending to the wind in contrast to grass that's just leaning, though the way the clouds are painted can help suggest the wind is blowing.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Fog on the Lake

Fog on the Lake, 2021, oil on linen, 40.5 x 50.75 cm

The trickiest thing about painting fog is to get the right balance between mist and clarity. If too misty, then there is nothing to engage with and if too clear the sense of fog is absent. Painting nature's modes is primarily achieved through imagination. Though I paint the landscapes at the sight, the scene is never the same each time I return there, The reason I do return is that the initial idea that inspired the work seems to be there when I resume the sittings, and it's this idea that has the most importance rather than the scene in front of me.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Fire and Rain

Fire and Rain, 2021, oil on canvas, 50 x 60 cm 

This painting is a variation on the other two paintings with fire as a main part of the composition. Painting a grassy hill is quite a challenge as there are no large objects to lead the eye over the land. I could have put some in, but sometimes it's good to challenge oneself for the sake of it.

Most of the painting was completed up to the point where I was ready to add the rain. Although I used a very fine brush to do it, the paint was applied as thick as I could get it because as soon as the brush touched the canvas a dollop of paint appeared as if it was a raindrop. After that I moved the brush towards the top of the painting as this had the effect as if a body of water was falling and leaving a tail behind, which is what it does. 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Maillardet’s Automaton


Maillardet's Automaton, 2021, oil on board, 29.25 x 23.75 cm

Maillardet's automaton (or Draughtsman-Writer, sometime also known as Maelzel's Juvenile Artist or Juvenile Artist) is an automaton built in London circa 1800 by a Swiss mechanician, Henri Maillardet. It is currently part of the collections at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

In November 1928 the Franklin Institute received the pieces of a brass machine. It came from the descendants of John Penn Brock, a family who knew that at some time it had been able to write and draw pictures. Having been in a fire, its restoration involved a considerable amount of work. The Brock family believed that the machine had been made in France by an inventor named Maelzel. The original writing instrument, either a quill or a brush, was replaced with a stylographic fountain pen. Once repaired the automaton began to produce elaborate sketches and poems. In the border surrounding the final poem, the automaton wrote, "Ecrit par L'Automate de Maillardet", translating to "Written by the automaton of Maillardet".[1]

Restorer and paper engineer Andrew Baron spent about 70 hours in 2007 repairing the Maillardet automaton to bring it back to working order

One of my favourite films is Martin Scorsese's HUGO. Throughout the film there appears an automaton and it actually draws a picture in one of the segments. I first thought there must be a human being outside the picture frame manipulating the arm of the automaton, but I've since learned otherwise. 

Scorsese's film is based on Brian Selznick's book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and the mechanical figure in the story was inspired by Maillardet's automaton. It is the most sophisticated wind-up mechanical figure in the world, and it can draw 4 pictures and write 3 poems, two in French and 1 in English.

Last year I did a composition course with classical guitarist, Daniel Nistico, and I've just completed my third composition titled, Maillardet's Automaton Comes to Life. I did a painting to accompany the score and some of the details of the music notation are here.