Saturday, November 25, 2023

Beyond the Hills

Beyond the Hills, 2023, oil on linen, 65.5 x 65.5 cm

This painting was done from two different locations. The hill and clouds were painted first but I wanted a line of trees appearing above and beyond the hill's edge. Since there were no trees there I looked around for a set of trees that would suit the idea I had in mind. My concern was not really the trees, hills and clouds, but the possibility of taking the viewer's gaze into an unknown place. Like something that is an existential journey.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Self Portraits

I've always loved the art of self portraiture. It can provide an opportunity to paint a human figure or be the means to experiment with ideas. I've occasionally used myself as the model in a painting but rarely as a straight forward image. By this I mean that my face or body is presented in an indirect way to express something other than what I look like. This 'something other' can be explained as who are, we? or what are we made of? Most of the images can be located in reality but sometimes a surrealist element does enter the work. 

Artist Profile, 2011, oil on linen, 41 x 31 cm

Painting Drawing, 2010, oil on linen, 30 x 15 cm

Wrapped Self Portrait, 2010, oil on canvas, 45.5 x 35.5 cm

Self Portrait, 1994, dry pastel and pencil, 73 c 50 cm

Quodlibet, 2006, oil on canvas, 122.5 x 81.5 cm

Double Portrait, 2019, oil on canvas, 107 x 84 cm

Quodlibet Self Portrait, 2005, oil on panel, 64 x 49 cm

Insight and Logic, 1995, oil on canvas, 101 x 76.25 cm

Silhouette, 2011, oil on canvas, 50.5 x 40.5 cm

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Two Versions

The top painting was done en plain air. I liked the vast expanse of sky which gave the scene a bright and austere look. On viewing it over time and wondered if I should have added more clouds, so instead, I did another version in the studio. In the studio version I added a few more poles for the sake of the composition because as always, the composition takes precedence over what is in front of you.

If I did not say so, I'm not sure if you could tell which painting was created indoors or in the open air. 


Sea Air, 2023, oil on panel, 22.75 x 32 cm

Blue Depths, Summer, 2023, oil on linen, 28 x 36 cm

Monday, October 2, 2023

Trees by the Lake

Trees by the Lake, 2023, oil on canvas, 61.5 x 61.5 cm

This another en plain air picture, painted from the outskirts of Ballarat. Winter can be a cold and bleak time of year but it can also offer us some beautiful and subtle colours. When I saw this from the car I was immediately struck by the deep green grass contrasted against the grey and brown hues of the background. As is always the case, the scene wasn't quite like the image I painted. I added the puddle in the foreground, shifted some trees around and played with the proportions of what I saw. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2023


Lorenzo, 2023, oil on panel

This painting is a 1st birthday present for Lorenzo Jones. He's the son of Robbie and Sara Jones and Robbie is my nephew. I generally prefer painting from life but there are occasions where this is not possible. 

The idea for the portrait was inspired by portrait miniatures with the often presented face against a blue background. It would be too large to call this painting a miniature but small scale paintings can offer an intimate experience for the viewer.


Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Bernadette Robinson


Bernadette Robinson is an Australian singer with an incredible vocal range. She has a unique ability to impersonate great singers of the past and present, both in their songs and in their everyday speech. She weaves instances of a singers's life around their songs and she does this with poignancy and humour. But the main reason she succeeds is that she's just as talented as the singers she impersonates. Her high notes are electric and the feeling she puts into her music is something only a singer who can act the song can achieve.

I've seen her perform on a few occasions and she has never disappointed. Her latest performance in the Fairfax studio at the Melbourne Arts Centre embraced the personas of Maria Callas, Judy Garland, Edith Piaf, Amy Whitehouse, Barbara Streisand, Kate Bush, Shirley Bassey, Miley Cyrus, Karen Carpenter and Dolly Parton.

I can't wait to see her perform again.

Saturday, September 2, 2023


Paintings of interiors have always fascinated me. They seem to be about something else rather than a picture of a room. The ones I like best are rooms that seem to invite a state of meditation or reflection, that bring you into a calm centre.

The painting I did of my front bedroom was inspired by the sunlight streaming through the semi- transparent curtains. The curtains seemed to be as ethereal as the light itself.

Two of my favourite artists are Gwen John and Vilhelm Hammershoi. Here are two examples of how they interpret the space and light in a room in their house.

The Quiet Room, 2023, oil on linen, 66.3 x 51.3 cm

Vilhelm Hammershoi - Sunbeams or Sunshine and Dust Mites 
Dancing in the Sunbeams, 1900,
oil on canvas, 70 x 59 cm

A Corner of the Room in Paris (with windows open), 1907-9, 
oil on canvas on board, 31.2 x 24.8 cm

Monday, August 28, 2023

A Sunburnt Land


A Sunburnt Land, 2023, oil on linen, 51.3 x 76.75 cm

This painting was mostly painted on the spot but I always find some minor touches in the studio are often needed. A few liberties were taken as the landscape has been arranged to suit my composition, and when it comes tp making images from life, the composition takes precedence over what is actually in front of me.

I often use the car as an easel and during the progress of this picture, a few motorists stopped to see if I needed help because they thought the car was bogged or had broken down. So thoughtful of them!

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Why Drawing is Important



In contemporary art there are two different processes of image making taking place. One is where, through drawing, an artist creates a body and its idea at the same time, a process that follows the laws of nature and the other is when objects and images are assembled and manipulated from images and materials that already exist. It’s like comparing Dr. Frankenstein to nature. Frankenstein assembled a man but nature created the parts he used. Without nature he would have nothing to assemble. Without a draughtsperson, an assembler has nothing to piece together or manipulate.


Why drawing is important can be explained by what drawing does. Without dimension one can only see a flat pattern, but when light and air enter the process of drawing, which is what dimension is, flat patterns are changed into forms. It’s almost a contradiction to say that the more we’re aware of invisible space and light, the more presence the visible has.


Sometimes there can be confusion between the process of drawing and drawings themselves. Drawings are often defined as works created with pencils, crayons, pastels or any medium that isn’t paint. When paint is the medium, then the words ‘paintings’ and ‘drawings’ are used to separate them from each other. But placing marks within the light and air of a picture is what drawing does, it doesn’t matter what medium is used. 


In art, there often seems to be a misconception that content or subject matter is the art. But this is not true. The meaning in subject matter is what we talk about but sometimes the words seem to be more important than the images. Words are used to avoid drawing by bringing excess attention to the subject matter. Content can be important, but if an idea is not brought to life through drawing, then what is its value as art? It then does not transcend its verbosity.


Drawing is not a skill or a mechanical process. It reflects stillness as well as mechanical motion and it has a quality that is transcendental as well as observational. There are endless combinations of colours and shapes in drawn images but the light and air within these images remains the same. The observational aspect of drawing is these shapes and colours, the transcendental aspect is the air and light. Cezanne put this way, ‘If I were called upon to define briefly the word Art, I should call it the reproduction of what the senses perceive in nature, seen through the veil of the soul’.



These transcendental qualities in the art of drawing are not understood by technology because machines have no inner life and therefore cannot bring to life to the things and images they manufacture. 


It’s enlightening to read more quotes from some great artists and philosophers on the nature of the inner light and air within the image, and within ourselves.



MATISSE -  Colour helps to express light, not the physical phenomenon, but the only light that truly exists, what’s in the artist’s brain.



PICASSO – There are artists who transform the sun into a yellow spot, but there are others who, thanks to their art and intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.



MANET – The principal personage in a painting is light



WIM WENDERS – Wim Wenders is a film maker and he has been inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper. Wenders responded to Hopper’s work where he says,


‘The only subject is the light as an existential condition of man. There’s no need to paint a person, light suffices, it produces us’



DEGAS – The air we see in pictures of the old masters isn’t the same air we breathe.



HANS HEYSEN –  Train the hand to record not only what the eye sees but what the mind behind the eye sees.


LUCIAN FREUD – William Feaver wrote a biography of Lucian Freud, and he met with him on many occasions. Standing in front of a painting Freud was doing at one time, Freud drew his attention to a certain section of the painting and remarked, ‘I’ve already put some air in here


REMBRANDT –  Without atmosphere, a painting is nothing.


BHAGAVAD GITA –Yet beyond the senses it is, sustaining all,

Motionless, yet still moving.



LAO TZU – The way is void

Used but never filled

An abyss it is

Like an ancestor

From which all things come


EMILY DICKINSON – ‘Do my poems breathe?’ 



The above quotes suggest that art has its source within the artist. When artists separate themselves from the creation of their work, a quality that should be there no longer is there. Bringing an idea into the world through oneself is not the same thing as leaving your idea to a machine to manufacture. Our art galleries and museums have become spaces to display images and things that are designed and manufactured. The light source comes from an extension cord and its electrical socket rather than a light source from within the artist. The air within the work is no longer there because machines have no breath to extend into the images and things they manufacture. 


There are people who say contemporary art means we no longer need to draw but what they don’t seem to realise is that they are completely reliant on those who CAN draw. The contemporary art practice where an artist sources and manipulates another artist’s work and re-presents it as their own derives from a source of images created by draughtspersons. Our world is full of technology but what is often forgotten is that the existence of all machinery can be traced back to a drawing.


The culture of manufactured art has now lead to AI being given permission to gather images from a data base and present it as art. If artists are content to source other artist’s work then the next logical step is to allow AI to do it for them.


Technology has given us the large spectacle, the sensory immersive experience, reproductions of other artist’s work and manufactured images and things to fill our galleries and museums. It would be disastrous if we entered an age where drawing no longer existed. Our only access to images would then be through a data base where once human beings COULD draw. What a loss of soul that would be.

The variety of images made through drawing.

Vermeer, The Milk Maid (oil on canvas)

Holbein, Portait of an Unknown Woman (chalk and Ink)

Rembrandt, Self Portrait (etching)

William Roberts, The Swimmers (oil on canvas)

Degas, Dancers at the Bar (pastel)

Van Gogh, Study of a Tree (chalk and pencil)

Henry Bumstead Storyboard drawing for the film Vertigo (ink?)

Technical drawing of a camera

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Paco Pena and his Flamenco Dancers

Paco Pena's recent concert was, as usual, an amazing experience. He played solo for quite awhile before any of the dancers appeared on stage and when they did it was electric. The passion and precision of Flamenco guitar and dance is like a fire that keeps burning! As the pic shows, they received a standing ovation and the smiles on the performer's faces said it all. They even clapped the audience. There was another guitarist who accompanied Paco, a drummer and a singer but it was impossible to find out who they were. 

Paco Pana is 81 years old now, but he still has that magic when he plays. He takes you to another world and it's a shame we have to leave it. I'm sure many Melburnians are eagerly awaiting his return to the Melbourne Recital Centre.

Photo credit - Paul Compton.

Friday, July 21, 2023

Light and the Cinema

Light and the Cinema, 2023, oil on canvas, 61.25 x 76.25 cm

'Light is the principal personage of a picture', This quote by Manet has such significance because for me, light and air are mostly what turns painting techniques and subject matter into art. 

My current work has light as its subject matter. Although light needs to be there to bring a picture to life, many paintings also emphasise a story as well. But my aim is to paint something that needs no words/story since light has a universal meaning and is enough on its own to be the subject matter of the picture. The important thing to be aware of also is that light comes from the artist and not the sun, the moon, colours or the electricity grid. As Matisse put it, 'Colour helps to express light, not the physical phenomenon, but the only light that truly exists, what's in the artist's brain'.

The cinema is projected light, which makes it a perfect motif for a picture emphasising light. The image on the screen in the above painting is not that important and it doesn't really contribute to the subject matter but light brings it to the screen.

There is a quote by Wim Wenders that says so much - 

'The only subject is the light as an existential condition of man. There's no need to paint a person, light suffices, it produces us'.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Reflections, Silver and Green.

Reflections, Silver and Green, 2023, oil on linen, 71.5 x 71.5 cm.

Reflections on water are, for me, one of the trickiest things to paint. They are constantly changing so the general rhythms and colours on the water are the best way to express them. I could have just taken a photograph and painted from that, but somehow, not using a camera is like an invitation and a challenge to come up with something that a camera can't capture. 

In this painting, I added more trees than there are in the scene. When I started to paint, I realised that most of the dark reflections were made by taller trees in the background but I didn't want them in the picture as there would have been too many of them, so to get a lot of darkness in the water, I extended the reflections of the five trees to suit the composition. The painting below was also done at the same spot so the actual view shows the deviation a composition can inspire compared to what is there.

The Quiet of Winter, 2021, oil on canvas, 66.5 x 66.5 cm.

The actual view where these two paintings were based on.

I've always loved Vermeer's painting of Delft and those reflections on the water. Every time I drive around Lake Wendouree and see trees reflected in the dark water on a grey day, it reminds me of the Vermeer painting. You can see the simplification Vermeer adopted to render the water. His picture was at the back of my mind when I painted Reflections, Silver and Green.

View of Delft, 1659-1661, oil on canvas, 98 x 1180 cm.


Sunday, July 9, 2023

Blue Haze, Summer.

Blue Haze, Summer, 2023, oil on canvas, 46.25 x 66.5 cm

One of the most striking characteristics of nature is the subtlety of its colours. So subtle are they that they seem to be transparent as if not to be there at all. The colour blue is perhaps the most dominant and lends an aura to the natural world that is both poetic and powerful.

This painting is a simplification of the actual scene, as all of my paintings are, and of course the scene in is always changing so there needs to be a certain removal from what is being seen and painted.

Monday, July 3, 2023

The Gloaming

The Gloaming, 2023, oil on linen, 51 x 61.25 cm.

I often take a look from the window on the stairs and one evening I saw the moon amidst dark clouds as the sun had set. A few days later I went to Lake Wendouree and took a few mental notes of the colours on the water at a similar time of day. So this painting was done in the studio based on recollections of the colours when the gloaming is present.


Friday, June 16, 2023

Cloud Paintings Bedroom Installation

Recently I installed a series of cloud paintings I completed in 2004. The original series consisted of 100 small paintings measuring 13.5 x 20.25 cm each. John Constable's small cloud studies were an early influence and inspiration and perhaps years later when I did these paintings it was unconsciously an homage to his achievements.

As is often the case when an art work is multi-panelled, no-one wants to buy the whole set. Some have sold so the series is smaller than it should be. Also, the space available is a factor in how multi-panelled art works are displayed, so in this case I have been limited to installing 27 cloud paintings which completes the amount of art we can hang in our bedroom. 

Needless to say, I was always a little nervous during the hanging of the works because as you can see, the critic and art connoisseur, Alice our cultured cat, sees things in black and white. It's either purrfect or it isn't!!

Installing the cloud studies

The original installation of 100 paintings