Sunday, April 4, 2021

Air and Light #2

Air and Light #2, 2021, oil on linen, 61 x 51 cm

I've always liked paintings of light entering empty interiors, they have the effect of being about something else other than rooms. Artists like Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth and Wilhelm Hammershoi have painted memorable works on the subject.

Wim Wenders, a film maker who has been inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper, 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’. 

For me, this says it all, light and space being representative of something within ourselves, something you can't touch and yet something that is us.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

The Day's Last Hours

The Day's Last Hours, 2020, oil on linen, 40.5 x 50.75 cm

I've driven past this hill on many occasions and it's always caught my eye and I finally got around to painting it. Most of the things I paint are viewed from the car and I return to the spot and park just off the road. On this occasion the space where I placed the car was very narrow and it was a bit hair-raising as cars and trucks were speeding past at 100 ks/hour. I got a few horn blasts which made it worse and I was constantly thinking it will be a relief when it is done.

It's a fairly simple painting in that the detail is done to a minimum and yet perhaps it looks more detailed than it is.

Monday, March 8, 2021


This painting, Raindrops, was inspired by Gustave Caillebotte's painting of the river Yerres in the rain. 

There is a lake near to where I live called Lake Esmond, but on a rise of land running next to it is a pond. Sometimes it is so still it looks like a mirror and it is this pond that became the model for my painting. Most of it was painted on site but I did the rings in the studio. I didn't paint it when it was raining, but now and again I threw some very small pebbles in the water to remind me of how rings form when raindrops begin to break the water surface. 

Raindrops, 2020, oil on panel, 40 x 40 cm

The Yerres, rain, 1875, oil on canvas, 81 x 59 cm

Monday, January 25, 2021

Spring Light


Spring Light, 2020, oil on linen,  66.5 x 66.5 cm

This is another painting done en plain air. My favourite viewpoint is from a high perspective so having access to locations like this is amazing. It's from Mount Warrenheip, near Ballarat, and within a 2 kilometre radius there are so many possibilities for paintings that I could paint there for years. I think I'm remembering correctly that Cezanne said when he was paintings Mount St.Victoire, all he had to do was shift his head a little to the right or left and he would have a new motif to paint.  

The scene is different to reality. The dam in the foreground is not there and the roll of the landscape is not accurate either. But that's what realism is, to make people believe that what you paint is actually there, even when it's not. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Shadows on the Hill

Shadows on the Hills, 2020, oil on linen, 60.75 x 91.25 cm

This painting was done on the sight. I love the way a hill can lead your eye into the sky as if you are lifted from the earth. The shadows moving across the hills reminded me of the moors where the Bronte sisters lived. Sometimes I like a touch of the bleak.


Saturday, December 12, 2020


The BIG KITTY is a film created by Tom Alberts and Lisa Barmby, which spanned 11 years in the making. With a mixture of humour, screwball comedy, wit and the murky world of film noir, it is a wonderful achievement and an homage to 1940s film noir. There are some visual shocks, but shock as in awe, at the inventive visual segments that come onto the screen.

Tom and Lisa invited many of their friends to act in the film, many of them artists, which made it both personal and fun to watch. Tom plays the private investigator Guy Boyman and Lisa plays Princess Yukova Illinaditch. I play the part of a corrupt police commissioner named Shadrack and Deborah plays the fortune teller, Madame F. But there are many other parts played by too many others to name, 70 people made contributions.

Tom and Lisa made all the props and costumes, no mean effort when you consider the nightclub scene alone, and also some of the photography, and the things Tom did on the computer were amazing. As the pics  below show, The BIG KITTY has deservedly been selected for its World Premiere at the Another Hole in the Head Virtual Film Festival, San Francisco. Let's hope that this is the first of many film festival appearances. 


 Tom Alberts and Lisa Barmby as Guy Boyman and Princess Yukova Illinaditch

Deborah Klein as Madame F

Shane Jones as Police Commissioner Shadrack

Tom and Lisa hosted a Zoom cast celebration recently and Deborah and I were able to project the film onto the big screen, as the last two pics show.


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Winter Light

Winter Light, 2020, oil on linen, 51.25 x 41 cm

Subject matter can come as a surprise. I was on the way to a shopping centre and decided to drive around Lake Wendouree to get there. All of a sudden this scene stood before my eyes and I decided to go back and use it for a painting when the weather was similar. I painted it from inside the car over a few sittings. The car is such a useful easel as it protects the wet painting from the wind. I've simplified the actual scene but tried to capture the atmosphere of winter's cold and silvery light. 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Sun Shower

It's been over 40 years since I first saw Hiroshige's woodblock print of people crossing a bridge in the rain, which is illustrated below. I've always wanted to paint the falling rain after I saw this magnificent print and this year I finally got to do it. 

To picture the activity of raining is different to a wet landscape because a wet environment can be seen after the rain has stopped falling. The landscape was painted at the sight and the rain added in the studio. Also, the landscape was simplified so it would not compete too much with the raindrops. 

Sun Shower, 2020, oil on panel, 41 x 35 cm

 Sudden Shower over Shin-Ohashi bridge and Atake, 1857, 
woodblock print, 34 x 24 cm

Saturday, November 21, 2020


 Snowfall, 2020, 61.5 x 51.75 cm

This painting was inspired by the recent snowfall at Ballarat. It doesn't often snow in Ballarat, but during this winter it happened on a few occasions. The landscape was painted on sight but the snow was added in the studio. When I was nearing the completion of the painting, it suddenly snowed again and it was magical. It also felt like nature was giving me one last look to refresh my memory. 

I've always wanted to paint snow, but I have rarely experienced it in real life and it would have seemed false for me to paint something I hadn't experienced. This is not to say other artists should not do this, but personal experience is a major influence on what I paint.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

THE DOOR and other uncanny tales

THE DOOR and other uncanny tales has finally been released. Stories of the supernatural and horror have been authored by Dmetri Kakmi in a volume containing six titles - The Door, A Boy by the Gate, In the Dark, The Long Lonely Road, The Light in Her Eyes and Haunting Matilda. Some works have been published before, but to have them collected into one volume is having a library at your fingertips.

THE DOOR means a lot to me since my painting inspired Dmetri's story. A night of good food and talk came to an end and when Dmetri was leaving he made the remark, 'what if a face actually appeared through the painted window of the painted door'. What came from that thought is told in the tale.

The publication is by A NineStar Press Publication.

The painting, titled Entrance, now sits in the
 cinema room. Here it has Dmetri's book 
on the chair. Photographed by Deborah Klein.

You can see my refection in the door handle, painting this piece. 

Thursday, July 30, 2020

From Mentone

When I first started painting there came a time when I finally thought I painted something worth keeping. I painted the view looking across the bay towards Mentone. The Mentone Hotel is the featured building on the rise. I can't remember what happened, perhaps I accidently kicked sand onto the paint or repainted an area that I was not happy with, but eventually I painted the sky about six times, and I was never as happy as I was with the first sky I painted. It's probably been on my mind for nearly four decades so recently I decided to repaint the entire painting but using the old one as a model. I took some tracings and retraced the basic forms onto a new panel of the same size and redid this version. I'm fairly happy with this one and although the initial sky was blue, I liked the idea of a grey sky since there can be just as many wonderful colours on a grey day as there is when the sun shines brightly.

I've aways loved Vermeer's work and his View of Delft must have had a big influence on my choice of site.

Grey Sky over the Bay, 2020, oil on panel, 35.5 x 45.75 cm

    Mentone, 1980s, oil on canvas board, 35.5 x 45.75 cm

Vermeer's View of Delft, 1660-1661, oil on canvas, 96.5 c 115.7 cm

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Eastern Light

This painting was done on a property at Mount Helen. The view was from a high rise looking across to Mt. Warrenheip. The time was morning because I always like to see things backlit and the eastern morning light was just perfect for this painting. The view from the hill is actually a three hundred and sixty degree view, and it's one of the most inspiring I have seen. The cows often hung around the car but when they tried eating the mirrors they had to be encouraged to go elsewhere. As the pic shows, the back of the car makes a great easel and offers protection against the wind. It's like a small mobile studio, and without it I couldn't do much outdoor painting.

Eastern Light,

At Mount Helen with a 360 degree view of the surrounding area

Sunday, July 5, 2020

One Hundred Faces

Trudy McLauchlan has a small shop in Sturt Street Ballarat called Playing in the Attic. She invited a number of local artists to make an image of a face on a canvas board measuring 10.2 x 10.2 cm. Trudy's aim was then to exhibit 100 small canvases in her shop window, leading to the title of the exhibition - One Hundred Faces. There was a maximum of 5 boards per artist and the faces did not have to be human! My two works are below and although they are small, each oil painting took about the same time as it does for a much larger canvas.

The jigsaw painting was a little tricky. I painted the entire face and traced a jigsaw pattern from my iPad onto tracing paper, blown up to the same size as the panel. Then I traced the tracing over the painted face. The next problem was which pieces do I eliminate? So I traced the same jigsaw pattern onto a white piece of paper, cut up the pieces and placed them over the corresponding part in the painting to see if eliminating that section would work. What I wanted to avoid at all costs was not to repaint any of the face.

  Work in Progress

Mirror Mirror

Deborah Klein viewing the One Hundred Faces exhibition

Trudy McLauchlan outside her shop, Playing in the Attic

Thursday, April 9, 2020

In the Gallery ... with Deborah Klein and Shane Jones

Earlier this year Deborah and myself were interviewed by Amanda McGraw for the Autumn issue of the Ballarat Art Gallery Association magazine. We were taped in conversation and the article is the edited version. 

In the Gallery with ... Deborah Klein and Shane Jones
Interview by Amanda McGraw
21 January 2020

Amanda: Let’s talk about your connection to Ballarat and to the Art Gallery.
Shane: We were half-Ballarat and half-Melbourne for about 10 years. Recently we bought an Art Deco house together in Ballarat, so we’re now permanent Ballaratians. It was like a chapter in a book. We knew our time in Melbourne was over.
Deborah: We found ourselves starting to spend more time here. The development going on in Melbourne was making the city unrecognisable. Ballarat has everything we love. It’s got a great cinema – we both love film – and the Art Gallery of Ballarat has a superb collection. My connection with the Gallery started at art school in the early 1980s. After graduation, I worked at the Print Council of Australia, then located in a basement in Collins Street. One day a man came down the stairs and we started talking. His name was Roger Butler and it was only after he left that I realised he had written the catalogue for Melbourne woodcuts and linocuts of the 1920s and 1930s, published in 1981 by the Art Gallery of Ballarat, which was my bible. I taught myself relief printmaking from it because at art school linocutting wasn’t considered sophisticated enough and we received very little instruction. 
Shane: My connection to the Gallery began in 2009 when I had a solo show here. I think it has the best collection outside the State galleries, with some of my favourite works. I’ve always been inspired by Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton, by the Heidelberg School era – at the moment I’m doing a series of profile portrait drawings inspired by Tom Roberts’s profile portraits. You’ve had a solo show here too, Deborah.
Deborah: Yes, I had a survey show here in 2008 that originated in Castlemaine, called Out of the Past.
Amanda: Do you classify yourselves as mid-career artists?
Shane: Assuming I live for another 20 years, this is my mid-career, if it’s all about time, but it’s an interesting concept. Raphael died at 37, so his mid-career was in his twenties. Late Basquiat artworks were painted in his mid-twenties. Artists develop at different rates and some artists do their best work in their youth, so by the time they get to ‘mid-career’ their best work is behind them. 
Deborah: And then you have artists like Rosalie Gascoigne, who had her first exhibition when she was 57.
Shane: Having a career and what you do in the studio can be two separate things. What you do in the studio is up to the artist – your career is given to you by others. You can’t give yourself art prizes, or make someone buy your work, or make reviewers write about you. All you can do is your best work in the way you think it should be done – you can’t control anything else. 
Deborah: It’s a title that’s superimposed afterwards by others. I think for any artist, if you’re still working after many years then that’s a measure of success. I do feel that I’m at a stage in my life where I’m gathering pieces together and seeing the aspects of my work that are most important to me. For example, I’ve been painting ‘non-portraits’ – the backs of women’s heads – for many years, and I’ve also used the iconography of tattooing in my work. Now I’m drawing those aspects together, revisiting and combining elements to take them somewhere else.
Shane: Because of this house we’ve bought in Ballarat we’ve been getting our work out of storage, which forces us to look back. It’s great to put those earlier works out because it’s where you’ve come from, where you started.
Deborah: Sometimes old work should stay buried, but I’ve been looking at a self-portrait I did in art school that’s interesting because it shows where some of the later work sprang from. 
Amanda: Do you have a favourite artwork in the Gallery collection?
Deborah: I admire Clarice Beckett and Margaret Preston, but I have a lot of favourites. Anything from last year’s Becoming Modern show – I’ve always loved that period. I think it comes from growing up as an only child in St Kilda and my aunt, who lived next door, would play Fats Waller and Bing Crosby recordings for me, so I grew up loving that era and its music. The Modernist period has definitely influenced my own work, including my palette. 
Shane: I love Tom Roberts’ Charcoal Burners, which is as much about the artist as the artwork. Tom Roberts and Arthur Streeton are the two artists who inspired me most in my early 20s when I started painting, even to the brush work and what colours to choose. When I looked at their work it was a revelation – they led me to look more closely at nature. 
Deborah: Many of my favourite pictures are in the salon hang on the stairs. It’s been exciting seeing this and other new directions of the Gallery unfold.
Amanda: What about a favourite colour?
Shane: I don’t have a favourite colour, although I do have favourite combinations of colour like red, white and black; blue and yellow; brown, white and blue; black, white, green and pink; green, white and purple. I was a jockey when I was in my late teens and I always loved the colour combinations on the jockeys’ outfits. When I see certain colours together they do something to me – they stir something and set it alight.
Deborah: It’s intuitive. My colour is red, somewhere between crimson and scarlet – that’s the colour I use a lot in my work. Red is visually arresting and its meanings are many-layered and sometimes contradictory. It can indicate danger but also be joyous. Its connection with both the human body and the natural world is often reflected in my imagery.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Drawing Michael

Michael Nichols, 2020, pencil, 50 x 40 cm

Michael is the 30th drawing in my series of profile portraits. There were two sessions which amounted  to around 7 hours of siting. There first was the head and a week later Michael sat for the hands. It's the first portrait I've done in my new studio and I'm looking forward to continuing the series in a space that has a fantastic natural light. I added a couple of lines after Michael had finished posing but not too much as it might spoil the reason for having a sitter - to engage with someone over a period of time and transfer that experience to paper.