Thursday, December 31, 2015


The new year has started and I wonder what we will have done this time in twelve months? I rarely make plans because fate has a will of its own and often surprises us. But I hope all your wishes are realised over the unfolding year.

Deborah and I had a small celebration on New Yerr's eve, with some nice food and drink and the sparklers of course - a modest fireworks display of our own!!

But here's wishing you are Happy 2016 !!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Painting the Moonlight Sky

A full moon on Boxing Day gave me an opportunity to create another night picture. Deborah took these shots of a painting in progress. The clouds move so fast that all you can do is be inspired by what's in front of you and invent your own picture based on those inspirations - the colours and shapes of the night.

I tried something different this time. I painted the full moon in a cloudless sky first, let it dry, then waited about a month for the next full moon, then added the clouds. The difference is between painting a small picture in one go, wet in wet, or paint it in stages, wet paint over dry. With wet in wet you can blend the colours into each other easily whereas a wet layer over a dried surface can't be blended the same way. Sometimes I soften the edges with my finger but I rarely do this because it isn't good to use your skin as a blending tool.

This panel is larger than other panels I've used for skies, and it introduces a problem related to scale. The bigger the dimensions of a work, the more clouds need to be added to the sky so overcrowding the picture becomes an issue.

One of the difficult things about painting in the dark is that it's often impossible to find a light to illuminate the painting you're working on. Fortunately I'm able to view the moon from my balcony so all I have to do is switch on the light.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


This post is to wish all my blog viewers a very Merry Christmas. May you find pleasure and inspiration from art throughout 2016.

The falling snow adds a touch of Christmas to my night painting (see previous post) - although the last time I experienced a white Christmas was in the northern hemisphere. 

This painting also coincides with the fact that we will see the first full moon on a Christmas day in 38 years!

The decorations are from our tree in Ballarat, and we have another in Abbotsford. Many of the ornaments have come from our travels, and when we hang them they bring back memories of the places we've visited.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Night Skies and the Moon

I've always loved paintings of the night sky and the light of the moon. Here is a painting I did in about two hours. It's amazing how much the moon shifts its position and of course, doing a painting of a full moon directly from life can only be done within a few days of each month. 

This was done on a birchwood panel measuring 25 x 30 cm.

Friday, December 18, 2015

association and the Art Gallery of Ballarat

The Art Gallery of Ballarat publishes a quarterly magazine called association. In this summer's edition I had one of my paintings, Long Shadows at the Ballarat Turf Club featured on the cover. The Gallery recently acquired this painting and another one, Ballarat Turf Club Racecourse which featured inside the magazine together with an essay by Dr. Loris Button.

Here is the association article:

 (New Acquisitions)

The two paintings discussed in this issue of association form part of a larger body of work produced by Shane Jones over the past three years. The Gallery has been fortunate in acquiring these two works - one as a purchase, the other a generous donation by the artist - from a recent series of racecourse paintings. This series demonstrates Jones's deep engagement with ideas that have been evident throughout his career, but are also reflective of his long fascination with horse racing.

Jones, who was born in Melbourne in 1955, grew up in Mordialloc near the Epsom racecourse, and from a young age spent many hours at nearby stables. By the age of seventeen he was an apprentice jockey. Eventually, releasing that he would never be as good as his childhood hero Roy Higgins, he began to pursue a career in art.

He commenced his formal art training relatively late in life, but quickly made up for that by studying at RMIT and Monash Universities, completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting, an Honours degree and a Master of Fine Arts degree within eight years. Study tours to other parts of the world form a regular part of his working life, and the information and inspiration he gathers from the experience of looking at original works of art is critical to the way in which he pursues his practice.

His direct experience of riding thoroughbred horses, and of daily life at the racetrack, has provided him with insights and knowledge not available to most other artists who have chosen to depict the racing world. French artists Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet and Raoul Dufy all fall into this category, as does Australian artist Robert Dickerson, who, whilst he owned racehorses and enjoyed spending time with stable hands, admitted he was scared of horses and had never ridden one. (1)

Jones regularly exhibits in both solo and group exhibitions. Our new acquisitions are drawn from his most recent solo exhibition This Sporting Life, shown at Charles Nodrum Gallery in Richmond and at the Art Vault in Mildura in 2014.

The two paintings the Gallery has acquired were mostly painted at Ballarat's Dowling Forest racecourse. Long Shadows at Ballarat Turf Club is a morning picture viewed from the steward's tower and Ballarat Turf Club Racecourse is an afternoon picture viewed from the grandstand. Jones explains that he would work on one painting for a number of hours and when the sun shifted too much, he would swap positions and continue working on the other. The steward's tower was very tight for space, so he had to face away from what he was painting. Each picture took around fifteen sittings on site, with the fencing and rails completed later in the studio. A large panoramic painting from the series, Flemington Racecourse from the Old Grandstand, which is over two metres wide, took forty sittings to complete.

You might ask why anyone would choose to work 'on site' under often difficult conditions for such extended periods of time, when photography offers a viable, and some might suggest, a much less troublesome alternative method? In part the answer lies below when Shane says that:

I've always admired Impressionism and the Heidelberg School and their pursuit of en plain air painting, and the Naturalism of seventeenth century Dutch painting is always an inspiration. Although the location off the paintings is the Ballarat racecourse, the other subject matter is air and light - the combination of the particular (the racecourse) and the universal (air and light) (2)

He goes on to say:

       I've always been intrigued by vacant constructed spaces. An empty racecourse has a history     embedded in the atmosphere. We often hear it said that a particular location has a vibe, and I think that's true. Also, the lack of distracting activity can stimulate one's imagination to picture what might happen in the future, so the space of a place can effect, or relate, to one's imagination - which is also a space. All the empty racetrack paintings were mostly done on the spot, because it was physically possible to do this. There is also a great saying by the French painter Eugene Boudin (1824-98) and it has always meant a lot to me: "Everything that is painted directly and on the spot has always a strength, a power, a vivacity of touch which one cannot recover in the studio" (3)

Long Shadows at Ballarat Turf Club, 2013, oil on canvas, 60.5 x 91.5 cm

Ballarat Turf Club Racecourse, 2013, oil on canvas, 60.5 x 91.5 cm

But this is not the whole story for this artist - he also  works from photographic sources, and in some of the paintings in this series, he has painted the horses first in the studio, before returning to the track to paint the surrounding imagery: not an easy trick to pull off. These paintings are not photographic records: objects, people and horses may be moved or removed, space and perspective are often altered to create a 'greater sensation of deep space'. (4) The viewer is presented with an image that evokes a strong sense of place, rather than a 'photographic' record of the scene.

This sense of place is evident in both paintings. The distant hills in the landscape, 'the dreaming hills of Smeaton', are a geographically amazing and visually powerful feature of our region, echoing the curve of the track and surmounted by the high, pale blue skies of an early summer day. These works are not just portraits of a racetrack, they are sensitive evocations of the landscape, the weather and the air at a particular time of the year.

It is apt to conclude this discussion of Long Shadows at Ballarat Turf Club and Ballarat Turf Club Racecourse with a quote from the artist:

      Empty racecourses play on the imagination. When there is no-one around it's the history and the aura of the track that's strong, and it also presents a space to imagine what might happen in the future. You might say that space relates to time. (5)

Loris Button
Adjunct Research Fellow,
Federation University Australia

1          Louise Bellamy,
            September 25 2014 (Accessed 16/10/2015)
2          Correspondence with the artist, October 2015
3          Knowles, Gary, ‘The Art Work of Shane Jones’, Breeding and Racing Magazine, 
            (Accessed 6/10/2015)
4          Correspondence with the artist, October 2015
5          Knowles, The Artwork of Shane Jones, op cit

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Green Chair

Here is a little painting I did during my residency at Federation University Australia at Ballarat. Although the picture is titled The Green Chair, the real subject of the work is light and space. I thought an installation shot of the view I chose for the painting would show the obvious simplification that took place during the painting process, because realism is not just about depicting what's in front of one's eyes.

The Green Chair, 2015, oil on MDF, 40.74 x 30.5 cm

The Welsh artist, Gwen John, has always been one of my favourite artists. Here is her wonderful painting of an interior. This is also a great example of a work that is not about the intellectual, the political, the conceptual or story telling. So it begs the question - Then what is it about? Perhaps it's like looking at the sky, or across the sea into the horizon. Although this is an interior setting, light and space are infinite and have no boundaries, and a work such as this can be an invitation to contemplate something beyond definition or measurement, an invitation to be still.

A corner of the artist's room in Paris,1907-09, oil on canvas, 32 x 26.5 cm

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Talking to the Students at Federation University Australia

My Residency at Federation University Australia at Ballarat is winding down. Recently I gave a talk to the post-graduate students and then followed it up with some examples of the work I've done over a period of time. I showed them some of the things I did when I started out as an artist which I haven't looked at for many years. The early work always brings back memories of how difficult it is was to be a painter, but it still continues to be difficult to this day. Many people think painting is all about technique or skill, but it's primarily a mental pursuit. Forming ideas and expressing them as paintings demands a kind of searching, a finding of the way to do it, and since every picture is different, the search continues.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Latest Acquisitions at Warrnambool Art Gallery

The Warrnambool Art Gallery has just acquired three of my paintings. The gallery is one of our finest regional galleries with spaces that can be altered to suit any type of exhibition.

Murray Bowes, curator of collections, visited my studio one afternoon and we had a great chat about art and exhibitions. Murray proposed these works to the Acquisitions Committee and I was so pleased they chose them.

The incomplete is the main idea that connects these works. For me, the incomplete references our identity, in that the three big philosophical questions have no answer as yet - where do we come from? why are we here? and what happens when we die?  It means we know something about ourselves but there is much we are not aware of - but what is it we have to know?

Missing is a picture about a painting that has been cut out of the frame, so the question is - where is the painting? Although part of the painting remains around the edges, the remnants pose the question - what does the stolen painting look like? It alludes to the portraits in that we know some of the pieces but not the whole.

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

 Portrait of Deborah, 2009, oil on linen, 36 x 36 cm

Missing, 2010, oil on canvas, 83.5 x 60.5 cm