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.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

The Big Kitty at the 74th Festival de Cannes

The BIG KITTY will be screened at the 74th Cannes Film Festival, as part of Seléction Cinéma des Antipodes, Cannes Cinéphiles, running from 6 - 17 July. Lisa Barmby and Tom Alberts have been in France for quite a while and what a time to be there!, They will be in attendance for interviews, photo shoots and of course, meeting many people in the film industry. My partner, Deborah Klein and I play a part in the film as well as many other artist friends of Tom and Lisa. We're so proud and delighted at the good fortunes that are coming The BIG KITTY'S way.


The screening dates and cinemas are:

Vendredi  9  jul  19.30 Le Raimu

Samedi  10 jul  18.30 Alexandre III

Dimanche  11 jul  12.00 Studio 13


Additionally, in late June, THE BIG KITTY was included in the official programme of Australia now, a cultural celebration organised by the Embassy of Australia, Paris.


Monday, June 14, 2021

The Eyes Have It

The Eyes Have It: featuring works from the Warrnambool Art Gallery Collection
is a curator's response to Covid-19. The art on display was made long before COVIC-19, and yet there are certain aspects within these images that convey disruption and uncertainty, characteristics that accompany any social upheaval. 

My painting (below) is a self portrait exploring the themes of all portraiture - who are we and what is our purpose? These themes have an inherent quality of uncertainty because the answers to these questions are often elusive.

My partner, Deborah Klein is also represented in the exhibition with a linocut print titled, Lace Face, and alongside other artists who have works on paper.

Kathryn Ryan took the installation shots and Tim Gresham documented the works.

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

My work hangs with a self portrait by Douglas Green 
and next to a Tom Albert's painting (below) titled Artist-Model

Deborah Klein, Lace Face, linocut print, 1996, 46 x 30 cm

Deborah's print, Lace Face, with other works on paper.

Saturday, May 29, 2021


Ablaze, 2021, oil on linen, 45 x 35 cm

Sometimes a finished painting can be the inspiration for another one, and this work is an example. The Burning, pictured two posts down, gave me the idea for this painting. Actually it gave me the beginning of an idea, because as I worked on it I changed my initial image drastically. It was to be similar to The Burning, but with the addition of rain. Not long into the painting, I decided that the whole concept was overdone and so I began to simplify things as I applied the paint. Firstly, I decided to eliminate as much detail as I could and decisions about composition suggested themselves to me along the way. I ended up with this minimalist landscape but I liked it for what it had become and decided not to take it any further. The addition of rain will perhaps be for another painting with fire.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Painting Influencing Writing

When I lived in Abbotsford, a great friend of mine, the writer Dmetri Kakmi, was over for dinner one evening when ideas for a supernatural tale suddenly awoke in his imagination. These ideas were inspired by my trompe l'oeil painting of a door. A few months went by and at one point, Dmetri could not move forward with the tale, and for some reason I decided to send him a detail of the painting, which shows me reflected in the silver door handle. After receiving this image, Dmetri had his story.

Initially, the work was to be a short story, but it developed into a novella, and it was eventually published with other short stories under the title THE DOOR and other uncanny tales. 

Dmetri and I gave a recent presentation titled Painting Influencing Writing at the Fitzroy Art Collective, where we discussed various issues concerning what inspired me to make the paintings mentioned in his book and what I thought about being one of the main models his characters were based on. 

It was a wonderful evening and I'm glad Dmetri suggested we do it!  

The pics of Dmetri and I were taken by Jon Rendell and of the paintings, by Tim Gresham.

Below are the other paintings of mine Dmetri refers to as the tale unfolds.

My painting of the door installed at my residence
 with THE DOOR resting on a chair .

Dmetri's book of uncanny tales, where its title was
 based on my painting

Shane Jones (left) and Dmetri Kakmi enjoying our presentation

Dmetri autographing his book.

Another View, 2016, oil on wood, 50 x 50 cm

Untitled #63, 1999, oil on linen, 152 x 83.5 cm

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

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Burning, 2021, oil on linen, 40.5 x 50.75 cm

When I was driving along in the car, I saw something blue out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head and realised it was smoke, and I immediately thought I would use blue smoke in a painting. 

The trees in the painting always feel like that they are presences in the landscape, watching everything that happens around them. In reality, they are in different fields, but they seemed so suited to be together in the painting that I eliminated all the other trees and kept these two sentinels together.

 I always like to paint from life or return to the spot where I began the painting, even though I often make up a lot of the picture. At the point where I wanted to introduce the fire, I was wishing I could see one right now and to my astonishment, when I was finishing a painting session and was returning home, I saw this fantastic fire across the road. I pulled over and started to put it in the painting. I reworked bits of it, but I got my wish to paint an actual fire.

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.