Inside my Head

Blog 01“The Landscapes of My Mind”

60 x 80 cms

Luminance & Museum Aquarelle pencils on Canson pastel board.

We all (most of the time) think and act differently (thank goodness). We come from different backgrounds, different life experiences and different situations. I’m a product of Australia, with Poland and England thrown in for good measure. I class myself as conservative in many ways but when it comes to my creative pursuits I’m anything but. Art gives me a wonderful sense of freedom. As I get older the boundaries once set at Art School seem to be vanishing. I’m becoming radical!

I’m not really sure why I have reached this stage in my life, but I’m certainly enjoying it! For nearly 50 years I have engaged in my aim to create artworks. It’s only since I retired from full-time art teaching (almost 12 years ago) that I began to realize the value of ‘being yourself’ when it came to art.

The pressure to produce ‘sellable’ art is always there for artists who exhibit their work. You make a sale therefore you can afford a frame for your next painting. If you can afford a number of frames, there’s no guarantee of selling all of them and there’s a good chance you’ll start collecting your own artwork by default (I know).

Today’s featured drawing is the second in a series of ‘free-thinking’ artworks. I recently finished and had framed 21 drawings for my exhibition at Gallery Pejean in Launceston (Tasmania, Australia) next February. It was time for a change, something different.

BLOG Mind 01At art school I often painted abstracts but they weren’t (back then) commercially viable. What did I have to lose? My situation today is a lot different, so I thought ‘why not!’ I’m pleased with both the drawings as they were not only enjoyable to create, but they seemed to relax me and I never felt pressured to get a ‘result’. How did I do them?

BLOG Mind 02Looking at details from one’s work in greyscale often results in some interesting tonal variations.

Besides using my imagination, I went back and looked at some of my recent work that happened to have strong colours and shapes. I then chose parts at random and ‘played’ with a composition until I was happy. I wanted parts to ‘jostle’ each other as I wasn’t afraid about the rules of composition. As for the colours I made decisions as I went. The careful, thorough planning I was used to was discarded! The key to this type of work is to only concentrate on a small section at a time. Start anywhere you like, continue anywhere you like. Don’t be in a rush to finish as this type of work doesn’t need completion in one sitting (or standing).  Be patient. Be brave.

Don’t worry be happy!


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60 x 80 cms

Luminance & Museum Aquarelle pencils on Canson pastel board.

Own reference & imagination.

I recently began a large drawing that is as much about the history of Tasmania (Australia) as it is about its landscape. The drawing is almost finished, but I had to step back and take a break because I found the subject emotionally draining. I won’t go into specific details at this stage, but I was aware of the impact that my particular subject was having on me each day that I stood at the easel. The solution?

I decided to undertake a drawing that was the complete opposite, a ‘fun’ piece that would enable me to draw what I felt like, where I liked and when I liked. That’s how it started. I chose ‘parts’ of some of my recent work featuring bold colours and varied shapes, drawing them ‘randomly’ onto a half sheet of pastel board (60 x 80 cms). I joined the various sections together with some imaginative license, to end up with one complete drawing, but with many parts. The aim was to have little or no rules and just to rely on my own judgment when it came to composition and choice of colours. Freedom at last! Or was it?

A few days later and I was off to Cairns for a week. I returned last Saturday, well rested and keen to continue my latest drawing. There it stood on the easel half-finished as I had left it, waiting for more layers of coloured pencils. Two days later and the drawing was completed, but what happened in those last 2 days was in stark contrast to the sessions I spent before my trip away.

Freedom or ‘Free Choice’ work seems a sure-fire successful task to undertake in art, but it’s not. For such work one has to rely on experience (that breeds imagination) and that can only occur if one has worked in a disciplined way for a number of years including  some form of art training. The greatest danger is falling into the trap of repetition on these occasions. One draws what one knows, the more one knows, the more choice one has when ‘free choice’ drawing.

My problem was that the further I went with this drawing the more concerned I became with composition, focal point, tone and balance. It got to the stage where I had to flip the board over after the drawing was finished, because the drawing was upside down! Despite all of this, I enjoyed the experience/challenge and I’m pleased with the result.

Maybe in future though when undertaking this type of art I should employ a ‘Controlled Freedom’ approach.


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Stitching & Beyond Workshop

Last weekend I conducted a Caran d’Ache coloured pencil workshop with members of the Stitching & Beyond group in Hobart. I had been looking forward to this workshop for months due to the challenging and diverse work that the group continually produces and I certainly wasn’t disappointed with the results. Coloured pencil with a craft group? This is no ordinary group, as its members continually cross the ‘great divide’ between craft and fine art; lateral thinkers and ‘brave’, qualities essential in the pursuit of challenging and stimulating creativity.

Most of the 17 participants were members a few being non-members from the ‘fine art side’. Everyone enjoyed the challenges and the great camaraderie made for a very pleasant weekend. It was wonderful to share with such passionate, organised and creative people.

Luminance & Museum Acquarelle coloured pencils were the main focus, with Neo Colors also featuring. Canson Mi Teintes papers of varied colours (no white), Canson pastel board (coloured), Canson drawing paper (white) and a range of fabrics were also on the menu.

This was a ‘discovery’ workshop where there was much experimenting. Exercises and challenges were set to enable the participants to fully test the art materials and also to see what they could produce, although the emphasis was more on experimentation than the creation and completion of ‘serious’ work. Having said that, some of the drawings were of ‘framing quality’.

The pencils and crayons worked extremely well on both fabrics and papers, with the exploits on fabric of particular note, so much so that I hope to conduct a return workshop incorporating Impressionist-style drawing with stitching using a range of fabrics, plain and dyed.

Having noted that the majority of coloured pencil artists worldwide work with paper (often white hp, smooth w/c paper), canvas and wood panels, it astounds me that there isn’t more ‘adventurous surfaces’ (supports) being used. This medium has so much potential! I have included a cross-section of photos featuring some the work covered in the workshop.

Working with the best coloured pencils in the world and with a group that thrives on challenges made for a first-class workshop!


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Landscape Warming

“Landscape Warming”

44 x 60 cms – Luminance & Museum Acquarelle pencils on Canson Mi Teintes paper.

Own reference.

Lately I have returned to one of my favourite art themes, ‘Climate Change’, the result of a renewed interest in the subject of late. I’m amazed at the lack of understanding of the changes currently happening in the Australian climate by our politicians who spin a great deal of rhetoric, but seem intent to do very little especially when it comes to the perceived possibility of losing votes at the next election. Our climate is warming and we can do far more to control it than is being done.

The wine industry in Tasmania for example, has seen a steady influx of growers from the mainland who have come set up their businesses because the mainland climate has become too hot and too unreliable in some wine growing areas. This will no doubt benefit the local wine industry that is already enjoying great success locally, nationally and internationally. But then again, how much wine can one grow given the size of Tasmania and its share in the general wine market?

There’s another side to this issue that has begun to emerge in Tasmania; irrigation. On the ‘surface’ (excuse the pun) it all seems quite innocent, even enterprising to suggest that pumping water from a reliable source to a ‘arid’ area has merit. In theory this is quite a sound proposition. What concerns me is that the ‘reliable’ source is the Great Lake in Tasmania, a large volume of water that for many years has struggled to maintain any reasonable depth due to the demands placed upon it for Hydro Power generation. The ‘arid’ area is the Midlands region, more often than not, a tough, straw-coloured series of plains that is home to sheep and some cattle as well as cropping. This is a tough area to farm, where rainfall is scarce.

The aim is to grow a broader variety of crops on a commercial scale now that abundant supplies of water are available. Sounds great, but what of the water table? Is there a danger that the soil will become too saline and therefore become useless? How reliable will the supply of water be given that Tasmania’s rainfall patterns have changed over the years?

Tasmania is predominantly a ‘Hydro State’ when it comes to power generation. As has already been realized, when the lake levels are down, there is less power produced. Will this situation be repeated?

“Landscape Warming” is an aerial view of a section of landscape in Tasmania’s Midlands region. The ground is warming, bleached hay bales lay in one field, burnt hay bales in another, while salt (representing the rising saline level) can be seen in another. A smaller field is covered in rocks while nearby trees deal with the increasing salinity in the soil. This landscape is struggling. There’s no sign of vineyards here, but I suspect that it won’t be too long before this happens accompanied by a range of ‘new and exciting’ crops. In the meantime, new markings appear on the ground indicating a different direction in agriculture. Will the land cope?

Is the desire to produce ‘new’ crops because of the promise of irrigation and a warming climate visionary, or are we playing Russian roulette with the environment?


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Can ‘Silence’ be Drawn?

“Silence at the Table”

70 x 50 cms: Prismacolor Pencils on Canson pastel board, own reference

A lonely mug catches the morning light in a deserted room in a disused shearers’ quarters in Tasmania. The dusty room belies its hectic past. Silence is now its tenant. The door is a storybook cover, the furniture lays idle, but the memories remain.

I love visiting old homesteads, buildings and farming properties. I’m fascinated not only by what there is to see, but to dwell on their history. The older and more dilapidated, the better. Cracks in walls and ceilings, shafts of light, dust, cobwebs and general decay all make for wonderful drawing subjects, but what of the general atmosphere of these places?

The first thing that comes to mind is the ‘silence’ that so often is found. Piles of dusty objects left lying about as if someone had simply got up and left, never to return. Now that’s my kind of subject matter!

‘Cheshunt’ is a working farm in Tasmania’s Meander Valley with a long history. The property is no longer as large as it once was, but it’s still a going concern. What has interested me for the past 15 years are several buildings that are in need of urgent restoration. One can feel the ‘history’, smell the dust and take in the silence that is truly evident when one enters each of the buildings, especially the former shearers’ quarters where subjects for the 3 drawings featured today came from.

“Silent Light”

70 x 50 cms: Prismacolor pencils on Canson pastel board, own reference.

“In the Light of Silence”

60 x 80 cms: Prismacolor pencils on canon pastel board, own reference.

“Deserted – The stillness of Silence”

50 x 70 cms: Prismacolor pencils on Canson pastel board , own references

Not everyone who went to war came home.A symbolic still-life of a deserted shearers’ quarters that lies silent and decaying.

The floor is slowly being reclaimed by the earth, the door won’t close any more. A cardigan waits for its owner to return. The mug on the table is thirsty.On the door is written a century-old diary of daily activities. For some reason the entries have stopped. In the hallway, the floor is but a memory, the front door now resides in a pile atop a dry, rusty fuel drum. No need for tractors any more. No-one there to gather hay that doesn’t grow.No laughter of children. No sounds of running water. Gone are the days of weary shearers and farm hands, of chatter around the dinner table and of heavy night-time snoring. The sun rises every day, everywhere.


Can you feel the silence?

Can you sense the history?


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I’m currently staying at Dubbo in NSW (Australia) for 17 days. I have been unwell for most of the first 8, the result of a bout of asthma and a resulting cold. I suspect that I won’t be fit for tourist duties for another few days. What does one do in these situations? I have reading material and a 📺 along with my visual diary and a tin of 120 Pablo pencils. The latter is my saviour!

I had recently completed a drawing while flying to Perth, Western Australia, and I decided that the pleasure of colouring would help me, and it did! This is simply an imaginative drawing without any deep, significant meaning. It doesn’t really follow any planned composition. It just happened. 

The value of Art as therapy is well known and in this case it has certainly worked for me. Sometimes we forget that the creative process has a number of benefits besides the artwork (product) itself. 

Whether it’s on a plane, boat or a train, studio, lounge room or even a shed, creating art can sometimes be the best medicine!


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“To come away from an art store without buying anything is shameful”.

Have you ever been guilty? Once I spent 2 hours in the framing section of an art store and forgot to buy something before I left! How can you not visit an art store without making a purchase? This is very applicable when it comes to buying coloured pencils. I love, adore, admire and almost worship those colourful sticks of pigment wrapped in wood. Their range of colours is phenomenal, as is the way they are presented. They vary in set size, quality and price, but at the end of the day, they are all coloured pencils. Being a professional artist I favour the most lightfast pencils for obvious reasons. Over the past 30 years I have worked with 32 brands with each one offering their own qualities. I am an ambassador for Caran d’Ache in Australia as well as a tester for Derwent pencils. For the past 12 months I have been ‘road-testing’ the Procolour range from Derwent, through their development stage and now as they are being released world-wide. I am currently in the process of writing a review to coincide with the release of Procolour in Australia within the next 2 months.

I’ve been conducting Caran d’Ache workshops, the next being held in Hobart on Oct 14-15. This particular workshop is special in that it not for a drawing or painting group, but for the members of ‘Stitching and Beyond’, a group that work with various fabrics, yarns etc. We are going to use Luminance and Museum Acquarelle pencils on both paper and fabric as well as Neocolors, soluble and non-soluble. I’m really looking forward to this workshop!

I’m always interested in new coloured pencils even though I have over 3,000 in my collection. I know there are collectors of coloured pencils who have many more than I have, one has nearly 28,000! Pencils are lovely to look at, but even better to use and that’s what they were designed for.

After working with coloured pencils for over three decades I have (finally) worked out what pencils suit my way of working (the previous 4 words are very important when it comes to choosing the ‘right’ pencils). Everyone is different and you need choose wisely. Some pencils have thick barrels, some are very light, some very smooth, not all are round. I need strong pencils as I often push them hard on the pastel board that I most often use. I don’t need a super-fine point, but a pencil that won’t easily break. I want a broad colour range as I prefer laying the colours down side-by-side rather than mixing them. I rarely use a blender and never use solvents. I want my coloured pencil artwork to look like pencils not paint. Because I use mainly coloured supports (surfaces), I find that not all the brands work as well as I would like. Certain colours often do, but not full sets.

My favourite (and most used) coloured pencils are (in order): Luminance, Prismacolor, Museum Acquarelle, Pablo, Polychromos, Coloursoft, Derwent Artists and Lyra. I haven’t finished testing Procolour at this stage.

One can never have too many coloured pencils!



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