“Salamanca Hillside”

45 x 65 cms

Digital image and Luminance coloured pencils on Arches watercolour paper.

Own reference.

I’ve had a strong interest in digital art for the past 20 years, my love of coloured pencils 31 years. They have always been ‘well apart’ when it has come to my artwork. I’m passionate about coloured pencils and until recently I’ve championed them as a single medium.

When I left Tasmania last year, I took with me my entire collection of coloured pencils, about 3,000 (32 brands) and for the first 8 months while my wife and I lived in Cairns they were all I needed. In February we moved south to Port Macquarie and I began to think more broadly about the type of art that I’d been doing and where it was headed.

Buying an iPhone 7Plus late last year was a ‘game changer’. I started taking more photos than usual and ‘played’ with them to see what I could create. I’m experienced in Photoshop and a few Apps and it wasn’t long before something new and exciting emerged. But that was only the beginning, I wasn’t satisfied so I kept experimenting until last month I begin to see possibilities for ‘mixed media’ work and the first result is at the top of this post, with another (below) as a ‘work-in-progress’.

At last I’ve found a way of combining my two favourite mediums. I also have a passion for gouache painting and I will include this in some future work. But why make such a shift after 31 years of coloured pencil art?

The answer is quite simple. I can’t keep doing the same thing year after year in the same way. I know there are artists who do, but I get bored with too much repetition. I have deliberately tried to vary my approach when using coloured pencils; different themes and different styles. It was time for another challenge.

This new direction is a major challenge in more ways than one and it’s required a great deal of research and it will continue to do so. Each of my pieces will be unique in that they will be single edition prints that have been hand-coloured and/or hand-painted. I’m using quality materials and a variety of subjects.

“Salamanca Hillside”, is my (historical) interpretation of what existed at the Hobart (Tasmania, Australia) waterfront now called ‘Salamanca’, home of the iconic ‘Salamanca Market’, a big tourist attraction every Saturday. There is a former quarry behind the market site where landfill was taken to establish the port of Hobart. What is unique is the ‘black Sun’ hovering overhead, actually a convict leg iron, a reminder of the state’s cruel history, not only concerning its early penal system, but the way the indigenous population was treated.

“Ancient Landscape” (48 x 60 cms) is a work in progress and was inspired by the landscape around Coffs Harbour, to the north of where I live.

It’s early days and time will tell where this new journey will take me.


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Fast but not Furious


“Some of my Favourite Things”

40 x 60 cms – 2 days to complete.

It’s always nice to get comments about one’s work when it is posted on the Internet. I use Facebook, WordPress, Linkedin and Instagram for featuring examples of my artwork. On rare occasions I have had ‘negative’ responses, but overall, my work continues to be well received.

One of the comments that appears now and then concerns the ‘speed’ at which I (perceivably) work at. Some people are amazed that I’m so ‘prolific’.

I aim to produce at least one drawing per week when I’m in my studio. Most years I’ll finish 50 drawings, plus a range of ‘other’ artwork, usually in digital format or paintings. Some years have resulted in 75 or more artworks.

Coloured pencil art is often perceived to be slow and laborious; layer after layer of pencil neatly laid down. Some artists complain about the time it takes them to complete a drawing, how they found it hard to concentrate for such long periods. Some state the hours it took them to create their work. No matter how long it takes you to complete a drawing, the real issue is whether or not the artwork is a success.

If you price your work at an hourly rate, you may be forced to charge as much as $100,000 per drawing and then you’d soon starve!

“Kempton Sugarloaf”

20 x 30 cms – 4 hours to complete.

It usually takes me 2-3 days to complete a 60 x 40 cm drawing. What is unseen is the time I spend researching and planning my work. I stand at the easel knowing exactly what I want to do. I lay the pencils down firmly and 2 or 3 layers of colour is usually enough. I work with strongly designed pencils, Luminance being by far the best not only in quality of colour, but quality of design. Museum Acquarelle and Polychromos are also excellent to work with. I struggle at time with Prismacolor pencils due to manufacturing inconsistencies.

I owe a lot to my drawing approach to my days at Art School where I was taught to draw quickly, such as moving objects, working outside and drawing to strict time limits. This gave me the confidence to push myself even when working with a ‘slow medium’ as coloured pencils.

Coloured pencils are much more adaptable than most people think. Quality pencils can be pushed hard and are ideal for work plein-air.

I may work quicker than some, but I have control and don’t work up a sweat!


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Tropical Abstract

“Tropical Abstract”

60 x 40 cms

Luminance coloured pencils on Canson pastel board

Own reference.

Abstract coloured pencil art is, has and won’t ever be flavour of the month  with the vast majority of cp artists. Cp art is highly conservative and dominated by realism. That’s not to say that there are some wonderful examples of ‘traditional’ cp art , there certainly are!

It is often spoken why cp art isn’t ‘in favour’ with mainstream art and some art galleries. Maybe its conservative approach is the reason.

My art has taken a strong left-turn of late that has resulted in a number of drawings that are either semi-abstract or abstract. I love the freedom that abstraction brings. This doesn’t mean (in my work) that is all ‘guess and hope for the best’. All of my work is based on the ‘known’, in this case, interpretations of the Australian photos, either from photos I have taken, or from older drawings that have been re-interpreted.

I completed a smaller study of this drawing several weeks ago and followed up with this larger piece which sat in my studio for several weeks before I was ready to complete it. The subject is a section of a palm tree trunk from Mission Beach in Far North Queensland. I came across the palm tree about 6 years ago as it stood surrounded by thousands (yes, thousands) of fallen coconuts and many smashed trees the result of Cyclone Yasi.

What interested me the most were the various markings on the trunk and 6 years later I have produced a drawing that epitomises what I ‘saw’.

Abstraction has its detractors, but I find not only the process of creating them rewarding but I also enjoy looking at the finished product. Every time I look, I see something different. Shouldn’t all art be that way?


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Research for my latest coloured pencil drawing.

Recently I asked, “How would cp (coloured pencil) artists (and most other artists for that matter) cope if there weren’t photos to use a s reference material?”

The responses I received were both interesting and varied. Not everyone understood the question. Some saw it as a ‘fait accompli’, a negative statement about how some artists work. Then the topic of ‘imagination’ was raised, fortunately more in the positive than the negative.

I surveyed a number of groups that I belong to. Not all responded, but the majority of those who did were well aware of the (potential) shortfalls of relying on photos for one’s art. The value of drawing plein air was raised as was drawing from life. It was refreshing to see that so many recognized the need for basic drawing skills.

We have been bombarded with media of all kinds (with some yet to be invented), its seductive brilliance has made producing art faster and easier than ever before. Most artists use photos at some stage in the production of their work. Commission artists need them constantly to satisfy the needs of their clients, while others prefer to stay ‘indoors’ and use images either their own or from the Internet in the production of their art. Each to their own!

More often than not, I use photos in my work. I take my own, spending time at a particular place to get the ‘feel’ for my subject. I often research the physical and social history of the area to reinforce (and appreciate) what I’m trying to ‘say’ with my work. I also work from maps and occasionally I’ll use photos from other sources if I need them. I rarely use a single photo because there’s a danger that I’ll simply copy the photo. Is such imitation really art?

Working from ‘live objects’ is quite challenging. Drawing outdoors is certainly a test of one’s skills and patience, especially if you use coloured pencils. On one hand you have the moving sun, moving shadows, wind, maybe even a shower, noise, smells and let’s not forget the flies! Setting up a group of objects is a great way to come to terms with 3D objects, especially when it comes to light and shadow. I often set up a still-life outside and photograph it on-the-hour for say, 6 – 8 hours to see how the light and shadows change. Time-lapse photography is an excellent accompaniment to one’s observation drawing. The more grist for the mill, the better!

Photos are a wonderful resource and they are certainly here to stay, but are they draining artists of their imagination?


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Now that you have Chumbawamba’s 1997 hit song in your head, read on!


“The Disappearing Highway near the Disappearing House”

Digital Media 104 x 154 cms

In 1969, the village of Conara was by-passed by the addition of a new section of the Midlands Highway.For nearly 50 years this former section of the highway has remained virtually silent, the only sounds being the transient herds of sheep and the resident wildlife. Apple trees have grown along the roadside thanks to the many apple cores thrown from passing vehicles.

This section of the Midlands Highway was once famous for the ‘Disappearing House’, built in 1839-1840 and originally the local Inn and could be seen whilst driving from the south. One moment it would be in sight, then, the next moment it would disappear behind a hill. Unfortunately, the new section of highway doesn’t offer this intriguing view anymore.

Walk along this section of the former highway and the house is still to be seen appearing and disappearing. The road itself is far from what it used to be; in fact it’s slowly, but surely, disappearing too.

Nature is reclaiming the landscape it once lost. The status is returning; what goes around comes around.

I didn’t make the Glover Art Prize Finalists’ list this year (again), but I’m grateful that I’ve made it on 2 other occasions. Entering major art awards is fraught with danger. The (often) large amount of entries and the influence of the judges’ varying opinions, one’s chance of ‘making it’ is rather small. So why enter in the first place? For me, it’s all about the challenge to produce something ‘extraordinary’, something very special. That’s not an easy task, but the ‘journey’ to think, plan and create something unique (the process) is very rewarding. When, after all the hard work, one’s entry is not selected, it’s easy to be depressed, but one should remember and celebrate the creative journey that has occurred.

Learning to deal with rejection is something that all artists who enter major awards have to deal with. In the past some of my colleagues have not dealt well with this. It’s okay to be angry, but only for a short time. Regroup and start again! Rejection can actually make you  stronger and more resilient. When you do experience success (and you will if you keep ‘getting back up’), you will appreciate it even more because of what you have gone through.

I am primarily a coloured pencil artist, but this year I decided to enter a digital work. Both my previous successful entries were in coloured pencil. Should I have stuck with the tried and true method? All entrants should be given feedback about their work. I know it would be a huge task, but such feedback is always beneficial to the artist.

Congratulations to this year’s finalists. Enjoy the experience that makes the Glover Prize one of the best in the country!



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mersey-stones“Mersey River Rocks”

32 x 45 cms

Museum Aquarelle, Prismacolor, Polychromos, Luminance & Derwent Artist’s pencils on Mi Teintes paper. Own reference.

Do you suffer from CORCD? I do.
“Compulsive, Obsessive Rock Collector’s Disorder” has been with me for many years and I’m not ashamed! I love it! I collect a lot of things, especially subjects for my artwork, particularly coloured pencil drawing.
As I said in my last post, it’s important to know your subject well. I rarely do ‘random’ drawings. I like to fully understand my subject before I draw it. This means many visits to various locations where I ‘map’ the area by photographing as much as I can, collecting (where it’s allowed), making sketches and taking notes. I spend time in and outside my studio photographing my subjects under different light conditions to study and record where light ‘hits’ an object and the resulting shadows.
One can never have too many rocks!
rock-samplesSadly, I had to part with my rock collection before we left Tasmania to live on the Australian mainland, but I had taken the time to photograph my collection. I now have a substantial folder full of images to refer to.
My collection is continually being updated through my trips to other parts of Australia and with our forthcoming move to Port Macquarie I’m looking forward to re-visiting the many beaches there where some wonderful rocks are to be found.
rock-nursery-01Despite what some may be thinking, I do not draw rocks all the time. I work in ‘themes’ that may last a month or two, but no longer. I like to vary my subjects and ‘return’ to them after a break and tackle them in a different way.
I also occasionally suffer from:
COBD: Compulsive Obsessive Bread Disorder (several ‘Bread’ themes),
COSLD: Compulsive Obsessive Sticks & Logs Disorder,
COWSD: Compulsive Obsessive Water Study Disorder.
Happy New Year to everyone!

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rocks-for-blogSome of the drawings that I’ve done over the past 2 weeks. Each is 45 x 32 cms, Prismacolor, DerwentArtist’s and Luminance pencils on Canson Mi Teintes paper.

I’ve received a few comments lately on Facebook regarding the speed at which I work. When I’m ‘in the zone’ I can complete a drawing in coloured pencil (up to 40 x 60 cms) in 2-3 days. This may seem very quick for a CP drawing, especially considering the comments I often read where people make the point about how long they spent on a particular drawing. If you don’t enjoy the process of creating something regardless of how long it takes, why do it in the first place? We all work at different ‘paces’ because of a variety of reasons both physical and emotional. I do work rather quickly, push my pencils firmly, and I ‘draw’ upon my 30 years of CP experience to keep myself focused to ensure that I don’t lose direction. If I tire of a particular drawing I move on to another one, then return later to the first one when I’m ready. I have been known to have 5 drawings ‘on the go’.

I’ve been complimented on my patience, but really, I’m often not that way inclined at all! How do I do it?

First of all, I’m always well prepared (my career as a teacher has helped me a lot in regards to being organised). I spend a lot of time researching (which I enjoy) each subject that I draw. I’ll visit the particular location (sometimes more than once), take many (many) photos, make notes in my diary and even collect ‘samples’ where I can. I also collect books about the history of the area in question, as this provides me with a better understanding (and appreciation) of what I’m looking at. In other words, I want to know (as well as I can) the character of my subject.

Working from a single photo trying to interpret what I ‘see’ doesn’t do it for me, unless I have prior knowledge about the subject in question. Often I’ll work with several photos.

Over the past 2 weeks I have completed 5 drawings featuring rocks from Tasmania, plus a commission. My preparation has paid off!

Know your subject well before you embark on creating an artwork and you will be rewarded!

Val and I are leaving Cairns at the end of next month and we’re re-locating to Port Macquarie. Long-term, Cairns isn’t for us, so it’s time to ‘hit the road’ and explore another part of Australia. I’m looking forward to some art teaching and finding a local gallery to show some of my work. Having already visited Port Macquarie, I have a large collection of photos, especially of the coastline that is noted for its wonderful beaches. I have a series of drawings in the pipeline which is a little different to my current subject. The idea came to me as we were dining out the other night.

This time we want to lease a house, not an apartment as we did in Cairns, and I’m looking for a much larger studio space.

I wish all my readers a wonderful Christmas and a very prosperous New Year. Thank you for your support, I very much appreciate it.

Best regards,


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