healing-cream“Healing Cream”

83 x 148 cms

Prismacolor pencils on Canson pastel board. Own reference.

The therapeutic benefits of the art making process are recognised by all who practise the visual arts. Often it is the process of creation that gives one the greatest form of satisfaction; the product being a bonus. The use of art therapy in times of trauma or struggle can be a vital part of a person’s recovery. Engaging the mind, while promoting relaxation at the same time, the opportunity to deal with personal issues, makes art an important part of one’s recovery. Art is a great healer. A tube of paint has far greater value than its physical properties

Last night I saw a report on the tv news about a teenage girl who had turned her life around through art. It was a touching story and reminded me of the article I posted in May, 2014, about the therapeutic benefits of art.

Time and again we read of the benefits of art therapy in a broad range of situations involving people of all ages. Of particular note is the involvement of art in dementia research. I believe this has exciting possibilities for helping those seeking a cure, or at least slowing the onset of dementia. Art with very young children is a wonderful, often tactile experience. As a former high school and college art teacher, I saw what art did for my students. I not only remember many of those who excelled, but I can recall the ‘success stories’ where art made a huge difference in the lives and well-being of some of my students who struggled with a range of personal issues.

Those involved in the art industry know of the benefits of art practice. One doesn’t have to be an artist to reap the rewards of art. Why doesn’t our government think the same? Why is there less art taught in schools than ever before? Why has government funding for art been heavily reduced over the years? Are there any politicians with an understanding of the benefits of creativity to our society?

Surely the happiness and well-being of our society is more important than a budget surplus?



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a-touch-of-pollock“Forest Floor, Tasmanian Highlands” 

20 x 28 cms, Pablo coloured pencils on 190 gsm acid free paper

Own reference and imagination.

The tsunami of adult colouring books has subsided significantly in the past few months and there are many cp artists who are now breathing a sigh of relief. The impact of these books has surprised many in the literary world, amazed others and shocked the world of ‘fine art’. Many believe that these books cheapen art, devalue its creativity and should never leave the kitchen table. Many cp artists have been dismayed at seeing stocks of their beloved pencils dwindle at the expense of ‘colouring book addicts’. Is this a bad thing, or is it simply market forces at work? Why can’t everyone be ‘allowed’ to use high quality coloured pencils?

Mention ‘adult colouring’ in most of the Facebook coloured pencil groups and one is quickly ex-communicated. How dare you use that blasphemous term here! Go wash your mouth! I can understand that some don’t consider this to be ‘art’ in its true form. Colouring someone else’s design isn’t that original (but they can be coloured in very individual ways).Downloading royalty-free photos and copying them is okay (even if they are sometimes traced). That’s art isn’t it? Hand-colouring mass-produced prints is okay too?

The question is, where does one ‘draw’ the line when it comes to originality?

I DISLIKED adult colouring books so much that I designed and published my own; a book that encourages people to respond to what they see (interpret) in their own way, hence its title, NOT YOUR AVERAGE ADULT COLOURING BOOK ($29 inc postage anywhere in Australia, slightly dearer for overseas). Every time one of my illustrations is coloured, it’s done so in a very different way. According to many though, this is still not ‘art’ as we (supposedly) know it. Art isn’t about the medium, it’s about the message. If that’s true, why can’t you colour an appropriate design in such a way that it becomes a personal response? How can ‘fan art’ be considered creative and a genuine form of art?

There are some terrible adult colouring books on the market. I hate those with thick, heavy black outlines, with very basic desings; they are so aggressive looking. How in the world can they be calming? Why do so many print their designs on cheap (nasty) paper? Why have designs back-to-back? Why not bring quality into play? There are some high-quality books on the market, but they are in the minority.

Following the success of my first publication, I’m currently working on a series of drawings that will be available online.

Today’s featured drawing is one that will be available. The subject is a small part of the forest floor in the Tasmanian (Australian) Highlands, but with a twist. I have added a ‘touch of Pollock’ to the composition to give it more depth and complexity. I hope those who understand the work of Jackson Pollock will appreciate the addition!

Is this (my own) drawing an example of fine art or is it simply adult colouring? It mightn’t look 3D, or realistic, but then again, examples from colouring books can be very 3D, or flat and pattern-like.

Where does art end and craft begin?

We are supposedly modern thinkers, but are our attitudes way too conservative when it comes to accepting different forms of art?

I wonder how many ‘adult colourers’ have been ‘converted’ to the world of fine art?


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A Ticket to Ride?

2-versionsI came across the 2 coloured pencil drawings featured above while I was researching for an article that I’m writing for the UKCPS. What is interesting about them is that they are from the same area, but drawn some 20 years apart.

The Liffey Valley is about a 45 minute drive from where I used to live when I was residing in Tasmania. It is indeed a special place that not only features the Liffey River, but a wonderful series of waterfalls, pools and fern glades.

“The Long Pool” (top) was drawn in the late 1980s (own refs)with Derwent pencils on yellow ochre-coloured printmaking paper, 55 x 75 cms, the second version, “Liffey Light”,  (2007) was drawn on Canson pastel board, 40 x 60 cms, with Prismacolor pencils.

I got serious with coloured pencils in 1986, and my work was rather realistic. 20 years later and my work became more simplified. What brought about this change?

I don’t think of my work changing, I believe it was (and continues to be) evolving. Artists can ‘plateau’ in their thinking and be happy to produce the same type of work for as long as they like. Others like to experiment and change direction from time to time. Being ‘safe’ always guarantees a result, being adventurous has an element of danger to it. Isn’t life like that?

In order to ‘grow’ as an artist, I feel that it’s important that from time to time, to try something new, to not only freshen up one’s work, but to freshen one’s attitude to their art.

As I get older, I have seen my work become more simplified. This isn’t out of laziness or impatience on my part. I believe that it’s harder to say ‘ a lot with very little’, than to make one’s work as detailed as possible. The more detail in your art, the less ‘room’ you give a more an imaginative response from those who view your work.

I hope to find the time to once again visit that long pool and see how I would interpret it after 9 years. Have you ever tried this with some of your ‘older’ artworks?

I’m not sure if one’s art gets ‘better’ as they get older, maybe it’s more a case of being more open to different ideas.

Art is a wonderful journey, especially if you have a ticket to ride on the train of imagination.


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standing-upThis is my set-up for drawing on the balcony. The  drawings featured are the first in a new series that explores the abstract nature of the natural environment. Top: “Flecker Gardens Abstract”, Bottom: “Daintree Reflection”. My third work “Floating, Flecker Gardens” is currently on my easel. All 3 drawings are 40 x 60 cms and I’m using my own reference material.

Do you create your art sitting down or standing up? Maybe you prefer a combination of both.

It has been almost 4 months since my wife, Val and I moved from cool temperate Tasmania to warm tropical Far North Queensland. It has been a huge change for us in many ways, emotionally, socially and physically.

Back in Tasmania, I spent most of my days in my studio at my drawing table and I’d occasionally stand and draw using an easel. Now in Cairns, I have for the past few weeks migrated from my studio to our apartment balcony to not only escape the heat, but to take advantage of the excellent natural light and extra space. I’m now standing to draw using my Luminance coloured pencils, rather than sitting as was the custom in my studio.

There are advantages and disadvantages to standing and sitting while drawing or painting, most being physical. It’s not good for one’s back to be seated for too long, especially if one is leaning over a table. My drawing table is adjustable, which allows me to choose the angle I wish to draw from. Standing for too long can be hard on one’s feet. Which is best?

Before I answer that question let us consider the type of art that you do. Most painters prefer an easel as they can move back and forth with ease and check their work from a variety of distances. Many artists who draw prefer a table as it gives them more control over their work. The danger here is that one has to get up and step away to view the work to see how it’s progressing. Then there’s the issue of light; should it be artificial or natural? Do you like the physical freedom of standing and moving about especially if you work in an ‘energetic’ manner. It’s hard to be ‘physical’ when one is seated in front of a table!

I must admit that my various colours in my pencils are much easier to distinguish in natural light.

It’s very easy to lean on one’s work if you’re seated, not so easy when you’re standing at an easel.

I prefer to stand when I draw because it gives me greater control not only physically, but when it comes to making decisions, I can step back from my work and gauge its progress without any fuss. I am looking ‘at’ what I’m working on, rather than ’over’ it.

The answer to my question is after all quite simple; we all choose the way we like to work best. A good drawing table is an asset, so is a well-designed easel. Don’t work on a flat table. If you must, attach your work to a drawing board and sit back, far enough to rest your board at an angle on the table’s edge. If you want to stand and work at a table, a desk easel is very handy. Your back is important, don’t abuse it!


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“Tamar Valley Sky”, 27 x 35 cms

Luminance coloured pencils on Canson pastel board, own reference.

I have 28 brands of coloured pencils in my collection of around 3,ooo, but my favourite by far, is Luminance. Why? Lightfastness is very important, and this is where Luminance outshines every other brand, as they have the highest lightfast rating of any coloured pencil on the market. But that’s not the only reason I like them. The colours flow beautifully on to the pastel board that I use; they are easy to sharpen to a point; layer well; blend well; are easy to hold, and the core is strong enough not to break if a pencil is accidently dropped. The colours are rich and even, something I particularly like.

Luminance are the nicest, most responsive pencils that I have ever used since I began working in coloured pencils 30 years ago.

A couple of weeks ago, Sydney-based artist Karen Hull (herself an ambassador) nominated me and yesterday I received confirmation that I am now officially a Caran D’Ache promoter, which will see me conduct product workshops not only in Queensland, but Tasmania and anywhere else if they can be arranged.

My first  workshop will be with Luminance coloured pencils  this coming Monday (26th) at Mareeba on the Atherton Tablelands, west of Cairns where I live. Participants will be treated to a range of products, demonstrations and they will have the opportunity to ‘play’ with luminance pencils and even produce a drawing. I’m looking forward not only to the workshop, but the chance to promote what is a wonderful product.

One of the techniques that I will be demonstrating will be ‘how to draw realistic skies’ (without shading horizontally). All will be revealed on the day!

It may surprise some people, but I rarely draw on a white support, preferring colour, often quite dark. I love the ‘mood’ that coloured supports can bring to a drawing, much more than white. That’s my preference, but not the preference of many established cp artists. Viva la difference!


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Bottom: “The Secret Stream”

Both 40 x 60 cms, coloured pencil on pastel board. Own references.

This coming weekend, my wife and I are heading to Alice Springs in Central Australia for a week’s holiday. We have been before and we’re keen to return to what is a very ‘different’ part of Australia. The landscape there is so opposite to Tasmania’s (where we formerly lived) and indeed to the one where we’re living now (Far North Queensland).

I remember the impact that the ‘Red Centre’ had on my work when I returned to Tasmania, and I have included 2  of my coloured pencil drawings  as examples of how the landscape there influenced not only my art, but my way of thinking.

Does the environment you live in influence your art? Even if landscape isn’t your main subject, your immediate environment will influence your artwork. The landscape, the people, the climate, the sounds and the smells around us do in some way, influence what we create. The ‘crisp, clean, sharp’ smells of a Tasmanian forest, the smell of rotting vegetation in a warm, damp tropical rainforest, the heat, glare and stunning colours of Central Australia, the hustle and bustle of Sydney’s Circular Quay, the sight and sound of  waves as they hit the beaches at Port Macquarie, the isolation one feels on a lonely beach etc etc. Even if you shut yourself away in your studio every day, something from the outside world will in some way, find itself resonating in one of your artworks.

To say that the environment of Central Australia has had an impact on me is a gross understatement. It’s all about colour and changing light, of eroded landscapes and countless thousands of years of history. It’s also about respect for the traditional owners who understand this harsh environment. The memory of artist Albert Namatjira’s life and work still preside in a world that’s fighting to keep its ancestral roots in a world of commercial reality and unfortunate necessity.

This landscape is well-suited to coloured pencil drawing, and I’m looking forward to seeing what impact this trip has on my art ‘thinking’ as well has my future art subjects.


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RipplinLight 1.3“Rippling Light, Daintree Rainforest”

40 x 60 cms    Own Reference

Luminance & Prismacolor pencils on Canson Pastel Board

Landscape drawing and painting is challenging and involves the understanding, appreciation and mastery of a number elements and skills in order to produce successful and meaningful work. The study of light is a prime example. It takes years to gain the knowledge and confidence to draw or paint light correctly, both through acute observation and (later) in imaginative work.

I first began serious studies of light at Art School. The subjects were boring (cubes, spheres etc), but I learnt so much about direct and indirect light and the resulting shadows. I took this knowledge with me and 4 years later I began exhibiting landscapes with a strong emphasis on light and shadow.

Over the next 40 years I developed my art (especially drawing) with the Tasmanian landscape as its main subject. Not all my work has been realist-based. As I have gained experience (and age) my subjects have often been treated in a semi-abstract manner, even abstract on occasions.

The quality and colour of light varies considerably in Australia and there is much to inspire artists. The ‘pink’ light at the northern end of Lake St. Clair, the ‘yellow’ glow in the late afternoon at Sisters Beach in NorthWest Tasmania, the strong, sharp light of Tasmania’s Midlands and the ‘white’ light of the Ringarooma Valley in NorthEast Tasmania, have been very important in my work during my time in Tasmania.

Now I reside in Cairns, Far North Queensland, and I have been introduced to light of a different nature. Tropical rainforests are often dark, muggy and wet. The light streams in through gaps in the forest canopy and collides with all it meets. The impact at times is amazing, especially when objects are lit up to the point that they become transparent. Out in the ‘open’ the light is strong, sharp and direct. Some of the resulting shadows I have witnessed have certainly grabbed my attention!

This is a new world for me, an exciting time, but also challenging. This totally new environment is so opposite to what I’ve been used to and it will require time on my part to explore, look, document and catalogue what I see. I have made a solid start with 4 drawings in the past 3 weeks.

The featured drawing is of the impact of sunlight on some leaves in a creek bed in the Daintree. It’s almost finished and will be one of a series that looks at the impact of light on semi-submerged and submerged objects in water.


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