“A Convenient Denial”

80 x 60 cms

Luminance & Musem Acquarelle coloured pencils on Canson pastel board.

Own reference.

Last week I spent 4 days at Coffs Harbour on the mid-North Coast of NSW. This was my third visit in as many months and each time I had come away with many new ideas for artworks. This time was no exception. I went with a ‘clear mind’, to see what new things I could discover even when re-visiting familiar areas.

I was in the middle of a productive theme based upon the scribbly gum moth and its association with the Scribbly Gum, an Australian Eucalypt. I’d already completed a number of coloured pencil drawings and mixed media pieces that were refreshingly different to my previous artworks. Should I look for more of the same? When I arrived at the Coffs Harbour Botanic Gardens, I decided to wander with ‘fresh eyes’ and see if I could spot something different than what I had seen (and documented) on my previous visits. I did.

One of the firsts things I noticed was the reflections in the water as it tumbled over the side of a large fountain. It was mesmerizing. I set my camera to ‘sports mode’ and proceeded to take a series of photos of the images that could be seen in the tumbling water. That led to another idea of floating objects and reflections in some of the watercourses and ponds in the gardens. I had a ball.

I came away with a wonderful array of images; grist for the mill!

When I got back to my studio, I was ready and well-armed to tackle a new series of drawings, but before that I needed to complete a couple of earlier works that I had short-listed for my exhibition next February in Tasmania. One of them was the drawing featured in this post. “An Convenient Denial”, is a commentary about our government’s failure to take positive action on climate change. I hold strong opinions on this subject. As a landscape artist, I have seen first-hand what is happening to the Australian landscape and it beggars belief that despite constant warnings from scientists for years, there seems to be little action to address what is happening.

I believe that the Labor Party lost the last Federal election due to their introduction of a carbon tax. Guess what? It won’t be long before it’s re-introduced, probably named and packaged differently.

Art is an excellent vehicle for ‘illustrating’ one’s feelings.

And what has today’s featured drawing got to do with global warming?

The climate in cool temperate Tasmania has been undergoing change for at least a decade. It’s getting warmer and in some parts raining less. Irrigation has been a boon for some farming areas, but is there enough water to meet the new demands?

This drawing is of a chaotic Tasmanian landscape being ‘fed’ to produce new and exciting crops in areas where such agricultural practices where once unheard of. Colours that were once alien are now the norm, as are the resulting shapes and land patterns.

Is this move visionary or the beginning of a journey that will see parts of Tasmania’s landscape self-destruct as the salt table rises? Time will tell.

Details from “A Convenient Denial”.

While I was completing this drawing, another idea came to me, then another and another. It seems that the ‘new’ ideas that I had brought back from Coffs Harbour would have to wait.

I need to ‘go with the flow’, that’s what the creative process is all about.


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“Floating, Flecker Gardens”

40 x 60 cms

Luminance pencils on Canson Pastel Board

Everyone at some time or another wants answers to questions. They can range from “What is the meaning of life?” to, “What is the key to happiness?”, even “Who will win the premiership this year?”, and “What’s for dinner?”. We are all curious about a lot of things and asking questions is a good way to address one’s curiosity. The problem then arises as to whether we are happy with the answers we receive.

What happens when you start asking yourself questions, particularly if (like me) you’re an artist?

Sourcing ideas, planning, creation, presentation, exhibiting and feedback are some of the challenges an artist has to overcome. But an even greater challenge is asking yourself why you’re an artist in the first place. What does art mean to you? What do you want to achieve as an artist? What motivates you? What’s more important: fame, sales, personal satisfaction, realizing your potential or being unique? Can you have all of these?

Carving out a career in art has never been tougher, especially if you need an income. The pressure to produce ‘commercial’ work is enormous and I have the highest admiration for artists whose work is personal, unique and popular. That seems a rarity these days.

It’s been just over a year since my wife and I left Tasmania for Cairns. We spent 8 months there and for the past 4 months we have been living at Port Macquarie. During this time my art has slowly undergone changes. I have been forced to think long and hard about the direction of my work. The art I had produced in Tasmania soon felt ‘out of place’ in my new environment. I was well aware of my new surroundings being a landscape artist and it wasn’t long before I evolved a new approach while in the Tropics. My work became more intense in colour and semi-abstract. By the time we left Cairns I had produced a solid folio of work, but none had been exhibited.

I found Port Macquarie a vastly different physical environment and began ‘collecting’ ideas from the surrounding areas as far as Coffs Harbour to the north. It didn’t take me long to realize that my ‘tropical’ approach wouldn’t work in my new environment. What would I do? My art isn’t about making money, it’s first and foremost about self-satisfaction. Sales are a bonus and are to be treasured.

“Late Afternoon Light”

45 x 60 cms

Mixed Media on 300 gsm Arches W/C paper

A couple of visits to the Coffs Harbour Botanic Gardens re-kindled my love for ‘Scribbly Gums’, a eucalypt common in this area. I am now currently working on a series of drawings that combine my love of digital art with my passion for coloured pencils.

Details from “Late Afternoon Light”

Have I answered my question? Time will tell.


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“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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