We Are All the Flocking Same



Killalea Headland sketch

My sketch Killalea headland




Killalea pan


The Farm was a familiar term growing up with a surfer brother. When we arrived at our painting site today there were two guys, greying, with boards on their racks checking out the surf. They never lose their love of surfing -any conditions, any age. Today was the first time I saw The Farm up close. I hadn’t realised that Killalea State Park held this sacred surf spot on the coast.

I love that trot that surfers break into – board clenched under their arm, leg-rope dangling, hair dripping, their sleek wet-suit uniform dense against the green. They canter, the cold from their wrinkled wet feet protection against the gravel.

We cooked sausages and onions on a wood bbq at lunch time- it felt like summer today. There were so many different flocks and types of birds -black cockatoos against the blue blue blue sky. I painted with gouache on paper with memories of my brother Michael. I wondered if any of those greying surfers were Little Mick, or Tightarse, or Brooksy – all those older surfers who I use to lust after as a teenager, who called me Grub.

As a final note when we left later a parade of older vintage cars rolled along the road where the surfer had run back to his car earlier. The vintage Jag and MG had no roof racks for boards, no dusty wagons for paints and easels but glistening rims and chromish mirrors.

We’re all different flocks

This was a re-post of an earlier blog, after a recent sketch trip back to The Farm.


Light, Space, Time and a Wombat Hole

Turrell Skyspace 5

Sometimes the order of exhibitions matter. Your head is in a space, ready for the onslaught. This time there was no plan as to who would be first.

Ann Thomson (detail)

Ann Thomson (detail)


Ann Thomson’s exhibition Freehand was even higher than the expectations. Her works are full, yet light. Marks, space and colour give each other time. There is a lustfulness in the way she paints -a love of the space she creates by the marks with her body. It is not painting, it is not composing, it is absorption.


Turrell Skyspace 4Turrell Skyspace 6

The nearby James Turrell Retrospective at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra had a naked art night (no, I didn’t like the thought of bending over to put on the booties). The participants absorbed the light into their flesh. The Turrell show was a world away from paint using space, light and dark.

The show made me envious, why do I need a studio full of brushes and paint? A day earlier I was inspired by Ann Thomson’s work, it had made me want to paint again but the stripped down use of light as a material seemed to make sense. Marks seemed inconsequential.


In between there were glimpses of Sidney Nolan, the Riverbend series at the Drill Hall ANU,  an assortment at the Canberra Museum and Gallery and the Kelly series at the NGA. Somehow his works still resonated. There was the myth of place, I wasn’t in the desert creating huge skyspaces and I wasn’t in a studio surrounded by dripping paintings on white walls. I am caught in time, like Ned painted into a story of what my life has become, headfirst down a wombat hole.

Policeman in a wombat hole 1946 Sidney Nolan

Policeman in a wombat hole 1946 Sidney Nolan

3 De Koonings, Olsen and Paella at the Beach

Happy Holidays, may your stockings bulge with art.

Happy Holidays, may your stockings bulge with art.

“…a surrealist scene of saffron coloured chickens…” John Olsen

Olsen's Culinaria Cuisine of the Sun

Olsen’s Culinaria Cuisine of the Sun

Christmas arrived early for me this year in three parcel post satchels. Not exactly Santa down the chute but those puffy square bags make me squeal like a little girl at Xmas. The benefits of being old is that I don’t have to wait for the big day to arrive.


The first parcel was the biggest De Kooning book I’ve ever seen – the Malvern star of art books. Ensconced in a hard slip case and full of perfect coloured reproductions of his best.


The second satchel held two De Kooning second hand treasures, one cloth bound with the library card still in slipped in the back pocket time-travelled from the sixties. The other professing to be the first De Kooning publication.

De Kooning Smith College Museum of Art 1965.

De Kooning Smith College Museum of Art 1965.

Willem De Kooning by Thomas Hess 1959.

Willem De Kooning by Thomas Hess 1959.

Borrowed by Shelley Rose on Feb 10 1966.

Borrowed by Shelley Rose on Feb 10 1966.

The third satchel held Culinaria by John Olsen. Cuisine of the Sun. This book was to be our Christmas dinner – drawing, painting and cooking in the sun – sand, saffron, cadmiums, paprika, burnt orange and paella.

The Hamptons 1953

The Hamptons 1953

Two great artists, De Kooning from the northern hemisphere where he spent Christmas in the Hamptons, and Olsen in the southern hemisphere comparing Watsons Bay to an Iberian fishing village, seem very relevant to this years sunny seafood xmas by the beach…with books.

The World Wide Scribble Pad

The One that started it all….

OK Enough is enough!  It’s been too long since my last post. I’ve had a few changes lately which has meant pulling out some old paintings, organising art stuff and documents etc. The tacky unglamorous side of art.  It was then that I realised what the original purpose of this blog was  – someone wanted to buy a painting, I had no website and my storage system was pretty much non-existent.

So I began the laborious task of putting each painting up, making notes on series but then I got a little excited.  Instead of scribbling notes about exhibitions in my sketchbooks, I began blogging. It was a huge worldwide scribble pad that visitors could like.

I helped friends set up their blogs, began making art quizzes and photographing.  In the sorting I have come across paintings I had forgotten and sketches that brought back memories of places and people.

Rocks Day 65- memories of places...

Rocks Day 65- memories of places…

I haven’t blogged for a while, my life has taken a turn recently. I miss blogging, I miss painting and yesterday I could feel the desperate need for drawing returning. I don’t know if that means I am getting better or trying to fill a need. Either way – charcoal and gouache is a good remedy and a nice way to scribble on my world-wide sketchbook.



Paint and Smoke

Capstan Reds

Capstan Reds

I tend to think of myself as a landscape painter, I don’t know why. Sometimes it just doesn’t fit. I love the stuff in the landscape as much as the setting itself, even when it’s dirty fag packets.  The last post was about Motherwell’s fabulous prints based on smoke packets.  So after a dig in the past I’ve unearthed a few more images thanks to Double Whirler’s interest.  These were done some time ago and after a while they all blur together. I take close up photos sometimes when I think certain crops of paintings will work on a larger scale.

I often do not title my works and when I stumbled across this work in my photo storage “system”(a very loose term),  I had called it “Capstan Reds” so I guess it was one too, but can’t even remember painting this now and really had thought it was based on something completely different. I painted direct from John’s scrapbook collection and photographed them before returning them so I could source them later on.



Part of John's marvellous collection

Part of John’s marvellous collection

Alpine? Woodbine? Peter Stuyvestant??

Alpine? Woodbine? Peter Stuyvestant??

Plein-air & Plain Good

Tom Carment

Tom Carment

Tom Carment has taken out this years Parliament House Plein Air Painting Prize.  About time, I say.  He is just simply a good painter.  His work gets wall space in my studio and that is my measure of paint-worthiness.




Here is my blog from four years ago.

“A Random Sparkle”

Each time I visit the SH Ervin gallery, I seem to be drawn to the work of Tom Carment -I bought I wonderful book CH2.  Carla promptly told me I had bought her the same one. I had also bought a card of his work that was pinned on the wall in the Thirroul Studio. This afternoon I opened Artist Profile art mag for a well deserved read time only to find Tom Carment once again. Is it his plein-air-i-ness? The essence of subject? Maybe it’s what he describes as “the random sparkle.”


Keeping LeWitts About You

IMG_2162Just because I throw paint about, dollop it on, scrape it around and don’t clean my brushes or studio does not mean I don’t like order.  This weekend, like a mixed media artist in a storm, there was a smattering of everything; Opera, wildlife photography, stuffed birds, dinosaurs, treasures from an Afghan tomb, a Google train and Sol Le Witt.

It is no surprise LeWitt was drawn to the work of Australian indigenous artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye.  They both have a clarity of finished work with layers of meaning pushed and kept under tight reign behind simple lines, a bit like an expertly wrapped parcel held with a piece of string that once pulled will expose a world that could be changed. You know it exists behind that string and it is far more beautiful kept in tact this way.

Detail Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Detail Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Detail LeWitt Wall drawing in progress

Detail LeWitt Wall drawing in progress

LeWitt was like cleaning off the palette, putting up a new canvas. His work cleans your mind.  The Biennale of Sydney had an unnerving edge to some of the exhibits leaving some heaviness like gunked up brushes. Don’t get me wrong, I like the gunk – it has layers to think about and who doesn’t love the Google Train, but Sol LeWitt has a crispness of mind I envy.  I want those clean brushes.

Once again we have John Kaldor to thank for introducing Emily to Sol.  He definitely has match-making skills.









Exhibition: Your Mind is Exactly at That Line

Exhibition: Your Mind is Exactly at That Line


Vanishing Views of Port Kembla Stack

The Stack and MM Beach

The Stack and MM Beach

Lately I feel parts of my life are slowly being erased.  This week news that the stack, my stack, is coming down.  It may be an unsightly industrial world blot to a lot of people but it feels part of my history. I have used it as a personal symbol within my artwork as a reference to my family.  The picture above shows the stack, a marker,  to the left and the beach to the right where I scattered my parents ashes together.  A pointer in the landscape.

Sketch looking north to stack from Shellharbour

Sketch looking north to stack from Shellharbour






Port Kembla Stack

The Port Kembla stack pins the coast firmly in place.  It is over 200 metres tall.  My mother and I both attend the school directly underneath.  As a child at lunchtime in the playground we would dare each other to throw our heads back far enough to look to the top and make it look as though it was swaying side to side and we would collapse on the ground, dizzy.


The secret beauty of an industrial town..

The secret beauty of an industrial town..


My mum would glimpse it rising in the distance coming from the north or south and say “There’s the stack. We’re nearly home.”

Commorant Boat

A few years back my boat shed  home was de-bricked and now the green flatness I pass most days still brings back memories.  I wonder after the stack is gone on whether there will be a ghostly sentinel that replaces its existence for me.   Like the twin towers when you catch a glimpse of old footage and it catches your breath, the sky will seem empty in that place.

I have watched a show recently called Vanishing Views where architect Ptolemy Dean sketches landmarks that are disappearing.  He had sketched the Sheffield Cooling Towers prior to demolition.  This week I intend to capture it much as possible.   The event has made me consider views of the imposing chimney and how I would find the right vantage point to paint or sketch from.  Unfortunately the view from the playground is also prohibited as recently the school too has been partly demolished.

The Stack & MM





MM Beach









The Stack and the playground

The Stack and the playground

jellyfish and stack 1

The boat shed, the school and the stack will all be physically removed like an erased De Kooning drawing.

Walykumunu, A Good and Happy Place

Ken Shepherd sketch

In the words of the Warakurna artists of Central Australia I was in a good and happy place, Walykumunu. For them that place was the arts centre in the Central Desert making art, for me it was the next best thing – looking at art.


A little while back I went to Turner from the Tate exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. This visit was with my daughter and it was a last-minute decision based more on opportunity than intent. Her recent visit to London and her emotional encounter with Turner also drove us there.


Last weekend my second visit was with my painting pal Jane and based more on intent and serendipity. The second look was different. The time-lapse between visits meant that I had considered works from a distance and returning provided the opportunity to draw on those remembered paint marks. This visit I swore I could smell oil paint in the room.


Upstairs Roy Lichtenstein’s prints in Pop Remix Exhibition told of the journey through Western art history in a totally unexpected way. His dots told stories of Abstract Expressionism, Still Lives and Nudes.

National Museum of Australia

At the National Museum of Australia the exhibitionWarakurna, All the stories got into our minds and eyes used very different dots to Lichtenstein. It was a coming together of different skin groups keeping their culture strong through various art forms, weaving, painting, sculptures, making bush medicine.

Helicopter Ride with Brooksy to See My Father's Ngurra (Country), 2011, Ken Shepherd, acrylic on canvas. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program by Wayne and Vicki McGeoch.

Helicopter Ride with Brooksy to See My Father’s Ngurra (Country), 2011, Ken Shepherd, acrylic on canvas. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by Wayne and Vicki McGeoch.

Ken Shepherd’s Helicopter Ride with Brooksy to see my Father’s Country (Ngurra) left me feeling like an explosion of cultures. It was Turner’s narrative, Pop Art’s patterning and Indigenous understanding of life and art.

The Tate London is more than 10,000 miles away to the west and more than 10,000 miles away to the east is New York. Australia seems to be smack bang in the middle and I imagine an art sign post in the Central Desert of Australia with New York pointing one direction and another pointing to London.

Underneath sitting crossed-legged in the red dirt Roy Lichtenstein and JMW Turner. Lichtenstein marking the sand out in dotted patterns and Turner sweeping large gestural marks through the dust. They both seem worlds away from the Warakurna Exhibition at the National Museum of Australia. All are Walykumunu, a good and happy place. Places that bring art together and keeps culture strong.

National Museum Australia

Lloyd Rees for Leftovers

photo-26I love leftovers.

After visiting the recent Lloyd Rees exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW, I pulled out my collection of Lloyd Rees books for another helping of his work.  One of the books, Lloyd Rees in Europe by Hendrik Kolenberg is a beautiful collection of drawings and watercolours of his trip during the 50’s 60’s and 70’s.  I bought this book from a friend, Sandy quite a few years ago. Sandy’s leftovers have become some of my favourite dishes.


My other book Lloyd Rees by Renee Free was also a left over. Deleted from Library Collection is stamped very clearly in red and a thick black marker across the bar code.  Pasted in the front page is an old-fashioned yellow library pocket with a frenzied green date stamp, last marked in 1995. This book hasn’t had the careful nurturing like Sandy’s book but is a little bumped around the edges, a bit crinkly and smells of a library. I like the plastic wrapping, like a plate of last nights offerings. It means I can leave it on the paint table and not be so tentative.

Tucked between the pages the last borrower, Valerie,  left her  shopping list of library items. It made me wonder why it was destined to be deleted.


I have mentioned Lloyd Rees‘ work before and he is a pretty tasty morsel.  He also travelled and painted the area close to where I live and the little town of Gerringong will be holding a Lloyd Rees Festival in December.  Hopefully they will serve up quite a decent helping and more people will get to taste his recipes for drawing. A new book will be launched by Henrik Kolenberg. I wonder if I should buy it freshly packaged or wait like I did for the others to ripen over time.Lloyd Rees 2

Lloyd Rees Europe

Lloyd Rees sketchbooks