Wednesday, April 21, 2021

On the drawing board

Initiating my newly refurbished drawing board (thanks to Shane Jones) is the recently completed diptych, Recollection, (2021, acrylic on two canvases, top panel: 20 x 15 cm, bottom panel: 17.5 x 12.5 cm). 

A progress view of the work on the same drawing board prior to today’s makeover, is directly below. I think I’m as pleased with my new improved work surface as I am with the outcome of the painting. The adjustable drawing board was originally purchased in a Melbourne thrift shop. It is well designed, with one exception - the ugly, knobbly surface, which I tolerated because it supposedly prevented paintings from slipping. As it turns out, it didn’t, at least not with any real consistency, so it was time for it to go.

Sunday, April 4, 2021


For Shane Jones and I, no Easter would be complete without the film, Easter Parade (1948, dir. Charles Walters). This year, for the very first time, we were able to view it on the big screen in our home cinema. Despite countless viewings over the decades, it has lost none of its pizazz and the leading players, Fred Astaire and Judy Garland (with scintillating support from Ann Miller), are simply sublime. 

Every song in Easter Parade tells a story in its own right, while also advancing the film’s plot. The musical numbers are all brilliantly choreographed, staged and performed, but my absolute favourite is Drum Crazy. The film’s composer, Irving Berlin, wrote it especially for the multi-talented Astaire, who in real life was a skilled drummer. As an Easter treat, see him perform Drum Crazy HERE.

Widely regarded as a symbol of transformation and spiritual rebirth, the butterfly is also closely associated with Easter. For me, Easter has always brought the promise of new beginnings. Accordingly, here are three very recent paintings that hopefully capture something of the spirit in which they were made. Presenting a slightly different take on the Rückenfigurthese butterfly-women are so newly-hatched, I haven’t yet had a chance to assign titles to any of them. Partly inspired by Tudor portrait miniatures, each work is acrylic on a circular canvas and measures 12.5 x 12.5 cm.

To learn more about the many-layered symbolism of butterflies, go HERE

Wishing you all a very Happy Easter.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Digitisation of the Warrnambool Art Gallery collection

Warrnambool Art Gallery is currently undertaking the mammoth task of digitising its substantial collection of artworks and artefacts. In future, this will enable much of the work to be viewed online. Pictured here is my linocut, Lace Face (1996, Artist proof, 46 x 30 cm, Edition: 15) one of several of my works the gallery has in its permanent collection. 

Many thanks to my old friend, Warrnambool-based artist Kathryn Ryan, who took these photos of the digital process and for her kind permission to share them here.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Double, double

Pictured above, Double, double (as in toil and trouble*), the little work that’s been by far the biggest challenge of any of the paintings I’ve recently undertaken.

Double, double (2021, acrylic on two canvases17.5 x 25 cm) went through so many different stages, none of which remotely met my expectations, that I finally dismissed it as a heroic failure and moved on to other works.

I’ve learnt a great deal during the development of this picture. As it turned out, putting it aside was a good move. It gave me some sorely needed time and distance. Moreover, I was able to take what I gleaned from the making of other paintings in the series and apply some of it here. (In fact, all of the works so far have informed one other to some degree). 

Double, double has also proven frustratingly hard to photograph. At this stage, I’ve decided it is what it is. Nevertheless, the work does look significantly better in the flesh. For starters, there is a more even tonal balance between the two panels than appears here and the colours, built up over multiple layers, are somewhat richer.

I haven’t documented the many stages this painting has been through and wouldn’t inflict them on anyone even if I had. However, a handful of developmental shots are below. At one stage, my twin protagonists were intended to wear matching earrings based on an ornate gold pair I discovered in a catalogue of historic jewellery originating from the Victorian Goldfields (see last two photos). The inclusion of finely detailed, delicate areas of gold was intended to reflect the influence of Tudor portrait miniatures on this work. I laboured over the jewellery for several hours, only to realise it was an enormous distraction that would detract from the rest of the painting, most notably the intricately braided hair that’s central to it. As a result, I abandoned the earrings even before I’d finished painting them. In the end, I went with the relatively simple earrings shown in the finished work above. They are based on a pair I’ve owned for many years, although I’ve changed the gemstones from the original red stones (which I believe are coral) to my birth stone, turquoise.

*Song of the Witches, Macbeth, William Shakespeare, Act IV, Scene I.

Monday, March 8, 2021

A work for International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day 2021. In celebration, here is my newly completed work, Wonder (2021, diptych, acrylic on canvas, 35 x 12.5 cm). The lace collar was adapted from one of the doilies I inherited from my late aunt, Eileen Klein (see second progress view below).

Recently I used another doily from her collection as the basis for my subject’s collar in the diptych, Idyll. To view the work, click HERE

Thursday, March 4, 2021


Following is an updated (and hopefully, definitive) list of events that were moved from 2020 in the wake of COVID-19. I’m thankful that they will all go ahead and look forward with eager anticipation to each and every one of them. 

NOTE: the revised 2021 dates for my solo shows at Stephen McLaughlan Gallery and Queenscliff Gallery, previously announced HERE, remain the same.



Stephen McLaughlan Gallery

Level 8, Room 16, The Nicholas Building, 37 Swanston Street, Melbourne 3000 (cnr. Flinders Lane)

July 21 - August 7

Opening event: 2 - 4 pm, Saturday July 24

Backstories, my first solo show with Stephen McLaughlan Gallery, comprises recent paintings and drawings that expand upon the “rear view portraits” closely associated with my work for over two decades.


Queenscliff Gallery

81 Hesse Street, Queenscliff,  VIC 3225

30 September – 18 October

Comprising paintings, prints and drawings, the exhibition presents the first overview of the most significant and enduring theme in my oeuvre, namely the Rückenfigur, or figure seen from behind.


APW George Collie Memorial Print Award 

In 2020 I was awarded the APW George Collie Memorial Print Award, an honour I share with with the late Barbara Hanrahan. Initially postponed until 2021, the George Collie Memorial Print Award Exhibition at the Australian Print Workshop Gallery has been moved to next March, in alignment with International Women’s Day 2022.

Artist-in-Residence, Geelong Grammar 

In 2020 Geelong Grammar School invited me to be their Artist-in-Residence for Term 2. Past AIRs include Lewis Miller, Sue Anderson, Dean Bowen, David Frazer, Tim Storrier, Yvette Coppersmith, Juan Ford, Nick Howson, Matthew Quick, Bern Emmerichs, Robert Lee Davis, David Booth (a.k.a. Ghostpatrol) and Godwin Bradbeer. The AIR was formerly rescheduled for May 2021. I will now take up the residency in May 2022.


Full details of both events will be announced nearer the times.

Pictured top: Sunset, 2019, acrylic on linen, 40.5 x 30.5 cm, part of my forthcoming solo show, Backstories, at Stephen McLaughlan Gallery, Melbourne.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021


Pictured above: Wayfarer, 2021, diptych, acrylic on canvas, 37.5 x 15 cm overall.

My protagonist’s intricately-patterned lace shawl is based on the even more complex design reproduced in the first image below, a panel of Austrian lace dating from the 19th century. As with all of the lace depicted in my work, rather than making a straight copy, which frankly I’d find extremely tedious, I select elements of a pattern, rearranging and adapting these to fit the format of the image. Until the pattern is resolved and each component has found its place, a watercolour pencil (white works best on a dark background) is a useful tool. Needless to add, a very fine brush is essential.

The well-thumbed reference book is Lace, L’Aventurine, Paris, 1995. English edition: Bookking International, Paris, 1995, English translation by Sue Budden.

A series of progress views follow directly.

Friday, February 26, 2021

A second award for The Big Kitty

In somewhat belated, but nevertheless exciting news, the Tom Alberts and Lisa Barmby indie film The Big Kitty, the fortunes of which we’ve been faithfully following on this blog, has received a second award. It was voted Best Experimental Feature Film at the 2021 Paris International Film Festival, which ran from 4 - 14 February. (To read about the first award, go HERE).

Shane and I were virtual attendees of the festival on its final day. Direct from Paris, we viewed the film on the big screen in our home cinema here in Ballarat. Warmest congratulations to Tom and Lisa, captured below on the red carpet with the Big Kitty himself, Monsieur Baptiste.

A review of The Big Kitty by Tom Higgins for Film and TV Now is HERE.

To view a short video celebrating the award, visit Lisa’s Instagram post HERE. (Don’t forget to turn on the sound in the bottom right hand corner of the screen). 

Pictured top: The Big Kitty official poster. Top right hand corner: supporting players Lewis Miller, myself and Gavin Brown. Far right: the film’s glamorous co-stars Tom Alberts and Lisa Barmby. 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

P.T. Peregrin’s Morse Code for Beginners

The summer edition of the quarterly zine, P.T. Peregrin’s Morse Code for Beginners, has just been released. Co-edited by Trudy McLauchlan (whose artwork appears on the front cover below) and Prudence McBeth, it’s available exclusively at Trudy’s little treasure trove of a shop, Playing in the Attic in Sturt Street, Ballarat. 

You can also find Playing in the Attic on Facebook HERE and on Instagram HERE.

I was thrilled to be invited to contribute to the second issue of this delightful publication via the Q & A hello, who are you? which has become a regular feature of the zine. 

The article is reproduced below. Click on individual page views to enlarge. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021


At the start of the new year, the upper panel of the work pictured above (Idyll, 2021, diptych, acrylic on canvas, 35 x 12.5 cm) was one of two works in progress on my worktable. (See Moving Forward, blog post Sunday, January 3, 2021 HERE). 

In the weeks that followed, I’ve worked simultaneously on other paintings, and have only recently brought this work to some kind of resolution. At this stage, it’s anticipated that further changes, if any, will be minor ones. 

The majority of the protagonists in its companion works are characterised by their decorative lace collars, all of them based in varying degrees on examples found in the books on the history of lace I’ve accumulated over more than two decades. The collar portrayed in this painting is an exception. The basis for its design is one of the doilies I inherited many years ago from my late Aunt Eileen. Now somewhat the worse for wear, it’s shown in the second and final progress view below. I’m planning to similarly utilise aspects of the patterns in other inherited doilies in future works. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Anonymous Woman with a Lace Collar

Pictured above: recently completed Anonymous Woman with a Lace Collar, acrylic on canvas, diptych, 35 x 12.5 cm. (See also previous blog post, Tuesday, January 26).

As previously mentioned, Hans Holbein the Younger (c. 1497 - 1543) has long been one of my favourite artists and three of his works, Portrait of a Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling (collection National Gallery, London) Portrait of a Young Woman (collection Mauritshuis, Den Haag), reproduced below as postcards collected from past travels, followed by Christina of Denmark (collection National Gallery, London) were very much in my mind’s eye when I made this work.

My partner, Shane Jones, shares my admiration for Holbein. We were extremely fortunate that our visit to London in 2006 coincided with Holbein in England, an extensive retrospective at Tate Britain. A room guide of the exhibition is HERE

Some years ago, when my latest stay in London was coming to an end, I had a few hours to spare before heading for the airport. My friends Sue Verney and Bev Murray asked me how I’d like to spend my precious remaining time. Without hesitation, my request was to call into the National Gallery and revisit Holbein’s Portrait of a Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling and Christina of Denmark one last time.

Some of Shane’s and my greatest pleasures during lockdown were the films and illustrated lectures presented by the National Gallery’s YouTube channel, which we were able to project onto our home cinema screen. Their channel, which is highly recommended, is HERE.

For an illustrated talk on Christina of Denmark by Susan Foister, Deputy Director and Director of Collections at the National Gallery, go HERE.

The National Gallery is also home to one of Holbein’s most celebrated masterworks, The Ambassadors. Susan Foister discusses the work HERE.

How I miss London and its museums, which over many years have provided infinitely rich and varied sources of inspiration for my work. There is no substitute for seeing artworks and one’s friends in the flesh, but thanks to YouTube and regular phone conversations via WhatsApp with Bev, Sue and another steadfast and inspirational London-based friend, Barbara Britton, at least it feels as if the distance between us has shrunk a little. 

A series of developmental views of Anonymous Woman with a Lace Collar follows. The most significant difference between the final image and the finished work, top, is the suggestion of volume in the bottom panel through the slight sheen in the subject’s garment (not entirely clear in my photo). The textbook on lace in the second view below, a gift from Bev, has been an invaluable reference for this series. I’ll talk more about my sources for the lace imagery in a future post.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Under her eye

Under the steely gaze of Alice, life in the studio continues at a measured pace. The photos above and below were taken roughly a fortnight apart, as the increasingly crowded bench top attests. When not in use for printmaking, the worktop frequently overlooked by beady-eyed Alice doubles as a repository for current paintings in various stages of progress. In the final photo below, I’ve singled out one of them. Initially the work was intended to comprise a single panel, but after some consideration, it was extended into a diptych. My next post will focus on key stages of its subsequent development.

A favourite painter of mine is Hans Holbein the Younger and the palette of this work, notably the blue-green background, was influenced by three of his works I particularly admire. Postcards of two of them, Portrait of a Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling and Portrait of a Young Woman, collected during the years we could still travel, are propped up on the drawers to the right of Alice’s lookout. These portraits and Christina of Denmarkthe third of Holbein’s works I’ve lately revisited, if only from a distance, will be discussed in more detail in my following post. Click on individual images for a clearer view.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

THE BIG KITTY wins its first award

Some more great news for THE BIG KITTY. It has just garnered its first award - Best Trailer in Another Hole in the Head - the San Francisco Virtual Film Festival 2020.

Hearty congratulations to THE BIG KITTY filmmakers and stars Tom Alberts and Lisa Barmby, pictured above. 

Pictured below: a screen shot of me in the supporting role of fortune teller Madame F. Tom and Lisa made the majority of costumes for the film, including my magnificent sequinned turban. Seemingly the vintage black crepe dress, with its diagonal panel of hand-sewn stars and moons, was tailor-made for the role too. In fact, it’s from my own collection; I bought the dress several years before THE BIG KITTY was even conceived. I had never worn it, however, and wondered why I was bothering to hang onto it. Some things, it appears, are written in the stars.

THE BIG KITTY will screen at the Paris International Film Festival, which runs from 4 - 14 February. For a preview of the film by John Higgins of FILM AND TV NOW, including a link to the prizewinning trailer, go HERE.

Photo credits: Tom Alberts and Lisa Barmby.