"Twisted Realism" A visual artist, creating moody black and white tonal drawings in charcoal, pastel and graphite. Inspired by the human figure, story telling and Europe.


Drawing Workshop with Yanni Floros - Lethbridge Gallery

 A month ago I received an invitation to participate in a workshop with one of the stable of excellent artists associated with Lethbridge Gallery in Brisbane. Yanni Floros came to my attention a year or so ago, with an exhibition of exquisite charcoal drawings, rendered in something beyond a photographic representation. Stark, stunning, detailed and alluring, they displayed a unique mastery over the medium, and I became a fan.

Yesterday I attended Yanni's workshop. He showed us his unique way of working, using powdered charcoal and brushes to slowly build areas up, adding the effects of charcoal pencil to detail and strengthen areas, and then cutting back into the surfaces with chiselled edged erasers to create the lighter sections. And then on occasions, powdered white pastel or conte are brushed over some areas to bring out the highlights. The jacket below on the cover of Yanni's catalogue, would have started as a solid black charcoal block, and the light shades etched back into the surface with the eraser.

All of the materials used and techniques shown at the workshop were familiar to me, but I find I apply them in a different fashion in my own work. Whereas the surfaces of Yanni's drawings are almost "licked" and polished with little evidence of the techniques and even mediums employed to make them, I love the effects of the mark-making process in my own pieces. Cross hatch and contour strokes, the thick impasto chunks of tone, and overt evidence of graphite, pastel and charcoal line, all add an additional richness and "energy" to the work.

My workshop effort.
The hair is the result of Yanni's teaching,
the jacket shows the effects of
 Pete left to his own devices. 

Thanks to Yanni, a gifted and engaging communicator who was very willing to share his "secrets", and who lead us through an entertaining and challenging day. 


SALT Magazine - Autumn 2012 - Artwork

Since the 05/06 Summer edition of the beautifully produced Sunshine Coast magazine, 
I have been invited to illustrate Bernard Salt articles, and now, the stories of Brisbane writer Benjamin Law.
The stories are always presented to me about a month and half before going to press, and I am given open slather to treat them in any way I choose. Often difficult, but always fun. Invariably, an idea springs to mind on the the first reading, and despite all attempts to improve upon that idea, the initial gut response proves to be the most relevant. 
Below is the final proposal for the current edition.

Click on the link below to read "Law according to Benjamin". 
A humorous story about being an Asian kid who couldn't swim, 
growing up on the Sunshine Coast and trying to make an impression.

Wednesday Night Life Drawing...

...with Karen, James, Andrew, Shane, Tom, Angela and a few others.
We've been drawing for about 12 months now, 
and love the challenges that life drawing brings.

Recently I've been doing smaller works in my A4 journal, 
deliberately keeping them simple line drawings 
with the view of taking them home and developing them further.

These journal drawings allow me to explore techniques 
that I might use in future large works, 
and to play with iconography from my photo albums. 

Backdrops from Byron Bay, 
Granville and Annecy in France, 
Le Defense in Paris...

...but sometimes it's the simplicity of line and colour I love.
I've always enjoyed the decoration of patterns, 
and using line to create contoured surfaces.  

These smaller works are a chance to push these areas, 
then combine them with layers of coloured inks and indian washes. 

A Difficult Pleasure Completed.

Pages from my journal.

The drawing I have been working on is titled "Lutte Et Le Desir" (Struggle and Desir) It is the accumulation of a lot of ideas that were teased out in my journal over a number of weeks. One thought was to include the picturesque Spanish village of Cadaques, a place I had visited on a couple of occasions, and the place where Salvador Dali holidayed as a youth. It was the source of many of his iconic coastal landscapes, and I wanted it to emerge from a flat photo into a 3D image as it rolled across the surface of the paper.    

I have also played with the idea of the graphite pencil, the basic tool to make a mark with, being some sort of spike that anchors me to my art, and torments me with it's insistency. As a younger person, there was always the visual power of Christ nailed to His cross. A similar inevitability and sense of persecution by my art exists within. 


Sketches trying to work out the best way to visually solve the problem, and create impact. The pages are also full of ideas that never made it into the final image.

 I wanted to show that the experience of creating is not one I have a lot of control over, and that it's not just a matter of removing the pencil to alleviate the need. Although piercing the wrist has religious connotations, I find it to be the point in my body where any emotional pain is felt immediately. At times my wrists and forearms are the first parts to recognise emotional anguish and respond instantly with a deep, dull ache.

I wanted the face and hands to create an embrace around the story, so pushed them to the far edges of the paper. I often use words as a speedier way to capture thoughts about an image. Smaller ideas around the page, eventually make it into the final image.

This drawing uses black pen and wash to try and capture the final expression on the face, and endeavours to work out the awkward relationship between the two hands and pencil, while not concealing any of the vital information in the drawing.

"Lutte et le Desir"

190 x 103 cm
Charcoal, Pastel and Graphite on Kraft Paper.

When the entire surface is finally covered, the fun begins. I love the notion of depth in my work, a sense that you can "enter" it, so then it's time to push areas back and pull some parts of the image forward. The quiet addition of warm red pastel to pull, and cool blue pastel to push, creates dimension, and subtle and interesting changes to the work.
I also seek out the confidence of family and friends to give feedback as to what works and doesn't in the picture. All drawings get to a point where I have no idea what I have created. Bit like not being able to recognise your own voice on a recording. It's so familiar I don't see it anymore. Invariably I will listen and change.
So when is the work finished? This drawing has sat on my easel in this state for about two months now, and I have not been tempted to touch it, to walk up and tweak some troubling square centimetre, even though I scan it constantly. There is this gut feeling, this intangible knowing that it is done.


New Work In Progress (The Difficult Pleasure)

I've just commenced my next drawing. 

The initial concept came from a drawing in one of my journals that refers to my personal struggle with creating work and generating new ideas. But it is also a direct link to the Australian artist Brett Whitely, one of my artistic heroes, who referred to his "affliction", that is being born with a gift that had to be  honoured. He had no choice in the matter. Whitely called Art "the difficult pleasure". One can speculate whether it ultimately cost him his life.

There are times when I feel I am a slave to the image. There is always an enormous internal struggle to honour, to create and to entertain the muse within. A week without making a mark on paper, is to feel the itch within the fingertips take hold. Something has to be made, and what that is isn't always obvious.

This new work honours those times.

The brown Kraft paper (205gsm) is 2 meters wide and 1200cm high, 
and is taped to a large sheet of plaster board left over from building the house.
The drawing is drafted out in Mars Lumograph 7B pencil.
 It's a rich matt black that doesn't shine, therefore complimenting the flat charcoal to come. 

I work from a photo I take of myself, but I'm not a slave to it. 
I draw quickly so as to encourage the subtle distortions that are a key to my work.
After the initial drawing, I add the black tonal components with Pitt compressed extra soft charcoal.
The titanium white soft pastel is then worked into this. Some areas are left raw, while others are blended.

Not all of the design is fully conceived yet. There are a lot of serendipitous moments, and long periods sitting in chair with a coffee and staring at the work. Ideas suggest themselves as I go, and final designs are adjusted according to the needs of the work. 
(Is it too black. Too white. No flow or rhythm. Components that can't be "read". The need for detail and patterns. Awkward shapes that don't fit. The story looses track, irrelevant components etc etc.) 

At these moments, everything is right in the universe.

"When you are working,
everybody is in your studio - 
The past,
your friends,
the art world, 
and above all, 
your own ideas are all there.

But as you continue painting,
they start to leave one by one, 
and you are left completely alone.

Then if you are lucky,
even you leave."

Extract from a conversation between John Cage and Phillip Guston.

Art In All Things (The perfect day)

The yard below my house is home to the occasional Red Bellied Black Snake, who love the close proximity to the dam beyond. I'm not a snake fan, but love seeing these beauties and feel fortunate to have them around.  I'm not sure I've ever seen such an intense, brilliant black, and this is married with the vibrant fire red of their bellies. They are spectacular. 
So to admire them and monitor their presence, I hand mow the grass with my little 14 inch Victa.

Mowing is therapeutic for me, and a form of exercise. The patterns have started to emerge over time, and make the whole process seem speedier. It's another opportunity to draw. 
I change the patterns every 12 months.

Favourite denims drying in the afternoon.

The shed nestled behind the palms is my studio. 

Early morning sunshine catches the last of the valley mist, and casts long shadows that highlight the mowed patterns.

The view from the deck at the front of my studio.
Scene Of  My Perfect Day
Both roller doors wide open.
Sun shining through, flooding the studio.
Music loud.
Aromatic incense filling the studio air.
Torn denims and paint splattered 'T'
A large sheet of brown paper.
Stacks of charcoal, pastel and graphite. 


‘I Love the Lab’ (114.5 x 76.5 cm) Charcoal, Pastel, Graphite on Paper

A few years back, I was given a post card from a friend who had been to Chartres Cathedral, and had found the large tiled labyrinth buried beneath orderly rows of wicker chairs. Chairs reminiscent of the one Vincent painted in his chambre.
There’s something about labyrinths that I love. For a number of years a large labyrinth has been mowed into the grass at the bottom of my paddock. A soothing place of gentle reflection and meditation. To walk its corridor is a mini journey within itself. 
Akin to life.

My Labyrinth in sunshine...

...and hail


The Magic Woodford Folk Festival, 2011

Every year for twenty something years, in a valley behind the town of Woodford in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, a mini canvas city is created, and the lost souls of a bygone era trample the humid, muddy, dusty and delightful village in search of the sights and sounds of yesterday.

They discard the trappings of this contemporary life, pull out those older garments that smack of a more casual and eloquent hippy era, and stroll the streets searching for unusual foods, beaded and braided home crafts, and the warm sounds of folk and blues floating from any one of the many venues.

It's a week of pure escapism.

I was invited to run an art workshop at the excellent 
Visual Arts and Crafts 
area of the Woodford Folk Festival this year.

The 4 workshops were titled
"Put Yourself In The Picture"
They were a chance for Woodfordians to create a self portrait in charcoal and pastel. Most participants had limited art experience, but I loved the way they saw the workshop as a non threatening environment in which to have a go at something, that beyond the walls of Woodford might terrify them.

Lots of discovery, laughter and enjoyment, and a perfect way to meet a vast array of people.

And then every now and then you are fortunate to witness a revelation.

Thursday 29th December, 2.00pm.
We walk into the Blues Tent and watch a 30 year old Canadian named Matt Andersen
In 1984 I went to a Santana Concert in Adelaide, 
and stood with the audience and cried as I listened to Santana touch me in such a profound and dramatic way. 
Straight to the heart stuff. 
I suddenly felt that music was the purist art form I knew, because it had an immediacy that directly opened communication between the artist and the audience. 
The musician is feeling it, I too am feeling it, NOW.

Andersen's voice is powerfully rich, yet sweet, and lulls you through gentle ballads. 
But then he throws his head back while singing the blues, and sends his voice soaring somewhere above without the need of a microphone. 
His voice sinks so low as he purrs out "I'm a steamroller baby", 
that the bass reverberates deep into your chest.
His guitar is strummed and plucked and savaged, stumpy fingers thrashing strings. Unbelievable dexterity.
We ended up attending four of Matt's concerts during the following days.
Each concert received a standing ovation.
For the second time in my life I was moved to tears.

A happy man, 
I leave Woodford for another year, 
with new acquaintances to make me smile and a new CD in my clutch.

After The Purge...

As I slugged through the previous piece, this new idea emerged. 
I drafted it out in my journal in black pen...

...added a little indian ink wash,
a little water to some cheap coloured TYPO pens I bought at the Plaza, 
and a bit of coloured pencil. There's a gut feeling when it works, an intrinsic sense of balance and completion, not always able to be taught.

From the small journal drawing emerges this work.
1150mm X 900mm.
PITT Extra Soft Charcoal,
ART SPECTRUM Titanium White,
STAEDTLER Mars Lumograph 7B Graphite Pencil,
and a hint of Blue and Red pastel.
Drawn on 210gsm brown Kraft Paper.

Now For First Marks

I remember listening to a radio interview a few years back with the lead singer of Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor. 
He was asked how he handled writers block. He said it would happen often. Times when the creative juices didn't flow, but it wasn't a problem. He had learnt during those times, to write anything that came to him down on paper, sketchy ideas, random notes or obscure lyrics. Didn't judge it, just got it all down. It could take days, weeks, months, but slowly something worthwhile and concrete would emerge from the ramblings. A song.

Art is like that for me.
After being overseas, there are too many ideas banging around inside, and nothing concrete has gelled. So it's a matter of just putting a piece of paper on the easel and start making marks. I'm not trying to be correct or even begin to judge the outcomes. I'm not trying to make a picture, just make marks!

The eventual outcome isn't satisfying, but the monkey on the back has been removed.

As my head is released to these meditative drawing spaces, invariably it wanders off to new ideas. I can't leave the largely unsatisfying work "unfinished",  but the newly emerging concepts are recorded in my journal. To be tackled after I've purged the above piece.

‘Unwitting Peccadillos’ (114.5 x 76.5 cm) Charcoal, Pastel, Graphite on Paper

Sauntering around the headland of Granville late in the afternoon, I peered down from an elevated area in front of the cathedral, into a room in one of the beautiful old naval buildings opposite, that had been converted into residencies.
The windows were wide open, Black high heeled shoes perched on the sill. Inside the fresh cream coloured room, was a large made bed with plump pillows. Laid out on the bed were underwear, a sparkling dark dress, and a gift (or was it a cube?) tied with ribbon 
I drifted through the space into unwitting invitations and peccadillos.