"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.


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.