Somethings in your life just ‘happen’ without any initial conscious decision to pursue whatever it is you seem to be good at. So, it was with my art. While other pastimes or pursuits just grab you and lead you on a lifelong path of discovery and enjoyment. In my case it was art (a loose term for bad drawings on any scrap of paper I could find) that was obviously in my blood, because I cannot remember as a young person of eight or so deciding consciously that I wanted to draw. But I suppose that ‘need’ to produce art came from my father’s side of the family, where several people had some skills in that regard. Of course, like most nurturing of young boys, it was my mother who encouraged my efforts in that department, and even for a time effectively acted as my defacto agent (I was about 9 years old at the time from memory) and initiated several sales of my works to her network of female friends.
From the first time I was taken fishing by a neighbour, and told to sit, be quite and wait for a trout to come along and eat my bait I was hooked. I didn’t catch a thing, but no matter, I was hooked as firmly as any trout I’ve caught since and that is still the case five decades later. So started my journey of fishing (mostly fly), and my passion for getting out into the Australian bush in pursuit of wild trout and other creatures that inhabit wild places. My early years were spent painting the Australian landscape, often expansive vistas of river valleys featured heavily in my subject matter, because these were the places I was most familiar with and visited most in those earlier years. The paintings that I produce these days are far smaller, and the subject matter more intimate, usually subjects that entice me into the country and further afield into wild places. Trout mostly are often the subject and what I’m probably best known for, but other fish as well, deer and game animals, hunting dogs, wild horses and birds are ongoing subject matter for my art.
When I was younger and painted river vistas and farmed countryside, I often had farmers and country people telling me they ‘got’ my work, and this is still the case today with my angling and hunting (outdoor) art. I think my work appeals to regular hunters and anglers because it appeals to me, because I’m one of them, I get it, that joy of seeing a deer or brumby appearing as if by magic through the scrub, the concentration, joy and excitement on a gundog’s face knowing the fun is about to begin, a beautifully marked trout from a mountain stream, or the antics of wild birds in their natural element. Fishing and hunting in many ways is simply an ‘excuse’ to ‘go bush’ for a while, not that any of us really need an excuse for that surely!
Painting is a solitary experience, and it is possible to become cocooned off and insular at times, and fall into the habit of simply painting what sells. For some reason, I have a real passion and fascination for hares, I love their unique personality and quirkiness, and I could paint them continually and sell everyone I paint, because people like those paintings, but sticking with one subject matter and producing similar images over and over because they sell is not art to me, it’s image production and soon becomes just a job. I always try and push the boundaries of my art within reason at times, so that I’m continually discovering new ways of interpreting my subjects. Sometimes these boundary-pushing works do actually work, but often as not they don’t, or they do for me but not for the public, but that’s ok, it’s all about pushing the envelope and trying something new.
I tend to have a short attention span, so my detailed works are generally quite small, I can get in, paint the picture and move on to the next work. I don’t normally dwell on a painting or sketch, I’m quite prolific in my output and often find myself planning the next painting while I’m working on the current project. I do have my favourites at times though, works that I’m more pleased with than others, but this pleasure usually comes about by the finished work coming together as I planned. Painting a work that you’re really enjoying can be a trap for an artist because the temptation is to keep painting while you’re in the groove is very great, but this desire to keep going and ‘add more’ can be fatal to the result. Knowing when to stop IS more critical than making that first mark at the start of a piece.
My art is just as natural as breathing for me, I make a conscious effort to do it as prolifically as I do because I love it, but I really have no choice, making art is part of my DNA. I do take pride in the fact that I’m something of a dinosaur these days when it comes to my art, I don’t use computers at all in my work, it is all hand painted, what you see is what I did, there’s no computer program helping to draw a circle, smudge a line, or repeat a pattern.
I’ve never had any formal art training and as such I sometimes think I’m doing something wrong in how I approach and paint a subject. And for that reason, I’ve always tried to help others who request advice on how I would handle a subject. I enjoy seeing their work progress and them becoming more confident and pushing their art further. One piece of advice I give to anybody who will listen, if they want to pursue art is to draw, draw and draw, and try and draw, sketch or scribble, even if it’s only freehand circles every day. Practice might not make your art perfect, but it will make your art far more enjoyable and less stressful.
At present, I’m thoroughly enjoying the style of works I’m doing, and slowly evolving into other subject matter and styles as I go, what happens will happen, I’d like to do a series of landscapes our most respected trout waters down track if I get time.
My artwork is generally sold unframed to allow for ease of storage and reducing shipping damage and freight cost.