Category Archives: Illuminations

All is Calm

“All is Calm” Neocolor II and coloured pencils. 28.5 x 37.5 cm. October 2022

The sun sinks, casting its last rays on East Fremantle’s “Rainbow” sea container sculpture. In the foreground a crested tern, already in shadow, rests on a pole at North Fremantle foreshore. At the first touch of an autumn dusk all is calm, all is bright.

All is Calm” is a drawing featuring the rainbow sculpture – a much loved piece of public art in my neighbourhood. I took the source photograph for this drawing during the month of April 2022.

Below are some of the photos I’ve taken over the past year of the rainbow sculpture.


“Transcendence” coloured pencil drawing, 28 x 41 cm. September 2022

A few weeks ago I published a post on a drawing called “Celestial Forest“. I loved working on the drawing so much that when I finished it I knew I had to make a considerably larger version for my April 2023 exhibition.

“Celestial Forest” had been composed from the left side of a photo I had taken at Donnelly River in June. For “Transcendence” I worked from the whole photo.

“Transcendence” reminds me of Jackson Pollock’s abstract expressionist painting “Blue Poles”. However in my abstract realist drawing the verticals are (thankfully) not poles, but living trees.

As I stood in that patch of forest I was so moved by the sunlight filtering through the trees that it felt like a divine experience… as if I were inside a prayer. The interplay of light, wet leaves and branches became a kind of moving leadlight.

What was a word to describe this? It was Matthew who came up with my title. “Transcendence”, he said, and I knew that he was right.

The original drawing, “Celestial Forest” 26 x 26 cm. July 2022

I did not want to compare “Transcendence” with “Celestial Forest” so I waited until the latter had gone to its new home before putting final touches on the former.

Celestial Forest

“Celestial Forest” coloured pencils 26 x 26 cm.

“Celestial Forest” looks like swatches of colour up close (including if you are sitting in front of your computer screen). From a small distance it morphs into a forest with descending sun behind. (Try walking away from your screen and you’ll see what I mean.)

How did this drawing come to be? I was in the forest at Donnelly River Village in the late afternoon photographing a pair of scarlet robins. I couldn’t help but notice the light effects as the sun dropped in the western sky. It had been raining earlier. Wet leaves glistened in the light breeze. It was – spiritual.

“Hmm”, I thought, “How can I capture this?” I deliberately put my lens out-of-focus and pointed my camera straight at the sun. Then I turned attention back to the scarlet robins. When I got home I knew I had to make a drawing from the forest-y abstraction I’d captured.

“Celestial Forest” is similar to my impressionist Parisian drawings. In the Paris drawings the relationships are between street lights, neon and architecture. In “Celestial Forest” the interplay is between sun and wet trees.

“Melting Memory” (2021) impressionistic Paris – on the same wavelength as “Celestial Forest”

I drew four drawings for The 2022 Donnelly Verandah Residencies exhibition which opens on Friday 19 August at EARLYWORK, Cnr Wardie St & South Tce, South Fremantle.

They are…

“Celestial Forest” coloured pencils 26 x 26 cm. Sold.
“Forest and Bird” Neocolor II and coloured pencils. 26 x 26 cm. Sold.
“Wow Factor” coloured pencils, 18.5 x 18.5 cm. Sold.
“Verandah Resident” 16.5 x 16.5 cm.

What will my five fellow artists exhibit? I am excited to find out – in one week’s time.

If you are a local do come in and have a look. Opening 6-8 p.m Friday 19th August and then every day 10-4 to Sunday 28 August in SOUTH FREMANTLE.

POSTSCRIPT: 28 August 2022. The exhibition closed at 4 p.m. It was such a joy to participate in this group show. I met many people who visited the gallery; some old friends and some for the first time. Several drawings and prints have gone to new homes. I am tired out but so happy.

If a Japanese Lantern were a Bird

If a Japanese Lantern were a Bird” Neocolor II and Luminance, 15 x 18 cm. May 2022

At the beginning of May I went searching for scarlet robins. I had seen images of them posted in the Facebook group ‘Western Australian Birds’. My mission was to find some of my own so that I could draw them. I did a bit of research and set off for Karnup Nature Reserve where it turned out a pair were waiting for me in the car park!

These striking little black, white and red robins remind me of Japanese lanterns hence the long title of this small drawing. After I thought of the title it occurred to me that it could be the first line of a verse – so I had better compose the verse.

If a Japanese lantern were a bird,
How bright its hues would be,
Illuminating scarlet globe,
Delighting all who see!

Some Japanese lanterns I have known and drawn over the years…

Wafting 2019.
Paper and Neon 2015
Interplay 2015
Minamiza Lantern 2015
The Art of Elegance 2014
Lit Up 2008.
Iluminating Dusk 2006

Now you can see why I had to find a scarlet robin, my Japanese Lantern Bird. This wee Australian bird takes me back to Kyoto.

A Late Night Conversation

For several days I have been “in training”. “Each night I stayed up as late as I could and each morning attempted to sleep in. My goal was to adjust my body-clock so that I wouldn’t only be awake until midnight on Wednesday 6th April but also lucid, lively and with a reasonable vocabulary at my disposal.

I had been invited by Ann Kullberg to be her guest on a webcast LIVE from America. West Australian time is 15 hours ahead of U.S. Pacific time. Ouch – hence my “in training” sessions!

Everything worked out perfectly. I had a great time in conversation with Ann and midnight came around as rapidly as it surely had for Cinderalla on another night long ago.

While people tuned in from various parts of America to see the webcast live, in my region you were all in bed fast asleep. Now that you are up and about – here it is.

While some of my artworks are seen on the webcast you can see hundreds of them on my website – from the 1970s to now.

New View

“New View” Neocolor II and coloured pencils. 28 x 32 cm. March 2022

Last year I actively searched for new views. I studied maps and took myself on numerous reconnaissance missions in my car. I made a ‘directory of views’ which I could refer to when I felt like going out with my camera. For example what vantage points would be best for sunrise or sunset?

During my search for new views I found Mount Lyell look-out and gazebo. This is a wonderful bush-clad hill accessed from McCabe Street, Mosman Park. Ascend 20 limestone steps and from the gazebo at the top you can look east, west and south FOREVER!

On a winter’s day last July I got up before dawn and drove to Mt Lyell, ready to greet the sunrise. It was the morning after a tempestuous day of thunderstorms which had caused flash flooding and wind damage. There were still plenty of clouds about but in the east it was clear so I knew there would be a rich light-show looking west at sunrise. I aimed my lens at the cliffs of North Fremantle. The Swan River was in front, cranes of the port behind, with a glimpse of Garden Island in the distance.

I took photos as the rising sun cast its intense light onto my view. I expect the storms of the previous day were responsible for the quality of light. Everything including the air was as if gone through a washing machine cycle – dazzlingly bright! I chose to work from an impressionistic soft-focus photo. It had captured the light, rich colours and atmosphere without fiddly sharp details.

During the drawing’s execution I photographed several stages…

Neocolor II undercoat stage finished
Pencil work begins with sky
Moving down with my pencils
Now picking up the gold reflections in the apartment blocks
“New View” completed

A note to local readers – I highly recommend taking a picnic or merely a coffee to Mt Lyell gazebo, especially on a calm sunny winter’s day. I took Matthew up there last winter during one of our lock-downs when cafĂ©s were closed for dining-in. We spent a beautiful hour, mostly in silence, sipping our coffees and – gazing.

Melting Memory

“Melting Memory” 30 x 20 cm. Neocolor II and coloured pencils. October 2021

After drawing “Last Night I Dreamed of Kyoto” I am still traveling but this time revisiting Paris. “Melting Memory” goes further into a dream-scape than the Kyoto drawing and deeper towards abstraction though it is still clearly a nocturnal street scene.

I am able to delve back to the actual evening by looking inside my journal. Tuesday 18 October 2016: – “I went out in the early evening – back to rue Saint Denis. I could see black clouds coming and sure enough it poured. I was stuck for quite a while under an awning wondering how I’d get home. But – WET STREETS! As I neared home the rain stopped so I kept going. I walked down to Saint Paul. I took lots of photos of lights and wet reflective streets. I’m in bed now, worn out. I haven’t eaten anything today except baguette, cheese, jam, tomatoes, cereal, apples and berries…and a pastry.”

Below is “Last Night I Dreamed of Kyoto“, the drawing which walked my memory and I further back in time to a Parisian rainy reminiscence.

“Last Night I Dreamed of Kyoto” October 2021

Last Night I Dreamed of Kyoto

“Last Night I Dreamed of Kyoto” 28 x 20 cm. October 2021

I have been self-disciplined in sticking to local subject matter in 2021. I tell myself “YOU ARE HERE”. I am at my drawing easel in North Coogee, Western Australia. But at night when I sleep there are neither domestic nor international borders. In my dream state I am a free agent. Quite regularly my dreams return me to Japan and if they are of the anxious variety, more often than not, my camera is lost!

In this drawing the maiko is not the bright centre of attention. She is fast disappearing as she smoothly moves away through lanterns, neon and darkness. Beyond reach and dream-like, perhaps a dim figment of nocturnal imagination.


Below is the drawing at various stages. I experimented by blending the undercoat of Neocolor II pastel with a blender pencil BEFORE putting on coloured pencil. Doing this altered the paper – making it a smoother surface to work on. (I often use blender over the top of coloured pencils but this was the first time I put it underneath.) I liked the feel of working pencils over the blended Neocolors but I’m not sure the end result is different from what it might have been had I done things in their usual order.

Neocolor II water-soluble pastels (without water) undercoat.
Neocolor II undercoat lightly covered over with Caran d’Ache Pencil Blender
Luminance 6901 coloured pencils beginning to go over Neocolor + blender.
The layers of coloured pencils spread across the work.
“Last Night I Dreamed of Kyoto” finished.

Good Morning Fremantle

“Good Morning Fremantle” coloured pencils, 29 x 29 cm. August 2021

Those who arise early in Fremantle are rewarded (if they happen to be looking in the right direction) by our red cranes bursting into life when sunrise irradiates them. The scene may be even more dramatic if there are clouds in the western sky – as there were on this morning 19 years ago. This spectacle is something I have loved to witness during my 24 years in Western Australia.

Below is “Harbour Lights”, a 2002 oil painting I painted using the same photograph reference as I used for “Good Morning Fremantle” above. You can only get an approximate idea of the oil painting as I wasn’t using a digital camera back then – so I can only show you an image produced by a scan of a photographic print of my painting.

“Harbour Lights” is one of my final oil paintings as it is about that time I decided I only wanted to use coloured pencils going forward.

“Harbour Lights” an oil painting from 2002.

It can be an enjoyable exercise to make a new artwork from a source photo from years before. One’s ways of seeing changes over time as well as one’s actual methods. And when different art materials are used in each case, the second result will be totally different from the first.

Sunset Flight

“Sunset Flight” Luminance coloured pencils. 29 x 29 cm. July 2021.

As Fremantle reflects the last of the sinking sun’s rays, a crested tern flies overhead.

I used a photo reference for this drawing which I’d taken 19 years ago. I love making art from my travels. If I can’t fly across continents at the moment, I can still travel back in time.

Over the past few months I have been taking many photos around Fremantle and it is interesting to compare the town-scape in 2021 with that of 2002. Below is a photo I took a few days ago – almost exactly the same view as in the drawing. The space that was open and charming two decades ago is now clogged up with block-y construction. No wonder I hark back.

“Sunset Flight” is a lost view.

Almost the same view as in my drawing “Sunset Flight”. I took this photo a couple of weeks ago to compare it with the drawing. For my drawing I used a photo that I’d taken back in 2002.