One of my earliest pre-school drawings on the farm was of a squadron of double-wingers from my father’s airport (see image ‘Double-wingers Over Farm’). I’d bought my first box of water colours while in primary school (from selling cooked mud crabs at the local pub), and had visions of being a painter when I grew up (see ‘Optimistic Boat’, as painted into the autograph book of Helen L’Orange (nee Alidenes) in 1954).
I’d applied to study art at Mullumbimby High School (see my painting of ‘Queen Boadicea’ in my history book of 1955), to discover that art was only available for girls and ‘dummies’ in those days.
At Armidale Teachers’ College I obtained a Distinction in mixed media as an Art Elective subject. Here I received the one and only lesson on oil painting (see fragment of my first oil painting, entitled ‘Cotoneasters’). In Sydney I’d purchased my own starter set of oil paints, and was encouraged by Geoff Tyndall, art teacher at The Forest High, who took me to a couple of life drawing classes.
I painted consistently from the age of nineteen until my mid-twenties (see ‘Self-portrait’ 1961, and ‘Girl with Flowers’, 1964). At an exhibition in Phillip Baxter College (1967), I sold ‘In Search of Truth’ (to Joe Cassidy), ‘Convent Garden’ (to someone from the Psychology Department at the University), and my collage ‘The Flower that has Bloomed Forever Dies’ to Professor George, our College Warden (then bought my collage back). As part of my on-going science studies (University of New South Wales) I obtained a High Distinction in the Humanities subject, ‘History of Fine Arts’, with dreams of studying at the then ‘East Sydney Tech’ when I finished my degree.
Then I fell in love, ‘the whole catastrophe,’ as Zorba said, which sunk my plans. For life and study, work (and later family) intervened, closing out any aspirations I may have had to be a painter. In the interim I sublimated with word-pictures (or poems, without the need of having to set up a canvas and easel, and then clean up all the mess at the end).
In 2003, on my retirement from paid employment, I enrolled in painting classes at the Lavender Bay Gallery. In 2008, after an ‘apprenticeship’ of some six years I was elected as an Exhibiting Member of the Royal Art Society of New South Wales (having clocked up my 10,000 hours working on the craft, while still retaining a naïve style). My teachers were Judy Pennefather and Leyla Spencer. On-going tuition had been provided by my friend Robin Norling (whom I’d met professionally when he was working at the Art Gallery of New South Wales) and his painter-partner, Jocelyn Maughan.
In 2009 I set up an operating studio. In 2010 I won the Royal Art Society ‘Medal of Distinction’ for their 130th Spring Exhibition (for my painting ‘Church at Berrima’).