PAINTED FLOWERS No. 1 ~ The inspiration behind the painting & resolving a creative impasse May 14 2021



It was winter 2019 and I was on the hunt for new inspiration. I had been searching for a while, feeling stuck in a place that didn’t feel good. A swirling mass of creative ideas had taken root inside me but I had no idea how to pictorialise them. Seemingly overnight it felt like everything I had painted before was no longer enough. From past experiences I knew that trying to intellectualise what was happening would amount to nothing. I had to approach this stalemate intuitively, with new eyes, keeping an open mind.

Wassily Kandinsky wrote in 1912 ~ “If the soul of the artist is alive, then there is no need to bolster it with cerebration and theories. It will find something to say of its own accord, something that may, at that moment, remain unclear even to the artist himself.”

Taking Kandinsky’s words to heart, I began painting in an experiment of colour rather than form. Colour has a way of carrying you on a wave of emotion. The deep crimson hues in this painting, highly evocative of the bohemian salons in the late 19th century, became for me a kind of connection to an ‘other-worldly’ experience that set the tone for the subject matter.

The imagery in this work however came to me slowly, presenting itself gradually over many months. Both art and dreams trade in symbols and imagination, and can represent thoughts and feelings often not spoken about or acknowledged, even to ourselves.

The influence of Art Nouveau’s characteristic curves form a deep symbolic presence here. The sinuous, crimson rose vine, woven around her like a mystery, appears to be pressing in tightly and yet, no thorn has punctuated her skin, not one drop of blood lost. Far from being a torturous experience, it is her barrier of protection. We may well ask ourselves, what from?

The highly reflective, rich shimmer of copper leaf brings a luminous glow to the painting. At a certain time of the day, her radiant halo seems to be lit from behind. Reminiscent of religious iconography, she comes to life as the embodiment of the divine feminine, emanating love and passion.                 

The completion of this work has resolved the creative block I was going through by inspiring new imagery for a series of works that further explore our history through unspoken and often unacknowledged experiences and emotions.

Interview for ~ ARTS MAGAZINE INTERNATIONAL Number 33. January 02 2021

Below is an interview I did for the magazine 'Arts Magazine International', issue #33. It was originally written in English and translated into French for the publication, released in December 2020 ~

What is your artistic background? I have always been fascinated by art. My childhood was spent drawing and colouring, and I excelled in art through high school. There was something deep there that I was drawn to - a compulsion - to lose myself in the bubble of creativity. My childhood was not a happy one and art was my way of coping.

I wanted to have a career as an artist but in my second year of an Arts Degree I fell pregnant (I was19) and decided to go ahead and have the baby. That changed everything! It wasn’t until my daughter was a teenager that I revisited my passion to become a painter and realised it was a dream that hadn’t died. So I picked up a brush and began to teach myself how to paint. I was in my 30s and very impatient to express myself. I thought that if I went to an art institution it would be too disciplined, so I just pushed through, making lots of mistakes, but learning steadily. In those early years, I wasn’t very good, but I knew I had the passion and drive to practice until I became better. So to answer your question, I’m primarily a self-taught artist although in 2016 I did six weeks of traditional training at the Florence Academy of Art where I refined my technique and mastered the skills that were missing from a lack of formal education.     


What has France brought you in your pictorial research? French culture is at the heart of all my paintings. The artists of the 19th & 20th century that gathered in Paris have left a legacy of incredible measure that artists continue to turn to for inspiration and guidance. In 2000 a dream came true for me - I moved to Paris to realise my ambition of becoming a true artist. For 18 months I dedicated my time to the practice of painting, but I couldn’t have done it without the support of my French boyfriend at the time. It’s thanks to him I am where I am today. I now live back in Australia which is home for me. I love it here, but my soul is always restless for Europe. 


Where does your passion for Art Deco, Art Nouveau and the Italian Renaissance come from? The dawning of the 20th century in Europe - particularly France - witnessed an enormously accelerated change in society ignited by rapidly expanding technological advancements. A progressive new generation of artists, designers and architects developed innovative concepts and stylised designs that matched these radical changes. I love everything about these two eras: the geometric motifs and intense colours of Art Deco, and the fecund, romantic curves of Art Nouveau. Both these movements find their way into every painting I do. The tragedy of war disrupted paradise and cast a dark cloud over everything, yet it gave birth to a new group of artists - the Avant Garde.

French Neoclassicism in the 19th century was a revival of the Italian Renaissance and introduced a new era of portraiture to Europe. These artists were highly trained and the restraint and discipline shows through in the clarity of their work, which I admire very much. Art history is a profound teacher. Every time we walk the halls of an art museum - the Louvre especially - we are face to face with the souls of the painters who created those paintings. Right there at the heart of every painting lies the spirit of these artists. We only have to open our eyes.


Did your unique style impose itself from the outset?  The work of Tamara de Lempicka captured my heart and set my imagination aflame when I first saw her incredible paintings in a book back in the mid 90s - I remember the day very clearly. It was a moment of truth; a turning point. Tamara, then and there, became my teacher and I’ve never looked back. Her paintings taught me how to paint.

How would you define it today? Tamara’s style of painting, her tight, post-cubist compositions depict strong, sexy women in control of themselves and their world. Back in the 1920s, German magazine 'Die Dame' defined her as "a symbol of women's liberation". Her paintings had a hard edge to them; even her thick, resolute application of paint onto the canvas reflects her character, as I discovered when I saw her paintings for the first time in an exhibition in Rome. Even in the early years of painting, I was motivated to find my own unique expression. I didn’t want to copy Tamara’s legacy. I think my work has evolved into something softer, more feminine over the 20 years I’ve been painting. I paint using gentler brushstrokes and finer layers of paint. I’m patient, present, and dedicated.

For the past few years I feel my work has been in flux; I’ve been challenging myself to reach into unexplored arenas to find new inspiration, new direction. One of the biggest obstacles artists face is the temptation to keep painting in the same style year in, year out. I’m committed to evolving my work.

Women are one of your favorite subjects. Who are the women you paint? The subjects in my paintings are women that have attracted me for one reason or another; women on the street, in a cafe, shopping. Something captured me about their face or the way in which they moved their body and I think > I want to paint her. It’s been a kind of ritual - taking an ‘everyday’ contemporary woman into my studio and transforming her into a Golden Era goddess.

As I get older, what I’ve come to value is that every woman has her story, and how important it is to speak up and share our stories. I’m drawn to portraiture as a way of expressing the inner narrative of the sitter, rather than imposing my own perspective of her through an imaginative, stylised rendition like I did in my early years. It’s important on so many levels and I’d like to explore this further in my work.

What do you find so fascinating about women in general? One of the things I love most about painting women is being able to incorporate feminine designs and motifs into the backgrounds, around the figure. The painting becomes a complete experience of the feminine; the portrait plus the environment around her. When you pare the world right down to basics, dichotomy forms the fundamental rule of operation. I chose the feminine because I know her language. I’m not adverse to painting men or the masculine but when I have done so, there is an effeminate sensibility that shows up!

Why are light and colors important in your works? Colour for me is one of the joys of working with paint. It’s become a ceremony of sorts to mix the colours on my palette before starting work for the day. And mixing different pigments to create new colours is something I never tire from. 


What is the philosophical significance of your style and artistic choices? My work is, for the most part, guided by instinct. The less I say about it, the more space the viewer has to bring their own philosophical musings to the table: I’ll let you be the judge!

~ Catherine Abel



THE SPIRIT OF GLASGOW ~ mural commission for the Beresford Hotel, Glasgow 2020 November 22 2020

Catherine Abel’s instinctive ability to move a viewer through time, story, city and the harmonisation of feminine/masculine symbolism, is demonstrated in her extraordinary mural rendition, The Spirit of Glasgow.

The artist has described its breadth of scope, ‘as a voyage of industry and transformation.’ The composition’s narrative is both arresting with its bold geometry of multiplicity and direction, and contemplative, with the mood set by a glamorous, enigmatic woman – the only featured human being in the painting.

We see the interplay of Art Deco’s signature style combining luxury with a sense of faith in technological progress, as it evolved during the 1930s. And worlds-within-worlds emerge like collage, inviting dialogue with a city steeped in historical richness. Notice the zeppelin and the harbingers of Steam Punk. The painting’s vastness grants the eye ample opportunity and space to explore and question.

Emphasising prismatic shapes, elements of Cubism and the traditional mural arc illustrating the urban environment flanked with emblems, it also pays homage to iconic marks of culture and evokes a tangible sense of destination. Abel has masterfully captured a Post-Modern impression of Glasgow’s character, and yet, a presence of unnameable, mystical significance saturates its entirety. 

The solitary female figure casts an omniscient gaze across all of creation. She is positioned above The Beresford Hotel and its cinematic spotlight – the energy of the British and Scottish liaisons are palpable behind doors; the grand dame, RMS Queen Elizabeth ocean liner of distinction, takes her pride of place; the splendour and sleek arrangements of ‘planes, trains and automobiles’; and the stately Streamline Architecture definitive of the day.

Poised and in tune with her own power and sense of place, her soulful, majestic presence belonging to this world and the next is pregnant with worth and meaning. The gradual transition from her feminine grace to the placement of trade, shipbuilding and bridges generates reflective yet rapid movement; a very real sense of travelling across multiple timelines and interpretations throughout the painting, simultaneously.

During its 12 week composition, Abel ‘felt her way through’ each 8 hour stretch of skilled labour. Guided by her own imaginings, her love and knowledge of Art Deco and ocean liners, and with trust in the story unfolding around the iconic Beresford Hotel, it was important for her to act upon her instincts rather than any preconceived notion of what needed to happen. She learned that, ‘No matter how much you plan the outcome, the muse may lead you elsewhere. And that it’s best not to fight the flowing river.’

At any point of connection the viewer enters the artistic conversation, it could be said that with all historical and aesthetic appreciation aside, other faraway places of the mind and senses are stirred. The presence of a muse, a mystic, a woman as paragon of beauty, all combine within a streamline-city backdrop, to form a spectacular painting that is both an invitation and a statement, all at once.

MY PAST UNPACKED November 27 2018

MY PAST had been dutifully packed away by people who liked to keep secrets. Stowed in the deep recess of an old worn suitcase, they stole my precious memories and locked them away, along with my identity.  “These secrets must never be spoken. She must never find out.” said the people who put them there.


That was a long time ago.

My past was shrouded in a heavy veil of shame that was NOT MINE.  Shame is a trickster with many disguises who is always looking for the wrong host. Before they took away my past, I claimed the shame and called it my own. I was so little - how was I to know it was not mine to take?

I nursed that shame like it was a small, sickly animal that needed me for its survival. I took on the task with great gusto believing  it would rescue Her from her pain. I thought I could make Her happy.

But instead of gaining autonomy SHAME grew stronger and more needy, feeding from me day and night, never leaving me alone. It had grown into a weight so dense it made my legs buckle, and it became another worrisome burden I had to bear all by myself, along with The Suitcase.

And still She was not happy.   


They thought that over time I would forget. “She is too young. She won’t remember anything” they conferred in quiet tones. But my senses were sharp back then, along with my memory, and the only thing that happened was I forgot to forget. I knew exactly where The Suitcase was and what was in it. I had tiptoed past it many times.

And then one day when the air was tight and crisp, I heard a tiny inkling calling my name with a despair that would break your heart. It was MY PAST!

I ran like the wind, my heart thumping inside my little chest.  And wrapping my hand around the leather bound handle,  I swiftly dislodged The Suitcase and its trapped contents from the bitter grave of its resting place. It was too weighty to lift, so with both hands I dragged it across the cool, flower-patterned lino letting it come to rest in a shaft of golden sunlight streaming through the window.

I trembled with emotion, for I knew deep within the satin-lined cavity held the truth of WHO I WAS, and where I had come from. It was an ancient relic of a forgotten mystery that had embedded itself into the very fabric of life itself, cowering there in the dark corners for way too long. It knew my real name, not the one She gave me afterwards.

I dared not open it. That’s why my heart was beating so fast – I was petrified of the unknown. I had told myself for years that it was locked and there was NO KEY. But that was not the truth. I lied to myself to keep The Suitcase firmly shut. I was caught between protecting Her, or releasing my own jagged pain and the tug-of-war frightened me greatly and so I did nothing.  I may have been small but my mind had strength, at least for a while… until it went limp, defeated by the adults who had their own ideas about who I was to be from now on.  And so I became like The Suitcase – retreating to the shadows where I was forgotten. They left me alone that way, alone with my stories and pencils. My past had been packed away, and so had I.


I kneeled down very quietly in front of The Suitcase. I could see that it was worn and tired, the corners frayed, the metal dull and tarnished. There was no name on the outside, no identification tag.  Everything about it wreaked of long and difficult journeys.

Gingerly reaching forward, my thumbs pushed the locks sideways to release the clasps, and just like that they unlatched, springing open eagerly.

The interior was not damp and decayed like I imagined. It did not have a smell of mustiness. What was inside was enchanting and mysterious, full of hushed secrets - but not the ill-conceived ones I had conjured – more like the tender messages lovers write to each other on sweetly scented stationery.

INSIDE THE SUITCASE LAY MY TRUTH folded upon itself many times, layer upon layer of gossamer as fine as cobwebs, silky and delicate. This was my home.

With the greatest of care, my heart full of tenderness, I unpacked each precious memory mindfully, like butterflies, lifting each one from its imprisonment, setting them all free. And in their release I too, became liberated, as light as a feather.

My Past Unpacked ~ oil on linen / 66x61cm / 2018

This is MY PAST UNPACKED, right here on the canvas. This is the loyal suitcase that guarded my secrets, and these are the unshakable vessels that contain the Old Stories without spilling a drop. Here too are the eggs, an ancient symbol of life –the resurrection of MY LIFE that is here with me now and forever. The three Quail eggs represent the three sisters and our valuable gift of being able to repair the past with delicate consideration, healing past wounds of loss and separation. We are all together now, my sisters and me.

All that I was. All that I am. All that I am becoming - I will never pack away my past again.

I dedicate this painting to my sisters , Marina and Gloria.


VENUS OF THE ROSEBUD ~ a recent commission November 27 2018

From the very first moment my brush touched the canvas I thought - “This is a painting I wish to devote myself to”. 

It started as a study for a commission for a client in the USA. I stapled a stretch of spare linen to a board, eager to start, not concerned with the outcome. I had a few ideas but nothing concrete. This is why a study is often so useful to artists – it helps to clarify the vision.

Without effort she began taking shape - BOUNTIFUL & BEAUTIFUL. Strange and wonderful it was like I was being directed from some instinctive place. I let go of any preconceived ideas and followed; something breathtaking began unfolding beneath my brush.


This is a Symbolist painting and there is insightful meaning behind the imagery. From the pearls and grapes to the very colour of the background the painting is rich in symbols (detailed below) Without us even realising, the expression on her face reaches into our psyche and deeply connects with the archetype of Venus we hold there. She is the Roman goddess of love and beauty, portrayed so powerfully in many great paintings (Botticelli’s Birth of Venus for one). Over many centuries artists have sought to capture her power, passion and beauty in paint. I am no different.

PINK ROSEBUD ~ The delicate folds of flesh-like petals evokes her hidden sex that even nature celebrates. The angle of her hips, her unflinching gaze and strong blush speak of a desire not easily denied.

HER POSE ~ The opposing angles of shoulders and hips, a celebrated classical posture evokes lithe and graceful movement. The shape of her leg beneath the robe crossing, pushing, moving, creating a flow echoed in the cascades of hair and the winding tendrils of vine.

PINK PEARLS ~ With this symbol of romance she makes you an offer of love, however their knotted string warns of entanglement. In loving her you take this risk and must step up and be fully devoted. Stand strong in your true power (Venus’s lovers were Mars God of War & Vulcan after all!)

STAR TIARA ~ Stars are gleams of light in the dark sky, reminders of the celestial and eternal realms where the mystery of life dwells. The number nine carries symbolism in many traditions: in Greek mythology there are 9 Muses; in Traditional Chinese Medicine the heart has 9 points: in Norse mythology the universe is divided into 9 worlds, all connected by Yggdrasil, the world tree; Buddha was believed to have 9 virtues; Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting and prayer, is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar; a cat having nine lives; and human life gestates for 9 months.

THE RING ~ Echoing the colours of the deep ocean, the ancient Nautilus shell is a symbol of proportional perfection. It’s shape represents the golden mean ratio known as the PHI, in which digits continue indefinitely without ever repeating themselves. The coiled shell, lined with mother-of-pearl, grows into increasingly larger chambers throughout its life and has come to be known as a symbol for expansion and renewal. When used in artwork and architecture it renders the object beautiful to the human eye. The innermost portion of the shell is a pearlescent blue-grey.

VIOLET + BURNT UMBER ~ The combination of these colours made the luscious plum coloured background which for me evokes the harvest of grapes, Bacchus the God of Wine and ritualised ecstasy.


I recently did an experiment. For two weeks I asked everyone who walked into my gallery if they had heard of the artist William Adolphe Bouguereau (pronounced Boo-ger-oh, with a hard “g”). Every single person looked at me blankly and shook their head.

Ask anyone who Picasso is and unless they’re under 5 years old you’ll get an answer. In fact ask the average person about any of the Modernists or Impressionists (Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, Renoir) and chances are most people will have heard of these artists and even seen a picture of their work. Not so with Bouguereau.

I’m having a love affair with William B. and his paintings. I can’t say exactly when it started but it was his painting "L'Aurore" that did it (below). From that moment, a deep groove formed which would run my creative flow towards rendering the female flesh with the same delicacy, perfection, impeccable beauty and profound sensitivity.


L’AURORE (Dawn) ~ William Bouguereau / Oil on canvas / 1881

Up until as recently as a decade ago, Bouguereau was hardly known. In fact history books were reluctant to document his works or anything much about his personal life. He was an old school “academic” in the late 19th century, sticking to his guns in the face of a tide of a new wave of artists making their presence felt in Paris at that time. I use the term academic in inverted commas because while he was a learned technician, theoretician and teacher, he was also a prolific painter and producer.


This new wave of artists like Renoir and Monet set about disparaging Bouguereau’s name in order to promote their own work, and managed to carry with them the art dealers, art fans and historians of the day. They even coined the verb “Bouguerise” to denigrate all paintings meticulously rendered in a neo-classical style with their typically mythological and allegorical narratives.

For years I searched for a book on William and his work but there was nothing. How could that be? He’d not only been the head of Paris Salon in the late 18th century but also hailed as one of the greatest painters of all time by his neoclassical peers.

When I arrived at the Florence Academy of Art in 2016 to start my study of classical technique it was immediately apparent that Bouguereau was the star by which we set our course. It was also understood by students and teachers alike that it would be impossible to ever attain comparable skill, but, impossible has never stopped me.

“Art history is a profound teacher. To achieve mastery one only has to tap into the Greats who have gone before us and surrender to their counsel. Their creative spirits still exist." ~Catherine Abel

My Art Deco influences are fading away fast these days… Interestingly, as I’m moving forward in my career, I’m going back in time. I’m hungry for Art Nouveau, Neoclassicism, anything Arts & Craft. Without really having a plan I’m striving for perfection, letting what inspires me speak and listening closely to those directions. Letting go of expectation, yet expecting everything.

Attending the Florence Academy of Art changed everything for me. I became enlightened to a way of thinking and painting that I thought was lost, neglected in today’s sterile world, cast aside as useless and unnecessary. I found a community in Florence and from the moment I left that city, I’ve craved to return.

As fate would have it, the Angel Academy of Art, also located in Florence, are offering a mid year painting intensive on the techniques of Bouguereau. I’ve put down my deposit, I’m working hard, I’m going. They only take 5 students. I can't wait!

I haven’t seen L’Aurore in real life, and I’ll never get to meet William B., but I hope to see her in the flesh one day soon (at the Birmingham Museum) and personally thank her for leading me into the next part of this adventure.

GILDING THE LILY ~ Redefining a moment in time February 16 2017

At the start of the millennium I was living and painting in Paris. It was my dream city for inspiration with its rich history steeped in the 1920s. Like the artists that had gone before me I was hungry to paint, and at times I couldn’t imagine myself ever leaving the magical City of Lights.

However, it wasn’t long before a gallery in California discovered my Art Deco influenced paintings, and our collaboration strengthened over the next twelve months. As my work began selling, it became apparent it was important that I relocate to the Golden State.
Living as an artist in California is not as glamorous as it sounds and money was often tight. I was sharing a tiny one bedroom apartment with barely enough room to move, my easel set up in a tight corner, but I was happy. I was consistently producing painting after painting and California’s bleached Art Deco environs gave me all the inspiration I needed.

One painting in particular stands out from that time.

I’d had the vision to create this painting since Paris. And when the moment of inspiration struck I simply had to act. On that particular day, I had enough money to buy the stretcher bars, but not enough for the canvas on which to paint.

Like many artists before me, I had to improvise. Some, when compelled by the bolt-strike-urgency of inspiration have used cardboard, wooden boxes, or even the very walls of their abode. In my case, a scrap of black cotton fabric was sourced, and sitting at the easel I breathed life into one of my most admired pieces: Cubist Lilies.

                                                 CUBIST LILIES ~ the original 2002

Six months later, I moved back to Australia. The painting, rolled up in my suitcase, came with me.

Across the 14 years since it was painted, the infamous black cotton has proved an unstable surface for the oils, and the painting, rolled up and relocated across oceans, cities and time zones has cracked and is damaged beyond repair.

Rediscovering this piece again recently, I was struck with a sense of loss… So much of being an artist is the deep satisfaction you feel, knowing your work is being appreciated by others, yet this original was never afforded that opportunity. I felt that something should be done, and immediately I experienced that same sense of urgency I’d had all those years ago; the urge to breathe life into my Cubist Lilies once again.

GILDING THE LILY  is now complete. The new work is a rich reworking of the original. The lily - a classic Art Deco motif - is revived and refined. A clarified palette offers a new depth, and sensuality to the piece. The composition is more succinct, with greater definition in the detail and complex tonal graduation. The lilies are rejuvenated and more finely rendered, with warmer tones, luscious deep greens in the leaves, delicate silvers and luminous yellow in the sensuous blooms. This affords the piece all the elegance of the Art Deco era, with smooth surfaces and sleek lines, it exudes the balance, opulence and grace of this timeless age.

This confident reworking of my original composition pays homage to a time in history that has greatly inspired me throughout my career. It reflects the reverence I hold for this era, and my evolution as an artist.


"I’m NEVER going to get away from my reputation as being an Art Deco painter!" she sighed.

Just when I think it’s time to leave it all behind – make a clean break – move on to greener pastures for good, it grabs my wrists tightly, gives me a good shake and says NO WAY GIRLIE. People are ringing, writing and messaging me from all corners of the world saying “I want one”.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that I don’t have any left. I’m not kidding - there’s no more of my Art Deco paintings for sale. Aspects Of Love was the last one I had in stock and that was bought last week by a woman in Melbourne.


So now I’m seriously assessing the situation and questioning why I would ever want to get away from painting in this style anyway? Why can’t I continue to do the landscapes, the still lives, AND the Art Deco and Art Nouveau influenced ladies all at the same time, as the inspiration (and demand) takes me. It’s still all my work, in my unique style… Why this pressure to move on?  

Picasso appears to have laid the varied phases of his work, spanning a 30 year period, in a neat straight line (art historians love him!) > the Blue Period > Rose Period > Cubism > Neo-classicism > Surrealism. But maybe that had something to do with the era he lived in and not because of any left-brain calculations on his part!  Because the way I see it, contemporary artists today do not and CANNOT live under the tidy banner of any clearly defined label. And let’s face it, in our century ANYTHING GOES. And the only ‘ism’ that comes to my modern mind is a word that perfectly describes what happens to me when I think of where the future of the art world is headed… paroxysm.

As the year ‘Sweet 16’ comes to a close, the time has come, once and for all, to cut the proverbial apron strings on conformity and find strength in my own creative autonomy.  And if I get labelled as being too ‘multiplicitous’ because my body of work can’t be conveniently defined, and they can’t agree on a category to box me into, then so be it. I’ll make up my own ‘ism’ ~ Multiplicitism.  And under that heading, I can pretty much create a vast abundance of whatever the muse inspires.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE ~ Paint September 05 2015

 Living in Trentham, Victoria I can’t help but be inspired by the seasons. Each so distinct, in colour and mood. 

This year I had grand plans to commence a series of landscapes inspired by Trentham’s winter. The series entitled Winterscape Blue conjures the mood and beauty of deepest winter. Greys leaking into greens and thin sunlight muted by fog and (seemingly) never-ending mist. My quest to create Winterscape Blue had a second purpose. I decided to paint this series with different paint!

There is no more important item in the artist’s tool kit than paint.

Now, let’s be honest… I’m a sucker for European paint. The romance in using paints steeped in centuries of tradition cannot be denied. I adore Old Holland Classic Colours. Old Holland has been making oil paint in the Netherlands since 1664 (the days of Rembrandt and Vermeer) using traditional formulas, some of which are still in use today. Their paints are deliciously saturated with pigment. I’ve become particularly fond of their umbers and siennas which respond beautifully to very thin glazing.

But.  I’ve been carrying a moral dilemma. I have wanted (and tried) to support Australian made products, but I’ve not yet been satisfied with the quality of oil colours produced here. Until I was introduced to Langridge Artist Colours.

Move over Old Holland… there’s a new tube in town.


Langridge Artist Colours is a Melbourne based independent oil paint manufacturer founded by David Coles. They create pigment of an incredibly high quality by hand. Langridge stands up on the world stage. They are indeed some of the finest paints I have ever used.

My personal introduction to Langridge was last year. My desperation was palpable as I searched for a reliable varnish that didn’t freak out in a really cold climate. I had been faithful to Windsor & Newton Matt Varnish for years, but when I moved to the ultra cool climate of Trentham something started to go terribly wrong. W&N varnish would dry so streaky and patchy that the only option would be to remove it and start again. (For those of you who haven’t had the experience of intensely ‘scrubbing’ the surface of your painted labour of love with a stiff brush and copious amounts of turps to dissolve the dried varnish, taking it back to the original painted surface with cotton rags, let me tell you, it’s utterly stressful!)

The staff at St.Luke’s Art Shop (Smith Street, Collingwood) gently steered me towards Langridge and I now swear by their Matt Varnish as being the best I’ve ever used.

David Coles, the man behind Langridge, has been described as the Paint Whisperer and a Master of Colour. This fascinating article about David and the brand he has created tells the full story:

The article not only describes how he started in the industry but recounts where they source pigments from all over the world, as well as touching on the science behind the making of paint. I needed no more convincing after reading this article, that I had finally found the right product so I could make the transition and wholeheartedly support the art community in my own backyard.

As history will now attest, my winter was a highly successful and busy time, which left me little time at the easel to delve into winter dreamscapes. Luckily, a Trentham winter can roll on indefinitely, with thick fog and mist recurring visual themes deep into Spring. My inspiration for the series The Winterscapes Blue is never too far away.


 Winterscape Blue II ~ oil on linen                   Winterscape Blue I ~ oil on linen                 

This series will be completed entirely in Langridge paints. My transition from European paints steeped in history to this exciting, young Melbourne brand has been seamless. These wonderful paints are everything I expect (indeed, demand), and I look forward to pushing them to the limits of my capacity as an artist.



BEHIND THE PAINTING - a short film August 07 2015

For those of you who have been following my work for a while, you’ll know that 2015 has already been a great year for me career-wise. Lately, my work has been touching new people and reaching a much wider audience, which is very rewarding to say the least.
Over the past few months, I have found, that the people who visit my gallery in Trentham, and those who enquire about my work online (within Australia and Internationally) are increasingly asking me for more detail about why I do what I do, what drives me, what’s next? People want to know more and to see more!  So, when the opportunity arose to collaborate with filmmakers Katrina Douglas and Jeff Mackay, I found it was something I couldn’t say no to.

Katrina (Warm Egg Productions) and Jeff (Alibi Pictures) have together created a mini-documentary about me, and my work. The collaboration was interesting in that I handed all of the creative control over to these two experts who came up with something beautiful, unique and creative. The result is a five minute film that will give you small glimpses into my world and hopefully a deeper insight into my life as an artist.



Today I had the good fortune of meeting John Payne, Senior Conservator of painting at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne.  He has restored and cleaned many of the masterpieces in the NGV collection from Turner to Tiepolo with a career spanning more than 30 years. The idea of being up close and intimate with the brush strokes of the masters is utterly fascinating to someone like me.

I came to him with a simple question “How common is the ability in artists to easily mix colours that match perfectly?” Surely John could answer this better than anyone else in Australia right?

We sat down to coffee in the NGV café on the ground floor.  Hordes of school children bustled noisily around us on their way to see the exhibitions but I barely heard them.  I was too engrossed in the insights John began sharing on two subjects very dear to my heart, painting and art history. He spoke of things like, the history of colour and pigment, the perils of using traditional Damar varnish over synthetic ones, his recent restoration of JMW Turner’s Dunstandburgh Castle, and the leading-edge and often controversial restoration techniques the National Gallery, London have been employing since the 1970s, to name a few.  Until finally getting around to answering my question with “depends…”.







'Portrait Group: The Singer Farinelli & Friends' by Jacopo Amigoni 1750-1752

We then went up to level two of the gallery so John could show me his favourite painting in the NGV collection – a large tableaux he restored several  years ago. It was Jacopo Amigoni’s “Portrait Group: The Singer Farinelli & Friends”, a painting that I’ve passed by many times but never stopped to study because it hangs in the same room and is overshadowed by Tiepolo’s epic “The Banquet of Cleopatra”.  We stood for what seemed like an eternity before this masterpiece, John gently explaining in great detail the compositional elements and why he believes it’s Amigoni’s pièce de résistance, and me standing quietly in awe.

John Payne’s knowledge of art, painting and art history is profound. I’ve never met a person like him before and still can’t believe he gave of his valuable time like he did.  He may not have answered my question in the way I was hoping but I don’t mind. In fact I suspect I already know the answer as I’m one of these people who finds matching colours to be an easy business but I've not met many who do.  I didn’t dare say this to John though… I’m far too conservative to brag.

'The Banquet of Cleopatra' by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo 1743-44.



When I first mused with the idea of opening an online gallery it struck me – can those two things really go together? Fine art and online shopping? Aren’t they mutually exclusive? And what about the mysterious “art code” never make your prices visible? (who came up with that anyway?) Needless to say, I’ve had much to ponder on over the past few months…

Sitting here, on the eve of the launch of my new online venture, I can't help thinking about the amazingly positive changes that have happened in my life in recent years. The best thing I have done is to take things into my own hands for a while – starting with the decision to open the gallery in Trentham first, then find my voice on social media, and now this new store. 

What I’ve really had to accept is that while my paintings are steeped in tradition, the rest of the world has completely moved on. In an age where technology has taken over most of our day-to-day, my art is still created using similar techniques artists have used for centuries. I am proud of that, and even more so that I am able to embrace the new technologies to share it with a worldwide audience. I feel so very lucky to be in this position.

When I think about other artists working globally at the moment, and what technology and social media means for all artists living in the 21st century, I wonder… what would Picasso do nowadays? The master of marketing and self-promotion – would he have an Instagram feed? How many followers would he have on Facebook? Would he be a prolific tweeter? Write a blog? A newsletter? Would he be on LinkedIn? Is anyone?? And how on earth would he find the time to juggle it all AND paint? (I’m yet to figure that one out…) AND would he have gallery representation or would he go it alone?

My decision to not seek out gallery representation is purely a personal one, but the right one for me at this time. Taking back creative control has strengthened my relationships with clients and art lovers. I am the spokesperson, the question answerer, the problem solver, as well as the receiver of feedback and compliments - all fundamental to my future. This decision acknowledges that ‘the life of the artist’ as we know it, has changed. 

I say bring it on Picasso, it’s an even playing field now! I’m going to embrace it with open arms, hang on for the ride and see where it takes me!

Much gratitude goes to the little team of two who’s support and guidance have made this all possible – Andy Wapling for his design skills and never-ending patience, and the gorgeous Kathy Douglas and her way with words.

And I wouldn’t be here without the support from valued clients from different countries and all walks of life who have bought my work over the last 15 years. You have given me the confidence to take this leap of faith into the world of e-commerce. Thank you all so very much.



TO STUDY OR NOT TO STUDY February 12 2015

Back in the early days of my art career in Sydney, the pressure to produce was such that I couldn’t justify the time spent on doing preliminary colour studies.  At the time I felt it would be like painting the same painting twice. I always did a lot of pencil sketches of the poses but I would iron out the problems of composition and colour on the actual canvas during painting. If something wasn’t working  I would go over it and keep changing it until I was happy with the result. Oils are like that, they are very forgiving.

Now I have pressure of a different variety – the self-imposed pressure to evolve. I believe the worst crime an artist can be guilty of is not copying other artists or painting from a photograph, it’s that they never change their style, and continue to paint the same way over and over again. I’m not talking about subject matter but the evolution of their creativity on a fundamental level.

The time has most surely come for me to ‘study’ – as often as I can and as much as I can produce. Right now I’m experimenting on un-primed board which seems to suck the paint right off the surface and roughens any attempt at fine detail.  But I don’t mind. The lack of planning lends itself to the excitement of discovery, and the insights already gained far outweigh the time I once considered to be wasted.


TO RUSSIA WITH LOVE January 17 2015

There’s no denying it, I have a Russian soul.  Not in the way Dostoevsky described “…the most basic, most rudimentary spiritual need of the Russian people is the need for suffering, ever-present and unquenchable, everywhere and in everything.” but for the fact that, all of my life I’ve been drawn to the  time in history when Russians were at the height of their strength in creative expression and dominated every corner of the art world.

It started when I was eight. I had been taking ballet lessons for three years when I discovered the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova.  She became my  heroine, and over the coming years I read every book I could find on her life.  I learnt about the Ballets Russes , founded by Sergei Diaghilev, and from which many famous dancers  and choreographers  would arise.  I was introduced to the culture of the 1920s and earlier, yet at the time had no true understanding of the incredible breadth and depth to which this knowledge would affect me in later years.   

If I look closely at where my prominent influences have come from -  the artists, textile designers, writers , composers, stage and costume designers , who played an enormous role in putting Paris on the creative map in the early 20th century – the Russians were there. Many were paramount to the social changes  that happened in Europe at that time and they did it through their art

These are my favourite: Tamara de Lempicka (ok I know she was Polish but she pretended she was Russian), Wassily Kandinsky, Leon Bakst, Marc Chagall, Lyubov Popova, Marie Vassilief, Igor Stravinsky, Anna Pavlova & Nijinsky, Dostoyevsky, Rodchenko and his role in Constructivism, El Lissitzky, one of the most important figures of the Russian Avant garde and known for his typographical art any graphic designer of today would be inspired by.

I continued taking ballet lessons for eight years in total but was forced to stop at the age of 13 by my step-father.  I was devastated.  I turned to the Surrealists for comfort and so continued my self-education and life-long devotion to the artists living and working during the fertile years between the wars.

But the dancing inside me has not stopped. Two of my best paintings to date are portraits of Principal dancers with the Australian Ballet, Lana Jones and Daniel Gaudiello. The background of Lana’s portrait is undoubtedly of Russian influence, and the painting of Daniel  makes obvious reference to “L’Apres Midi d’un Faun”, the ballet in which Nijinsky performed the leading role at the premiere  in Paris 1913


There’s no denying the Russians have left an indelible mark on the Art Deco period, and bestowed on me a life time’s supply of inspiration.