This is my first go at writing for myself; a daunting prospect to say the least. Though I’ve written more than 2,500 articles professionally, I’ve not published anything that is purely for my own satisfaction.

Educating and advocating for clean transport is just one aspect of the small contribution I can have in healing our planet. Art is another. Here is an opportunity to convey what I want, in my own space and time.

This blog is intended to both document my art process, and the thoughts and emotions that guide it, as well as simply provide an outlet for my mental ramblings.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I have enjoyed writing it!

I guess I first want to start at the beginning; and the beginning for me would be that I’ve always loved art.

I’ve always loved making art too – it has for as long as I can remember been a source of pride and self-esteem for me.

The first piece of art I can remember making that I really felt proud of was made in primary school. It was quite literally naive, not just in the style of naive art. It was a painting that I made to go with a little poem that was about the wind and the trees and snow – a summary of the change that seasons bring.

Not living in a snowy region in Australia, I suspect there may have been some residual memory of living in Canada before the age of 6.

The picture was of some trees with some flowers, and some lines in the sky to represent wind – really nothing fantastic! But I do remember feeling very good about having made that piece.

I also remember when I was in my early teens there was a JMW Turner retrospective and my parents Phil and Janice took us along to see it – I just loved it.

Norham Castle, Sunrise c.1845 Joseph Mallord William Turner
Norham Castle, Sunrise c.1845 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

I thought Turner’s work was amazing. The colours, the way he made paintings glow and the non-descript suggestiveness of Turner‘s paintings is something that has always captured my imagination, and to this day continues to inspire me.

In particular I was interested in his more ephemeral works such as Norham Castle above.

When I was at high school I did Advanced Art (then called 3-unit) for the HSC. I topped my art class several times, coming equal second for Year 12. I wasn’t doing anything that spectacular and I remember seeing other people‘s HSC works and thinking. “Oh my gosh that’s just fabulous.”

My HSC work consisted of two pieces that were abstract landscapes in which I used Aquadhere clear glue mixed with ink.

I used brilliant vibrant purples and blues and turquoises and I mixed them in with the glue, then put them on card with magazine cutouts stuck to it. Then I put plastic down and moved it around with my fingers (I still remember the sensory joy of that) so that it would create more triangular shapes.

After a few days it would dry and I’d peel off the plastic, then I would draw white down the centre of the shapes to sort of emulate the shapes and the feelings of waterfalls.

Detail of Waterfall II, ink and glue on card, 1990.
Detail of Waterfall II, ink and glue on card, 1990.

I’ll happily admit they weren’t of high quality and unsurprisingly I wasn’t selected for ArtExpress! So when the AGNSW requested to keep my works in its collection I (with all the righteousness of a 17yo) indignantly said, no thanks.

So I still have one of them, it’s not actually even my favourite one and the ink colour has faded over time. I didn’t stretch them either so they bent in time.

Nevertheless, waterfalls definitely continue to be a theme in my work. To me, waterfalls represent something that’s deep within our souls, and in my dreams.

I’ve had these recurring dreams where I’m trying to get to a really inaccessible place in a landscape – very reminiscent of the caldera mountains and valleys of the Northern Rivers where I live.

The roads are treacherous and it’s easy to take a wrong turn. Quite often I’m in a car with my sons and there’ll be a very, very steep road that we’ve got to drive down.

It’s harrowing and potentially disastrous stuff. If the car goes off track, we (my children and I) will die.

But my dreams are not all doom and gloom. Recently, I had another dream in which a child who was about the age of my nephew, Freddy, was teaching me, or helping me to write a song.

It seemed to me that it was a song of the soul, and it was calming and nurturing and somewhere in that dream there was also a road to this really inaccessible place like my previous dreams.

This dream differed from before in that the road had been fortified by sandstone, like a fortified bridge. It enabled me to finally get to this inaccessible place, which I realised upon waking was (of course) a waterfall.

That waterfall, I realised, represents to me the very centre of my being that is where my emotions are. Waterfalls can overflow (moments of overwhelm), or can just be a trickle of water (feeling disconnected.)

At other times a waterfall is a lovely stream of clear crystal clear water that it is calming. It can also fill up during a period of intense rain, and become an absolute torrent that overflows the pool at the bottom.

Water is symbolic of emotion and I know my obsession with waterfalls is at my core. When I visit waterfalls it fills my cup.

I started out making art again in 2020 during pandemic lockdowns. My painting was horrendous, I had no skills at all, but I persevered because we were in lockdown and what else are you gonna do?

I’ve kept on working at it despite some truly awful pieces. I’m really pleased with where I’ve gotten to now because I do really enjoy it. I enjoy the crisis (ugly stage!) and I enjoy the finished product (personal satisfaction.)

And although I still (always will?) suffer from a fair dose of imposter syndrome, when a few people asked was I going to have a show, I thought well why not?

You know you’ve got to be in it to win it and really, what have I got to lose?

"In Golden Light", 40x50cm, acrylic on stretched canvas, 2023
“In Golden Light”, 40x50cm, acrylic on stretched canvas, 2023

At least I can say I’ve done it, I’ll learn something from it and I can hopefully take something from it that will help me to progress as an artist.

So the theme for my show that I’ve chosen builds on this feeling of nature and its connection to our emotions and also the climate crisis that we’re in – the extreme events and how do we come back from that?

The show runs from April 14-27 2023, and really just touches on the surface to be honest.

It really is just a starting point for me to discover more about who I am as an artist and explore ways to express the connection between the landscape and the human experience.

Nature’s capacity to recover and regrow is certainly something that is reassuring in this piece, which I think underlines that nature will be ok, but we as humans have caused this rapid change and it is our responsibility to mitigate it, and reverse it if possible, for the sake of humanity but also for the creatures and plants that live here with us.
Other pieces in the exhibition explore the natural environment that I love, from the rugged national parks of northern NSW to coastal walks and beaches of our region.

Then there are also some waterfall works, some of which I was already working on before visiting the new section of the NSW Art Gallery and was captivated and enamoured with Ben Quilty‘s Fairy Bower Falls Rorschach.

Fairy Bower Rorschach, 2012. Artist: Ben Quilty. Source: Screenshot from Art Gallery of NSW

The sheer scale (120.5 x 130.0 cm each panel; 241.0 x 520.0 cm overall ) of Quilty’s work and its message of the massacre of local indigenous tribes there are moving, to say the least.
But it’s also the secret enveloping nature of those places – which are more often than not hidden away or difficult to get to, making them all the more special to treasure and visit. Waterfalls form at the centre of a rift, or where this is an opportunity for water to wear away the hard rock, and therein lies the beauty of vulnerability.