Playful, vibrant and bold, Ken Done’s artwork is truly one-of-a-kind. In the Ken Done: Painting Australia series, Ken captures his love of the Australian landscape, from the joyful shout of Sydney and the Aussie Beach to the calm beauty of the Outback and Reef.
Scroll through some selections of Ken’s work below, carefully curated from each book and accompanied by his charming commentary.
Story by Jackie Money
“The world-famous musician James Morrison is an old friend. He once released an album of music inspired by a number of my paintings. In one song he gave a musical notation to the way I had placed my drawings of yachts in this work, The Wednesday Race. Who could ask for more?”
– Ken Done
“This work was one of a number I showed in my first exhibition in Paris. The picture of the sunbaker by the famous Australian photographer Max Dupain is one of our most revered images. I’ve made numerous paintings using the iconic form as a graphic device, always with reverence and respect.”
– Ken Done
“When I look at the Outback, I often think of Sidney Nolan. One of our most influential artists, I was lucky enough to meet and talk with him a couple of times. For me, he will always be the Kelly figure looking at the landscape.”
– Ken Done
“A jelly and a fish. Then a jellyfish. Lots of things you find in the sea. This painting, now in a big Japanese collection, is fun. Some images are tight, and some I’ve played games with. Being underwater should always be fun.”
In this extract from his new bestselling book Chromatopia, author and master paint maker David Coles looks at the origin of ochre – believed to be the first pigment used to create human artworks.
The oldest human artworks still in existence are vivid depictions of animals, humans and spirits that were created using ochres. There is evidence of their use as far back as 250,000 years ago. Ancient ochre artworks are found all over the world, from the earliest cultures of India and Australia to the famous cave paintings of Lascaux in France.
Naturally occurring iron-containing ochres of the earth provide a wide range of yellow, red and brown colours.
The natural mineral could be collected or dug-up and then simply ground against a harder rock and water added to make fluid. Later civilisations refined this process to include washing the ochre of impurities, drying and then grinding to a fine powder.
Yellow ochres are an impure form of iron oxide called limonite. They can also be roasted to produce other hues
by placing on a fire or in an oven. A moderate heat turns the yellow to orange; stronger heat makes the colour turn red. These roasted red ochres are often called ‘burnt’ (for example, burnt sienna). Naturally occurring red ochres are richer in anhydrous iron oxide called haematite. They also vary widely in shade, hue and transparency.
There are many earth pigments whose specific colour comes from natural mineral admixtures. The pigments known as ‘umber’ contain iron plus manganese oxide that lends a greenish hue. Iron-oxide-free earths are not strictly ochres, but it is important to include them here as their use alongside the true ochres is significant throughout history; white earths from pipe-clay, black earths of manganese and the light green pigment terre-verte (green earth) from mineral celadonite.