Living in East Arnhem Land was a wonderful experience and one I will always cherish. Most of my days were spent with the women and children working at the school and the hospital. We would often go hunting for Trevally and Crab, as we’d sit around the camp fire and chatter among ourselves., sometimes i’d take along my sketch pad, Jiggida once asked me what i wold do with all those sketches, I laughed and said ” one day I’ll be famous and I’ll paint big ballah works that will hang in a big ballah gallery and everyone will come to see them”, we would laugh and squeal so loud, some of it at least came true. Even though my time was short with just over 2 years, I felt very privileged to of had just a small insight into such a rich and amazing culture, an opportunity that very few people experience. Due to my pilots occupation we moved quite often, so 4 years on we move from the NT and settle in Newcastle for a few years then Melbourne Victoria and finally settle in the Central Highlands. My fond memories of the families up north were just that, fond memories. Many years had passed but once again I had the opportunity to re-connect to East Arnhem land for a time with a community on Elcho Island, Gawa.
I call these works oil sketches, as i treat the oil paint like you would charcoal spearing and blending the paint with my hands, using my fingers like tools, tossing paint from side to side depending on the thickness i need allowing the papers grain to come through. This technique has been my signature style for many years, no matter who or what i paint. The idea came about during ceremony which was a common occurrence at the school oval, beach or anywhere that had a good clearing. The dancers and musicians would be smothered with white clay, and against the dark skin the contours of the face and body would be accentuated, giving a more dramatic and intensity to the form. Because i was using white paper the paint had to be a darker colour.
The original works have long gone and all the past works sold a percentage went back to the Community School, yet most of the paintings are available in limited edition prints and cards.