A friend asked me recently how I went from being an animator to creating the sort of art I do now. Good question, I thought. I came out of a graphic design course, the days before computers, specialising in portraits and nudes. Soon afterward I saw for the first time Canadian Film Board animated films. They really impressed me. They were beautiful, personal, surreal artwork, mainly coloured pencil and ink on paper and then animated.
And so my interest in animation began. I went to film school and really enjoyed creating surreal stories with pencil and ink artwork on paper and bringing them to life by animating them.
The next few years were exciting and fruitful. But when I started working for Animation Studios everything changed. No more did I make my own films and artwork. We made mass produced crap for TV and I became disillusioned and exhausted. I decided to walk away. I have never regretted that decision.
At the same time I became interested in Dr Carl Jung (the psychologist) and his work on dreams and the mandalas he produced on his own personal journey. I also read Joseph Campbell (the mythologist) who was heavily influenced by Jung. I saw how certain myths and symbols speak deeply to us from our inner selves.
I enjoyed drawing and painting mythic beings like griffins, angels, fallen angels, Pan and the Minotaur. I also started sculpting nature spirits, gargoyles, griffins and dragons out of clay.
When I walked away from animation I drove around Australia. I needed time and space to find myself. I felt confused about my life and that I had failed somehow with my art. I also felt completely locked out of my true self and feelings.
One morning I stepped out of my tent in Northern Australia, grabbed a stick and started scratching patterns in the red dirt. I found great peace in doing this so every morning, with a sense of great expectation, I would leap up and draw some more. Eventually my whole tent was ringed by Mandala-like patterns. I realised the basic shapes I used, like circles, triangles, straight or wavy lines, squares, eyes, diamonds, spirals, etc were like a personal language to me. A lot of these early drawings were washed away by the monsoonal rains so I started drawing them into a text book. Then I coloured them with Derwent’s and pastels. The colours I used combined with the shapes held great significance for me.
I didn’t want to show people my art. It was too personal. It was just for me. The text book became my first personal diary. I worked on it every day no matter where I was or what I was doing. I have beautiful memories of turning off the road in the middle of the WA desert, setting up a chair in the shade and drawing in my diary, finishing off with a cuppa. This also stopped me rushing through that awesome country and I started to feel the power of it. I would sit and take it in and listen to it. It spoke to some deep part of me. I have never lost that connection I felt out there.
Since I was a boy I have been fascinated by cultures that believe that this world is just an illusion (Maya) and that there are vast, infinite hidden realms if you are sensitive and open enough to discover them. These realms are full of beautiful Spirits, Creation Beings and Guides as well as Dark Beings ready to lead you astray. I felt these worlds strongly in northern Australia, in the deserts and vast long coasts and the huge forests of southern WA. I sensed the presence of the Spirits of land, sea, plants and animals. I felt they are there to guide us if we are open enough to listen to them.
At that time I started to dream of beautiful beings made up of amazing colourful energy. I try to capture what I see by using bright, pure colours in my art. I design the shape of my sculptures to show what these beings do and express rather than just how they look.