Monday, February 23, 2015


1. Some vibrant nudes hanging in the gallery

I’ve always admired Ken Done, for both his sensationally vibrant work and his KEN DO attitude. There isn’t an artist alive that doesn’t want to achieve what Ken has, and that’s to be able to make a good living from their art, and to have an enduring career.

As well as being completely blown away by Ken’s stunning gallery, shop, stockroom, and design studio I was delighted to find out that we studied art at the same place -NAS (or East Sydney Tech back in the day) and held our very first solo shows in the same space the previously named ‘Holdsworth Gallery’.

Getting the opportunity to see Ken’s paintings close up, especially the enormous coral reef works was simply breathtaking. Ken in person was much like his paintings- direct, colourful, and enthusiastic. It was easy to see why he’s the man that has influenced a whole generation of younger artists.

Introducing the irrepressible Mr Ken Done!

2. Ken joking round with the crew.

 Ken, can you tell us how did you begin your creative journey?

“Like all children I drew before I could talk…and I guess I continued to use art as a form of communication… I went to Mosman High, and spent lots of extra time studying art books in the library but I had to give up sport to do this, which was annoying because I loved it!”

“I was then able to pass my intermediate exams” which enabled Ken to became the youngest kid ever to go to East Sydney Tech, now National Art School.

3. Ken's stunning painting Beach and Yellow Frescias shot in KD gallery.

After art school you went into the advertising world. Do you feel that helped you turn your passion for art into a career?

“Some people would see advertising as a sell out! No it’s a sell in, it’s the understanding of the times that we live in. Sure, now I spend all my time like a cave man making a mark on things, but originally myself and many of my contemporaries came from the advertising world -Fred Schepisi, Bruce Beresford, Peter Carey, Sidney Nolan, and Brett Whitely. That was the thing that gave us all the discipline of work and the opportunity to do it!”

3. Ken and Judy show us their new designs for tee-shirts.

How did you make art a full time gig?

““When I first started off as an artist I was 35 and the creative director at J. Walter Thompson, but I didn’t want to be in the advertising business anymore I wanted to be a painter...

…I had a mortgage, and I had one child, but I gave up everything to see whether I could make a living and support the family by my own hand. So I made a drawing of a shell and a wicker basket full of cowries. Nice drawings, easy to understand. I made prints of them and I went around to various print shops and said “My name’s Ken Done I can sell you this print for $10 I bet you could sell it for $20”. I was repeating the singular effort…

…I was 40 when I had my first solo show at the Holdsworth Gallery. I wanted to have a big exhibition in a commercial gallery to show that I could do it, but I already had it in the back of mind that I’d really like to open my own gallery.””

4. Ken and Judy Done in front of one of Ken's big Coral reef paintings.

So, what’s the best thing about having your own gallery?

“I’ve had my own gallery since 1982 and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You’re able to show what you want and when you want, but it’s got in the way a little bit of people taking my work seriously.

Could you elaborate a bit on people not taking your work seriously?

““Some of the first things that people saw of mine were very commercial- The Harbour Bridge and stuff that I would do for the tourists.
At the same time that I was doing versions of American abstraction I’d be knocking off a cute koala with the other hand. And it would be on a tee shirt in one of our shops…

…I remember one critic writing;  “Ken’s work is very commercial”…
It’s in a shop; surely you don’t need the benefit of university education to understand that’s what I was trying to do. I was trying to sell something, and we did it very well…

5. Ken Done's beautiful light filled gallery at the rocks.

Is it harder when you have your own gallery to be the one who has to say “You’re Great” rather than a third party like a dealer?

“I don’t like to say I’m great because I think art teaches you more about failure than it does about success. But at 74 you’re better than you were at 44. I’ve been doing it a long time and I’m harsh and I’m harder”.

6. Ken shows us one of his fav paintings that was turned into a great tee.

What are Ken Done’s tips for making a living as an artist that you don’t get taught at art school?

“When you come out of art school nobody’s going to pay $30,000 for your first painting. You have to wait until you’re almost dropping off the twig before people will pay that!
Unless you’re looking for a government grant (which I never have) or have very wealthy parents then you have to find a way to exist…

…You have to find a way of making the work accessible, in both it’s content and it’s price, with the aim of reaching as wide a group of people as possible.
I don’t think you should see it as a cop out to make slightly more accessible work…because you want people to buy it!”

7. Ken telling me about the medium that he uses, which is BTW water based oils.

Finally, Ken what are you working on now?

“Good Question!
The main thing that’s taking most of my time is my autobiography, so I’m writing a lot more.
(Also) I’m producing a very large nude of Cleopatra for the Bell Shakespeare Company.
Just before you came in, I looked at some very loose and simple nude figures, so I think that might become the next series of pictures. I’m planning a trip to Patagonia and the Antarctic with the profits of the exhibition going to help Breast cancer… I’ve always got a lot on! But I like to be busy”.

It’s several days after the interview and Ken’s wise words are still ringing in my ears. The interview was a major turning point for me for many reasons-
There’s a lot of noise surrounding you as an artist.
People tell you not to become a sellout. But the truth is most of those people are either broke or too wealthy to care about the realities of making an artistic pursuit work. 
In any case I sure as hell don’t want to be renting for the rest of my life!

8. Gorgeous fabric ready to made up into Tees shirts for the shop!

At the end of the interview Ken encouraged me to get my work out there in as many mediums as possible.

He also came up with a brilliant strategy for my bird paintings (watch this space).

In terms of mentoring what you really need to do is to speak with an artist that’s been in the game 30 years longer than you have and it helps if they happen to be an Aussie legend!

9. That famous signature!

Thanks to @kendonegallery

Photography by  @kellieleczinska

Blog by @miaoatley

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


For our very first mentor blog I was absolutely thrilled When Deb Bibby editor of Real Living magazine agreed to chat with us, introducing Deb Bibby disarmingly friendly, casually elegant, and the powerhouse behind everyone’s favourite mag Real Living.


“I started off studying fashion design at Sydney College of the Arts. In my 1st year we had a little fashion parade, and the fashion editor from Cleo was there. She asked me if I’d leave and become her fashion assistant. So I deferred expecting to go back but just fell in love with magazines! They gave me a cadetship and within 2 years I became the fashion editor.”  Around that time a position for fashion editor at Dolly magazine came up, but Deb was encouraged by her Team to go for the Editor's job, and despite being only 20 years old and having no prior experience she went for it. I got brave enough on the day, and it just came out of my mouth- I'd love to be the editor!!


Deb was given the job of Editor at Dolly. Talk about winging it! She had a special phone ‘the hotline’ to call her boss when she wasn’t sure what to do.
After Dolly, Deb went to London to edit a teen title called Look Now and after several years returned to cut her teeth editing Follow Me Magazine and FMG for guys. Deb then took some time out to be with her newborn son Jack and while at home decided to do a cookbook with her mum called My Mum's Cook Book. Basically created because she couldn’t cook and needed to collate all her mum’s recipes in one book. The self-published book sold really well and sparked by the success of this Deb created a publishing company called Box Press, with backing from a film production company.

“After about 10 years I really missed magazines though so I came back into ACP very humbly and asked if I could come back. I was given a sex book to edit called “I'll Have What She's Having and while that was going on real living was being discussed and I got offered the job as editor- I thought Thank God!! ”


“The book was a way to get my foot in the door again with ACP.
If they had said to me “we've only got the job of cleaner of the offices” I would have taken it. It's what I always say to anyone asking advice. It's just about getting your foot in the door somewhere. And if you're good and you're passionate about what you do it will shine through. That's why I always take work experience kids here because they need that opportunity! You don't really employ off a CV”


 “I employed off a CV once! The one CV that we employed off was written in crayon, She listed everything that she'd done in her life from bus driving to tour guide, Deb gave her the job and within 2 years she had moved off the junior role and she was writing and styling for us!

4) Real Living Magazine is now one of the most popular Lifestyle Magazines. What are some of the early risks you took that have paid off.

“The first 5 years we played it pretty safe, and we were led by focus groups. The magazine did well but I’d always had this desire to include fashion into the magazine and make it a little more stylish than where we were aiming. My original publisher left and I felt it was my opportunity, he would’ve killed me – I threw the focus group info out of the window and went with my gut. With all the blogs, pinterest and Instagram I felt my readers visual aesthetic must’ve broadened – we now all had a view globally and real living needed to raise the bar.  After a serious debate with my new publisher where he stated I was ‘completely off brief’ he decided to let me run with it, lucky for me sales went through the roof, advertising started to pour in the door and real living hasn’t looked back. Each month the mission is to ‘change it up’ – keep real living energetic and bubbling. I love the notion of the reader getting a surprise each month on the newsstand – no formula’s, no homogonised look – something a little unique, packed with inspiration and affordable decorating and renovating advice. 

5) Real Living Magazine champions accessible design and art. What sort of impact do you think this has had?

“I think it's just given people confidence to play a lot more!” We’re showing people -hey you can go to vinnies, it can look good!” “We’re showing people that you can style up Nana’s old cupboard with graphic books, an artwork or maybe a few beautiful Dinosaur Design vases”. You can build the room around one beautiful feature item. “Like in fashion a good shoe brings the whole outfit together and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune!” 


“My Mum always told me you can do whatever you want to do. That was the best advice she gave me, she instilled a positivity and confidence in me early on, that and to be KIND along the way.
And just get in there and give it a go! You’ve got absolutely nothing to lose!

SPECIAL THANKS TO: @kellieleczinska for these beautiful photos.
                                          @Deb_bibby       for a fab arvo and for being you xx