Ranger Uranium Mine, in the heart of Kakadu National Park, has the weird attraction of a car accident. It’s all very horrific but you just can’t help looking!


The dirt from an enormous hole in the ground satisfies 10% of  the worlds hunger for uranium. They dig it up, crush it, mix it with various toxic chemicals (ammonia, sulphuric acid, kerosene), then , once separated and purified, pack it into 44 gallon drums and sell them for over half a million bucks a pop.

All this so the Chinese and Indians can have two door fridges, plasma TV’s and  air conditioned shopping centres,  just like we do.


As crazy as all this is, I just cant help admiring the technology and machinery that brings it all about. One small human can sit in a giant loader and, with the assistance of hundreds of litres of burning diesel, pick up 30tons of earth in one scoop and drop it in the back of a monstrous truck. These really are awesome machines and they make great painting subjects.

These sketches were done with Indian Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue and White Gouache. Burnt Sienna Ink and charcoal pencil provided most of the fine lines.


I liked the way this machine was resting, with it’s bucket on the ground like a big, tired elephant


These trucks carry 100ton of dirt, in and out of the pit all day long. Even so, they look over designed – as if nothing could ever stop them.


I used bleeding ink lines, rough charcoal marks and washes of dirty white gouache to try and get the smell of grease and diesel into this sketch.

It seems weird I guess, sitting in one of the most beautiful places on earth, painting trucks and graders!  It’s a lot of fun though.



Throughout Kakadu National Park, the landscape is dominated by the Arnhem land and Kakadu escarpments. In their own  right, these bands of ancient sandstone are spectacular sights. Seen across the wetlands and  through curtains of paperbark trees, the escarpments add a rich, warm shot of colour to a fairly monochrome landscape.

In this painting I want to use a sickly pink acrylic pigment to exaggerate the warm hues of the escarpment. To really give this colour some impact I will contrast it with some raw Ultramarine Blue


The spectacular Kakadu escarpment

The range of colours for this painting is very small. Medium Magenta Acrylic being the only unusual pigment.


On the extreme left, above, is a small water spray. Not in the image is a 3″ Hake brush


A rough sketch sketch provides just enough information to place the various elements. The first washes are gradations of Ultramarine Blue and Alizarin Crimson.


Once the first washes are completely dry, the foliage can be suggested with varying mixtures of Quinacridone Gold, Alizarin and Phthalo Blue. In order to make the shapes appear random and uncontrived, the paint is splashed onto the paper then the edges are adjusted before the pigment dries.  The important thing to remember with these shapes is to put as much variation as possible into the edges.

The horizontal bands of white paper will later be tinted to represent the horizontal line of the waters edge.


More detail is added to the foliage and reflections. The pure Ultramarine that will form the shadow at the bottom of the escarpment is dropped in and softened with a damp 1″ brush

A liner brush is used to add the fine twigs and branches. The paler, main tree trunks, are lifted out with a damp 1″ flat brush.


Finally the sickly pink acrylic is dropped in over a wash of Quinacridone Gold and Alizarin Crimson. A wash of Phthalo Blue cools down the water. Graded washes of Ultramarine Blue darken the outer edges of sky and water.

With the painting once again , thoroughly dry, pools of White Gouache are dropped into the sky and water and adjusted with a dry hake brush and water spray.

The last step is to add some Burnt Sienna Ink marks and Black and White charcoal pencil lines to suggest  finerl detail.


The Northern Territory has its own unique style of architecture created to cope with  the hot tropical climate. Some of the most important examples of pre WWII N T architecture are the Burnett Houses.

Beni Burnett was born in Mongolia, raised in China and worked in Singapore, Japan and China. His Northern Territory buildings are influenced by the Colonial architecture of Malaysia and Singapore.

He employed a system of screened asbestos cement louvers to allow for cross ventilation, no matter which way the breeze was blowing. Open eaves, ventilated roof ridging and open topped internal walls provided easy evacuation of warm air. Steep pitched roofs and two story construction also aid in keeping the building cool.


“K Type” Burnett House – 1939


“E Type”  Burnett House – 1939


Parliament house in Darwin echoes the colonial windows and louvers of the traditional Burnett House


This is the toilet block at the old Fanny Bay Gaol  Darwin. From waist height, external walls are timber stud frame with fly wire mesh attached. The internal walls also stop at waist height. Great for ventilation, not so good for privacy. I have a sneaking suspicion that this may have had an influence on Burnett’s designs. I’d like to think so. The Burnett houses were originally designed for high ranking public servants. I’d like to think they lived in houses influenced by a prison toilet block.





Embroidery mesh was used to press geometric squares into the colonial windows. White Gouache was also used in the sketches.

burnett 2

burnett house

burnett 1



One of my favourite examples of NT architecture is the Glenn Murcutt “Bowali Visitors Centre” in Kakadu National Park. Built of  formed, tinted concrete, corrugated iron, steel and timber. Its colours and textures look to have come directly from the ground it sits on. The building feels big and open and natural, inspired by one of the rock art galleries in the Park




Information signs are made of 1/4″ steel plate, laser cut and left to rust. Here they are suspended by wire in front of an off the form concrete wall panel Tinted with natural ochre.



The big, distorted paperbarks along Katherine River are awesome things. They defy the battering dished out by the annual wet season, accumulating scars and debris, to emerge each dry with an invincible appearance that defines the rivers character.


This painting started with a simple charcoal sketch




The first washes were cut in around the tree shapes with a  a dirty green mixed from Quinacridone Gold, Phthalo Blue and Alizarin Crimson. Some Phthalo Blue was dropped into the sky and a pale Alizarin dragged along the river bank.




A strong  Phthalo Blue was washed into the water then diluted slightly for the sky. These areas are more intense than I want, as I plan to knock them back with a glaze of Gesso.




The next step was to put a contrasting band of dark behind the main trees. More detail was added to the trees and foliage, then a few rough ink lines were scratched in. Splashes of pure Alizarin were dropped into the area I plan to soften with the Gesso glaze




Before the colours were completely dry Gesso, straight out of the pot, was worked over the distant bank with a 1/2″ bristle brush.




The Gesso was quickly spread and thinned with water.




While everything was still wet a 3″ Hake brush was used to smooth the Gesso into a soft, transparent haze. This was done quickly and lightly, keeping the brush very dry with an old towel.




With the painting still wet, patches of tinted white Gouache were put on and softened with a fine spray of water.




The final step was to add more detail and definition with ink, white charcoal pencil  and rigger lines


Phthalo Blue

Ultramarine Blue

Permanent Alizarin Crimson

Quinacridone Gold

Burnt Sienna Ink

White Gouache


Black and White charcoal pencils

1/2″ bristle brush

1″ and 1/4″ flat taklon one stroke

#2 liner

3″ Hake