Naomi’s Blog

Monday, 23 January 2012

Liquid Gold

They say Australia was built off the sheep’s back.  Not Tennant.  We were built off the back of a beer truck.  It’s not the first thing you notice when you come to town.  But spend enough time here and eventually you will realise there’s no creek in Tennant Creek.  

The locals call it the Seven Mile, and for very practical reason.  The highway crosses Tennant Creek about eleven kilometres, or seven miles in the old money, north of town where the old stone telegraph station still stands.  It wasn’t the only building on the creek in those early days.  This is golden country.  Settled by pastoralists drawn by the swaying golden grasses, and desperate men gambling their last hope on the promise of endless golden riches hidden in that deep red earth. 

Like all men working hard in the relentless heat and dust, our founding fathers were thirsty.  It was a thirst that could only be quenched by that other kind of gold.  Liquid gold they called it. Beer.  It must have been a fateful day, that day the beer truck broke down just seven miles short of its destination.  

Now, if you believe local legend, our founding fathers were also a resourceful lot. If the beer couldn’t come to town, then town would simply come to the beer. Today Tennant Creek still stands seven miles south of the crossing, the pub in the main street a fitting monument to that truck’s final resting place.

Gold, in all its forms, seems woven into the very fabric of this place.  That first lucky strike wave passed, as it did in so many Australian towns, though men, seemingly less desperate now, still search for the next big find.  The swaying golden pastures feed a thriving beef industry, and that liquid gold flows freely, though mostly through our blood too often spilled on the red earth in an angry drunken haze.

What do we do, in a place so intimately connected to the very thing that tears so many of us apart?  How do we extract ourselves from our history, our blood?  Someone please tell me – how do we quench that thirst that wasn’t earned through hot and dusty toil?

Posted in New Paintings

More gems from Naomi’s blog

The North Bank

Sunday, 19 February 2012
It is who I am

I’m sure it’s not commonplace to find yourself driving through the outback with a stranger from Majorca in the passenger seat. But then again, what is commonplace out here? She was standing alone on the side of the highway about a hundred kilometres south of town, thumb pointing boldly up at the end of her outstretched arm. I didn’t really want company – I prefer to drive alone – but I couldn’t just leave her there. People die out here.

And I don’t mean the Falconio-murder-mystery strain of death that feeds hungry media packs and sends a hint of a shiver prickling down your neck each time you pass where they say he died. That is, of course, a risk that sits awkwardly in the back of your mind. One exposing conversation with a weathered local sitting alone at the Barrow Creek pub is enough to lend an uncomfortable plausibility to the Joanne Lees story.

But there’s another kind of death to be found on the side of the highway. A far more insidious killer.

They had forecast a hot day as usual. Forty-two in the shade, but there isn’t much of that out there exposed on the side of the highway where the temperature can push fifty. Standing on the burnt earth, the tops of your feet sting as the sun penetrates through even the thickest of boot leather while the heat rising from the ground beneath easily breaches your protective rubber soles, slowly baking your feet right through. The radiant heat of the bitumen hints that the molten lava at the centre of the earth bubbles not as far beneath the surface as you might think.

In that kind of dry heat it doesn’t take long to dehydrate. You slowly lose your senses as sun stroke sets in and irrational thought overrides all survival instinct. From there it’s only a few short steps to a foolish decision, followed by a stumble into permanent unconsciousness which sneaks up behind and snatches you unaware. No, I couldn’t just leave her there.

Her English wasn’t great and it didn’t even occur to me to insult her with my limited knowledge of Spanish. “Tengo cuatro hermanos” was unlikely to be of particular interest to her anyway. Her sentences were punctuated with phrases that must have been in Spanish, because they sure didn’t sound like any kind of English I recognised. But despite that, through something close to a miracle guided by charades and expressive hand gestures, we connected. Two people from opposites ends of the earth, hurtling down an empty desert highway, sharing culture and passion in broken English.

“I am Majorcan” she would announce from time to time. “It is who I am.”

“It doesn’t matter where I live. In Australia I could be happy, I could live well… but in my gut I would always be Majorcan.” She spoke of her island home surrounded by the crystal clear blue Mediterranean Sea as some sort of paradise. She had a passion for their food that transcended indulgence and a ‘foodies’ pretention. It was a passion that comes from the heart, not the head and it connects them to their homeland, their culture, to life itself in a way that I’m sure I will never truly understand.

“Yes… I am Majorcan.”

Looking through the window at desert passing by, scrub, red earth and hot rock, I saw my own Majorca. That I can understand. That feeling of totally belonging to a place. That no matter where you are, a piece of you is always there. I was not born here in this desert. My ancestral connections lay in a foreign land I have never seen. But I belong here. Where ever I go and no matter how I live, this place comes with me in my gut. The sea of deep red earth that laps against the spinifex covered rocky outcrops is, in its own unique way, my paradise. It is my own Majorca.

Posted in New Paintings

Naomi’s Wisdom.

There is very little action going on in the studio at this point in time, however I have been doing a lot of ‘mulling’, which I have almost an addiction to.

…And so I thought I would share with you a few of my daughter Naomi’s description of life in the Outback (Australia), taken from her blog, 

The North Bank

COMING HOME. January, 2012.

Coming home is no small feat. I’d been in Melbourne for five weeks all up and the three hour morning flight to Alice Springs doesn’t quite get me half way. Heading north through the ranges out of Alice with a five hundred kilometre drive ahead, I was tired and I just wanted to get home. Why do I do this? I’d set out at five in the morning and I wouldn’t be home until after eight in the evening. Why do I live so far away?

But as I drove in silence, kilometre after long kilometre it happened as it always does. There is something about this arid landscape that seems to rejuvenate me. The red soil. The vast open space. The quietness of it all. And that dry heat.

It had been hot for a day or two in Melbourne, but it was the kind of heat that invades your personal space. Coats you. Smothers you. Up here its different. It penetrates you right to the bone. It hits your skin and sinks right in, becoming part of you. It rises up from the earth and in some kind of primal way connects you to the landscape that surrounds you.

I pulled over at the half way mark for a pee. Stepping out of the cool air conditioned four wheel drive it hit me like the heat from the oven when you open the door, the rich baking aromas rushing up to meet you. Most people hate it of course, the heat. That’s why they visit in winter, wearing their shorts and t-shirts while the locals rug up. Living out here isn’t for everyone… but I love it, heat and all.

Pulling in to town as the sun set, I couldn’t help but smile. Home. The dirt and dust coating everything. The long grass in the not quite kept yards. The group of aboriginal women sitting cross-legged on the footpath, another not far away passed out on the grass. The bloody camp dogs that roam the streets…

and the heat……Home.

Posted in New Paintings

The Purpose.

Professor Wolfgang Smith

Out on our usual Tuesday bush walk and my attention was particularly drawn to the all the little plant souls who were struggling courageously in this extreme Central Australian climate to grow where their particular seed had fallen.  Some having landed in more favourable locations, whilst others were going to have to pull out all stops in order both to survive, and to reproduce themselves into the next generation of their particular species. 
As is always the case, we have the opportunity to see parallels to our own humanity mirrored in the face of Nature….and so it occurred to me that we are likewise seeds that have fallen on diverse ground….seeds that have no say in where we have been asked to grow….and how it is invariably the case that we so readily leap to judge that one individual is more fortunate or relevant than the other.
I guess these ponderings had their roots in my recent attempt to capture the essence of this well respected Mathematician, Physicist and Philosopher, Dr Wolfgang Smith, the founder of the Philos-Sophia Initiative Foundation, who carries with much dignity and grace the weight of his particular life purpose. And yes, I did indeed fall into the trap of comparing his life to that of mine, and seeing his purpose as being far superior to my own

This man is singular in his intent to re-instate the God factor into a scientific world that has for too long turned its back on The Source…..Whilst I, by contrast, have the luxury of dedicating the final years of my time on this planet to a life of stillness and reflection. 
As the image continued to emerge, it became more and more evident that here is a Soul who, although carrying a weighty purpose, nevertheless exudes a quiet confidence….Indeed a steadfast ‘knowing’ that he stands on firm ground, anticipating that sufficient of the seeds he sows will fall on fertile ground and ultimately bear fruit….and who therefore does not waver from the path that he has been asked to walk.  Awesome.

And so back to the little plants in the bush.  I have concluded that it does not pay for us to judge another’s path as being ‘better’, or more fruitful than our own; but instead have the courage to grow where we have been planted.  Content and confident in being the particular aspect of Love that we most surely are.

Posted in New Paintings

The Awakening.

Trevor Jenkins. Rubbish Warrior.

” The time will come when, with elation, you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome, and say,
Sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.”

Derek Walcott.

Posted in New Paintings

A Special Man Indeed

Let me introduce a very special human being who you may or may not have heard of. One of our very own Central Australian, much loved, much honoured and respected Special Persons. Dick Kimber.

Briefly, this lovely man is celebrated for his services to the community through research projects and the recording of information of national interest in the areas of history, anthropology, Aboriginal art, ecology and land management practices in Central Australia. Google is full of him, if you would like to delve further. A very interesting character indeed, and a life fully lived ☺️

Such beautiful energies that radiate pure Goodness…..and I couldn’t resist it. Just had to try and capture those energies on canvas

Posted in New Paintings

The Long Wait

A painting I did some years ago, and I titled this one The Long Wait…which reflects my state of being over the past eighteen months or so.  A complete void, as far as any sort of creative pursuit is concerned, and it is painful!   However isn’t it the case that these are the very episodes of life that present themselves as an opportunity for growth….if we both recognise….and accept.  Easy to say, hard to do….but then again, you are stuck anyway, and so the general rule is to call a halt to the fruitless struggle to fight one’s way out of the net, and simply…. listen.  

And so I have done a lot of listening, and I have learnt a deeper level of quiet trust.  A “knowing”, that goes beyond the need for “the answer”.

And so, out of the blue, one of my favourite human beings sent me a little video of his latest exploits…..and I sensed that my long wait had at last read its final chapter.

Trevor Jenkins, the so called Rubbish Warrior, a homeless man who I had had the privilege of painting some years before.  In the video I “read” a soul who had himself allowed Transformation to visit him, and I realised that I was beholding an entirely different soul to the one I had encountered several years before, beautiful though that Soul has always been.

I am inspired to try and capture this on canvas, and it has only been made possible for me to do that because of the generosity of the film maker who has given me permission to paint from his video stills.

Vijay Daniels, who is a Lecturer at Charles Darwin University, who has created several films, some of which can be viewed on YouTube.   i.e. ‘Paper Elephant’ and ‘Sarah Sarah’ .

Posted in New Paintings

September 2018

After twelve months of aimless wandering in the painting wilderness, I finally decided that as the painting genie was not going to land on my shoulder and wave the magic wand, I was just going to have to jump in off the deep end and see if I could make it happen again….
And so I decided to do something different. On a much larger canvas.
A friend kindly pointed out that after seven years of painting full on for the Gallery, I was belatedly following the example of Mother Nature, who works for six years and takes Year Seven off for R&R. I love friends like that!

Posted in New Paintings


Professor David Bohm

Doreen McKormack

I have struggled a bit this year, swinging between the need to have a bit of a spell from painting and feeling a degree of niggling grief at the apparent loss of motivation.  Confusing, and I do hope that my passion will re ignite in the coming months.

I did manage to paint an impression of Professor David Bohm, a Quantum Physicist, and one of Stan’s heroes.  Stan’s Christmas surprise, and he loved it!

Doreen, my recent but valued friend, is one of the local Aboriginal Elders, and she emerged on the canvas looking a tad more serious than she actually is.  I was tempted to bin it and have another go, as I had wanted to bring out the twinkly side of her nature, but then thought no….Her people talk about being ‘strong’, and it is a greatly valued trait, especially in the grandmothers….and perhaps that is what was wanting to express itself….as that is exactly who Doreen is.  A strong, proud Aboriginal woman.

Posted in New Paintings

September and a New Project

This lovely Aboriginal Elder man, Tony Liddle, is the one who triggered a lightbulb moment for me.  A much needed lightbulb moment, because I had been feeling that I was well and truly stuck, and perhaps even at a dead end!  (We creative souls DO get things out of proportion at times)

Tony has a real heart for the Old People, who, as he says, have special stories to tell, and want to tell them before they leave us…..And I thought, Ah, I could do that!  Through my art…..And the idea grew from that

…..The idea being an exhibition which would be their exhibition, rather than mine, where they get to tell their amazing stories, in their own words, recorded alongside each of their portraits in a local exhibition space….and at the end of the exhibition, get to keep their portraits, if desired.

I estimate that it will take me two years to realise, as it will be slow going, and is a project that necessarily requires progress to be made one step at a time, and simply doing what is in front of me to do, rather than projecting too much into the future.  Both challenging and absorbing, which is how I love it!

Posted in New Paintings

Peter Spence

Now here’s a man I admire. One of our Outback heroes who battles climate, soil and markets in order to put the food on our collective tables.

Here is what his wife Helen proudly says about her lovely Man. (He calls her his Bride. How lovely is that?)

“Pete comes from a long line of property owners, fourth generation in the Longreach Muttaburra area. His Father was on a family block out of Muttaburra when Pete born, he is the youngest of four children and at the age of two they moved up the road to a new block.

WE married in 1985 having two children and the family bought their fourth property in 1989, just as the Floor price was taken off the wool. Then one of the biggest droughts hit our area leaving us in finical ruin. We had to sell 2 of the properties to keep the banks happy.

We finally decided I would go back into town to work as we had two children at boarding school and then Pete got a job as a Rural Lands Officer in the small town of Ilfracombe. This meant he was away all week and going back up to the property on the weekends. A hard life but one that finally led him to working for Desert Channels Queensland.”

And for his dogged dedication to his calling, he received a 2016 Landcare Award…and this is what was reported in Queensland Country Life

“For Longreach’s Peter Spence, killing weeds and feral animals isn’t a job, it’s a calling.

The unassuming man is synonymous with the Desert Channels Queensland brand, a product of the old school where you didn’t ask anyone to do something you aren’t prepared to do yourself, and his dedication was rewarded at the DCQ Legends of Landcare dinner on Friday night.

In making the presentation, CEO Leanne Kohler said Peter epitomised the Landcare ethic, demonstrating it before it even had a name.

“He inherited it from his father, who believed you left country in better condition than what you found it,” she said. “In his jobs since leaving the land, Peter has shown that this Landcare ethic has never left him.”

“He understands the country, the issues and the people, developing relationships with landholders and shire officers, and generating a calm sense of hope and optimism that prickly acacia can be beaten,” Ms Kohler said. “There hasn’t been a landholder approached under the program who hasn’t agreed to come on board.”

He was one of a few given accolades at the Legends of Landcare awards dinner held at the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach last Friday.”

Posted in New Paintings

A Man and His Hat opening

The scary bit well and truly over….but check out what Tony Liddle had to say about the culture of the Aboriginal stockman. His stories are just beautiful….I am very grateful to him for sharing his stories with my guests….and most especially, he has agreed to have me do his portrait! I am so honoured, because he is a truly special human being, and I am looking forward to spending time with him….and maybe I will get to hear a few more of these wonderful stories that sadly, few people get to hear.

Posted in New Paintings

August Exhibition

A Man and His Hat

The Residency Arts Program is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Alice Springs artist Betty Davies.

 Through a series of impressionistic portraits, the significance of the iconic stockman’s hat is presented as a tribute to the bushmen of Central Australia.

 ‘A hat defines a man in terms of identity and lifestyle, and much careful deliberation goes into the choosing of this treasured item of male attire’

 Join us for the opening on Sat 1st July at 11 am

 The Residency is located on the corner of Parsons and Hartley Streets

Posted in New Paintings

April 2017

Have just returned from a month at the seaside, which explains the inactivity on the painting front.
As we were fortunate enough to find a holiday house that was literally on the beachfront, we were able to spend time watching those amazing surf board riders at close range doing their thing. Completely engaged in what they were doing, totally in the present, and unaware of anything but remaining upright on that surfboard!….and it occurred to me that it is a bit like painting, really, in that there is no awareness of the passing of time, the temperature, the need to eat or even whether either the back or the feet are completely over the exercise! Heaven, actually.

Posted in New Paintings

January 2017

Commissioned portraits can be a real challenge.  What does the painter see?  What does the sitter think that the painter sees?  What does he WANT the painter to see?

You want to do your very best for your client, and hope that he or she will be delighted with the result, and will agree with you that yes, that is how I see myself….and I like what I see! …. Or, wow, I have not seen myself in that light, but I DO like that someone else has!

In the case of this particular client, we weren’t too long into the initial interview, and I ‘saw’ what I needed to see.  And that was, a lovely man who, although holding a position of power in his profession, nevertheless did not feel the need to flaunt the fact, but who rather exuded a grace and a gentleness of spirit.

After two ‘failed’ attempts, and a degree of frustration, the third canvas finally agreed with me, and we happily settled on this result.

Posted in New Paintings

December 2016

Leonard Cohen

Continue reading »

Posted in New Paintings

October 2016

Tell you what, portrait painting can drive you NUTS!!
After the marathon struggle, and still on the easel, it all looks so ‘perfect’. Then comes The Assessment….when the ‘finished’ work is propped up on the dining room sideboard for another look in a different light. Can be devastating! As well as ego shattering.
….And then comes the process of ‘adjusting’, which can sometimes take longer, and be much more harrowing than the initial time of genuine fun and exhilaration in the studio….because, of course, the portrait must be perfectly balanced, otherwise one eye can look like it is on some sort of stick, and projecting about a metre or so in front of the other….or the nose resemble that of the old rhinocerus!
…..And the worst thing I can do is to ask my lovely Stan to tell me what is ‘wrong’….which he does….because he has a terrifyingly savage eye for detail and accuracy!…Which of course really does nail it…but then again it means still more problems to solve!
…..And then I think, ‘Well, I’m happy with it now’, and up it goes on social media, or taken to the gallery, and therefore exposed to more critical scrutiny. Ego all but non existent by then.
…..And then months later, you revisit…and again, horrors, horrors, why didn’t I see that before?? And it’s all a bit too late now, because the painting is invariably in another state, or on the other side of the planet, hanging on somebody’s wall, AND THERE IS NOTHING I CAN DO ABOUT IT !!
And so why do I keep torturing myself? Because I am totally hooked, absolutely obsessed….and wouldn’t have it any other way….

Posted in New Paintings


Have just experienced one of those months where too many things have kept me from the studio.  All good things, mind you, and all a part of everyday life but nevertheless I am looking forward to putting August behind me and getting back to ‘work!’ It has been a case of snatching the odd hour here and there, which has surprisingly resulted in two finished pieces!

Posted in New Paintings


I decided that I would lighten up a bit this month and have a bit of fun with two characters….and so I did…But I couldn’t help myself.  I went back to my favourite subject, and out popped this old fella!  I painted him to the soundtrack of One Night The Moon, hence the title, Unfinished Business.

Is That So? 56x46cm Trans v red, mars violet, u blue, aus sienna

                        Is That So?

IMG_1655 (1)

                      Well I Never!










Unfinished Business 60x42cm Aus sienna, p blue, trans v red

              Unfinished Business 

Posted in New Paintings

June, 2016

Thought I had painted Fellas In Hats out of my system,

however the trouble is, I am not short of subject material,

and I can see myself adding more and more to the collection!

Why not, though.  That’s what life is about, isn’t it?….following one’s passion, and doing what nurtures that much desired sense of inner delight!


60x50cm Pthalo green, aus sienna, trans red oxide60x48cm Indigo, trans v red, Aus sienna



Posted in New Paintings