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Own A Little Piece Of Ken Done!

It’s no secret that we’re big Ken Done fans over here! But it really feels like the iconic Australian artist is having a moment right now. Straddling the worlds of design, illustration and fine art, his wildly evocative work captures the essence of Australia with bold strokes and bright colours.

One of the things we love so much about Ken is his ongoing commitment to making his artwork accessible to as many people as possible – and his recent release of mini books is the newest way to acquire a little piece of Ken’s magical work! Separated into four categories – Reef, Beach, Outback and Sydney – these books are chock full of dazzling artwork from Ken’s 60 + year career, along with handwritten notes from the legend himself, documenting his observations on his own work and the scenes that inspired it.

Here, Ken shares some of those thoughts with us!

Ken Done

‘Coral head’ (2014-15) by Ken Done.

Reef‘ mini-book by Ken Done.

‘Night Dive’ (2001) by Ken Done.

Left: ‘Camium coral head VII’ (2010) by Ken Done. Right: ‘Jade sea I’ (1994) by Ken Done.

Ken Done
3rd of December 2019


I had an underwater mask as a little boy, and it opened up a world that has fascinated me for a lifetime. Since that first gaze upon the rocks, pools and small fish of Sydney Harbour, I’ve been fortunate to dive and snorkel in many of the great reefs of the world. Spotted, dotted corals, darting iridescent fish, flickering with colourful patterns, and underwater gardens, rich with every shape and size of vegetation, that show the majesty of nature.

And then there are sharks. Most are harmless, and to be admired for their brilliant design. And then a few are to be avoided. Although we used to dive with tanks, Judy and I are now happy to gently snorkel in the shallows of the coral reef. I’ve made many paintings about being underwater. I could not possibly compete with the beauty of nature, and can only try to make paintings that show the feeling of the underwater experience.

Purchase the ‘Reef ‘ mini-book by Ken Done here

Beach‘ mini-book by Ken Done.

‘Hot day at Balmoral II’ (1998) by Ken Done.

‘Sunday morning 4’ (2016) by Ken Done.

Left: ‘Sunday’ (1982) by Ken Done. Right: ‘Beach figures II’ (2000) by Ken Done.


In Australia, most people cling to the edge of this vast continent. The land is lined with beautiful beaches, from the tropical, palm-fringed north to the rocky, crystal clear coves of Tasmania, and I’ve been fortunate to travel to many of them. Whether it’s on the coast of Arnhem Land, where the water is a pale, milky emerald (but you swim at your own risk as crocodiles often float just under the water), the endless sands and red rock cliffs of Western Australia or the kaleidoscopic colours of Manly or Bondi on a boiling hot summer’s day, we all love the beach. It’s suffused with childhood memories of endless summer holidays – surf-o-plans, bindi eyes and being dumped by curling Pacific rollers that have surged across the oceans to land on this blessed shore.

I also have the great fortune to live at the beach, with my studio overlooking the sand. We’ve lived here for more than sixty years and it is a constant inspiration. We walk the sands every morning and swim year-round. I want it to go on forever.

Purchase the ‘Beach ‘ mini-book by Ken Done here

Beach‘ mini-book by Ken Done.

‘Outback’ (2018) by Ken Done.

‘Walking on Lake Eyre’ (1997) by Ken Done.


Even if you haven’t visited the vast inland of Australia, you feel its presence. But only when you fly over it do you really sense its size – at least four hours at supersonic speeds and you’ve only just covered a line coast to coast.

Hot, dry, westerly winds blowdown in the summer, and icy blasts from the snowfields to the east let you feel winter’s chill. Close up, in every rocky outcrop, you are reminded of the dot patterns and stripes of Aboriginal art. The colours of the land are unlike anything you will find in Asia or Europe: rich reds, fuchsias, oranges, umbers, blacks, pinks and cadmium yellows.

Its rock formations, such as Kata Tjuta or the Bungle Bungles, will stay in your mind forever. There is a great spirituality in and around the outback, and if you have a chance to camp out there you will see a night sky that hints at the vast, uncountable stars and galaxies in which we are but a tiny, tiny, tiny blip.

Purchase the ‘Outback ‘ mini-book by Ken Done here

‘Boats and yellow freesias’ (2014) by Ken Done.

Sydney‘ mini-book by Ken Done.

‘Sunset at Clontarf’ (1980) by Ken Done.


I’ve lived in Sydney most of my life. As a teenager, I travelled across the harbour every week to go up, by tram, to the National Art School, having received special exemption to enrol in 1954. This was before the Opera House was built, and the land was used as a tram shed instead.

I live beside the harbour now, and my gallery in The Rocks is close to both the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. It is stunning to see them both in a single vista; I never tire of it, and I’ve made many works to show their relationship.

Sydney is undoubtedly one of the world’s great cities, much as Sydney Harbour is one of the world’s great harbours. We have travelled to cities around the world, but nothing, for me, will ever beat Sydney. From little coves to crowded beaches, it’s a growing metropolis that has learned to protect the past.

Purchase the ‘Sydney‘ mini-book by Ken Done here. 

The above are extracts from Ken Done’s recently released mini-books – Reef, Beach, Outback and Sydney. Published by Thames & Hudson, they retail for $24.99 each, and are available now! 

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