Ken Done has the most widely recognised name and work of any living Australian painter. His paintings are about the good things in life – happiness, joy, beauty. And they’re about colour.  Lots of colour.

He had his first solo show 37 years ago when he was 40 after a successful career in advertising. Since then he has had nearly 100 solo shows, received an Order of Australia, gained celebrity status in Japan and has been a finalist on multiple occasions in the Archibald, Wynne, Sulman, Dobell and Mosman art prizes.

But of course, Done is also known for his successful lines of clothing, homewares and other products all emblazoned with his artworks. From t-shirts to bedlinen his work has appeared on more than just a canvas.  His business at one point boasted 15 stores across Australia, licensing arrangements in Japan and America and employed 150 people.  Its turnover was in the millions.

For many years, though, Done has concentrated purely on his painting, where his passion lies.

In this episode Done talks about his early life, career, and how he started off exhibiting in Sydney ultimately avoiding the conventional gallery system. He also generously reveals a lot about his process and materials, talking in detail about several paintings.  We also talk about the curious situation in which the ‘art establishment’ (Done wonders who they may be) has chosen to largely ignore his work.

The interview was recorded in Done’s harbourside home where he has his studio and lives with his wife of more than 50 years, Judy.

Click here to see a video of Ken Done in his studio on the Talking with Painters YouTube channel.

Current and upcoming events

  • Current exhibition of ‘Paintings you probably haven’t seen‘ in conjunction with the release of the publication of the book with the same title, Ken Done Gallery, Sydney

Links to things and people we talk about on the show

‘Dr White Reef’, 2016, oil and acrylic on linen, 184 x 244cm

‘Sunday’ 1982, oil on canvas, 102 x 82cm

‘The cabin studio’, 1980, oil on canvas, 76 x 289cm

‘Sydney’ 1980, oil crayon on paper, 45 x 30cm

‘Me’, 1992, oil, acrylic and oil crayon on canvas 102 x 76cm. National Portrait Gallery collection

‘Roll of honour’ 2011 oil and acrylic on canvas 152 x 122cm (from Mosman Gallery exhibition ‘ATTACK: Japanese Midget Submarines in Sydney Harbour’)

‘Studio Reef’, 2012, oil and acrylic on linen, 183 x 152cm

‘Night Dive I’ 2012, oil acrylic and oil crayon on linen, 120 x 181cm

‘Edge of reef’, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 150 x 200




6 thoughts on “Ep #34 Ken Done

  1. Kate Cavanough

    Thank you this was really enjoyable to listen to, it’s so interesting to hear about Ken’s thought process and interesting personal techniques! I think Fiji is an amazing inspiration too, one of my favorite places to holiday. Love your work Ken! 🐠

  2. Mary Clarke

    Sitting here in Ireland listening to you and the rain. However, I am also looking at a Ken Done print on my wall, which gives me great pleasure and lifts the atmosphere, you forget the rain.


      Wonderful to hear from you Mary – and what a beautiful image you’ve described. Thanks for listening to the podcast! Maria

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