Ken Done’s Life in Color
Ken Done says he has "copped a lot of criticism" over the years.
His new memoir, A Life Coloured In, is an exploration of his 75 years - warts and all - a no-holds-barred look back by one of Australia's most successful artists and designers. Art and design have defined his life and career, and he says he's very proud to have both feature so prominently - despite often being lampooned for painting like a "kindergarten child".
Speaking at a recent packed author launch event at Mosman Library, Mr Done charmed and entertained the audience with his self-deprecating humour and anecdotes. Despite his huge success in Australia and Internationally, he's still the boy from Mosman High who left at 14-years-old to follow his dream of becoming an artist at the National Art School in East Sydney.
"I really wanted to study art at Mosman High, but at the time they did not teach boys so unfortunately I had to leave," he chuckles. "I went to the library and wanted to see all the nude images of women. After I enrolled at art school I thought the nude painting would come around quickly - but I still had to wait over a year to see a woman naked!"
His nearly 60-year career - full of travel and highs and lows -has been beautifully and faithfully documented in his memoir.
"I'm 75 and you feel like you really need to get things out while you can," he smiles. "I initially wrote 140,000 words which were reduced to 80,000. My spelling is bad and there were a lot of politically incorrect things - even defamatory -that had to be removed, mostly about lawyers, accountants and the Commonwealth Banki!"
One of the tragedies that struck the Done family was "losing a lot of money because we trusted an accountant. "I had to speak to many lawyers," he recalls "and I'm not a complete imbecile but they charge $1,000 an hour, so I said 'talk fast'."
The vivid, optimistic, bold and colourful Images that he has produced have helped define Australia's magnificent landscape and beaches during periods where the country was redefining its role in the global community and tourism was increasing.
With more than 50 dedicated exhibitions in Australia and around the world, he continues to travel, design and paint from his beloved home and studio at Chinamans Beach.
“With painting you don't know where it is going to end," he says. “You are on this track and it's a strange tourney because you are setting the project yourself. It's really about what others think about it and it should give pleasure over time. Painting should be about pleasure - like poetry and it's very personal.”
One of his great pleasures, he says, has been fortunate enough to work with his wife, designer Judy Done, and their two children, Camilla and Oscar in the business.
"It's always been a family business and I listen to them," he laughs. It's a great privilege being a painter. I have never had a government grant and there is never enough time to paint everything you want.
"That's my motivation."