Peter Hudson

In Issue 43, Peter Hudson wrote about his artistic journey from childhood to the present.

I spent the first ten years of  my life in Northern and Central West Queensland. My father worked for the Department of Civil Aviation and in those early years we lived and worked close to the small country airports. As aerodromes are built on the outskirts of town, as kids we had full access to the bush. I loved being out there; it was the beginning of my long relationship with the land, and even then I started to notice how it made me feel. The things I still hold close from those days are the feelings, memories and experiences the land can evoke.

Nothing would be the same again after I heard the Beatles in 1965, and soon I started playing drums. At the Queensland College of Art, from 1972 to 1975 I studied illustration and design, and for a short time I worked as an illustrator. In 1976 I began a jewellery apprenticeship and around the same time started drawing and painting landscapes.

Around the 1990s I moved to Maleny to spend more time on my art work. I began by making plein-air paintings of the hinterland country around Maleny which includes the wonderful Glasshouse Mountains. These mountains have a powerful spirit; I had the feeling they too had something for me. The artist Lawrence Daws lived close by. Lawrence was generous and influenced me greatly. I treasured my friendship with him and his then wife Edit.
My visits to their legendary Owl Creek Farm was lifeblood and oxygen for my art life.

Then I heard Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody sing their anthem song ‘From Little Things Big Thing Grow’. The song, and author Frank Hardy’s book, The unlucky Australians inspired my decision to go to the Northern Territory and see for myself the land the Gurindji people were so passionate about, and seek their permission to paint their land.

By February 1998 I flew to Darwin, and from there began the 800-kilometre road journey down to Kalkarindji and Daguragu, the tribal home of the Gurindji. There I was starting to see the land with new eyes, and my paint seemed to be going down better. My ongoing twenty-year association with the Gurindji has been seminal in understanding the powerful union of the natural and spiritual relationship Aboriginal people have with the land.

They themselves attest, ‘We do not say the land belongs to us, but we belong to the land’. Only a fool can’t see this. It became necessary to paint the people that belong to this land. Around 2004 I painted a few portraits of some Gurindji friends. I was encouraged, as some of the drawings and paintings started to work. Some of the later portraits were quite successful. In 2007 my painting of Paul Kelly, Words and Music was an Archibald finalist, and a couple of other Archibald entries that didn’t make the cut were acquired by the National Portrait Gallery, and the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.

To produce the plein air works for exhibitions, I try to get outside for at least a month each year. The locations I usually go to are the Northern Territory, and Northern and Central West Queensland. The trips are always made in winter, as the wet season has finished by then, and the days are perfect for painting outside. I usually drive to a site and camp out. Most times I go by myself, but sometimes with artist friends.

One of the huge advantages of the painting trips is that I can produce a painting a day. When a painting is finished, I never retouch it. That way I don’t disturb what went on during the process of making. It’s impossible to trap the power and beauty of nature. A landscape artist can only respond to the subject in front of them. The success of that painting is determined by the artist’s emotional and physical reaction to that piece of land, and also how much of that land’s spirit ends up in the paint. If the mix is good, the painting has a chance.

The studio is the place for introspection, and the freedom to be totally honest with yourself. Like the plein air work, the studio drawings and paintings are essentially a landscape. Even my portraits are landscapes. My studio paintings deal only with a very few subjects, one being the extraordinary relationship the moon has with the oceans. The Glasshouse Mountains and night sky return regularly in my paintings and drawings. To look towards the heavens at night helps me understand the mind- blowing scale of the universe, a reminder of the surreal reality of this beautiful blue-green planet.

The subject chooses the painter, not the other way around. The paintings made in the studio are usually developed from very quick sketches. When an idea, an image or even a title comes, I roughly put it down, and from there I make little drawings in a sketchbook. Instinctively you know when you have the drawing that will lead to a painting. When it happens I religiously stick to the design and the format of that little drawing. I avoid trying to refine or improve the drawing; if the smallest change is made it all falls to pieces. I then draw it on to the canvas. Sometimes I use a grid to make absolutely sure it stays true to the little drawing. I don’t make a study; I prefer to work the painting out on the canvas, as this creates the opportunity for mistakes and serendipity, all of which improve the work and make it your own.

My work is a response to the deep mystery of being here: the gift of an art-life. As Sydney Nolan succinctly said when asked about making art, ‘The rewards are there till the last ten minutes.’

This article was originally published in Artist profile, Issue 43, 2018

Director’s Choice | Ann Thomson & Peter Hudson
31 January – 23 February, 2019
Mitchell Fine Art, Brisbane


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