OUTBACK BEAUTY: Abandon Yards.
OUTBACK BEAUTY: Abandon Yards.

Artist James Ainslie returns to where it all began

COOROIBAH artist James Ainslie is going back to his roots this month, back to the glowing red escarpments, the vaulting blue skies, the ubiquitous baobabs and the glorious light of Central Australia.

Back to the Kimberley, the Olgas and Flinders Ranges where he walked as a young artist and today, at 65, still has a love for the region.

An established award winning master of modern realism whose work is held in major public and private art collections world-wide, James was happy to talk to Seniors about his trip and his art when we met in his studio at his home in Tewantin State Forest.

Born in South Australia and raised on a farm, he said he could not handle cities and towns very well. "I prefer my own solitude."

An early mentor was David Dridan, whom he describes as one of our leading realist landscape artists.

"He was my art teacher and I used to go to the art rooms after school and watch him paint. I also painted after he roared at me: 'You don't learn by bloody watching. You learn by doing.'

"Tom Gleghorn, the father of abstract expressionism in Australia, also influenced me. He's in his late 80s now but he is still one of our most respected and revered painters. I was teaching in the Flinders Ranges when this bearded, bejewelled guy came into my classroom with the headmaster and gave me a kiss on the cheek.

"He looked at what I was painting and said 'I love it. You should come and work with me' and that was the start of a friendship between Tom, his wife, my wife and me."

James and Wendy moved to Noosa in 1997 and, although they have toured the outback several times since, it has been six years since they were last there.

"It's been a problem for me because you have to stay in a place to know how to paint it.

"The trip will renew and reinspire me and, yes, a whole lot of red sand dune paintings will come out of it."


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