Ken Done: Twenty Years

Introducing Ken Done

Ken Done is one of Australia’s most famous artists.

Bluethumb is hosting one of Australia’s most well-renowned modern artists for a solo exhibition at our new flagship Richmond Gallery. Ken Done, colour extraordinaire, is donning their gallery walls with 26 of his eclectic pieces from 2002 to 2022.

Ken is considered to be one of Australia’s best and recognised visual artists, continuing to impress and inspire with his work, old and new. Many artists take inspiration from Ken’s iconic colour palettes and imagery. See our latest Ken Done-inspired curation here.

Born in 1940, in Sydney, Ken left school at 14 to enter the National Art School in East Sydney. After 5 years of study, he commenced a highly successful career as an art director and designer in New York, London and Sydney. 

At the age of 40, after painting for many years, he gave up his advertising career to become a painter full-time. Since then, he has held over 100 solo exhibitions, across the globe, with his first held in Sydney in 1980. Ken’s original style consists of nature scenes, interiors, seascapes, and still life works. He depicts Australian landmarks, in a bright and colourful style.

Ken’s Impact

To raise money for UNICEF, Ken Done generously donated an artwork especially for the Bluethumb Art Prize Winners Exhibition.

Ken has always been a proud supporter of Bluethumb and our mission to help more artists go full-time. He has been instrumental in Bluethumb’s success, previously judging both the 2020 and 2021 Bluethumb Art Prizes. As well as donating one of his artworks for auction to further his UNICEF ambassadorship. 

Through awards and sponsorships, Ken has encouraged many school students with a passion for art. When asked what advice he has for young creatives, Ken reveals, “if you have the passion and are prepared to give it all, then take the leap.” 

It’s assumed that Ken has learned many lessons from his impressive career and years of experience. But he claims, “there’s no lesson, there’s only work.”

How Ken Creates

"Sydney harbour, turquoise sea, black line, 2001" by Ken Done.

“Sydney harbour, turquoise sea, black line, 2001” by Ken Done.

When asked where he finds inspiration in his pieces, Ken explains, “inspiration comes from simply opening your eyes.” He cheekily adds, “it’s fortunate to have a studio that has a beautiful view over the harbour,” which many of his pieces depict. 

Every artist has their own process, but Ken argues “there’s no process, it’s simply working to find a solution to a visual problem.” Ken likens creating art to an adventure, with no clear end date.  

An Impressive Career

During Sydney’s 2022 Vivid,  Ken’s work was displayed on the Customs House.

With a spectacular career, Ken has several accolades. His works have been shown in the Archibald, Sulman, Wynne, Blake, and Dobell Prizes. Major projects include painting a BMW Artcar, the cover of Japanese magazine Hanako for over 15 years, having a series of works for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, and the whole decorative scheme for the Garden Restaurant at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. 

With so many accolades, there are some that he considers being standouts. Ken reveals, “the Sydney Olympics was a wonderful opportunity” even if it was over 20 years ago. More recently, “having my work shown during Vivid Sydney was certainly a highlight,” Ken explains.

As his impressive career spans over 20 years, we questioned whether maintaining a consistent link throughout his work was a conscious choice or whether it came naturally. Ken states, “any link is part of the progress and the process of creativity. I’m a better painter at 82 than I was at 40, and hopefully one day I’ll be as good as a five-year-old.”

Ken Done: Twenty Years Exhibition

A selection of Ken Done's artworks hanging on the walls of the Bluethumb's Richmond gallery.

Ken Done: Twenty Years

The Ken Done: Twenty Years exhibit will run from October 7th to November 5th at Bluethumb’s flagship Melbourne gallery at 330 Bridge Rd, Richmond 3121. Showing 26 of Ken’s works from the last 20 years, we can’t wait for you to see these pieces up close.

Read more about Ken and see his available works on his Bluethumb profile.

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One Comment

  1. Ken Done was such a creative force when I was younger. His brightly coloured abstracted style was quite unique then. Thank you for this article and photos of his recent works. I only wish the exhibition would come to Sydney. Despite being the artist, he’ll remain a model for me.

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