Pears & Linen Study


Oil on Canvas, 600mm x 450mm February 2015


The Goddess Returns


{ TYCHE is the Greek goddess (or spirit) of fortune, chance, providence and fate. She was usually honoured in a more favourable light as Eutykhia, goddess of good fortune, luck, success and prosperity.}

To quote Picasso “there are two types of women, Goddesses and doormats”; I have referenced Tyche as an exemplar to depict my personal current status in the world.
It is therefore both ‘private’ and ‘public’, and has significant relevance to the life drawing class for which this is my proposal of work, and which fits the brief of developing a ‘private and public’ exhibition standard artwork.

As I stand triumphant on my plinth, conquering the doormat, I am imortalised as “the Goddess”, reclaiming my life through art. Like Tyche, I am blindfolded, hence not knowing where I am neccessarily going, but have blind faith in myself for that fact alone.

Alone indeed, my current need for solitude is proven through this large as life self portrait, painstakingly measured for accuracy and scaled up from an A4 photograph of myself in the proposed pose (albeit standing on a Dulux paint tin). The drawing is 2.5 metres tall, drawn with oil pit pencil on 300 gsm water colour paper. When I view it, I appear larger than in life! Perhaps this thing called art, is larger than I anticipated! In a state of continual inner dialogue, I have applied an existential approach to my life through the strong choices I have made and in particular over the period which is (now) growing into middle age.

The picture has been sexualised, as I am naked but for my painting apron (a befitting paradoxical approach to life drawing and domesticity) wearing high heels and earings, (which are a large part of who I am). I wear these ‘things’ which adorn greek coins as a symbol of money being attracted to me through my craft, therefore belief in what I am doing.

I stand defiant with my paint brushes in the stance of ‘liberty’. Finally I have returned!

Note: I acknowledge that this was created during the life drawing second year class, with tutor Chris Orchard from Adelaide Central School of Art.

The Power of Coincidence

Sacrifice book

This week I had a private launch for my newly released book ‘Sacrifice’ with my women’s networking group TAN (The Adelaide Network). It was a small gathering of only 20 guests, therefore intimate, just like my story.

I had deliberated about how I would sell it in on the night. My tag ‘Life is Art’ is my own justification, but I needed an angle with which to set the tone of the book to my audience. In brief, Sacrifice’ comprises an eighteen-month period of my life, which engages with another through the art-felt expression of letters. Revert to 1995 when this all happened to me/us, barely twenty years ago when the world was a vastly different place. Before emails, social media, texting and reality TV cluttered and clogged up the airwaves, people wrote letters and phoned each other. ‘Sacrifice’ is a simple story about an extraordinary long distance love affair experienced on the cosmic plane and tells of how we all have this ability to connect without telecommunication devices if we are open to the Universe and its gifts.

The day prior to the launch I had decided to use the incidence of coincidence in our lives to sell in my story, owing to the nature of amazing coincidences, which played out during this period in my life.

On the day of the launch it also happened to be Gough Whitlam’s public memorial service. So when I switched on the tele to allow Karl Stefanovic and Lisa Wilkinson into my living room for some early morning company, another woman who was promoting her new book on Gough and Margaret greeted me instead. Now I have to confess that I think Gough and Margaret happen to be one of the power couples of the past century, and to their credit each lived to a very ripe old age which I think speaks volumes about being in a compatible and happy marriage. When the authors name was revealed, I had to smile. Susan Mitchell is an author and has published fifteen books narrating and analyzing all aspects of Australian society, particularly the role of women, starting with her best selling ‘Tall Poppies’.

I had purchased the house I now live in from her in 1997! The woman whose writing studio, specifically designed by her I now inhabit as my own creative space for dedicated painting and writing.

How was that for an amazing coincidence and endorsement from the Universe that I was on track? Coincidences are exactly that; messages of validation that speak to us from that mystical cosmic plane, ‘The Universe’.

Sacrifice can be purchased from in print, or ebook from

As the author of this work I (Barbara Harkness) acknowledge the moral rights to the above have been asserted with the copyright, designs and patents act 1988. If you wish to use any of my material you may contact me for permission.

Finding my voice; channeling Brett Whiteley


Second year at Art School (ACSA) promotes a healthy dose of experimentation, by copying our chosen mentors style, hopefully and eventually our own will shine through. Rather than fine tune the exacting and precise art of figure sketching as we see and know it, measured, precise, but BORING, our initial sketches are fed through another artist ‘filter’. As if we are literally channelling that person in a spiritual sense. (I will be the first to admit that there will never be another artist as brilliant as Brett Whiteley from Australia)

To initiate this process I have copied one of Brett’s sketches as closely as I can (middle drawing). Then I used that technique to transpose my sketch into his style. I love the result, and how it all flowed, easily, effortlessly…but more importantly I can feel my voice shining through. It’s not a Whiteley, it’s me.

Note: I acknowledge that this was created during the life drawing second year class, with tutor Chris Orchard from Adelaide Central School of Art.

The fall of light

3 stages nudestudy

This is a study of how an oil painting is constructed. This particular exercise was about the fall of light, so our model had quite a harsh light directly above her left shoulder, which cast interesting shadows over her body. We also had a different model for the second half of the exercise, painted over a full term of 8 weeks at ACSA (Adelaide Central School of Art), which is evident in the slight change of body structure. I chose not to include the head knowing that this change was going to occur. Firstly we begin with a charcoal sketch on paper which is then transferred onto the canvas via a grid method. The second stage is the Grisaille (or underpainting) which is where I sometimes feel my paintings are at their best, because they are quick brush strokes with not too much detail applied. The final painting is created in the Alla prima style; directly applied paint rather than building up the layers.

Note: I acknowledge that this was created during the life painting second year class, with tutor Rod Gutteridge from Adelaide Central School of Art.

The difference in us all

mirrored Nudes_blog

A study of the same model, two poses, superimposed more than once onto the paper. Which incidentally is 2.5 metres in height. The variance of technique and expression in us all is wonderful: these are by my class mates from ACSA. The pastel and charcoal drawing was done over an eight week term and taught by the inspiring Chris Orchard, an awesome teacher! I am going through my colourful period, so thats mine in the middle.

Note: I acknowledge that this was created during the life drawing second year class, with tutor Chris Orchard from Adelaide Central School of Art.

Looking Back

looking back

Inspired by a pastel sketch I did in November last year at school. I decided to take it further and did a large oil painting. I liked my composition of the 3 women, and decided to call the new one ‘Looking Back’. The woman in the foreground is observing and reflecting on her life: the 3 stages of womanhood, youth, adulthood and finally maturity.