This Iconic Artist Told Us What It Takes to Be #1: "There Are No Shortcuts"

Nicole Singh


If there's one homegrown artist whose brushstrokes perfectly illustrate the wild and free spirit of Australia, surely it's Ken Done. But when it comes down to how Done forged his career, the stereotypical idea of an artists' life—a the laid-back lifestyle at odds with the nine to five hustle—never came into play. Instead, Done honed his skills working as an art director and designer for corporate companies, which took him to places as diverse as Tokyo, New York, and London. How did he nab these top jobs? It's simple: Hard work. "If you want to be a painter, go and paint 500 pictures. There are no shortcuts. It is simply about work. Art doesn't drop out of the sky and hit you on the head." A sentiment that he's clearly adopted in every career-pivot he's ever embarked on. 

Though this work-ethic landed him a position as a creative director for a prestigious advertising agency, missing his origins, Done eventually retired from office life to return to his first love: Painting. The rest, as they say, is history. The iconic artist's penchant for bold colours instantly set him apart from the pack at his debut solo exhibition in 1980, catapulting him onto the international circuit. These days, Done's interpretations of our most famous landmarks (see: the Opera House) and quintessential landscapes sit pretty in galleries from here to Europe and the US.

Done's most recent project has seen the artist team up with premium lifestyle brand Sheridan to collaborate on a limited edition collection of bedding. The result? Perfectly bold creations that add a unique focal point to any bedroom. We grabbed a minute with Done to quiz him on forging a successful career in a tough industry. Keep reading for his tips on how to make it as an artist.


"When, I think of all artists, they keep their eyes open. Today, for instance, I swam this morning in the harbour, it was a beautiful morning and now the day has turned into a kind of misty, grey, slightly mauve day, it's still very beautiful but it's just a matter of whether you get pleasure out of looking at things. And then painting is a means of communicating that to people."


"The very first thing that I do every morning is that I walk into the studio, before I go down for a swim, I go to the studio first of all because I want to see with the freshest possible eyes what I'd done the day before and decide whether it's worth working on or putting it aside for a while, or worse, trashing it."


"My father, who is unfortunately not with me anymore, he always believed you should look to this day. In other words, you should try your very best every day. And I think that's pretty good advice."

Shop Ken Done's creations for Sheridan below. 

Sheridan Ken Done Sunday Sailing Cushion ($80)

A sharp accent to white sheets. 

Sheridan Ken Done Antartica Quilt Cover Set ($350)

Add dimension to a minimal room with this set.

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