Aussie Icons: Artist Ken Done

Australia. Unique flora and fauna. Stunning coastline. Knows how to nail a brunch. Not so well-known for their internationally acclaimed artists.

But there is gold to be found in this Great Southern Land, something I’ve only come to appreciate after almost a decade in London. In this series, I’ll be exploring the work of some of my favourite Australian artists and creators, starting with the legendary Ken Done.

Done enjoyed considerable commercial success in the 80s and 90s. His bold images of Australian culture and identity had an undisputed optimism about them.

Sydney by day, 2000, gouache and oil crayon on paper. Image with thanks to The Done Group.

The man himself. Photo by Isabella Wood, supplied with thanks to The Done Group.

Beach with two blue towels, 2009, oil and acrylic on board. Image with thanks to The Done Group.

Ken Done x Basil Bangs beach umbrella from their limited edition collaboration. Photo c/o Basil Bangs, supplied with thanks to The Done Group.

Ken Done revisited his collaboration with Sheridan Australia to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Photo by Nikki To, supplied with thanks to The Done Group.

For 15 years, Done created every cover for Hanako magazine, a weekly Japanese publication aimed at young working women with large disposable incomes (think: female Popeye). He also designed their iconic masthead logo, which they still use to this day.

A selection of Done’s Hanako covers. Image with thanks to The Done Group.

But Ken Done is more than a business-savvy designer. He is first and foremost a painter, and painting is what he does full-time nowadays at age 79.

Done’s work remains influenced by Australiana. He uses his signature bright colour palette and many of the paintings are less rudimentary in style than what we’re familiar with.

Big MASK reef, 2019, oil and acrylic on linen. Image with thanks to The Done Group.

Ken Done working in his studio. Image with thanks to The Done Group.

This year, Thames & Hudson released a series of four collectable books that celebrate the artist’s love of the Australian landscapes, from beaches to the outback. We planned to pick up the set when we were next in Perth, but the Ken Done team are kindly sending us some so we don’t have to lug them back in our suitcases (though it’s worth mentioning the shop does ship worldwide and free over $100). We’ll no doubt share some photos of these beauts when they arrive!