Marine Mastery

The art of renowned Redland marine artist Don Braben will be featured in the August/September exhibition at Redland Museum. Together with artefacts on loan from the Queensland Maritime Museum, the exhibition will embrace the annual commemoration of Merchant Navy Day on 3rd September.

Another day at the office! Oil on canvas by Don Braben

This oil painting shows some of the crew of the AMSA lighthouse tender MVCape Grafton about to board the lightship Breakseaat Breaksea Spit off the coast from Bundaberg. The painting is one of a series depicting the work of AMSA produced as Artist in Residence during a voyage from Gladstone to the reefs and islands of the Central Queensland coast.

In this painting, the crew is preparing to board the lightship. This is a dangerous operation as the deck of the lightship is covered in slippery smelly seagull mess and the leap from the launch to the built in ladder has to be timed just right. To help moderate the swell the Cape Grafton circled the operation and I was able to make sketches from the deck.

Don began painting and modelling ships at an early age, growing up on Merseyside, when Liverpool was a major seaport. He was born in Wallasey on the Cheshire side of the River Mersey, close to Birkenhead docks, a great place to see ships, and contemplated a career at sea but decided to pursue studies in art and graduated from art colleges with teaching qualifications and later on a Masters degree.  Don’s art teaching career took him from UK to Nigeria, Zambia, Canada and Australia. He arrived in Brisbane in 1974 to take up a position as Lecturer in Art at the Mt. Gravatt campus of Griffith University.  In 1997 after teaching and developing drawing courses Don retired to concentrate full-time on painting.

His main interest is marine art with the emphasis on contemporary maritime history, although any marine subject is attractive whether it is an historical interpretation, a ship portrait, or a harbour view.  Working with watercolour, gouache and oils  his work has been shown with the ACTA Maritime Art Awards 1986-91 and P&O Art Awards 1992 and ANL Maritime Art Award in Australia supporting the Mission to Seafarers and with the Mystic Marine International USA and Royal Society of Marine Artists in UK.  He is a Foundation member, a Vice-President and Fellow of the Australian Society of Marine Artists and Hon. Curator at Queensland Maritime Museum.

Don’s interest in contemporary maritime history has led to some inspirational voyages as artist in residence including a 10 day passage from Cairns to Bundaberg aboard the Royal Australian Navy Hydrographic Survey Ship, HMAS LEEUWIN, recording the the work of AMSA on the lighthouse tender MV CAPE GRAFTON around the Central Queensland coast, and the CSIRO Oceanographic Research Vessel FRANKLIN on a 24 day voyage Cairns to Hobart via PNG.  Other projects include the visual record of the voyages of MV CAPITAINE WALLIS, one of the last traditional French cargo liners which served the Pacific Islands and Australia and a series of paintings showing the sister city ports of Brisbane and Kobe.  His work has featured in journals such as Australian Sea Heritage, Australian Artist, Australasian Ships and Ports, Queensland National Trust and in the books ’Painters of New Caledonia in the 20th Century’, ‘Art of the SAS’ and ‘History of the Port of Brisbane’ and Brisbane at Sea, a collection of paintings of ships bearing the name Brisbane.

Don’s award winning works have been shown in solo exhibitions in Brisbane, Sydney, Hobart, Newcastle, Noumea, New Caledonia, Granville, France and Kobe, Japan and has been commissioned  to paint many shipping scenes and portraits.

His work is in many private, corporate and public collections including Australian National Maritime Museum, Queensland Maritime Museum, Federal Supreme Court, Queensland Parliament, Queensland Transport, Port of Brisbane, Port of Gladstone, Adsteam Marine, CSIRO, AMSA, Royal Australian Navy, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Lines, APL, Gulf Shipping, Gallipoli Memorial Club, Kellick Marine, United Service Club, Torres Pilots etc.