Indigenous artist shows tourists secrets of Aboriginal painting

PUT your hand up if you've ever looked at an Aboriginal artwork and nodded your head sagely and thought: "I could do that."

To some of us, the thought of painting thousands of dots on canvas appears to be a simple matter. It's just dots. But in our artistic hearts, if we are being honest with ourselves, we know this is not so.

When painted by the experts, the exquisite formation of the dots, the clever blending of colours, the perfection of circles, lines and curves are all aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and that is without knowing the stories, the sacred and hidden meanings that lie within an Aboriginal painting.

But… this is good news for the little bit of philistine in so many of us. If you want to have a go at painting an Aboriginal work of art, you can.

You'll have to travel to Port Douglas but that is a most pleasant thing in itself.

At Janbal Gallery in Port Douglas, on the way to Mossman Gorge, Binna, the Aboriginal artist-in-residence will show you how to do those tiny dots to create your own artwork.

You can do this on a small square of canvas or on a boomerang - and you take your work home with you.

As we sat down with Binna and first watched him dip a small stick into three different paints on a small pallet we thought, 'there's nothing to this'. As we watched his hand make a precise row of white dots, our confidence grew. It looked so easy.

We couldn't have been more wrong. As we copied Binna's movements and dabbed our paint carefully (so we thought) on to the canvas, out came a series of wonky dots.

With our carefree confidence slightly bruised, we kept going, following Binna's painting methods puzzled as to why it looked so effortless when he did it, yet in reality it was quite difficult. None of us in our small group achieved a straight line or a perfect circle.

But it was great fun, a true hands-on experience, and we all become engrossed, competitive, artists bonded in creative spirit.

As we worked, our dots became a little less wonky, a little more elegant, and at the end of the session everyone in our group had something that, from a distance and with a lot of forgiveness, looked like an Aboriginal art work.

The classes are all hands-on in the small gallery, a delightful space surrounded by magnificent artworks created by Binna.

Taking home our small paintings made us feel ridiculously proud of ourselves. We couldn't wait to show our families, and yes, they were impressed that we had actually produced a reasonable piece of Aboriginal art.


Janbal Gallery is surrounded and protected by Yiki People and it attracts visitors from all over the world. It is 100 percent Aboriginal-owned and operated, established at Mossman in 2008 by Binna and family friend, Mary Williams.

Janbal means Blue Quandon, the vibrant blue-skinned rainforest berry loved by Cassowaries and found around Mossman Gorge and the Daintree areas.

All the artwork at Janbal Gallery is original, hand-painted by Binna at the gallery and all is for sale.

Authentic Aboriginal art, jewellery and artefacts handmade by local indigenous artists of Far North Queensland is also for sale.

Janbal Gallery is at 5 Johnston Rd, Mossman, open Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 5pm.

Groups are catered for. Costs and more information on:

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