Where it began

I’m a Bundjalung + Yorta Yorta man with Anglo-Celtic ancestry. I was born and raised in Bundjalung Country, on the Clarence River, around the towns of Grafton, Yamba, and the remote Aboriginal community of Baryulgil.

As far back as I can recall, I’ve always wanted to be an artist. From painting in kindergarten with those ridiculously oversized brushes that destroy one’s ability to create, to devouring local black & white reprints of Kurt Swan, Berni Wrightson, and Neil Adams’ illustrated DC Comics. I just couldn’t get enough. I knew that art was my thing. But which form of art?

After graduating high school in Newcastle, I considered a career as a tattoo artist. However, every studio had a long list of kids waiting to get their foot in the door. So I did the next best thing – I went to University, and I studied Graphic Design.

When I finished my studies, I slowly but surely made my way into design, and eventually started my business –, where I specialised in corporate branding.


The road travelled

When I relocated to Melbourne in 2008, I decided I needed a change. I’d had enough of letterheads and other corporate stationery. So for a few years I worked in I.T – managing networking infrastructure in local schools, before turning my passion for research and Aboriginal history into a role in education and public programs at Melbourne Museum.

After a few years I went on to manage the museum’s Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, before taking on a new role, as a cultural educator and historian – managing diversity & belonging, delivering Aboriginal cultural training (for in-house and external clients), and managing First Peoples’ employment.

In this time I’ve contributed on the board for the History Council of Victoria, the advisory group for Worawa Aboriginal College, and the Reconciliation Action Group for Siemens Australia & NZ. I also founded


Mountains of Art

I still enjoy my 9am-5pm job at Museums Victoria, even if these days it’s best described as a 6am-2pm. Otherwise, my time is dedicated to an increasingly diverse art practice, with a portfolio that suggests that the final artwork isn’t the main thing I’m interested in – it’s the journey.

My art is exploratory. It’s about encountering new and old technologies, mastering materials and their properties, and being able to adapt ideas to many formats. Today I work in pen & ink, I do wood and lino cuts, digital illustration, projection art, photography, short film and documentary; I sculpt in wood, clay, metal, and in 2 metre tall blocks of extruded polystyrene. I design football guernseys, team logos and netball shirts. My art is brushed, printed and sprayed onto walls and my perforated steel works are found there as well. I make traditional Aboriginal stone tools, I weave, work in silicone, resin and carbon fibre, and I carve wooden artefacts. I paint in oils, acrylic, ochre and dabble in watercolours. And I wonder, how is it that I also do a pretty good job of spending lots of quality time with my children?!

Artistic Influences

Frank Kozik, Dave Allred, Ritchie Fahey, Bill Plymton, Dave McKean, Will Eisner, Brian Bolland. These are the guys who have inspired (perhaps not too obviously) my art style(s).

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Aboriginal (Koori) Art

From traditional to modern and everywhere in between. I’m inspired by the skill and style of my ancestors, empowered to keep alive our 65,000 years worth of history and culture.

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Great Resources

A collection of awesome tutorials, free resources (brushes, textures), inspiring videos, and a range of other useful bits and pieces to inspire your own art practice.

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© John T. Patten 2023. Made with Bundjalung & Yorta Yorta hands, on Wurundjeri Country.