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Rod’s artistic talent was first discovered in prison, but his love of drawing started from an early age and continues to be a big part of his life and spirituality.

Rod grew up with his adoptive family in Queensland. At the age of 12 Rod was placed in juvenile detention and remembers being moved between juvenile correctional facilities and home until he was 21.

After working in various jobs for several years –  including in a timber yard, on a cattle station, in a bakery and as a truckie’s offsider – Rod was jailed for five years. It was during this time that someone observed Rod drawing and invited him to the prison’s art class, where he learnt from his fellow inmates and teacher Howard ‘Joe’ Butler, and developed the tile or cracked earth effect in his paintings.

Two more stints in jail followed, during which Rod continued practicing art and refining his style. In between stints Rod remembers painting pictures for his landlord as payment for rent.

Rod is from the Kunja Aboriginal people. The snake and goannas in his work represent his father’s totems. Rod’s technique is to generally put down a base colour, followed by a sketch and then a top layer of paint. He likes to work in stages; “I look at it, stand back, new ideas come … I work out the colours and what I need to do with them”.

Art is a spiritual pursuit for Rod. “My paintings are totem-style paintings of my heritage on my father’s side. It’s like my religion. When I was in jail we had pastors and preachers and I’d be sitting there painting, and when they asked what I was doing I’d say ‘this is my religion, this is what I do’. Painting keeps me calm, away from the bad stuff in jail … it’s a bit of an escape.”

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