Ron McBurnie: Etcher, Drawer, Printmaker

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by Patch Clapp


Ron McBurnie is one of Townsville’s pioneer printmakers. He also etches and draws, and is one of the artists featured in the ““Celebrating Townsville” exhibition currently on at Umbrella Studio contemporary art.

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Ron McBurnie

Etcher, Drawer, Printmaker


RB: Often the water colours are done when I am in a place where I know I haven’t got as much time, but if I know I’ve got a lot of time I might do something in a really detailed way.

0:21- 0:48

This one’s done outdoors, that one was done up on the tablelands on the weekend. So I would sit in the rainforest looking at that and drawing it.

And then I’d bring it back into the studio and just finish little bits.

And I’d always try and finish form memory rather than from a photograph.

Most of the work I do is reasonably fine and fairly detailed.

0:49- 1:06

I go back to the same place a lot and do different images of them from different points of view. You get to know a place really well. And then we have places on the river, we have some mango trees where we draw, we have places up at Hervey’s range where we draw.

1:07 – 1:21

The earlier work was more about stories about people, but lately more about the landscape of this area, North Queensland, about the place where we live. Trying to getting a sense of what is this place where we live and finding the beauty in it.

1:22- 1:32

Artists in regional areas have a great network. I probably have about six people that I get feedback from and 1 or 2 that I trust implicitly.

1:33- 1:40

But, you know I have a lot of colleagues I show work to and say, “What do you think of this and how can I improve it?” and so on.       Shot of Ron showing etching into close up of etching.

1:41 – 1:51

Anneke Silver, Robert Preston and James Brown, and they were three colleagues who were of great influence in various ways on my work.

1:52 – 1:59

I think the art department, as it was, was incredibly vibrant and relevant to what was happening in the community.



All of the presses in this room came from… from the university. So this one here comes from RMIT, and this one here from my memory came from the bulletin.

I used to run a printing, a publishing, press at the university called lyrebird press with a guy called Tate Adams.

When I left the university, they closed down the Lyrebird press so I negotiated to get these presses. So then I had to build this shed, quickly, and then we moved the presses in there.



This is one of the major publications I did at the university when I was working on lyrebird press.

And we picked a number of artists to produce a work related to their experience of going to the Palmetum.

The publication took about 5 years to make.

I chose to do a work relating to the lagoon part of the Palmetum.

And then on every book, Lyrebird book, were the different lyrebirds that were designed by, often, by the artists whose book we did.



I’m as interested in collecting music as I am in art. I’ve got a huge music collection.

If I’m working on an etching or something grubby, I’ll always put a cd or digital file on or something like that.

Whereas if I’m working on a drawing or something like a watercolour Ill always put a vinyl on because I have to physically et up and turn it over. Vinyl only lasts 25 minutes. It means you have to stretch and get off your chair because the big danger for artists is that they forget how long they’ve actually been working on something.

I just have that process.


In your head you have an idea or an ideal about what you actually want achieve in your work. So you’re always searching to improve what you’re doing and try and get better at what you’re doing.


At a certain point when a work is getting toward the end, it starts talking to you, and once the dialogue’s finished, and it doesn’t talk to you anymore then it’s usually… you get on with something else.


Music: Memories from

Footage by Patch Clapp and Andrew Sands.

Stills and time-lapses by Patch Clapp.