‘A friend of mine accosted him’: a Ken Done napkin doodle drawn for a superfan | Life and style

When Sweetie Zamora was growing up in Sydney, her mum’s taste was “quite tonal, very subtle. Back then, my doona covers were white with embroidered flowers.” Meanwhile, Zamora’s friends slept under the joyful and riotous colors of Australian artist Ken Done. She wanted in. It was the start of a sustained passion for the art and products of Done.

“Usually on a day-to-day basis there is some Ken Done on my person – usually a handbag or something,” says Zamora, who now lives in Melbourne. “I’ve met him [Ken Done] a number of times. I’ve purchased a few things from the gallery.”

One of Zamora’s most treasured pieces is a Done drawing on a napkin.

“A friend of mine accosted him in his art store one day and said, ‘So sorry to bother you, my friend Sweetie is a gigantic fan’, and said it was my birthday. And he said, ‘Oh yeah, I know her.'”

Done then took a napkin and a blue pen and drew the Sydney Harbor Bridge emblazoned with her name, along with a happy birthday message. “That one is very important because it is very specific to me.”

‘Very specific to me’: Zamora’s personalized napkin drawn by Done. Photograph: Jacinta Moore/The Guardian

Whenever Zamora’s friends meet Done, they feel compelled to mention her fandom.

“I find it funny that the breadth of my love for Ken and the art he makes finds its way through groups of friends,” she says. “They say, ‘I know this superfan…’”

As well as collecting Done-branded linen and clothing, Zamora has three original paintings in her house.

As well as collecting Ken Done branded linen and clothing, Zamora has three original Ken Done paintings in her Melbourne home.
As well as collecting Done-branded linen and clothing, Zamora has three original paintings. Photograph: Jacinta Moore/The Guardian

“November Reef was a gift from my mum. She bought it from an auction. There is Zebra Fish, which was my first purchase in my mid-20s.

“Then I bought Mask in 2021 during the pandemic. I had just broken up with my partner and was in Sydney for a brief moment, and went into the gallery.

“I’ve never seen that style from him before and I couldn’t shake that feeling of being very attached to that painting.”

A year later, Zamora still had the painting on her mind. She emailed the gallery and there was one left.

Mask is painted from the perspective of a snorkeler.

“He uses the whole of the canvas all the way to the edge,” she says. “There’s something so beautiful when you are looking out of a mask – you are focusing on whatever is in front of you.”

As well as artwork, “I definitely have done full Ken Done outfits. When I used to wear double Done … people would be like, ‘Woah, you’re a lot!’”

Does she want to be friends with Done?

“I like there being a bit of disconnect but if he said, ‘Hey, come around to the house for a cup of tea’, I wouldn’t say no. I am happy to leave him and his life be and to be an admirer on the sidelines.”

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