It's a name that is now full of misconception and myth. The name fills me only with feelings of respect and love. I was most fortunate to get to know Howard and be asked by him to work as a studio assistant from about 1989 to 91. It was fun and stressful and invaluable to me. Howard was open and sensitive and incredibly intelligent and could converse on and give opinion on any subject raised. I remember when he would talk of his friends Juan Davila, John Nixon, Tony Clarke, PeterCorrigan, Elizabeth Gower and many more, his love for them was obvious. I met some of those friends mentioned but didn't know any of them. Apart from Juan Davila (who I had a few drinks with one afternoon at the Duke after Howard introduced us), I knew of them only via Howard's experience. He always spoke of his friends with affection underlying his words.
Howard was a very sensitive soul and was a loyal friend to the people he trusted. He was generous and felt compassion for his fellow human beings. I will never forget the day we had worked a hard day in the studio on a house show. We were hot and tired and Howard asked me how long it had been since I had eaten a steak. Being a destitute art student, I couldn't remember. Howard said thatwe both needed some nourishment and soon we were carrying his precious (and heavy) air compressor down the stairs from his Windsor studio and we wheeled it to the local pawnshop and he pawned it for cash. He paid me for whatever hours we had done and threw in another $20. He then took me to the pub and bought us a big steak each and we washed them down with several beers. We ended up at the Esplanade hotel were he told me he loved Alison Burton and worked up the courage to phone her. It was so bittersweet that Alison and Howard would marry years later only days before Howard left this world we live in.
Howard is in my thoughts every time I walk into an art gallery or step into my studio, or pick up an art book. He was a friend, a confidant and will always remain an inspiration. Howard is a person who touched and effected many lives and instilled a love of art and painting in many Melbourne students and artists. His influence will be felt for years to come.
'Shadow Factories' 1991(?) seen above was a major undertaking for Howard and I was fortunate enough to assist in it's making. I will never forget the time Howard was painting the orange smoke coming from the chimney in the right of the painting. He was vigorously blending orange and white Matisse acrylic together, his paintbrush flicking back and forth across the canvas. Howard suddenly said in his loud nasal tones ,words to the effect of "Stop the press, stop the press, Arkley shocks the art world and goes all Abstract Expressionist, imagine that"
I remember Howard saying his paintings look the way the do because they will be hanging in lounge rooms and will have to compete with the television to be noticed.