John Dewar’s (often known as “Long Johnny” or “Long John”) traditional land is north of Katherine in the Oenpelli (Gunbalanya) area but he has lived most of his life in the Katherine Region since his father took the family when he went to work on Eva Valley Cattle Station and Yeuralba Tin Mine. John himself followed in his father’s footsteps and has worked on various cattle stations in the region himself and as a Tour Guide in Manyallaluk and Nitmiluk Gorge area. John is a nephew of the artist Bardayal “Lofty” Nadjamerrek from the Stone Country in Arnhem Land.
John’s elders taught him how to harvest stringy bark, make his own natural pigments and use a reed brush. His paintings and artefacts are held in collections in Australia and internationally. John is now one of Mimi Arts most prolific artists. He still works with natural ochres but for the most part has switched to working with artists acrylics. His paintings are in high demand with the many tourists who visit Katherine and have been purchased by numerous Australian and international visitors. He also gets many requests for special commission pieces from people who have met him and seen his work.
If you were to visit him, you would most likely find John hard at work on a canvas, a bark painting or a didgeridoo. In his words, “I don’t like to just sit around; I like to paint and keep busy.” He can also make spears, spear throwers, clap sticks and some small carvings. When he is not at work as a tour guide or involved in making artefacts, John will take off in his little ute and go bush for a day or two, hunting, fishing and gathering raw materials for more artefacts. Not so comfortable in the town he is perfectly at home in the bush setting. John mentor’s younger men in the skills of art and cultural pursuits. He is always happy talking with children and visitors about his life and work.