In 1961, aged only 22 and still a student at Sydney Teacher’s College, he won the Sulman Prize, for a mural design, Sea movement and rocks. In 1962, having just started teaching art at Macquarie Boys High School, Norling was awarded the New South Wales Travelling Art Scholarship, which allowed him to travel to Europe and North Africa with his new wife, art teacher, Elaine Odgers. In 1966, the two of them began their slow return to Australia, driving through Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, immersing themselves in the many cultures they passed through.
On his return to Australia, Norling returned to secondary school teaching and, in 1970, was appointed as a lecturer in art education at Alexander Mackie College of Advanced Education. In the same year he began writing and presenting a weekly ABC radio program aimed at youth, Young World of Art, which ran for four years. From 1978 to 1986 he was senior education officer at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, during which time he curated a number of educational exhibitions. This position gave him a remarkable opportunity to study, at his leisure, some of the greatest paintings in the country, including works by lesser known artists such as the British Victorian painters Lord Frederick Leighton and Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Norling realised that these artists were more than the sentimental storytellers that contemporary taste held them to be.
In 1986 Norling left the Gallery and took up a position at Meadowbank College of TAFE, teaching painting and drawing. In 1997 he retired from teaching and returned to full-time painting. For the part of his life, he shared a studio and gallery in Patonga, on the New South Wales Central Coast, with fellow artist, Jocelyn Maughan: the Bakehouse Gallery.
Norling exhibited throughout his life and won many prizes. Three major solo exhibitions of his work were mounted in the last two years of his life, including retrospectives at the regional galleries in Gosford and Taree.
Norling is represented in the collections of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Charles Sturt University (Goulburn campus) and the University of Sydney.