Bush Studio

19 Aug 2015

Our block recently got even better with the addition of this caravan – my weekend studio! It is even slightly bigger than the one we sleep in down there. Margaret River artist Wendy Castleden very generously donated it. The caravan was painted blue some time ago but was looking tired, patchy and faded. With a fresh lick of black paint it is looking spritely again. Thank you Wendy and Bill x

Welcome to my blog!

16 Aug 2015

For many years the idea of having a website has seemed very daunting. I am not someone to whom self promotion comes easily - just ask Matt Bailey my patient web designer. This resistance may be due, in part, to an underlying feeling that there are already enough people online, presenting carefully curated versions of themselves. Another reason is of course fear - there is comfort in relative anonymity, and word of mouth works well…to a point. 
 
Probably the most important reason for me to have a website is this: being able to say ‘YES – I do’, in response to the question – ‘Do you have a website?’ – that is inevitably asked of me when I have struggled to effectively convey what I do. Not to mention the relief it will bring my partner when he is presented with the same situation. 
 
So here it is...

So, What DO You Do?

13 Aug 2015

I am not an architect. 
I have qualifications in visual art and graphic design.  I have completed units in building and interior design, but not enough to call them qualifications. I'm mostly self-taught when it comes to residential design. 

Some people struggle to grasp how an artist can design a house and question why they would want to. I am the type of artist who has always had a keen interest in form, proportion, materials and colour so it doesn't seem out of the ordinary for me to cross disciplines.

Design projects come with their own set of helpful constraints such as client brief, budget, the site and its orientation. With residential design I feel I am responding to a need by helping to make someone’s life easier and more pleasing to the senses. I am increasingly aiming to encourage small scale, simplistic and sustainable homes. 

Designing residential buildings is a process of collaboration with many people, starting with the client.  For small interior projects such as kitchens or alterations (not requiring council approval), my concept plans are drawn and ready for the builder or cabinet maker to work from. Larger additions or new homes requiring council approval will need a site survey and a set of working drawings. In this case I organise a surveyor and I liaise with an architect or draftsperson to document my concept plans. I do site visits to check progress along the way and I’m often called back to consult on the interior and/or landscaping. I do not take on multiple jobs at one time.

Painting on the other hand is without constraints or collaborators, which for me makes it infinitely more difficult. Unlike the computer where designs can be saved, duplicated and altered, there is no safety net with painting. Creating a personal, visual language takes commitment, determination and a lot of courage. Everyone is a critic after all, and as an artist, you need a thick skin. 

Who Are You? A not-so-brief bio.

06 Aug 2015

I grew up loving art.  I went to six primary schools in seven years.  Something I learnt along the way was that drawing defined who I was. Drawing breaks down barriers when you’re always the new kid.  With great relief I went to one high school. Applecross High is a public school with an art program. We were a tight knit group of art nerds who went to school on Saturdays for five whole years just to do art! The success of this program lies in the fact that the tutors are practicing artists. 

I went on to study Fine Art at Curtin University, with the best portion of my third year spent on exchange at Chiang Mai University, Northern Thailand. It was there that I was alone to really play with the medium of paint.  In 1993 conceptual art took precedence over the expressive, with the landscape genre considered the most anachronistic of all painterly pursuits. The degree course left me questioning everything. 

After University I worked six days per week as a picture framer for 17 months to save enough money to travel.  I backpacked for almost two years through Vietnam, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Greece (working in a hotel and selling sketches to tourists) then Turkey before settling for six months in London - working as a picture framer in Notting Hill. From this base I travelled throughout parts of Europe, seeing some of the world’s greatest art and architecture, including a Mark Rothko retrospective in Madrid in 1995.  

From London I booked a return flight to New York. I stayed with a friend I had met in Vietnam. He lived on the top floor of a brownstone on Montague Terrace - Brooklyn Heights. I felt like an imposter who had landed on the set of Sesame Street.  He made me a makeshift bed in a huge bay window overlooking Manhattan - Twin Towers still intact. I visited art galleries daily and recall vividly seeing a show titled, 'The Conversation of St.Paolo Malfi', by Julian Schnabel at Pace Wildenstein on Greene Street. His enormous paintings had an emotional effect on me - unexplainable at the time. I think now it was their rawness and their honesty. They exemplified that alchemical painting process of substance to spirit and spirit to substance.

From New York I journeyed across America to Colorado to visit my sister who had settled there. She encouraged me to visit the west coast before returning to London and it was there I saw The Ocean Park Series by Richard Diebenkorn.  At the age of 23, I had found someone who would continue to inspire me to this day. I also visited Mexico, specifically to see the inspiring home and studio of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

Back in Australia I settled in Fremantle and started painting and framing. My first exhibition reflected some of the places I had visited but it wasn’t until 1998 that I started to paint my own backyard – the Fremantle Port.  I was living in Pakenham Street in the old D&J Fowler building and I visited or walked past the harbour every day.  After two more exhibitions in 1999 and 2000, I wanted a change and took myself off to Rajasthan, India for several months. A solo exhibition titled Jali was held at the Fremantle Art Centre, 2002. During this time I was still picture framing part-time at an Indigenous art gallery in Subiaco - now known as Mossenson Galleries.  It was there over a six year period, I discovered a passion for Aboriginal art and culture.

During this period, residential design also entered my life and I took to it intuitively. I was exposed to architecture from a young age through my Dad. His plans were hand drawn with the finest Rotring pens, which had to be held almost 90 degrees for the ink to flow through the needle-like tip.  He had a great eye and I often went to building sites with him.  The smell of curing concrete always conjures up memories of weekends spent with him. Dad had been living overseas for many years, he passed away in 2002, aged 55. I would have loved to get his feedback on my first design project (Glyde Street) but it wasn’t to be.

At 31 yrs, I followed my heart and moved with my partner to Tasmania for a period of four years while he studied Ocean Engineering. Whilst there I enrolled in a Diploma of Design and Multi-media and a Cert IV in Interior Design. I gained some much needed computer skills and taught myself to use drawing programs for residential design work. 

In Tasmania I worked as a picture framer part-time and I worked towards an exhibition titled Island Tracks.  I found an empty building opposite the Boags beer factory and after asking around discovered Boags owned it. My friendly landlords charged me a token sum to rent it as a studio. The first painting I completed in this studio made the final cut in the prestigious Glover Prize for landscape painting.  

Local Tasmanian artist, Philip Wolfhagen was someone I admired from afar for his use of subtle colour and bees wax, which I have added to my paint ever since, giving it a buttery consistency. Idris Murphy, Steven Harvey, John Olsen, Aida Tomescu, Churchill Cann, Henry Wambini, Guy Grey-Smith and Kevin Lincoln are painters I also greatly admire. They all have influenced how I look at landscape and they all have a way of making the complex look effortless.  

The Tasmanian experience has shaped where my painting is today. I am being more selective about which design projects I take on to ensure my number one passion 'painting' comes first.