Kate: My studio is in a rather cramped and cluttered room at home in Northcote. I’ve been working in it for around 12 years now. It’s good for doing a lot of work at any time but not so good when I want to switch off.
One wall is filled with bookshelves full of art and other reference books, all sorts of books on anatomy, symbols, Chinese culture, butterflies, monsters, skulls, snakes, beetles, Celtic designs, fashion, Frida Kahlo, early Japanese manga and so on. The other walls are mostly left empty. Sometimes I’ll hang up larger canvases and work on them from there or I’ll just draw or paint directly on the walls to test out ideas.
I have various work stations set up: a table covered in watercolours; gouache tubes and brushes for works on paper and for painting on fabric; a desk piled high with exhibition catalogues, articles and books for my PhD research; and my computer.
On an old family chest, which my parents brought with us when we migrated to Australia in the 1970s, I keep a sewing machine for making my soft sculptural works.
Near my computer, I have a photo collage of our son Rali, now 16, from kinder all the way up to this year, along with small sketches he has done for me over the years. They always make me smile. One drawing he did some time ago when I had a bad headache says, “Dear Mum, I hope you get better soon. Love Rali.” and has a skeleton, vampire, mummy and zombie all dancing together with a boombox.
After dropping Rali at the bus stop in the morning, I start with a strong coffee in front of the computer, catching up on emails and admin and writing lists of what I need to do that day or week.
I’ll pick a “painting shirt”.
I have a few favourites: a Frida Kahlo shirt that my parents gave me years ago, which has an image of her double self-portrait The Two Fridas; a Roy Lichtenstein/Richard Bell-style image of Lisa Simpson with the caption “*sigh*, being a sensitive artist in this family is hopeless”, which my Dad thought was funny; and a Global Feminisms shirt featuring my artwork from the group exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, New York in 2007.
The rest of the day I alternate between making artwork and breaks for CrossFit classes, walks to the park with our crazy Staffy Cross Tudo, lunch, meeting Rali after school at a cafe in Clifton Hill and the occasional late afternoon ping pong battle in the backyard with my husband Mike.
While painting, I like to get in a kind of zone, listening to jazz, either from our own CD collection or ABC Jazz online or in the evening, if I need a bit more energy, DJ mix sets by Sadar Bahar or Kon & Amir, who play a cool range of disco, soul, funk, house, hip hop, afrobeat, Caribbean, Brazilian, Latin tunes and more.
When I have a lot on and deadlines looming, I’ll get back in the studio after dinner. I might also finish some things like sewing work in the lounge while watching crime or cooking shows with Rali.
– May 2015