This is formerly the garage, it’s been converted into a studio and it’s in my garden. Originally it had a cracked concrete floor, tin roof and a garage door where leaves would come underneath. I found the double-doors online – they were removed from a building. I helped carry them down the driveway with the builder; they weighed an absolute ton. I whitewashed a couple of walls, and clear varnished the rest.
Now it’s all insulated. Previously I couldn’t hack it in summer. It was like a sauna and I’d have to go back inside the house. There were only certain times of the year when the garage was suitable as a studio. In winter the paintings would go slack – the tension would change in the linen. Now it’s easy to heat and it has indirect natural light. It’s so good now to have a workspace separate from storage.
Research tends to happen in the house, mainly online or from books. One of my archives of inspiration is my Instagram. So sometimes I will bring the phone to look up a reference. On the studio walls I pin magazine clippings that assist to create a colour palette as I work. I will have photoshoots for painting reference in here – it’s really easy to control the light. There’s a mirror for self-portraits, and an extra chair to use when someone comes to model. When I was making paintings based on still lifes there were a couple of trestle tables set up with objects and flowers.
I love interiors. What I find inspiring is just the rearranging of my own furniture. It can sometimes be the beginning of a new series of work – a new configuration of furniture shifts your mental space, which is an important part of reinvention in your own practice.
I’ve come to realise more so over the last few years that I paint the pictures that I would want to hang on my own walls. As I’m creating a body of work I will check how it looks in my lounge room. If it passes that test, then great, it’s off to a show. Working from home really is the perfect environment of a dream space from which to create. My paintings are made to be lived with; they are born in the sanctuary of the domestic environment.
What I love is to be up really early and being in the studio by nine o’clock, earlier even better! Today I was up at five-thirty—seeing the sunrise is my ideal. The possibilities for a morning might be writing in a journal, yoga stretches, coffee, reading, going for a run, it just gives you this space before the day, it’s really good for a sense of calm.
But because it’s a malleable routine, when I have shows on, I end up becoming a night owl. There’s that delicious zone – where you never want to leave the studio to go to sleep…although it is then harder to enjoy a good morning after staying up crazy hours.
At uni I painted self-portraits, family and friends. I haven’t painted any family for 15 years. It’s an extension of a self-portrait, but essentially so is any painting an artist makes. Painting a self-portrait you have complete freedom to experiment.
One of the things I love about working with people is seeing what their energy brings to a portrait. But while two people have their own aesthetic and ideas, the portrait documents the social dynamic through the artist’s perception. All a painting can be is a moment in time from one point of view.
I’ve had my practice described as refined yet still deeply experimental. I usually get to the end of a series and then I will come back to a self-portrait because I want to see how the latest experiments translate…they’re diaristic on a number of levels. When you keep exploring the visual language of your practice it’s a way to reconnect with yourself again but through an expanded sense. My recent foray into the realm of semi-abstraction has formed a relationship with my realist beginnings.
The past year has been really hectic with shows, so I gave myself a brief period of space and now I’m back into a routine and feeling energised. I’m still working on how to manage with the pressure of making something that is going off to a show the same week it’s finished without having as much time for to reflect, or even for the paint to dry. You can only plan the year so much in advance. There are always unforeseeable invitations that pop up that you really want to be part of.
My work has an emotional, romantic side and I think, how do I translate this to a visual language that I feel comfortable with? I want to make paintings where the strength in them supports the vulnerability. The paint itself is part of that, there’s also a cerebral aspect, a process driven approach, playfulness, but fundamentally I want to make paintings that I find desirable.
Things that feel really raw will be elevated to where I am comfortable with them. That’s the process that happens in my paintings, that allows me to live with things that feel good to be around. Your artworks, whether they are yours or others’ in your collection – coming home to them might remind you of who were at that time, who you are, and how you want to be.