Interview With Karynne Ledger

Art Pharmacy caught up with the quirky and adorable Karynne Ledger in a popular Surry Hills pub. She told us all about her practice, her love of nature and how she combines her two passions in life: food and art. Ledger uses watercolour and ink to make detailed and expressive works of art, featuring native animals and foods that she uses as a Slow Food chef in a restaurant on Sydney Harbour.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, how did you start making art?
My whole family was artistic, and I’ve creating art since I was very young. We were always using pencils, my brother and I. He’s now gone off to do special effects in the States, working on movies. I went to art school, where I did printmaking and a bit of illustration and drawing. When I realised that I needed to make a living as well, so I trained as a chef. I’ve been doing that for a long time now, and I’m creating my art around that schedule.

So creativity runs in your family…
Yes my brother does modelling for special effects, and is currently doing a make up course in china. I did a bit of sculpting when I was younger, with clay. Now I do illustration and printmaking, I’ve got a press at home that I use. I also do a bit of digital art ... I just do all sorts of things! But mainly I am concentrating on 2D stuff.

How have you been integrating digital media into your artworks?
It’s great actually, from a printmakers’ perspective: where you’ve got an image and you need to reproduce it. So a particular flower, for example, can be repeated and displayed on the page in different ways. I love design! On the computer, using Illustrator, you can play around with it as much as you like. It is fun to create different versions of your work.

Yes that is what a great many artists are doing at the moment, using digital software to hash out the composition of a work before they put it to paper or canvas…
Yes, exactly. Because you draw something and you sometimes you’re not quite happy with it. What I’m finding is, when I draw things that I’m very happy with I’ll exploit them digitally as much as possible. Taking aspects of one image to create other ones and so on.

Where do you get your inspiration? I know that your subject matter mostly comes from nature...
Also food! I’m leader of Slow Food in Sydney at the moment. I’ve just had an exhibition up in Maitland. The whole exhibition is about food and biodiversity, making us consider the foods that we eat. I even included indigenous foods that we might not necessarily eat on a regular basis. In these pictures I drew the item (animal or vegetable) along with how we reproduce them into food. Some of these images are on the Art Pharmacy website, but I have many more that I haven’t got around to putting up yet!

In the biography on our Art Pharmacy website, you said that you were inspired by mythology. Which ones in particular, can you tell us more about that?
Yes I have been inspired by mythology in the past. I don’t think that I use it as much now, you move around. I’m interested in different mythologies and different cultures, especially Scandinavian culture and design! I really like using mythology as a starting point, looking at their creation stories. I find them really interesting and they always have a link to the natural world. All cultures have stories about the animals that inhabit their territories. That fascinates me, so I try to incorporate that into my artworks. I haven’t got any of that kind of work up on Art Pharmacy at the moment, because I haven’t been doing that for a while but it is another interest of mine. I do link that to food as well, there is a lot of knowledge and culture around food. It plays a big part in my life.

Where did your love of nature come from?
I grew up in the country and I’ve always been very close to nature. Even at work I will spend time with seagulls and fish, I will feed them at work. It is nice to be around them, I’m lucky that I work right down near the harbour.  I like to get out into nature, it’s a good way to meditate and to de-stress. We’re very lucky to live in Australia and to have such wonderful creatures around us. I’m a big nature fan, really! Sometimes I go for walks in to the bush. I used to live around Manly and I used to go for long walks around there. I would see lots of lizards, water dragons, lots of creatures… it was fantastic!

A lot of the time, people say that being an artist is about discipline, do you find that that is true? Do you feel like you need a strict routine to create your works, or are you more dependent on inspiration?
It is not a strict routine, yet I make sure that I leave a set amount of time per week to do something creative. I’ve had a bit of a break though, I’ve been working hard on creating works for the exhibition and I’ve got some other things that I’d like to finish before I get started on anything new. I usually am quite strict with myself when I’m going to work.

Do you have any routines, can you take us through your creative process?
It’s hard to say. I see things, and I get quite excited about small things, like a colour or picture I might see. I have an idea and then I start putting it together from there. Sometimes I like looking at images on the internet, other times it might be something outside that catches my eye and I’ll take a photograph. Sometimes I go to the art gallery, and looking at other artists’ works might give me inspiration for my own works. I have no set way, really.

Do you often have several works on the go at once, or is it usually one work that takes all of your creative energy?
I usually like to work on one thing at a time, but sometimes I’ll have several works on the go for example a print and something else on the computer.

Do you collaborate or interact with other artists?
Not collaborate, as such. I have many friends who are artist, but we mainly just discuss things. I wouldn’t be against the idea of collaborating with an artist if it were presented to me but it just hasn’t come up yet at this point. I used to work in a communal studio space, a long time ago.

What is your studio space like at the moment?
I’ve got it at home. I have a space with a computer on one side and a workbench with lots of paints and loads of other materials.

Any favourites?
Yeah, at the moment I really love working with the inks and the rapidograph. The colours are really vibrant. I’ve been using good leaf as well. In the past I’ve used pastels and acrylics, watercolour pencils too. I’ve been using a medium that creates an iridescent effect, like on butterfly wings or fish scales. I’ve been using that in some works, and you can really see a colour change when you move the work around! A little child at the gallery opening got very excited about this material and asked me what I had used. I don’t even know what it is called, my partner got it for me in the United States.

Are there any artists who inspire you in particular?
Oh loads of them, but at the moment no one in particular. I’m more inspired by design, like Marimekko. Sometimes a particular colour and stylised form will give me ideas to work with. When I went to Finland, I got to go to their warehouse! I travel quite a bit, and that often inspires my art. I get inspired by Japanese stuff a lot. 

What are your next projects?
I’d like to take my current exhibitions to some other venues, I have some ideas about that. I’m probably going to work further with my food ideas.

How has the public reception of this exhibition been, have you had some positive feedback?
It has been excellent! A friend of mine runs that café, so she’s been able to monitor the reactions for me. She has had many exhibitions there before so is a good judge of how successful the exhibition has been. I’ve sold a few prints, which is very good. And of course I was there on the opening night, when I got a lot of great responses. You can tell if people are being sincere. It is hard to put up works for an exhibition, it is part of yourself! But then on the other hand it is wonderful to have some support for your work.

You can see all of Karynne's works available here.

Words by Lucie Reeves-Smith