Interview With Kristine Ballard

Hello Kristine, thanks for talking to us!

First up, I’m wondering - what inspired you to be an artist?
I wasn’t really exposed to any ‘visual artists’ growing up but I loved drawing and looking at paintings in books and I loved colourful things. [Both parents were creative,] my mother was always sewing and doing some craft project and my father was a carpenter. He took up wood-turning in his senior years and made beautiful bowls and pens from Australian timber.

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing or painting. It was the daily event that my mother would beckon me to clear the table of pencils so that it could be set for dinner. Of course this took three requests before it ever happened. I used to make mini paper towns and hats with matching hat boxes out of coloured paper too. I am not sure why, I just loved creating.

Did you follow your artistic passion after leaving school?
I didn’t go to a school where art held any value. It was the ‘filler class’. But I loved it and I loved learning. I was given the line that ‘being an artist wasn’t a real job. It wouldn’t pay your rent.’ So I took the next best thing...Graphic Design! I had done some work experience earlier before I left school and believed this would provide the creative out let I needed. I went on to get my Bachelor of Arts in Design (BAD!) in Newcastle and came to Sydney for work. I worked my way up from Junior Designer to Senior Designer, and then to Studio Manager. Eventually I was running a design department in a large printing company.

With a background in design, how did you become more involved with fine arts? Did your design training help you with your artistic practice?
While graphic design gave me an income, I was increasingly frustrated with the lack of creativity I could exercise. Running a studio and managing others creative growth provided me with many skills that are invaluable to a practicing artist. Most importantly it has taught me the power of managing deadlines, client expectations and planning.

Dissecting your process and evaluating the things that need to get done versus the things you like doing is the turning point from being a hobby artist to a professional. Graphic design also taught me that actualising your creative pursuits takes more than one person. Being surrounded by the right people, those who you can learn from and those who have been in the business are assets you just can’t buy. These things will not come to your doorstep, you have to actively seek them out. I didn’t come from an arts industry background so I don’t have a default ‘go to’ method. Every artistic leap I have ever made has come from exposure to others practice, artwork and process.

Perhaps the greatest skill 25 years of design has provided me is the importance of being very clear about your directions and the outcomes you want to achieve. Having clear objectives and being able to articulate them to others invites the audience into your world. It empowers you to be proactive with your creativity and not reactive to current trends.


As well as working as a designer, you also formed and ran an art school - what was that like and did you find that it informed or altered your art practice?
I was lucky enough to run an art school in a partnership for over 12 years. It was hard work as I was still working full time as a designer. We started with only 3 students!

I enjoyed teaching and creating new programs. Helping others discover their own creative path is one of the best ways to improve your own art practice. Trouble shooting difficulties others encounter is a great test for any teacher. You gain a greater respect when you find ways to connect with your audience.

Having to demonstrate the physical actions of art making forces you to develop more user friendly systems. In doing this you discover that your own art practices become more refined.

Your artworks are bold and vivid, with a clear Fauvist influence - what other art styles have influenced your work?
Colour is the driving force in every piece I make; emotive colour is important. I am drawn to artists and art movements that focus on our emotional relationship with colour and colour combinations. The Nabi was a movement of artists led by Paul Sérusier including Paul Gauguin, Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard and Maurice Denis. They were inspired by nature but heightened the colour. Robert Delaunay and his wife Sonia cofounded the Orphism art movement, it was noted for its use of strong colours and geometric shapes. They abstracted scenes and were known for experimentations in depth and tone. And then there is Kandinsky, the master of energetic colour and colour theory. For deconstructing shapes I look to Picasso and Cubism and the American Abstract Expressionists.

In Australia, the Australian Impressionists for their atmospheric colour: Grace Cossington Smith for her technique, Roy De Maistre for his colour symphonies, David Aspden for his colour palettes and the legendary Margaret Olley for her ability to transform everyday items into corners of magic.

And that’s just the start! I have so many artists I look to for inspiration, I could go on forever. They teach me to look harder at my own work and what I what to achieve.

So all of these artists have contributed greatly in developing my own style that I call ‘fragmatism’. This is a form of reconstructed colour executed in paint. My ambition is to highlight the joy of colour found in nature, and bring it to the canvas.

You currently live in Sydney, but have completed residencies across the world, does the city you create in influence your work?
I apply for residencies that will allow me to be in locations where I can learn from the masters and visit great galleries, as well as develop my own practice. In New York it was the Abstract Expressionists and David Hockney, in Spain it was Picasso and Dali and in Venice it was Tintoretto and Bellini. My work focuses on strong colour and shadows. So it makes sense to travel to places that are known for their unique light in order to understand it. Of course, I always discover so many more gems when I am there. The research is an exciting part of the process.

What projects would you like to work on in the future?
I am still developing my style and I don’t think you ever stop. The next step is to get bigger! I would love to do some really big pieces that might fit a foyer or public space. This is easier said than done, you need a space to create these pieces, so I need to work on this too.

I would love to get back to Venice or Rome and that Italian light. I have to venture to the outback too...there is so much of it, it has scared me in the past but now I think I am at a stage where I could approach it artistically with some direction.

I also think that collaborations can really help you grow. I currently travel to Fiji every year where I get to experience the colour of the tropics and teach art. I always learn so much from the locals when I am there. I have also created an art mentoring group with the local art society called Co-Kreate. We have four local high schools involved and the aim is to nurture and support the art practice of these Year 10 and 11 students. I would love to expand this group into an international connection.

See all of Kristine's works for sale here.

Interview by Emma Saunders