The creative life of Bren Luke: His inspirations and art practice

Working from his small home studio in Ballarat, Bren Luke creates intricate cross-hatched illustrations using pen and ink. Luke draws inspiration from Albrecht Durer’s 16th century engravings, Japanese woodcut prints, alternative comic artists, architecture, 1970’s television and cinema.

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'Scale, darkness and Mountains': Art Pharmacy Interviews Artist Bonnie Porter Greene

Writer Montana O'Neil caught up with the Sydney Art Pharmacy artist. See Bonnie's work here.

When Bonnie Porter Greene isn’t learning German, teaching her 13-year-old daughter the secrets of 35mm photography or editing articles for the collaborative website McPhee, she is busy in her studio with a paint brush and oil paints. We managed to catch up for a chat after her recent return from a creative retreat in California.

 Art Pharmacy artist, Bonnie Porter-Greene

Art Pharmacy artist, Bonnie Porter-Greene

Bonnie studied Fine Arts at West Wollongong TAFE, majoring in painting in the late 1990’s and has painted ever since. After having children, she explored other creative processes including textiles and collage out of convenience.

However, she has always come back to oil paints as her medium of choice. The medium, as well as painting on board, allows her to be rough and energetic with her strokes adding energy and authenticity to the works.

In the creation of her large scale, vibrant artworks Bonnie says, “I am drawn to beauty in the everyday.” From natural landscapes, shadows on hills and rooftops to decaying and abandoned ‘forgotten’ places. Following a trip to New Zealand, Bonnie began painting mountain lines, explaining that she was left with a series of very dark paintings.

This darkness played on her emotional wellbeing as she said “[the experience] made me feel a little sad after being immersed in the dark paint for several weeks.” Since then she has produced artworks with vibrant and contrasting colour pallets which better reflect her state of mind.

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Bonnie’s creative practice is very organic, starting with a few drawings in her sketchbook and growing into the finished product. She says that, “just getting my paints out and beginning is sometimes enough of an inspiration. I try not to wait for inspiration to strike but just to begin something.” As if the brush has a mind of its own and complete artistic freedom.

To keep these creative juices flowing, she never limits herself, working on multiple projects simultaneously, mixing with creative people and exercising and journaling daily.

 Bonnie Porter-Greene, Cloudscape 3, $220

Bonnie Porter-Greene, Cloudscape 3, $220

Getting Business Savvy: A Guide for Artists

By Emilya Colliver

I’ve always stressed the importance of artists knowing the is and outs of running their own business. They may have one of the best jobs in the world, but there is still the need to put themselves out there and act professionally. A daunting task!

There are many different ways you can be involved in creative industries, but a very specific way you can make it financially sustainable.

I’ve put together a few tips and recommendations for any artists wanting to take their art to new places.

  Emilya Colliver at a speaking event for artists from the Georges River & Bayside Council area

Emilya Colliver at a speaking event for artists from the Georges River & Bayside Council area

This article is adapted from a speech I did at a Georges River & Bayside (GRaB) Arts and Culture Network talk in October 2017.

How Are Artists Commissioned?
Firstly, I want to explain how I even choose an artist for a commission. Once I receive a brief from a client I start thinking about what artists might fit. I pick artists for jobs in various ways. One of those ways is through our detailed database - with artists categorised by their mediums and styles or locations, to help us to find artists to a specific brief. But how do you get onto this list? We enter artists that we come across into the database so we can find them later, and we can come back to them if something comes up that will suit. If you’re not on the database or we don’t know you personally,  we’ll find you through researching on Google and instagram, or asking around. The easiest and quickest way to find artists is online.

Get Digital
For all you artists shifting uncomfortably in your seats at the idea of publishing an online portfolio for anyone to see, time to get over that! Just get in there and have a go - start an online portfolio, put up old work and anything you are creating as it is finished. It’s important to document your work as it is finished and to post high quality images of your work - more than one picture of the same work is great - an in-situ shot of the work in studio or hung on a wall is a great way to portray the art at its best.

Instagram is a great start, but it’s not enough. You also need a clear bio or information about yourself. One example of a real specific brief I have received recently was to find an Eora nation aboriginal female artist who specialises in traditional weaving. If you don't have this written down somewhere, how would I identify you as an option?

This is why it’s so important to have an online presence with clear specifications as to what you do and how you define or identify yourself.

Do a quick test - could you be found on Google if someone was looking for you?

  • Google yourself - what does someone need to Google in order to find you - does your name return your website? Can you find you through other keywords?
  • Have I invested in high quality photos of my work and myself and are they online - take an objective approach as if you were a stranger viewing your website - what impression would I get?
  • Is my CV and bio up to date? - what kind of questions might a stranger have about  me or my art? Are those questions answered in the copy on my site?
  • Am I using Instagram to it’s full potential - what are other artists in my space doing, are there any artists out there that you could collaborate with or learn from?

A great example of an artists’ digital presence is Sydney based artist Joi Murugavell (a.k.a Oodlies) has a really well developed website, with lots of options related to working with her demonstrated on the menu bar across the top. She has lots of high quality images of her and her work, detailed biographical and other information, links to an up to date Instagram showing what she’s working on, and a clear way to contact her. Have a look at her website here - oodlies.com

Think Commercially
What is your bread and butter in terms in earning an income from art? Be thinking constantly about how you can develop creative output that can be a steady stream of income (no matter how small). Although most artists would jump at the chance to do large, high profile commissions, those opportunities can be rare. But there are lots of other opportunities to make a living out of your creativity. That may come in the form of small ceramic items, or affordable prints, gift cards or design work. Two examples of artists that have diversified are Ellie Hannon and Gabby Malpas.

 A screenshot from Gabby Malpas’ website showing her shop.

A screenshot from Gabby Malpas’ website showing her shop.

Diversify your output and your skills, so you can be flexible with clients and meet a range of criteria and demands during projects. Think of skills as tools in your box that you can apply to a range of projects.  An online store is a great way to practice some new skills at a low cost while creating productive output.  A range of skills also provides great opportunities for collaboration.

What Else?
I’ll be following up with more tips for artists wanting to professionalise. In the meantime you can also email artsubmissions@artpharmacy.com.au if you want to find out more about getting onto Art Pharmacy as one of our artists.

Interview With Bernard Greaves

What does it mean to be an Australian artist? Chatting with painter Bernard Greaves
By Vanessa Ocansey

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Bernard Greaves is a young artist from Sydney whose luscious oil paintings are reminiscent of Ben Quilty and Nicholas Harding with their thickly applied swathes of paints.

Having trained as an architect, Bernard is once more exploring the realm of painting, something that he first dabbled in when in high school.

When exactly did your love for art become obvious?
I loved art from an early age. My earliest memories of loving art was from getting up early on a weekend when I was 5 or 6 years old and sketching in a book when my sisters were watching TV. When I was in primary school and people asked what I wanted to be when I was older I would say "an artist". Both my parents enjoyed the creative arts and they pushed me to work on my drawing/painting at a young age when I had spare time. From that age I knew that I loved art more than most.

You are inspired by Australia as a whole, what does being Australian mean to you?
This is a very interesting question that I'm not sure I have a straightforward answer to. Having spent considerable time living overseas in a developing country, returning to Australia has given me a different perspective on my own identity as an Australian.

To me, being Australian means I have to recognise how extremely fortunate I am to be living in this country. By reflecting on this, I will understand that I have a duty to help others less fortunate than myself by firstly upholding values of respect, generosity and kindness to my neighbours.

I am inspired by the "great outdoors", the Australian landscapes that give me a reason to share these through art. I am inspired by the Australian people that fight for human rights e.g. Ben Quilty, one of our most well known artists who speaks out against social injustice. Being Australian means I should show gratitude for these landscapes, these people but also the opportunities and freedoms the country has given me to grow.

Being Australian means I must also question and criticise certain values that our Country can head towards, ideas that are fuelled by greed, fear and selfishness. Using Australia as a focus of my painting may hopefully help people reflect and discuss these ideas I've mentioned when viewing my work.

Which skills as an architect have you seen transcend into your art?
Probably learning rules of perspective, scale, composition, balance and ratios in building which can be translated to the artistic field. Architecture sits somewhere in the middle of science and art, and sometimes these principles can be easily transferred further to the artistic end of the spectrum. Understanding when something "works" is a skill that you slowly develop whilst learning these ideas. Creating iterations and pushing yourself to keep improving a design is another skill that can be transferred from the architecture/construction field to the canvas.

What skill do you want to master, that you haven't quite mastered yet?
I still have a long way to go as a painter before I am confident in my skills. I would like to be able to paint with more precision, paint with more flare and create my own identity as an artist. Because of the way I use the oil paint medium in thick strokes, I need to get better at showing finer detail on a smaller scale to avoid looking too messy and amateur.

Also, I need to perfect different colour palettes to suit colour themes, so working on mixing certain types of paints, understanding different combinations and what works together is an important skill as a (thick) oil painting artist that I would like to develop.

What are your top three sources of inspiration to fix a creative block?
I always try and take photos on my phone when I am out and about. If ever I am struggling with ideas I might go through my phone, see something that I liked and try and paint it or some part of it. Could be landscapes around Sydney, people, objects or anything that I think would look cool hung up on a wall.

Music is a great way to inspire me to get up and paint. Because of my style of painting is based heavily on movement and quick, short sessions in front of the canvas, music offers a great source of energy to get up and into a rhythm where I can start to "feel" the process a bit better. I will try and play something energetic, Hip Hop or some House tunes that get me moving around my space and bopping my head. It builds confidence and stops me from pausing and over-thinking my next move, which creates indecision and that shows up in the artwork.

I always try and study my biggest art influencers. Ben Quilty, Guy Maestri, Nicholas Harding, Paul Ryan and Craig Waddell just to name a small few. All of these artists have reached great success in the Australian art scene and they all paint in the thick stroke/palette knife style of oil painting. Looking at their work closely and doing my best to understand their work always inspires me to pick up the knife and start slapping paint on the canvas.

You can see all of Bernard’s available paintings here

Art Curator Takeover: Artist Kate Robinson at Birkenhead Point

By Louisa Tiley

Artist Kate Robinson talks the complex paper designs that feature in her installation Couture in Bloom for Birkenhead Point Shopping Centre.

This summer the Art Pharmacy team are bringing Birkenhead Point Centre to life through exciting installations by a number of established Australian artists, including Jo Neville AKA Paper Couture.

This week writer Louisa Tiley spoke to paper maestro Kate Robinson about her elaborate contribution to the Birkenhead Point space. A spacious window display will house Robinson’s intricate, paper-based dresses - a body of work titled Couture in Bloom. They’re dramatic and oversized, with butterfly laden skirts draping up the walls in a fan-like way.

Read on to find out more about Robinson’s unique artistic approach, motivation behind her recent works and ongoing evolution as an artist.

What are the steps in creating each piece (and how long does the process generally take)?
I always start with a mood board. I collect images that I have sourced online from web searches and Instagram etc. I normally do this over a couple of weeks. Then I will narrow down my images to a moodboard of colours, textures and shapes that I think will work well.

While I am collecting images I will be thinking about my own designs and shapes that I want to work with and this will determine the final moodboards. I will make some initial sketches and doodles on paper but I will mainly put my concepts together on the computer.

  Early concepts for  Couture in Bloom .

Early concepts for Couture in Bloom.

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For this project, and previous paper outfits I have made, I don’t make final sketches of how the pieces will look. I find it easier to have a rough concept and then create the final design as I make the outfits, this allows me more freedom.

How crucial is the butterfly symbol to this work?
The butterfly is the key symbol in my outfits, they are symbols of transformation and growth but also of fragility, and paper can be such a fragile medium to work with.

By not having a finalised sketch to base these pieces on I can adapt and change them as they come together. I think this element of the outfits growing into their own creation as I add butterflies reflects the symbol of the butterfly and metamorphosis.

 A close up of Kate Robinson’s paper butterflies.

A close up of Kate Robinson’s paper butterflies.

What’s the motivation behind your vibrant colour palette?
As my work will be displayed in the warmer months, and the colour palette for Birkenhead Point was called bright summer, I wanted to make sure I used bright colours in my art project. Spring and summer are times for new life and growth and I thought that a rainbow of colours would reflect the season change and also reflect the new development for Birkenhead Point.

 Paper samples from Couture in Bloom.

Paper samples from Couture in Bloom.

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What materials do you use? And where do you source them?
For this project I am working in mainly in paper. It's so tactile and it comes in so many textures, thicknesses and colours. I enjoy working out how paper can be manipulated to form different shapes, and that it can be beautiful flat as well as 3D.

I liaise directly with paper houses to source my paper, as it means I can buy the sheets in a larger format and have access to a wider variety of thicknesses, finishes and colours.

For the base construction of Couture in Bloom I have also used different bodysuits and an actual suit to adhere the paper butterflies to. The skirts of the butterflies are made from fishing line.

How do you view the relationship between fashion and art?
I like the concept of fashion as art and I do not feel that art needs to be only hung on walls or shown in an art space. Fashion, like art, is about people having something to say and a way to express themselves.

Have you encountered many challenges in the fashion space?
The only fashion pieces I have ever created have been in paper, which can be quite a challenge in itself - but it’s the challenge I enjoy most. Working out how I can make paper into a material that can be draped like fabric really interests me as paper has a much more rigid fibre structure than most fabrics.

When, how and why did you get into art making?
I have always enjoyed drawing and creating art. I studied fine arts at university but ending up working in graphic design once I graduated. Since I started working fulltime in graphic design, I have created artworks in my own time through the medium of drawing, painting and papercuts.

I saw a paper artist present at Semi Permanent in 2013 and decided I wanted to do that for a living. I have had some great opportunities over the past 4 years working in paper, and most of my paper works are commercial commissions.

My next plan is to create a collection of personal paper pieces over the next 12 months, inspired by travels from the last few years - particularly the Moorish patterns and architecture from Spain, Morocco and India.

Who is your art idol?
I don’t have one art idol, but there are several artists that inspire me (although my own work doesn’t necessarily reflect their styles).

I really like the graphic, bold style of both Andy Warhol and Meggs, an Australia graffiti artist. I have worked in graphic design for the past 15 years and I can see similarities between their use and choices of colour in my own graphic design work.

Other artists and their work that inspire me include John Lennon’s illustrations and paper artist Matt Shlian’s geometric pieces.

You can view Robinson’s Couture in Bloom at Birkenhead Point from 3rd November 2017.

Getting To Know: Luca Goczey

Written by Jennifer Hesketh AKA Quirky Bones

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Art Pharmacy artist and COFA graduate Luca Goczey creates works that are a meditative reflection of her personal experiences; with her dramatic black ink and watercolour creations create depth and a breaking of space. Being surrounded by art her whole life, Luca talks to Art Pharmacy about how her burgeoning body of work places an emphasis on symbolism, and why emerging artists motivate her.

Growing up surrounded by art - what specifically drew you to art playing a role within your day to day life?
Art was always a loveable habit of mine when I was younger, but continually throughout my life it became more of a conscious and necessary activity. Everyone has input and output channels which one uses to interact with the world. While for others this might be sport or even work, for me my most important outlet was drawing and creating.

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Your work presents strong systems of symbolism which reflects your experiences - how is this represented throughout certain aspects of your work?
The symbolism within my work is present through various aspects such as colour, pattern and size each representing different people, places; and times. The colours in which I use within my practice play a huge role in referring to my different moods and times.

For me I can see clear parallels can be drawn between my use of colour and periods of my life where as patterns usually represents people while as the use of size; and repetition visually portrays my mental states.

Your artworks are bold and heavily feature a black and white colour scheme - what other art styles or artists have influenced your work?
Many of my pieces I have at Art Pharmacy hold an appreciation to the clean and bold nature of black and white. By taking colour out of the equation my works become more focused on the subject matter. The use of black and white makes my drawings feel almost naked in a sense.

In regards to my influences I wouldn't say that my art is heavily influenced by any particular artistic styles or any certain artists. But when I view my work I can definitely tell that I draw throughly from surrealism, romanticism and often oriental art as well.

I know that I am following various talented artists on different social media platforms whom are all in a very similar career position as myself. For me it is very nice to be able to follow their progress; watch them grow and succeed. I find this motivates me more than any viewing any other famous artists progression.

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With a background in studying Painting and Philosophy - what connection do you feel exists between the two subject matters?
When reading this question I can't say for sure that all philosophical themes have a connection to art, but the body of work I create and the philosophies I enjoy do go hand in hand. On the one hand, philosophy stands as a source of inspiration for me; reading topics such as consciousness; and metaphysics have inspired such imagery that over time for me. I have seen it slowly develop into my artworks.

Whereas on the other hand, art has it's own individual department in philosophy, wherein that the aesthetics often explore the very nature of art.

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What projects do you have coming up or would like to work on in the future?
Lately I have actually worked on quite different projects recently - one called 'The Bar Series Sydney Edition'. This series is comprised of ten black and white watercolour; and felt tip pen illustrations which are to be showcases within a range of small bars located in Sydney.

Another project I have been working on is quite different -  cocktail menu illustrations. I’ve decided to carry through my black and white, intricately hand-drawn style to these pieces.

You can see all of Luca's works for sale here

Pressure Sensitive - Interview

V∆ND∆L Gallery will soon be celebrating the opening night of ‘Pressure Sensitive’, an exhibition by artist Joel Dickens

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“Children unleash scribble in a moment of uninhibited, spontaneous, emotional expression - subconscious, absent-minded and pure.

This is not that.

Here, childlike and spontaneous gestures are constricted by the neuroses of adulthood. The paint never reaches the boundary; staying within the lines. Identity is restricted by the adult ego, and passions are sacrificed to the day-to-day realities of life. Good intentions meet their limitations. A nervous breakdown that you’re not allowed to have.

The paintings are created by laying many layers of paint, before meticulously chipping away to create a calculated expression of hi-key emotional outburst.

The gestural works encapsulate a tension between the modern adult’s state of freedom and imprisonment. Taking flight in a cage.”

Over the past couple of years Joel has experienced a number of confronting events which have both inspired and hindered his practice.

‘Pressure Sensitive’, is a series of works made around these events, the title alluding to this period in the artist’s life. This exhibition at Vandal Gallery will be the first time these new works have been shown as a series, showcasing his new approach and marking a new period in the artist's career.

Art Pharmacy writer, Karl Sagraab sat down with Joel to discuss how he came to create ‘Pressure Sensitive’.

What made you decide you wanted to be a painter?
I saw a photo, when I was about 15, of Guernica hanging at the UN which made an impression on me. It suggested to me, that painting could make a difference in some way, and that's what I wanted to do. It turned out that Guernica was a tapestry copy and that the UN is less than perfect, but at the time it pulled two things together in my mind, art and wanting to make the world a better place. I'm a bit more cynical now but I continue to believe that art can make a difference to people's thinking and that the ripple-effect from one person's interaction with an artwork or book, upon society, can be significant.

Can you describe your practice, your use of medium and material, for the series of works in Pressure Sensitive?
Like most artists I struggle to find the amount of time I would like to paint. I have a family, a house and a day job. In this way the work has a performative aspect to it, inasmuch as it is created within and in reaction to life's events. Time to paint is snatched from the jaws of everyday responsibilities and the work is, in no small way, inspired by this predicament. In terms of medium, I use both acrylic and oil; a number of layers of acrylic underpainting and then an oil layer which I extract the gesture from. The title refers to both the technique of the production and the environment the work is painted in.

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Did you have an underlying theme in mind when creating the works or did they come about individually and come together in exhibition form in the end? In other words, was there a particular inspiration for these works?
The inspiration for each work can differ dramatically. As with previous work, they are painted in reaction to events, be they personal, political or environmental. With this work now, however, there is a greater emphasis on the language, the motif,  which I've spent a few years developing and arriving at. The individual works are painted in their own space and time and in response to a particular event. But the exhibition might be read as a series of diary entries, scribbled utterances, or a cross section sample of one person's existence.

This exhibition is in Sydney but do you have a favourite place to exhibit your works?
I had a couple of exhibitions in Buenos Aires which was exciting. There's a vibrant painting scene there and, for some reason, my work went down well. In terms of where it ends up, my work has been bought for display in foyers and restaurants. It gives me a kick when the work can be seen in public spaces, where the viewers are many and constantly changing.

Are there any painters or artists that inspire or influence you and you work?
The work I'm influenced by is the work that has had the greatest emotional impact on me. I'm a fan of anything that investigates the human condition. There are many artists I like but I have been inspired and influenced by; Pablo Picasso, Franz Klein, Willem De Kooning, Ernst Ludvig Kirchner, Edvard Munch, Kathe Kolwitz, Helen Saunders, Bram van Welde, Graham Sutherland, Alexander Calder, Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Sylvia Plath, Hermann Hesse, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. I sometimes feel embarrassed that my influences aren't more obscure, but there you go...

Vandal Gallery will be hosting the opening of Pressure Sensitive on Tuesday 5th of September.

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