Category Archives: Artists

A painter’s perseverance

“I think I always was an artist, it just took a long time for ‘it’ to flourish.”

AFTER MORE THAN twenty years living and working in the New England region, Danish-born artist Marianne la Cour shared her sense of place in an exhibition of new work at Glen Innes throughout Spring.

“I finally feel a strong connection to this area,” she says. “As with most migrants, it takes a while to feel a part of a new place, to get a sense of belonging. It wasn’t really until I moved to the countryside that I found that connection”.

“I would find it hard to live anywhere else. I love this region, its seasons, its nature and its people. They have all been a part of changing me to whom I am today. I feel so lucky to have found this place.”

Having grown up with an appreciation of abstract art, design processes and handmade principles, Marianne says she is “deeply influenced” by her cultural heritage and many northern European painters.

“I am a great fan of Danish painters Per Kirkeby, Maja Lisa Engelhardt and Mogens Andersen, to name a few,” Marianne says. She also cites Australian painters Elizabeth Cummings, Ann Thompson, Sally Gabori, Angus Nivison and Ross Laurie as sources of inspiration.

MAKER’S MARK Marianne la Cour utilises acrylic paint and pastel.

Describing her creative journey as “long and winding”, Marianne was encouraged by her mother and grandmothers. “In my younger years I wanted to be a ceramicist and an author. Later, I wanted to be an architect, but none of that happened. In Denmark, as education was paid by the government, they would only let in a certain amount of students every year to the art school and the academy of architecture”.

“I tried several times, but never got in. Instead, I ended up in a bank, which was testing for my creative mind; but later in life it proved a very beneficial education to have when running a small business. When I moved to Australia in my thirties, I decided now was the time and I immersed myself in TAFE courses and workshops, and I have never looked back.”

According to Marianne, being a practising artist in the 21st century takes hard work, time and perseverance.

“It’s a lot easier now with the internet and social media, but when I started many years ago it was almost impossible for a country artist to get a foot in the door. Rocking up with your portfolio to art galleries was tough. Sometimes you got lucky but mostly it was just a disappointment.

“Today you cannot run an art business or a creative business without a presence on social media and websites. You are essentially doing all the work the gallery owners used to do for you. More than fifty percent of my time is dedicated to having a presence on the internet, and you still have to get out there and put your work in competitions and organise exhibitions. You also have to learn to write, take good photos and constantly keep up with the technology.”

When asked about what made her stick to her dream despite the obstacles, Marianne says: “I think I always was an artist, it just took a long time for ‘it’ to flourish. When I moved to Australia, becoming an artist was my ultimate goal, and I never lost sight of that. I did a lot of other things as well to keep bread on the table, but every opportunity I had to create, I took”.

“That’s what I mean about perseverance. I keep my hands busy and my mind open. I started out small and stayed small. That just fitted best into my lifestyle, which is very important to me.”

Marianne’s 2019 exhibition ‘Landliv’ (literally ‘rural life’ in Danish) ran at The Makers Shed, Glen Innes until the end of November.

“This body of work is executed with acrylic paint,” she says. “I have also used ink, charcoal and pastel and in some of the paintings I have used fabric and paper. I have always been drawn to mixed media and collage, and quite often it finds it way into my paintings.”

Through her online business Colours on Grey, Marianne promotes regular creative workshops at her inspiring rural-set studio just outside Glen Innes.

“I love to share my skills, my way of painting and I suppose my way of looking at art,” she says. “I want it to be easy and simple for participants. When I teach, I really try to simplify things and make sure they have something to be happy about by the end of the workshop. If they leave frustrated they are never going to give it a go at home, and I am a firm believer that we all need a little bit of creativity in our lives.”

This article first appeared in New England Living magazine.

North Star artist set to shine

“It was such a relief to finally be able to devote most of my time to painting.”

ART lovers at Inverell’s town gallery noticed a vibrant new palette in two popular 2018 group shows: the colourful, highly organic work of Kate Owen.

One of her bold abstract canvases took home an Inverell Art Prize award, and another was acquired by the gallery during its contemporary exhibition. Yet despite this flush of attention it’s been a long journey back to the canvas for this North Star artist.

And now, she’s about to open her first solo exhibition at The Makers Shed, Glen Innes, as the centrepiece of the High Country Handmade Showcase.

“I have always been ‘arty’ as have my two sisters,” Kate said.

“We all created art from a young age and I did art all the way through high school, earning the art prize in my senior year in 1988.

“I went on to do fashion design at college in Sydney and work in the industry for quite a few years before opening my own business in Moree designing and making bridal gowns and special occasion clothing.”

Not long after the turn of the millennium, Kate embarked on large-scale oil paintings, but admits to putting the brushes down when she “got busy with children”.

Her creative outlet as a young mother was through running gift, homewares and café businesses at Goondiwindi.

“I have always done something with a creative bent, however, I knew one day I would get back to my art,” she said.

“Along the way I did a few workshops here and there, mostly in acrylics in order to teach myself how to use them as the practical side of me liked the fact that they dry fast and are easy to clean up!

“A few years ago I made a promise to myself that I would get back to painting when my youngest son went away to boarding school and I no longer had children at home.”

That was at the start of 2017, and ever since Kate has devoted as much time to her art as possible in order to improve and evolve her work.

“It was such a relief to finally be able to devote most of my time to painting, if only to free my mind of all the stored up ideas and express them on the canvas,” she said. 

Life of its own

When asked about her painting technique, Kate said she leaves a lot to happenstance.

“I try hard not to concern myself with the final outcome before starting, because ultimately it is the process in getting there that creates the outcome which is never apparent to me from the start,” she said.

“Some paintings have many layers beneath which gives the final work more complexity, especially when glimpses of previous layers are left.

“I also love collage, I never throw away any bit of painted paper that could just be perfect at some stage for a particular work.”

Kate admits to being inspired by French painter Henri Matisse, a master at fluid form and bold use of highly-saturated colour. She’s also long been a fan of American illustrator Eric Carle’s The Hungry Caterpillar.

“When I want to create a body of work that has a particular theme I print pictures of photos I have taken and choose images that have particularly strong shapes,” she said.

“I look at these then put them away and then go to work on the canvas with just the memory of what I’ve seen.

“This is a technique I learned from Catherine Cassidy who I greatly admire. I was lucky enough to do a workshop with her in Sydney last August.”

COLLAGE COLOUR ‘Oasis’ (detail) by Kate Owen.

A particular inspiration for Kate is Elisabeth Cummings, the multi award-winning and highly collectible Australian artist.

“Her use of colour, line, texture and scratching back creates incredibly in-depth work,” Kate said.

“She states: ‘When I get going the painting has its own life and starts demanding certain things of itself’.”

“This resonates with me completely as often I feel that the painting controls me and not the other way around.”

Kate Owen’s solo exhibition The Happenings opens at The Makers Shed, Glen Innes, at the High Country Handmade Showcase, March 3.

Feature image by Grace Cobb.

Painting herself a place in the country

“Living in the country encapsulates everything I am, if I am honest.”

ARTIST Jane Canfield has picked up a swag of awards and citations for her work capturing the light, colour and industry of Australian rural heartlands. Now, her inspiring paintings are on exhibition at two galleries in the New England region, and she’s planning to turn her gaze to this unique part of the country.

As Canfield explains, the journey only begins once she experiences a place by visiting.

“I always have to be influenced by something I’ve seen,” she says.

“Although more and more I find I catch a ‘snippet’ of something and it appears like a photo in my head.

PLEIN AIR ‘Sheds and Fences, 2016’ oil on linen.

“I am finding that I like to semi-abstract what I have seen, painted or drawn, but I hope that you can still see the landscape or the inspiration that influenced the painting.”

Widely recognised as a skillful practitioner of painting en plein air (literally, “outdoors”), NSW Central West-based Canfield is often asked to describe the process.

“Many years ago I remember reading that if you find a comfy spot, you will always find something to paint, and I have found that to be true,” she says.

“Sometimes it takes time, like walking through the landscape for a while with my backpack full of art materials, dogs running around before I start to get the feel for it.

“I often spend time in a an area, not just working but talking to people. I love meeting new people and listening to stories. I think it all informs my work.”

A creative career was inevitable for Canfield, whose father and uncles were also artists.

“Dad always wanted me to be an oil painter,” she says.

“But he was the artist in the family, so I remember at 14 confidently stating I would go into graphic design, much to Dad’s, should I say, ‘disdain’? Although he and Mum supported my choice.

“I always drew and painted, but just never thought it would be a career for me.

“It wasn’t until Dad passed away, far too young, that literally two weeks later I picked up the oils and off I went.

“There was a very strange moment as I sat in my graphic design studio, and had a canvas in front of me propped on a chair, and I thought: ‘Do I dip the brush in the linseed or the turps first?’.

“I heard my Dad’s voice tell me to ‘dip it in the turps Doobs’, which was his pet name for me. Perhaps it was the power of suggestion? Who knows?”

Grabbed by the mundane

I like urban areas that are not just pretty scenes, nothing slick. I think I turn them into my own.

Jane Canfield has painted extensively throughout the country, but her new home, an historic inn in the Central West town of Lidsdale, affords her plenty of inspiration.

“It is a coal mining area, so traditionally a little bit industrial; a little bit ratty in parts, but I like that,” she says.

CANFIELD COLOUR ‘Bright Day 2018’, gouache and pastel on paper.

“I like urban areas that are not just pretty scenes, nothing slick. I think I turn them into my own.

“I recently returned from a painting trip to Tasmania and although there are no Tasmanian works here, the work ‘Bright Day’ was definitely influenced from that trip.

“The mundane is what grabs me. Places where we live.”

Canfield recalled receiving a highly commended award at Cowra Regional Gallery for an early work she saw as “just an urban painting”.

“But the judge picked up on what really does concern me: the urban ‘creep’, the lack of planning and how we have stepped backwards as far as architecture is concerned, allowing developers to just push up these horrible ‘cheek-by-jowl’ monstrosities with no concern for airflow, light, gardens, and space!

“But it’s all about the mighty dollar. We used to have innovative architecture. Now to use designers or architects seems to be an elitist thing. We are turning into a ‘cookie cutter’ mentality. It saddens me.”

Canfield’s energetic brushstrokes speak of her battle to preserve this urban/rural divide.

“Living in the country encapsulates everything I am, if I am honest,” she says.

“As a kid, being the only child of an artist, we lived in mainly rural areas. I could entertain myself, go off to the creek, walking, riding my bike or spending time with friends.”

Canfield admits that part of what draws her to the country is affordability, but it’s also about “the little things, that is what I love”.

“I often just go and stare into space. If you saw me you may think I’m just goofing off. But it’s thinking time, listening to the birds, the wind in the trees.

“As I write, sitting in my 1850s sandstone Cobb & Co inn, the sun is setting, the temperature is dropping just a tad. I can hear the ravens and the blowflies. The light is amazing. I feel the history,” she says.

“Really, I don’t know how or why people want to live in the cities.”

Jane Canfield’s exhibition ‘Place’ is showing at The Makers Shed, Glen Innes, until February 28. Works are available to purchase online. She also has work at Walcha Gallery of Art.

PLEIN JANE ‘Winter Trees #9, 2018’ oil and charcoal on board.