“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.
“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.
“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.”