Tag Archives: The Makers Shed

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.

Aussie tales told with a passion for diversity

“I love to start a conversation, not just about my stories but about Australian stories generally”

AUTHOR Kim Kelly is renowned for diving into the historical details behind her popular novels, and as Glen Innes is soon to discover she loves visiting country towns in pursuit of inspiration.

“I often think I only write novels as an excuse to ferret through piles of ephemera and social trivia,” Kelly said.

“My head is an historical hoarder’s junkyard. I once bailed up a local historian at Gulgong’s Pioneer Museum to interrogate him about early washing machines.”

Kelly’s 2018 title Lady Bird & The Fox is a Victorian-era novel set in the NSW Central West, where she resides.

“I was definitely always going to tell a Gold Rush tale,” she said.

“And as scary as it was to contemplate, I was probably always going to write a sparklingly smart and wonderful Aboriginal heroine.

“I grew up at La Perouse, in Sydney, where the Aboriginal community is vibrant and diverse; the girlfriends I made and the education I received there were an enormous influence on me, and still are. Annie Bird from the novel is in many ways a tribute to those women who have had such an impact on my life.”

As she was gathering inspiration for the book, Kelly came across a newspaper snippet about an Aboriginal bushranger known as Mary Ann Bugg.

“The story sparks began to fly and the voice of Annie Bird emerged – pulling on her knee-high boots and ready to go,” she said.

“But I can’t write an Aboriginal character, can I? That was my first fear. I have no right to take on the voice of someone so culturally and historically different. For a couple of years I wrestled with the question, but Annie just wouldn’t leave me alone.

“She deserved a handsome hero, I supposed – as most of my stories involve some kind of love story, not just romantic love, but partnering, nourishing love, love that leads to all kinds of discoveries.

“Jem Fox is one of my favourite characters so far. Apart from being a very naughty boy and therefore fun to write, in so many ways he represents my own search for my Jewish heritage – and there was a flamboyant rake or two in that lot.”

Kelly describes the search for her Jewish forebears as “a trip like no other” that led to discoveries about the prejudice and difficulties they faced, and the contributions they made to colonial business and industry.

“Those Jews of the gold rush era gave us our first Australian-born governor-general, Sir Isaac Isaacs, and our most famous soldier, Sir John Monash, both born during those ‘wild west’ days – and, eventually, me!” she said.

Publishing savvy

Kim Kelly is a ghostwriter and book editor with over twenty years’ experience in the Australian publishing industry, yet she still makes time for talking to readers in country libraries.

“The most common reaction I receive at book talks is appreciation that I’m telling Australian tales,” she said.

“Often, there’s interest in my publishing background, too, so I tend to get a few questions about the nuts and bolts of writing and how to get your work out there.”

Kelly is what’s known as a ‘hybrid author’: one who has titles traditionally-published and who also self-publishes.

“All of my novels except for Lady Bird & The Fox and my forthcoming, Sunshine, were originally traditionally-published,” she said.

“My new, independently-published titles and republished backlist are produced by a team I’ve put together myself – editor Alexandra Nahlous, designer Alissa Dinallo, and publisher Joel Naoum.

“It was really important to me that I employ experienced and respected industry professionals if I was going to go out on my own.

“It began as a bit of an experiment, just to see what was possible and what I might learn, and has far exceeded my expectations – not just financially, but in terms of publishing pleasure.”

Despite studying literature and history at Sydney University and the University of New England, it took Kelly a long time to summon the courage to write a novel.

“It wasn’t until I lucked out landing a job at Random House as a book editor that the world of writing possibility opened up for me,” she said.

“Working with so many different authors, from Miles Franklin winners to the big names in romance, taught me so much and dared me to make my secret storytelling dreams a reality.

“Wherever I go, I love to start a conversation, not just about my stories but about Australian stories generally. Sometimes the chat is quite lively, and whenever we go over time, or I hear readers still chatting as they leave, it gives me such a high.

“All of my novels take a moment in Australian social and political history and explore it with that sense of wonder and curiosity, as well as a deep love and gratitude for this amazing country we call home.”

Author Kim Kelly in conversation at The Makers Shed, Glen Innes, for the High Country Handmade Showcase, March 3.

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.