Artists of Australia
Inspired by the colour and texture of the outdoors -
Inspired by the colour and texture of the outdoors -
This week I visited local artist Christine Read to have a chat and look around her garden. I already knew that Christine is influenced by her garden and love her vibrant work - and I am lucky enough to own a couple of her pieces. It was a joy to chat to her today and see her in her own backyard. (All photos taken in Christine's garden during my visit)
A little about her background for those who don’t know Christine. She has lived in the UK, as well as South Africa, before ending up in Australia. We are lucky to have her teaching and creating in our little town of Lennox Head. Christine takes small groups on sketching tours of France and the UK visiting a number of spectacular gardens along the way, so I knew she was an ideal artist for me to start my journey with.
There is nothing safe and unassuming about Christine’s art – it is vibrant and hums with energy and colour. Many of her new pieces are what she terms ‘fantasy’ still life paintings. (see bottom of Blog or her website) Christine lives in a very special part of the country with massive fig trees along the top of the property and lots of rolling grassy areas. Other trees nearby include the paperbark which provides lots of inspiration with its colours and textures.
Unsurprisingly, her house is not painted a run of the mill colour – instead it buzzes in turquoise which provides a perfect backdrop for many of the plants - including her stunning kumquat. The garden includes a number of plants that are used repeatedly in her works. She loves the heat of summer and it shines through in her work. Hot pink and red geraniums tumble over themselves in garden beds next to blue pots of sedum and other succulents.
Nasturtiums feature in a few of Christine’s works and in her garden, they are left to self-seed and cross pollinate – providing a lovely mix of orange, yellow and red. Easy care they are a lovely addition to a garden.
White is an important colour for Christine in her garden and while her white iceberg roses weren’t in bloom at the moment it is easy to imagine them there. I found a gorgeous metal white cockatoo next to a pot of white petunias creating a pool of calm – they were surrounded by branches to keep the constant attention from local bush turkeys at bay!
How does your garden influence your work? When thinking about painting I will wander around the garden looking for ideas – we have 1 acre and great views. I will often photograph and sketch -looking for colours and shadows and images. I also will go to the top of the drive and use the streetscape. I do a lot of still life and ‘fantasy’ still life with pots and flowers and landscapes. I put all three in - so I look for flowers in the garden that will fit. I do find that sometimes a certain flower will inspire a painting.
Do you have a favourite corner in the garden? I like the view from my studio - and I sit on my settee and look out and sketch that view -so I like those close to the house. The rest of property is not manicured - I like to gather leaves or gum blossoms and I love it all.
Do you have a favourite flower or plant? I love them at different times – the ‘drunken parrot tree’ is a big favourite and nasturtiums which started from a trip to Giverny that my mother went on. She painted too and she went there long before me and telling me all about them there so she planted them and their image has always been with me tumbling over with the long stems. They cross pollinate and you get great colours – yellows and oranges and red and they make me happy while reminding me of my mother. I love roses too. Mostly I try to incorporate those less exotic flowers into my works like heliconias and hibiscus – I love the bright colours. I also love daisies and sunflowers, but they don’t want to grow in my garden. The Poinciana is another I love to
include in paintings.
Which has been your favourite garden? My parent’s garden was lovely –my dad – an engineer – included a train track in the garden and he just loved planting things, which was lovely as he created a beautiful spot. In Sydney my gardens were near the beach and I had some amazing bougainvillea– it was a small garden, but it grew over the palm trees which was stunning. This garden is the biggest I have ever had, and I just love it.
How does the act of ‘making’ relate to your personality and who you are? I have always found it difficult to be social creature. I was always quite introverted and quite happy to spend time by myself making things. At 9 I was living in South Africa and in the holidays I was found at the sewing machine making doll's clothes - without being shown – just from watching. Even from early days I loved to make things for instance making Plaster of Paris models and painting them. I also adored painting Christmas decorations with my mum and grandma. I eventually discovered I am better socially if making things with friends– I love my art classes and taking people on trips.
Did you always know you would end up making art? I always drew and made things and while in high school I took art. It was not really expected that I would do art – 'A' stream students were not expected to do art - but my parents were very supportive and when the time came to choose subjects I only took one language and art. I therefore managed to take art all the way through, at the highest level and we had a great art department. Then it became trickier as I had to decide a career area – I thought of medical art, but I would have had to go to England. The teachers said I was too bright to just do art and encouraged me to go down the science track and, in the end, I put in for medicine and got in so that set me on that path. I always knew I could come back to it and always kept drawing and screen printing. I even went into business while still at school with a friend who sewed and who would make up materials I screen printed into items our friends bought off us.
Talk us through your creative process? I construct a painting – sometimes from starting with a vase or bowl and then go into the garden – I build it on the canvas and I even take things out at times. I don’t often have a whole image in my head at the start - it can evolve as the painting develops.
What has been a crucial tool or strategy in growing your art business? As I was ending my career in the medical sector, I had in my mind that 60 was a good time to change. I enjoyed my job, but I really wanted to concentrate on my art by then. I did realise that I couldn’t just stop so I worked out how to ease into it. My husband was ecstatic to move as he is a surfer, so I semi-retired and moved up here to start an art career. My mum left her job at 60 and became a proper knitter with a machine. That made me realise that I could start my second career at 60 as well – work part time and start my art business. It started with us buying a house with space for a studio – I believed I should build it and it would happen. I started with Still at the Centre and started going there and got back into my painting and by putting myself out there it got me to meet various local artists. I met Mark Waller in Lennox where I would go and paint regularly. At one point I decided that I could contribute and, along with a few others, created the Lennox Art Collective. About 4 years ago, I decided that my art classes and my painting would allow me to stop working my other job part time and just do my art full time.
What has been the most challenging lesson learnt since starting painting? I think it is to have faith in yourself – it is quite confronting to put your work out there and so it is hard not to lose heart and just keep going. My advice is not to ask your friends and family members for their opinion – just keep going with what you are making and believe in yourself.
What is the best thing that’s happened to you since you started painting? Just to be doing exactly what I want to do is such a pleasure – I do question whether I should have done art all the way through my life. My children are really supportive, my son is a film director and is a useful critic. My daughter is creative in the sense of having a great eye for knowing what makes a perfect setup in various rooms in a home – she did beautiful ceramic painting when she was younger. My daughter in law was on the production side of films and now has been curating in galleries and we go to all these great exhibitions when in the UK. They both said when starting my business that I needed social media and a website, and I did both.
What is the best advice you would give your younger self? Have faith and don’t second guess yourself. I was lacking in confidence but fortunately I got over that as it is such a waste. I decided to take every opportunity I could after reading ‘Feel the Fear and do it Anyway’ and it has been my motto from then on.
What are your top tips for a beautiful garden? Have some structure but don’t overdo it – there is too much work in a structured garden and I like a more casual approach. Try to plant what will grow in your area – give them love but if they don’t survive then they are not worth having so don’t keep replanting them. Try to choose great colour combinations to plant next to each other. I found I love an iceberg rose – you need whites in a garden as well as colours. Geraniums, while fairly ordinary, have such lovely colour and nasturtiums of course. I love some smells and lavender is a great one for its silvery foliage and the calming smell when you crush the leaves. Different leaf colour is important – plus you also need tree trunks for the structure.
Do you have any projects coming up you would like to mention? I am part of the Open studio Trail on weekends of 28/29 November and 5/6 December – website info http://www.os-bbb.com/
I hopefully have a tour going to France in September next year – this year’s tour was cancelled. It may happen but I feel we can’t make firm plans at this stage. Ongoing work of mine is shown in the Lennox LAC gallery – my face to face classes are all full but I do have some spots on zoom classes available.
To view more of Christine's work go to her website at https://christinereadart.com/
I am an Australian artist who is crazy about her garden and I'm inspired by the colours and contrasts in my backyard. I truly believe that Gardening is Art - I believe that many Artists are similarly inspired in their gardens. This Blog is for me to go and meet some of them and share their gardens and art.