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This weeks guest is Yvonne Kennedy, a painter who lives South East of Brisbane, Australia. Yvonne began painting after her last child was born and says she hasn’t stopped since. She has an interesting, highly textured style that has evolved over the years as she’s gone from self-taught to finding artistic mentors. She primarily paints bright native Australian birds and flowers that she sees in her back garden and local area.
What you will learn in this episode
• Yvonne’s journey from office worker to artist
• How she finds inspiration and plans her artworks
• Yvonne’s interesting artistic style and process
• Tips for getting unstuck and staying on track
• Yvonne’s favourite creative tools and resources
Yvonne’s journey from office worker to artist
Originally from England, Yvonne’s family moved to Australia when she was 8 years old. She never did art at school but always had a sketchbook in her hand and her mother was very encouraging of drawing, colouring and other artistic activities. After school, Yvonne went into the boring life of office work for many years, which she hated. It was after her last baby that someone gave her some paint, and she hasn’t stopped painting since.
Yvonne started painting with oil paints, and began by painting a fish and an Australian native parrot called a long-billed corella. She tried to paint in a realistic photographic way, including painting the every hair or feather. But Yvonne always knew something was missing as it used to take her up to a year to finish a painting. Five years ago she went to a demonstration at art supplies store, The Art Shed, by local artist De Gillette, who subsequently became Yvonne’s teacher. She learned how to use bright colours and to paint with more looseness and movement. This is what was missing before and what her paintings really needed.
How Yvonne finds inspiration and plans her artwork
Yvonne says inspiration is all over the place in Australia, thanks to the many bright birds and flowers. Her back garden is full of native plants, lorikeets and honeyeaters, and living by the water she also finds lots of inspiration. The lorikeets are her favourite, however being very quick creatures, Yvonne usually needs the helps of Google images to piece together ideas of how to draw them. She’ll often find an image of a flower and combine it with a number of images of lorikeets to create the plan. She tends to paint flowers or birds, and has found if she doesn’t paint something she really loves, then the paintings aren’t as good.
Having grown up always trying to colour perfectly inside the lines, Yvonne still finds she has a tendency to want to get everything very perfect. She says she has arguments inside her head with herself, but has discovered a trick to help with that. She blasts loud rock music, like AC/DC, Queen or Bon Jovi, in the art room when she’s painting so her brain can’t hear anything and it loosens her up.
Yvonne’s artistic style and process
Yvonne’s style incorporates loads of texture. She can never remember the proper words, so she’s made up a term for what she does to create that texture. She calls it ‘gooping’. It’s based of a mix of thick Gesso and a texture paste, which she calls ‘goop’. She says she’s hopeless with palette knives, so her teacher, De Gillett, came up with the idea of painting the texture like icing a cake. So, Yvonne now uses plastic seal bags, which she cuts the corner off and decorates the painting like a cake! She does use the palette knives in a few spots, but loves the touchy-feely nature of the icing process and loves the texture and feel of the ‘goop’ when it’s dry.
Once Yvonne has had a play with some images in Photoshop and is ready to paint, she uses acrylics (which she now prefers to oils). She puts some colour down on the canvas with Gesso, and then draws very loosely in charcoal where she thinks the bits will go. After that, it’s many layers of texture to build up the background first. It can be 5 or 6 layers just in the background, and to do the bird’s feathers as well. It’s quite a long process, which is why Yvonne often has 3 or 4 canvases going at once. While one is drying she works on another, although thankfully in Australia the generally warm climate helps the drying process.
After layer upon layer of texture, Yvonne puts down the inks and washes, which really shines over the background. After that, she paints the faces and spends a lot of time painting the details very well. Then she adds more layers of goop and ink, goop and ink. In the end, there can be 15 layers. It means the colours in the painting looks different from different angles and the process is part of what Yvonne loves about it. It’s actually De Gillette’s process, and Yvonne changes and plays around with it for herself.
Getting unstuck and staying on track
Yvonne has struggled in the past with getting stuck for ideas and lacking inspiration, however, she finds if she has a break from it, the inspiration comes. Every 10 weeks when her daughter is on school holidays, she has two weeks complete break. By the end she’s so desperate to get back into the art room that the ideas just flow. She also gets ideas from photographs, and will often remember them in the shower and then have to search for the photo to begin drawing and doodling the idea from there. In general, Yvonne finds plenty to look at in her local area, which helps too.
The hardest part for Yvonne is that she gets bored very quickly and can flit and float from one thing to the next without finishing anything. The cure for this is to have a deadline, so she enters into as many local art shows as she can. She also does do commissions, but always worries about pleasing the customers, so prefers to do paintings first and have others buy from there. Currently, she is exhibiting some of her paintings on the wall of a local bespoke jeweler shop. Yvonne is also splitting her time between caring for her Dad and painting, so it’s not full time at the moment. Some days it’s only the deadline of a show that gets her into the art room to work. However, she usually finds that once she’s in there with the music playing loudly, she can paint like crazy.
Yvonne’s favourite creative tools and inspirations
Yvonne says she used to use pencils but would get too pedantic and rub out too much, so now her favourite tool is the humble ball point pen
She also uses Photoshop, and the Wacom tablet for planning her paintings.