Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

What is art? It makes you think and feel, whether those feelings are of appreciation or joy or even resentment or distaste, art makes an impact on everyone. Anyone can be an artist, anyone can draw a on a piece of paper or apply paint to a canvas, but it takes a person with real dedication and passion to create great art. Art has always fascinated me since my early years of school when I began undertaking art classes; the ability to create something beautiful (or in many of my cases, horrible) was exciting. My Year 12 Art Studies led me to discover some very talented artists, including Del Katherin Barton, David Bromley, Debbie Miller and in particular Marie Larkin. Lakin’s strange and alien-like characters in her painting collection, Rhyme and Reason, became my insperation for developing my own work and since then have become obsessed with following her facebook page which can be found at the link provided here http://www.facebook.com/dollandpony and continuing to stalk study her progress in the on going works. In becoming familiar with her through my blog page I enquired and was given the pleasure of conducting a interview with my artist crush.

Marie larkin

(The very talented Marie Larkin)

A short introduction to the brilliant Marie Larkin….

I have a Bachelor of Art Education and have been a visual artist and art teacher since 1980. I gained national recognition and success in the 1990’s as an embroiderer with a number of group and solo shows and two touring exhibitions through regional galleries in Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales.  My work was featured in Textile Fibre Forum, The Land newspaper and Masters of their Craft, a coffee table book by art historian, Norris Iannou.  I won The Dame Nancy Buttfield Embroidery Prize and The Namoi Valley Cotton Fibre Acquisitive Award.  Through the exhibition tour of Revealing Threads I was the recipient of a $10,000 Australia Council Grant that allowed me to travel to various towns and cities to give workshops.  I now work in painting, drawing, mixed media and sculpture and produce my artwork from a loft studio in my home near Tamworth, NSW.

What inspired your works?

I think my general inspiration is a very feminine aesthetic.  I create richly coloured, finely detailed, alternate worlds inhabited by beautiful girls, at once strange, yet delightful, with expressive eyes and dark natures. Works in painting, drawing and sculpture are inspired by fairytale and nursery rhyme narratives, pop culture, beauty and the feminine persona. There always has to be a girl in the work. For me the artwork has to have that human element so it can have some kind of narrative and the girls give the works their emotional content. Whether it is a nursery rhyme series like Rhyme and Reason or tattoo imagery such as the Irezumi Angel series or the current body of work I am creating at present which uses the horse and pony as a symbol, the works all involve a female character.

The eyes are enormously important in the artworks. Again they are the clue to the emotional content and as I’ve improved over the past two years the girls have become more expressive – they actually ‘think’ now. The works below are a good example. On the left is the original painting and on the right is a repainted version I made later. Same painting, same canvas, just reworked.  In the second works you can almost ‘hear’ the girls thinking and their gaze engages the viewer more effectively.

Which of your artwork pieces is your favourite?

I think my favourite is always the one I am currently working on! The painting above,  Irezumi Angel,  is my favourite from that series, and Sleeping Beauty, the painting is my favourite from the Rhyme and Reason series, although I am still very fond of Mis-Muffet who sold quite some time ago.

Sleeping Beauty

Mis-Muffet

Is there an artist you relate to?

I have many artists I admire or whose style I am influenced by. Lori Early, Mark Ryden, Kukula, Caia Koopman, Ray Caesar, Natalie Shau, Brian Viveros, Lee Guk Hyun, John Brophy, Greg ‘Craola’ Simkins, Ken Keirns, Melissa Forman. I tend to like the Pop Surrealists and Lowbrow artists and painters with excellent technique.

Caia Koopman- Road Side Angel 

Brian M. Viveros– Dirtyland 4 Life

How long have you been painting/drawing/etc?

All my life really. I have always been an ‘artist’ – or someone who is compelled to make images and objects. I began teaching in 1980. I made a name for myself as an embroidery artist in the 1990’s and I was really very successful in that field. I was self taught in terms of learning stitches etc. It is impossible to be a successful artist and a good teacher at the same time. There simply isn’t the headspace for it. During the period 2000 to 2009 I was a full time art teacher again and in that role was responsible for teaching Yrs 7 through 12 and all the programming at my school, so my art career took a backseat during that period. I still made art, but not to exhibit or sell. The demands of my students’ creative efforts came first.  After 2009 I began to pursue my art again and that was when I began painting full time. I took up oil painting about two years ago.
What/who inspired you in your Rhyme and Reason collection?

Rhyme and Reason is a series of drawings, paintings and sculptures based on nursery rhymes with a darker twist.  The nursery rhyme and fairytale gave me the opportunity to play with an accessible, already familiar narrative and then surprise the audience with a different interpretation.I think the narrative is an important quality in art. The fairytales really lent themselves to my illustrative style and allow me to use quirky female characters.  They allowed me to create an alternate world to escape to and I love nothing better than painting little hills and lakes, and houses and roads that don’t really exist except in my imagination.

Which painting/drawing part of this particular collection is your favorite and why?

Sleeping Beauty, the painting is my favourite from the Rhyme and Reason series. It’s very big so it’s quite impressive, and there is something about the setting, detail and female character which I just love.

Have you ever had moments where you felt like giving up?

Many, many, times. I get rejections all the time and some can be quite hard. There is a great deal of frustration in getting recognition.  I haven’t been able to find inclusion in the current popular group of female artists. But you have to get used to that. And you have to ‘man up’, learn to roll with the punches, and toughen up the old artistic ego. Have faith in what you are doing. I am a very good technician and I work incredibly hard but I’m not a visionary or a particularly talented artist and I understand that. There are a lot, and I mean a lot of very very good painters out there to compete with and they are quite frankly much better than me.  The cost of being an artist is quite high. Galleries take up to 50% commission and artwork is a luxury item people can do without. It is hard. But it doesn’t matter because I am compelled to make the images anyway and am very happy doing so!
What is your favorite form of medium? And why?

I think painting is. I just love being about to ‘render’ something convincingly and I love colour. I use Old Holland paint and it is extremely expensive but the colours are so rich and I even enjoy the physical sensation of painting, os the paint going smoothly onto the canvas. That being said, I again stress I consider myself a technician – not a great painter. I had a student in Yr 9 who I would consider a natural painter. In the space of about 10 sq inches of her painting she had applied her paint in about five different ways. That’s a painter!

What’s the best thing about being an artist?

Everyone thinks it must be really cool! Actually it is. It’s a great gift and I love to think there isn’t anything I can’t draw or paint if I put my mind to it. There is a feeling of empowerment in that. I love it that I feel like I want to make something or create something so I do. it’s that simple. I’ve finally reached a point in my life where most days I can spend painting, drawing or designing my merchandise. That’s very satisfying. And I love it that what I do makes other people happy and gives them joy in their lives. That people get excited when they buy one of my works or commission one. Particularly commissions when I can put the little extra touches and references into their artwork that have real meaning for them.

What’s the worst thing about being an artist?

Frustration. Wanting to sell more work. Wanting greater recognition. Wanting to be better than you are.

Is there a purpose to your artwork?

I make my art to sell but, that being said, I make my art to please me. I treat each work as an exercise in improving, then everything else is a bonus!

How do you feel when people interpret your artwork differently?

Mostly I like it because it’s like seeing the work with fresh eyes, with an unexpected perspective. It can be quite helpful if the work isn’t finished. I might emphasise or develop an aspect that I hadn’t seen as clearly.

What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Don’t be afraid of rejection. Concentrate on the positive. Seek criticism, listen to advice and feedback if you can get it. Never, ever be satisfied with your level of expertise – keep raising the bar and strive to refine and perfect your craft. Look at the work of other artists and really examine what makes it successful. Look at their technique to help you learn. Don’t panic when something isn’t working.  Sometimes you muddle along and then it all gels. Be prepared to rework or toss a work. Don’t be precious. Concentrate on the positive. Be patient. Follow through in terms of pushing a work to be the very best you can produce, you never know where going that extra mile will take you, and I speak from personal experience there!

Kind regards to the brilliant Marie Larkin for taking her time to answer these questions, and for providing excellent advice to aspiring artists. I encourage everyone to follow Marie via her Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/dollandpony, and to take a look at her website, http://www.marielarkin.com.au/

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