Marie Matthews is a watercolour artist who has settled in Woolgoolga after spending a number of years moving from place to place. We spoke to her about what she loves about the Coffs Coast and the art community here, her passion for painting and what inspires her.
Hi Marie. Tell us about your connection to the Coffs Coast.
I grew up in New Zealand and met my mining engineer husband while teaching in Broken Hill. As a result of my husband’s work, over a number of years we lived in Canberra, Christmas Island, the Pilbara in Western Australia and Barraba in New South Wales, before moving to Woolgoolga on the Coffs Coast. We started a hydroponic business in Woolgoolga in 1980, growing cut flowers and tomatoes, which began our love and engagement with the Coffs Coast.
Has art always been a big part of your life?
Absolutely! As a child I always loved drawing and with great excitement had the occasional sketch published in the New Zealand Herald. I took art electives through high school and teachers’ college.
I took up painting at the remote phosphate mining community on Christmas Island as a hobby. I continued to paint in Goldsworthy, while we were in the Pilbara, and my first painting lesson, which lasted all day, was watching the Australian landscape painter Leonard Long working in the field on paintings commissioned by the mining company. Wherever we have been based or travelled, I visit art galleries to observe and study art, while my husband heads off to examine old mines.
Moving to Barraba provided greater opportunities and access to learn about art and visit exhibitions; it also was the first town where I publicly displayed my work and entered other art shows. I have won my share of awards and sold many paintings in exhibitions and commercial galleries. In my life I have pursued artistic activities, including teaching workshops and art classes, contributing to group murals, adventuring out on painting trips and any other art activities that are held at Woolgoolga Art Gallery and in the area.
What sort of mediums do you work with?
I have worked in oils, pastels, acrylics and watercolours. Unfortunately, I developed allergies to oils and pastels, but that didn’t stop me from painting, and watercolour became my main medium.
What attracted you to use watercolour?
I have always loved watercolour and remember being hooked when in the early days I had the opportunity to observe renowned watercolour artist Rupert Richardson demonstrating style and methods. Another major influence was traditional landscape painter Tom Offord, who taught drawing and watercolour.
Are you self taught?
Yes and no. For many years we were in remote locations and you learn from trial and error, but whenever there were opportunities to attend a class or observe an artist at work, I would be in the front row. I am so lucky to have travelled this wonderful art journey, seeking knowledge in various locations via tutors, books, exhibitions and galleries.
How has the Coffs Coast inspired your work?
The Coffs Coast, and especially Woolgoolga, are an artist’s dream, with a magnificent coast and scenery available, with various moods to inspire your creations. I am currently exploring waves and seascapes, that are an endless fascination, as they constantly change in our environment.
What is the art community like in Woolgoolga?
Everybody knows Woolgoolga is the place to be on the northern beaches, not only because of its beauty, but the people are so diverse and the art community is amazing and easy to connect.
Woolgoolga Art Group started as a small group of people with a passion for art. They were potters, woodworkers, painters and craft makers who worked together to acquire a small gallery of their own. Art lovers have kept that gallery going for over 40 years, and it is a great asset for the Woolgoolga community.
Is there anyone in particular who has been a big influence on you?
I am influenced every day and everywhere I look. I tend to study with artists who interest me, such as Australian acrylic artist Peter Griffen and for a completely different form of art this weekend, I am attending an Ink Workshop at Woolgoolga Art Gallery.
Where can people see your pieces?
Woolgoolga Art Gallery is the principle residence for my works. The gallery is open seven days a week from 10 – 4pm, and you will always find one of my works on the wall.
If you have some spare time, Woolgoolga is a hidden piece of paradise that is worth a visit, but don’t forget to visit the little gallery near the helicopter as you enter the town, or come to the biggest annual artist fair “Art by the Sea” on Easter Monday in Woolgoolga, where for free you can see me and other local artists demonstrating and displaying their works on Beach Reserve.