Taking a brief hiatus from her role as an art teacher, Liz Smith has rediscovered her passion for drawing.
FOCUS took a stroll along the beach with the artist to find out about her inspiration and upcoming exhibition.
What is your connection to the Coffs Coast?
Last year my husband and I were looking for a “sea change” from Bathurst in the Central West, and that is exactly what we got when we moved to Nambucca Heads.
Where does the inspiration for your drawings come from?
I studied Natural History Illustration at The University of Newcastle, which was the perfect blend of science and art. I have always had an affinity with nature and draw most of my inspiration from the natural world. I try to complement the physical characteristics of a subject with unrelated objects, a personality or mood, to create an artwork with a slightly surreal feel.
I like to work largely from photos, so generally draw things that are easily accessible or that I have been lucky enough to stumble across while the camera was at hand. The challenge is then finding the right combination of every day forms that complement each other enough to create an artwork that moves beyond the ordinary.
When and why did you start drawing?
I think I have always been creative. Even when I was small I was always drawing, painting and making. I studied art all the way through high school and uni, but have really only become serious about being an independent artist recently. By trade I am a high school art teacher, which I found did not leave a lot of room for me to establish myself. I have taken some time away from teaching to focus on doing just that. I miss the buzz of a productive art class, but am enjoying seeing my body of work grow.
I started with drawing because I felt I had not approached it seriously since my time at uni. It seemed like a good place to start, and I haven’t looked back.
How would you describe your style?
Representational. Surreal. I don’t think I have honed my style just yet, but would like to head towards an exploration of the sublime and the aesthetic. Two big concepts, so they should keep me going for some time.
What artists have do you admire and draw influence from?
There are so many. I am really in awe of James Guppy and Tim Storrier. For me, these two artists convey the sublime in a profound way. I find Michael Esson’s drawings are also a big influence. I love Romanticism and the Surrealists, and also traditional Natural History Illustration. Ernst Haeckel is a standout for his scientific plates that are so beautifully composed. I also admire Albert Durer’s etchings.
If you could live anywhere in the world to experience a specific period of art, which would you choose and why?
I would really like to spend some time in Italy. The Renaissance produced some beautiful art. Specifically, I would like to visit Florence and see as many original Botticellis as possible. I think it would be wonderful to immerse yourself in a world so saturated with art.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering taking up art either as a profession or a hobby?
I am only relatively new to this, but I think the key is to move past the what ifs and just start being creative. The biggest thing for me was starting. I had every excuse in the book to stop me drawing – what if people don’t like it? What if they don’t get it? What if this one isn’t as good as the last one? I found the more I drew, the more confidence I had, and slowly I built up a body of work. It is much easier to get yourself out there if you have the work to support you. I keep telling myself, “Just do it, get started”.
What are your plans for the future?
I would love to just keep producing work. Short term I have a couple of commissions to do, but after that I would like to spread my wings a little and try something different. Every day I see something new that I want to draw, paint or work with. The future is pretty open for me at the moment, and that is exciting.
Where can people find out more about you and your art?
I have an artist Facebook page under my maiden name Liz Gallwey, as there are so many Liz Smiths out there, and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively, anybody wanting to know more about me or my artwork can visit my exhibition, Harmonies & Contradictions, at the Bellingen Gallery and Framing studio this October.
View Liz Smith’s Harmonies & Contradictions, an exhibition of drawings, from the 2nd October to 4th November 2015 at the Bellingen Gallery and Faming Studio, 44 Hyde St Bellingen. Mon – Fri, 10am to 4:30pm and Sat, 9am to 12pm.