Thursday, August 22, 2013

DPW Spotlight Interview: Shirley Peters

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings.

To enter to win Shirley's painting, "Short Sharp Sprint" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing his interview.

From Shirley's DPW Gallery page:

My current show of Le Tour de France bike art will be in Amsterdam, as part of the Arps Gallery Window Project for international emerging artists. My web site: has biography and galleries. Please hop over there if you'd like to see more of my efforts!

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

I wanted to be a painter all my life. At age five, I won a painting competition with my version of "Little Red Riding Hood". From then on I was hooked!

I was also encouraged by both my parents. My mother supplied me and my siblings with large sheets of butcher's paper, and plenty of home-mixed paint. She later introduced me to a neighbour who painted beautiful horses... (inspiring!) and my dad loved to paint landscapes, and was always encouraging.

Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?

I started as a fine art painting and sculpture student after high school, then swapped to graphic design and multi-media. I slowly returned to painting when commissioned to illustrate children's books. I did a variety of courses to refresh my painting and printmaking skills.

I have painted constantly since the mid eighties, showing in cafes and with groups in artist-run galleries. This year I have found a permanent home in a commercial gallery in Sydney, my home town.

Short Sharp Sprint
(click to see original image)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the home page announcing Shirley's interview.

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

I paint in watercolour and oils, and occasionally acrylic. I've played with pastels, but am not a fan. I love linocut printmaking, when time allows. Although not having a press is awkward.

Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away?

Watercolour is my current medium of choice, as I am doing daily Le Tour de France paintings. Oil painting is always there for me; I do my larger works in oil.

Acrylics are my choice for En Plein Air. They dry fast, and therefore I can handle the painting without getting oil paint all over the car.

Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

Maybe I will do some egg tempera one day. And I'd love to do sculpture: clay modeling style.

Daily Burden
(click to see original image)

Who or what inspires you most?

I am usually inspired by the latest 'old master' show that I have seen: today I travelled four hours to see the "Turner from the Tate" show at our National Gallery in Canberra. I loved it, and will now play around with some Turner-esque watercolour stormy skies!

Renaissance painters (like Caravaggio) are my all time favourites. The Impressionists are inspiring for their 'En plein air' work.

The Australian Heildelberg School (Australian Impressionists) from the 19th century, because there are plenty of examples of these painters works in our state galleries.

What does procrastination look like for you?

My housework stops me from working. I love to have the house and my studio neat and tidy before I start.

Often I use photoshop to create my compositions: this can take a long time but it is a process that I use, rather than a delaying technique. It just looks like procrastination to others!

Spring Snow Downunder
(click to see original image)

What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

I always paint at night, regardless what I've done in the day. This guarantees one painting session, at least.

Another sure fire way to get working is to book a gallery show! I recently needed twenty-nine works for my first solo show in Sydney: when I drew up a schedule, it meant three new large paintings a week. I worked day and night for that show. And yes, the housework suffered!

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

I have to cull my ideas down to one or two projects. Alternative ideas are springing up all the time, and it takes discipline to ignore them and stay focused on the 'projects'.

But my inspiration comes in strange ways: In 2010, a personal tragedy happened. My photographer husband suffered a severe stroke (his favourite camera bag damaged the carotid artery in his neck, and caused a blockage!!) He survived, albeit with only one useful hand and limited walking ability. This meant that he needed an assistant.

The Barber
(click to see original image)

So, I now accompany him on all of his jobs. He is a 'construction' photographer, doing time-lapse photography as well as the usual railway and high-rise construction stills. So... I am inspired by the building sites that we visit. Often there are big earth moving machines, and always men in bright orange vests! This new 'job' has become my muse, and I will be painting construction more and more in the future.

Another favourite project for me is Le Tour de France. I love the sport, the riders, the colours and the action. It is such a rich, visual experience. I am not in France, though. I'm in Sydney, Australia, watching the race live on TV. I stand close to the screen with my camera, clicking at the action... as if I was there! This gives me blurred and interesting pictures which I reproduce as watercolour paintings. Originally, I tried to paint the action from 'life', but I was unable to capture more than a few fleeting memories. So the camera is essential to freeze the action. Soon I will start doing these larger, and in oils.

How do you keep art "fresh?" What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?

1. I think painting en plein air makes one stay fresh.
2. Painting daily is another way... no time to fiddle!
3. Doing three large oil paintings at once - as soon as you get stuck, you move to the next one. Then onto the third. Then, you can look back at the first with a fresh eye.
4. Visit lots of galleries and museums: look at real art, and read about artists.
5. Avoid watching the news, reading newspapers, soap operas, etc. Mass media is bad for creativity.

Classic Tour
(click to see original image)

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?

I am realising it's not how you paint, but what. Most artists can paint well enough, but choosing the right subject to paint is the deal breaker. Paint something that is exciting to you, and it will be a great painting.

What makes you happiest about your art?

I whoop around the house when I make a sale!! Or get accepted into a coveted juried show. Or get the offer to show my work in Amsterdam... the coolest city on the planet!!

But also, I love painting at night, and then waking up to see that the work looks OK in the morning light. I love to have a full day to paint... I take my acrylics and a giant piece of paper out to the beach cliffs, and paint the rocks, on the rocks. Can't get much fun-er than that!

Thanks, Shirley!

© 2013 Sophie Marine

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