We asked current exhibiting artist Skye Jefferys some questions about her painting practice.. read on for some interesting insight into her process. To see Skye’s recent work for Flux, click here.
1. How and when did you start painting?
I had skirted around the edges of painting at university, while studying a Bachelor of Design in Visual Communication. Then while working as a graphic designer, I was always finding design solutions with painting and collage, texture, stencilling, drawing…. if there was any way to avoid working on a computer – I would find it! I studied the Graduate Certificate in Visual Art at the VCA in 2010 to fuel this desire to make work with my hands. I was just really drawn to paint, the materiality of it, the techniques, the mark making, the fluidity and ability to manipulate colour and form. After my daughter was born in 2011, I threw myself into painting and had my first solo show in Canberra in 2013.
2. What / who inspires you and your work? This is an interesting question because I stopped painting for almost 2 years from 2017-2019, initially because my priorities changed for a while and then when I found I had the space to paint again, I couldn’t. I knew I wanted to paint, I needed to paint, but the inspiration and drive were not there. I kept everything packed away and I constantly asked myself “Why can’t you just paint? What’s wrong with you?” So I have had to really go inward and question who I am, what is important to my sense of self, my wellbeing and my relationships. I was really quite lost and exhausted – I think from all the moving around and travelling. I was able to start painting again after starting on medication because it gave my brain space to breathe, it cleared all the noise and allowed me to just be. Then I gave myself permission to experiment and play without any pressure. Painting, just to paint, to process thoughts and emotions, to explore challenges, to understand my relationship with myself and others. That is what drives my work. Trying to make sense of my world.
In a historical sense, I am both inspired by and captivated with the early female artists working with abstraction. Joan Mitchell, Judith Godwin, Helen Frankenthaler and Sonia Delaunay because I feel a connection with them, the themes they explored in their artwork, what drew them to make art, it all resonates with me. One of my favourite quotes about painting is by Judith Godwin who stated, “The act of painting is for me, as a woman, an act of freedom, and a realization that images generated by the female experience can be a powerful and creative expression for all humanity. My paintings are personal statements – extensions of myself. I take a truth, an intimate emotion, a question, an answer – and paint it.”
3. Do you listen to music or podcasts in the studio?
Well, it all depends on where I am at in the painting process. If I am in the flow state, I need music. If I am starting on fresh canvas, mixing colours, cleaning the space or stepping back to observe my work, I like to listen to podcasts… they are either about art or mental health.
4. How has having kids changed your arts practice?
Oh, wow. There is an entire novel in this one question alone! Motherhood puts you into a washing machine and turns you completely inside out and round and round and spits you out at some point, a very different version of yourself. You have no choice but to keep adapting and changing and evolving and letting go, so for me, my painting practice has been fuelled by them. I was 8.5 months pregnant with my second child at my first exhibition, so in a way, I have always been juggling motherhood and art concurrently.
I am committed to my arts practice now more than ever, because of them. I want them to know that it’s important to spend your life doing what you are passionate about, what makes you happy and fulfilled – if you have that opportunity. It is a luxury not afforded to everyone, so when they know what fuels them, they should pursue it with gusto, whatever it is and I will support them. I want to be a good role model for them by showing that I am not only their mum, but I am an individual with ambitions, goals, desires and dreams that I work towards and prioritise. I am acutely aware of this because my own mum was very creatively unfulfilled and so when she became unwell at the age of 50 and I watched her decline with an illness she would never recover from, I understood that if you have a desire to make art, you must. It’s too important not to. Life is short.
Practically speaking, I am more efficient with my time. I block out space during my week for painting and I get into the zone, no phones or emails or distractions. Because I co-parent with my children’s father, there are 2 days during my week they are with him, I can paint from sunrise to sunset which feels like such a solid days work. The exception to this has been covid lockdowns and remote learning, but because I paint from my garage, I am able to set the kids up with their own painting and I ask them not to interrupt me while I paint. Which of course, they never do! Never. Not at all! I also never yell. :)
5. Fun fact about you?! I’m an avid cold-water swimmer and I’m part of a gorgeous group who swim almost every day in Port Philip Bay in what’s referred to as, ‘skins’. Which means, no wetsuit. Its brutally cold and invigorating and life-changingly addictive and don’t get me started talking about it, or I will try to recruit you! It’s an obsession.