Studio Visit with Ingrid Bowen
Ingrid Bowen had been involved with The Corner Store Gallery since August 2015 when she exhibited an artwork as part of our first group exhibition Works on Paper. Ingrid also won our "Cider Inspired Art" competition last year for our F.O.O.D. Week exhibition in collaboration with Small Acres Cyder. She has been a popular exhibitor with us ever since. I recently visited Ingrid at her magnificent studio located at a shared artists facility on the outskirts of Sydney to catch up about the new exhibition.
How long have you been painting? When and why did you make the move to become a full-time artist?
I have always loved to paint and draw, though most of it was happening in my head during my career in travel and the early years of parenting. When my youngest started kindy about 6 years ago I decided to return to study visual arts and I've slowly transitioned to full time painting since then. It's as 'full time' as I can manage, around the busyness of family life. Being an artist sounds so exotic, but in reality there is so much else to do which is not at all glamorous and you have to be opportunistic and get things done when you have the time available. I'm very lucky in that my family supports and encourages me to persist with my artmaking, they knew it was what I really wanted to do. I think if you invest the time and hard work, things just have to happen.
How would you describe your painting style?
Whimsical? Quiet? Ambiguous? I don't know, really - maybe interpretive landscapes?
Talk us through your artmaking process. What makes one of your artworks successful?
In terms of being successful, finding the balance between letting the pigment do its own wonderful thing and adding just enough detail to get the viewer's imagination started is the point I feel a painting is complete.
My process has two stages, the first one is really fast and the second one is really slow. I'm normally quite an impulsive person but I have set myself a couple of rules and I'm not really sure why, except that maybe I wanted to maintain the qualities of the first few pieces of work I made using this technique.
Firstly I'm thinking of a place, or the feel of a place - the impression you might have in your mind's eye. Then I apply the watercolour very loosely with lots of water, without much control at all and just try to lay something down that has its own legs. This happens pretty quickly, but once it's dry I never ever go back to add to it or try and improve it. This is my landform in its natural state and its a bit like - well, you get what you get, now see what you can make of it. Something like Mr Squiggle if anyone is old enough to remember him (before your time I think, Madi!)
So then I just stare and start to imagine or remember landmarks... (this stage takes far too long) I use the teeniest brush with copper paint and an ultra fine liner to draw in the details. This is how the landform becomes a landscape.
It's actually quite a long and contemplative process, and the mediums I use are very unforgiving, if you make a mistake or overwork something you can't just paint over and start again, so my reject pile is huge!
It's hard to know when to stop. Leaving the perspective and scale a little bit ambiguous, and plenty of space for the imagination to fill in the blanks is the balance I'm aiming for. I love it when different people look at the same piece and someone says ooh it's just like Japan and it reminds someone else of Italy and all the while I had been thinking of Kosciusko...
Though if you look closely you will usually find a little Australian icon included, like an echidna, a windmill and water tank, or a Bogong moth maybe.
Tell us about your connection to the Central West and its Landscape.
Well my father was from Orange, and my great great grandfather had a tannery and boot making business here in the 1800's.
I really love the air and the scenery of the Cabonne, I have always responded to the big sky, rolling hills and patchwork paddocks around the area. I'm happy to admit I'm a city girl but a country girl at heart, with an idyllic view of rural life. Nostalgia and connection to country is an integral part of my practice, I'm fascinated by combining remembered and imagined details of a place, and in particular the emotional response we have when viewing or visiting particular landscapes.
Your studio is in a pretty special location. Can you tell us a bit more about it?
I decided to take on a studio at Eramboo Artist Environment to gain focus, and separation from the home scene. It is so beautiful and natural and bushy here - the birds and wildlife are fantastic. There's a whopping great goanna who looks about as big as me that I see from time to time, I don't mind because I've heard that goannas keep the snakes away and I have a tremendous fear of snakes - so I'm hanging onto that belief! I like being on the northern beaches and if it gets too hot or I'm feeling stuck, I just blast down the hill and jump in the rockpool at Mona Vale. I call it my saltwater baptism because it revives me enough that I can make a fresh start, again.
Also I enjoy company and I'm really energised by seeing other artists at work, especially in different art forms and mediums. It's so important to keep learning and experimenting and I'm fortunate to be in an environment that provides this type of inspiration as well as unexpected opportunities. It's been good for my development as an artist to come here and focus and to question what my work is about and peel back some layers of my story.