Studio Visit with Belinda Street
How long have you been painting? When and why did you make the move to become a full-time artist?
I’ve been drawing and painting since I could hold a pencil. As a small child I would sit for hours on my own just drawing, and well, I never really stopped! I was good at art from an early age and used it as an escape from the real world. When I finished school I went to Newcastle University to undertake a Bachelor Arts (Visual Arts) degree which I absolutely loved. Upon finishing that I also studied desktop publishing, and got a job as a graphic designer. Over the years I’ve juggled both graphic design and art, which meant I generally had a reasonable income in which to support my art “habit”(art materials are very expensive!). As I could fulfill both roles from my home studio, that certainly made it easier and I found I mostly had enough time for both practices.
Over the past couple of years I’ve been winding down my design work to concentrate more on my art. The downside to that is a massive paycut, but I am working hard on my painting, and I have several group shows and 2 solo exhibitions planned for 2017 which is exciting and certainly keeping me very busy.
How would you describe your painting style?
I’m an expressive landscape painter. I mostly sit in the semi-abstract area, but my work can vary a lot between representation and abstraction. In fact I quite like pushing and pulling an artwork between the two, and each painting will ultimately find it’s own direction, where it needs to lay on that scale. I’m a “mark-maker”. Generally I like to “place” the paint onto the canvas - gesture and energy are an important part of how I work.
Talk us through your artmaking process. What makes one of your artworks successful?
(Laughing) Wow, the million dollar question! If only I could make every artwork successful! It often feels like every time I begin a painting, it’s like starting from the beginning again, and no day ever seems like the day before. And it seems the more you paint, and the more you learn about the process and the techniques, the harder it all becomes - so much more knowledge to incorporate into each new work.
I don’t have a formula for making a painting, but I tend to stick to a similar procedure. The first step is always to get out into the landscape - to experience, absorb, record, interpret and respond. Sometimes this is just being in a place and experiencing it first-hand. But most of the time this also means to photograph and sketch the landscape. I then take all this information back to my studio, stick it all up on the walls, and use it to inform and inspire my paintings. I’ll initially lay down some underpainting, which is often brighter more contrasting colours than what I anticipate the finished work will display. And then it’s just a matter of building up layers, making marks, adding and subtracting, until I believe the work is complete. The more realistic works I tend to finish more quickly, but the more abstract works can take many months to resolve.
Tell us about your connection to the Central West and it’s Landscape.
I had only seen a small part of the Central West (Mudgee and Hill End) until a couple of years ago. The area had always intrigued me, and particularly Orange had been on my “list” of places to explore. I finally got the chance in 2015, and my family and I spent a week visiting Bathurst and Orange, exploring the surrounding countryside to the south around Carcoar and Millthorpe. It must be said that I do enjoy my wine, and the lure of the wineries was all too great, and we spent a couple of days wine tasting around Orange and Mt Canobolas. It was autumn when we were there and it was the beautiful colours that struck me first. Purple and red foliage contrasting against the yellowy poplars; yellow rows of grapevines on green rolling hillsides. Such a visual feast! Of course the Central West has a long history of inspiring great Australian Artists, such as Brett Whiteley, Russell Drysdale and Donald Friend.
You work from home in a fabulous, well-lit studio. Tell us more about the benefits of working form home.
I’m very fortunate to have a great space at home that I can work in. It’s basically 2 rooms in the downstairs part of my house. To be honest, I wouldn’t be able to afford to rent a separate studio, plus I have 2 children, so it has always made more sense to work from home where I can blend my art practice into my family life more easily. It means I can be there when my kids get home from school, and be able to work at odd times if needed. So when we bought our home, the main prerequisite was that it had an area I could use as a studio (it took us a year to find it!) I still hope one day to have a bigger studio off site where I could make more of a mess, but I’m happy in the meantime. It works.