We meet one of the three artists currently exhibiting at Bellingen’s Federal Hotel: Bellingen Artist Danielle Hickie.
Danielle, what brought you to the Bellingen Shire?
About 10 years ago we had a little baby and we were looking for a place to call home. We took a ‘weekend away’, and went to Bellingen for a short escape from Sydney and whilst we were here, we checked out a little place out of town. We fell in love with it! The proximity of Bellingen for us was a key part of saying ‘Yes’ to one of the biggest, most unexpected, blind leap’s of faith we’ve ever taken. The few days we were in town, we could see it was a place that would discuss ideas, where you could get a great cup of coffee and where every so often you could enjoy some amazing world music.
Has living in the Bellingen Shire influenced your work?
Profoundly! I’d need a whole page to unpack how, but there are some real ‘stand-out’ reasons that Bellingen Shire has had such a impact on my work. The first reason is: Bellingen is a hub for creative people. I go to a weekly class with world class teacher, Elisa Hall, who has been a Bellingen local for many years. She has encouraged all of us to do our best, and as well as being a skilled practitioner herself, she is a excellent guide and mentor, to myself and every one else in my class. She is quite dearly loved. My class is just so amazing – I love going – and my class mates have opened up new horizons for me in so many ways. Whether it’s during coffee break when they pull out a book on an artist I’ve never seen before, or whether they are showing me something they’ve discovered in their own painting, or whether they are standing by my easel helping me see where things are off the mark, they are vibrant and lovely people with whom I can share the road of learning to become a painter. Put simply; we can get *super nerdy* about art. I think learning to paint in rural Australia could actually be quite a lonely path. Not for me – I have my class mates.
And lastly, the stunning beauty of Bellingen and surrounds is a major influence, in that is is a source for reflection and a reminder of our connection to the natural world, and each other. We all need a recharge – how wonderful that all this beauty is just there on our doorstep, ready to recharge the weary heart.
How did you become involved in the arts?
I’ve always painted and drawn – my mother showed me how, and as I grew up, Mum and I painted together quite a bit. When I was in high school I did very well in the HSC, but I wanted to do something visual with my life, so I did a degree in design. I’ve been a digital designer for my entire career and I’m now a Creative Director for an Australian start-up.
Was there life before your art?
Yes, there was. I’m 42 and I’ve had a full life – and I think that I needed to live a bit before starting to paint. If I had become a painter right after leaving school, I wouldn’t have the discipline, the focus, and the belief in myself that I have now. (My girlfriends say this is called ‘being 40’, and if so, I like it! ) In my ongoing career as a designer, I’ve learned a whole objective language around criticism, iteration, feedback, simplification, process and experimentation. These things you have to live through and understand, as a designer, and it’s a real joy to bring everything I’ve learned around those concepts back to my own artworks.
Give us some background to this current exhibition.
I’m very grateful to Polly Wells, my class mate and an artist I admire very much, for asking me to exhibit with her, Bev Fischer and Cheryl Flint. Bev, Cheryl and I have never exhibited before. What an amazing experience. Bellingen’s Federal Hotel supports the exposure of the creative arts in Bello by holding ongoing exhibitions of local work. This current exhibition will run until January 16th 2017.
How would you describe your style/ approach to your subject matter?
I would say that I feel like I’m still a student. It absolutely delights me that people like what I paint. I’m trying to learn how to paint pretty much everything. As my teacher said, mastering the principles of still life painting will give you (almost) everything you need to know about painting. There are some genre specific things you have to learn, particular to that genre, but if you can paint a good still life, you can paint anything. So I’ve been painting still lifes and I’ve recently moved to more figurative work, which I hope to get better at over the next few years. After that I’ll try landscape painting. I will say that I thought it was funny that I was hanging a nudie bum in the Federal Apparently that went over rather well though!
What is your favourite medium?
Definitely oil paints.
Has anyone or anything really influenced your style?
My teacher Elisa Hall. My class mates. And so many other artists that I’ve studied by researching them on the internet. Just in terms of learning, Pinterest, good god, that’s the worlds best visual resource ever. I have whole boards devoted to single artists, and then many boards devoted to ideas like ‘hands’ or ‘tonal paintings’.
Which artist’s works do you admire the most?
Too many to mention. I fall in love with a new artist every week.
Have you got any other exciting projects on the horizon?
Well, this year I’m going to start photographing models in my studio and painting from those photographs. I’m really looking forward to it because this is going to give me an extraordinary amount of control over the image, so from the very outset I can create really evocative, dynamic “base line” images from which to work. And I’m also looking forward to it because my models will be my friends and I’ve never worked collaboratively like this before – I think it’s going to be a good laugh, and a beautiful thing.