Features/What to SEE/Visual Art

Discover the secrets inside artists’ studios

17 August 2023

Join Nina Levy for a sneaky peek into the studios and creative lives of six of the 166 artists who are taking part in the tenth anniversary edition of Margaret River Region Open Studios.

There’s something special about being invited into an artist’s studio, to see where the creative magic happens, the colours and materials in their raw form, the works in progress, how the artist chooses to organise their space.

That’s why Margaret River Region Open Studios (MRROS) is such a treat. This year – the event’s tenth anniversary – will see over 160 artists open their creative spaces to the general public.

Ahead of the 2023 MRROS, which takes place 9-24 September, Nina Levy spoke to six of the participating artists to find out what you can expect to find in their studios, what drives them to make work, and which other artists they recommend you check out at this year’s Open Studios.

Karen Seaman

K.Seaman, ‘Kangaroo Belljar’. Photo supplied

What drives you to create work?

What interests me most about being an artist is the continuous and creative exploration of visual mediums to express my internal thoughts. I feel truly blessed to live in the heart of the natural environment, surrounded by the ever-changing seasons. I have a deep-rooted connection to the bush and landscapes that flourish around me. This daily immersion in nature provides the inspiration for my work.

What will visitors discover in your studio?

I have two studios on the property and an exhibition space in my house. Here visitors can see the variety of my work. I create paintings in oils, watercolours, small sculptures, bell jars and ceramic planters. Although my work is diverse, inspiration always comes from the natural environment.

Karen Seaman. Photo: Elements

It’s a peaceful experience visiting my studio as it is surrounded by garden and forest. Here we grow fruit trees, flowers and have a very productive aquaponics shed for our vegetables. It is a bit of an adventure to go into the heart of Busselton dairy country to find our rural property, but it is beautiful in September at the height of the wildflower season.

Any hot tips about artists to check out at MRROS?

It is hard to choose but I enjoy visiting Evelyn Henschke, Rachel Coad, Lauren Wilhelm, Diana Bostock, Cassandra Bynder, Chloe Wilder, Georgia Zoric, Ian Mutch, and Mary-Lynne Stratton.

Deidre Bruhn

What will visitors discover in your studio?

Hopefully a little bit to interest everyone!

Deidre Bruhn. Photo: Chad Jackson

I’m a mixed media artist in the true sense of the word. Nothing delights me more than to experiment using a mix of materials including crayons, paints and inks. I use wood panels, canvas, old paintings or paper both found and created. Finished works will be hanging but partially completed works will be around my studio waiting for the right inspiration.

As part of my processes, I construct and reconstruct my pieces with lots of mark making and layers with energy.  Nothing is too precious not to be reworked and added too or even cut up!

A painting of a women who wears a turquoise sweater and has a rind of fluoro colours through her forehead and eyes
Deidre Bruhn, ‘Nowhere to Go’. Photo supplied

Collage is a huge part of my process so visitors will see works in various stages of completion. It’s a happy, chaotic studio as experimenting is the name of the game. These processes are what I enjoy mostly and I hope visitors get a little understanding of how my brain works!
What drives you to create?

I couldn’t imagine life without any creating in it. I have a wonderful purpose-built art studio with a gallery space so the motivation is right there!

I’m quite a sensitive person so I create artworks intuitively that have the right “feel, mood or expression”. It’s a sense of fulfilment when a piece just “works”. Then I will move on to the next few projects, more processes and experiments hopefully learning on the journey always waiting for that spark of excitement to keep creating.

Ian Daniell

Ian Daniell, ‘Southern Right Whale’ 2021, Painting Coalesce, The Goods Shed 2022. Photo: Rebecca Mansell. Image courtesy of FORM

What drives you to create?

It’s an ongoing tribute to the moments of wonder and awe I feel when witnessing wildlife in the ocean. There is so much magic to be found just beneath the surface and I like to share that with others. I paint everything at 1:1 scale in order to retain a tangible sense of the physical presence of each subject.

My work helps me contribute towards ocean conservation and connect with marine scientists. This year I have invited Dr Grace Russell to visit the studio and to tell us about The Fat Whales Project. Grace measures whales with drones in order to find out if they are fat enough to breed. This is a free event starting at 4pm on Sunday 10 September.

What will visitors discover in your studio?

This year I’m focusing on things you can find close to shore simply by going for a swim with a mask and snorkel. Think shoals of reef fish, strange and wonderful shovelnose rays, kelp, corals and sponges.

Ian Daniell, ‘6 ft Dorsal Fin ORCA’ 2021, acrylic and epoxy on wooden panel, 300 x 244 x 5cm. Photo supplied

You’ll find me in my studio amongst all of my paints and tools, lots of masking tape, sketches, photos and ideas for upcoming works. Visitors can check out my new paintings and prints, as well as lots of work-in-progress, as I work towards my upcoming solo exhibition SWIM at Kamilė Gallery, Perth, opening Thursday 26 October.

Any hot tips about artists to check out at MRROS?

Two newbies! Both are super talented and experienced artists with a rich history, who are participating in Open Studios for the first time this year. Jessica McKiernan is a masterful print maker making beautiful and unique work, which really captures something of the essence of this beautiful region we live in.

Scarlett Honour Tull is an experienced fashion designer who is specialising in hand-painted silk scarves this year. She also designs and makes bags, clothes and yoga accessories, often using recycled materials. As well as the ability to make almost anything with a sewing machine, Scarlett is an exceptional painter and drawer. She will be showing some personal projects, as well as commercial design and print design work.

Lesley Meaney

Lesley Meaney. Photo supplied

What drives you to create work?

Many reasons – but as my practice is usually triggered by nature I feel a need to record history, to express a strong emotion, to draw attention to something or somewhere, to communicate my thoughts, my feelings and my perceptions of the world in which we live. To have a voice albeit small.

What will visitors discover when they visit you?

A new purpose-built studio big enough for a swing (finished just in time) in a rural setting. Also a new body of work from big paintings to book covers-painted and stitched canvas for old and rare books.

Any hot tips about artists to check out at MRROS?

A variety of different artists that come to mind are – Peter Scott, Ross Miller, Ian Thwaites, Karen Seaman, Laurie Posa, Barbara Weeks, Sonja Hedstrom, Dawn Brittain.

Lesley Meaney, ‘Ennobling the vine 1’ 2022, acrylic and thread on canvas, 55cmH x 135cmW

Ian Mutch

What will visitors discover in your studio?

Ian Mutch. Photo: Tim Campbell

A whimsical world of paintings, drawings, prints, sketchbooks, characters, works in progress and some stories from my journey along the way.

What drives you to create work?

  1. To share stories, concepts and joy
  2. The fulfilment of finishing things (this includes discovering mistakes)
  3. The pure enjoyment of mark making, exploring colour, line and scale, creating patterns, playing with compositions and various mediums. Sketchbook drawings, new concepts and the freedom to make anything.
Ian Mutch ‘Ocean Pools’ 2022 Mural. Photo supplied

Rebecca Cool

Rebecca Cool. Photo: Tim Campbell

What will visitors discover in your studio?

Visitors to our studios are in for a very colourful experience! Everything is painted and decorated even the portaloo! Sculptures everywhere.

Colour is central to Rebecca Cool’s work. Photo supplied

What drives you to create?

Painting and creating comes very naturally to me, a bit like breathing. I can’t imagine my life without it.

There are two studios here: mine and my partner’s Ross Miller. Ross is a sculptor. We make art all the time, it’s our lifestyle and how we make our living. Being part of Margaret River Region Open Studios is the highlight of the year for us!

Any hot tips about artists to check out at MRROS?

I really like the mosaics of Joanna Alferink and the colours of Vanessa Miller.

Margaret River Region Open Studios runs 9-24 September.

Pictured top: Rebecca Cool in her studio. Photo: Tim Campbell

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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