Updated: Jan 13, 2019
This week we talk to award winning Perth artist and passionate amateur ornithologist Sally Edmonds. Sally talks candidly about how her experience of depression positively transformed her life and her art making, propelling her towards the creation of the detailed artwork, that expresses her passion for our feathered friends.
What is your artistic journey?
After finishing my career in Graphic Design in 2005 I drifted along not really creating much art at all, just a few commissions. In 2012 I got hooked on birds, but the idea to turn my passion for them into art didn’t happen until 2014. I won an award with a picture of a Great Egret in 2015 at my first ever exhibition and I have been working full time at my art ever since.
Many artists describe an apprehension with sharing their work. Did you feel anything like this when you first started to exhibit/share your art?
I’ve always loved sharing my work. If I didn’t need to earn money I would still be working just as much. I think the apprehension comes from never really knowing how it’s going to go. We put a little piece of ourselves out there with every artwork. I must admit I occasionally eavesdrop on people to see what they think.
Can you describe your artistic process?
I find my reference material first, then I do my preliminary sketch which I fix when I’m happy. Then I add layers and layers of pastel, pastel pencil and colour pencil. If I have a plain background then I paint it and do the last bits of detail.
Who or what are the strongest influences or inspiration for your art?
I’m sure it’s very passé of me but for his use of colour and mark making I absolutely love Gustav Klimt. I’m inspired every day by the beauty of birds.
Do you have a dedicated studio or favoured painting location? Describe it for us …
I am having a studio built soon. At the moment I am in a corner of a large games room. There is a full size billiard table right in the middle of the room and a proper bar in the corner. I use the billiard table as a workbench and try to stay away from the bar! The room has huge windows which look out over my rose garden. Lots of birds visit my garden every day and my camera is permanently set up to photograph them if the light is right.
What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
My laptop. I have my reference photos set up on screen to work from. It’s in a sorry state as my pink & grey galah, Fred, has pinched a lot of the keys but I can’t be without it long enough to get it fixed.
How would you describe your current work?
Big, colourful, detailed and full of the character of the bird.
Has creativity or making art helped you with any important life transitions you have experienced?
In the past I have experienced quite a severe depression. I almost see my life as two halves, before the depression and after it. Now I am finally able to be the person I should have been all along and my art plays a central role in that, it rewards me and gives me affirmation like nothing else has done. It also means that every single day I get to immerse myself in the world of birds which is a happy place to be! Going through depression has altered my state of mind in that it has given me lots of patience and focus, essential for my kind of work.
How does your life experience and emotional state feed into your art?
My life experience matters enormously as does my emotional state. I now have levels of patience for highly detailed work which would have been impossible when I was younger. If it’s going well I can lose hours at it. I also know that I can actually do a good job, I have a lot more confidence in myself. I still get to about one third through a piece and hate it but these days I know that it’ll turn out alright.
How do you define creativity, and do you have any thoughts on the intersection between vulnerability and creativity?
Creativity and creative people are a strange mixture. Lots of us are very sensitive and certainly vulnerable and yet we want to show the world what we can do, get our message across to everyone and take the chance on them actually liking our work. It’s a big risk for a sensitive soul but we do it anyway, as have so many before us.
See more of Sally's beautiful work: