Sydney based visual artist Desiree Martin works from her home studio. Born to a Polish mother and an Australian father with European, English and Aboriginal heritage, the mixture of these cultures, those patterns and stories imprinted on her childhood form the origins of her creations. In later years this merging of cultures matured into a strong commitment in unity and equality in her ethos. When only a few years old her entire family moved to Indonesia for 2 years when her father was transferred for work. Although very young, the colour and pattern from local clothing, sculpture and architecture made a lasting impression. When her family returned to Australia, she lived in the Western suburbs of Sydney where she observed and grew up in what would be termed an ‘Australian suburban’ culture.
Desiree studied visual merchandising when she left high school only to find herself having trouble getting employment due to the recession. Then turning to office work, very much lacking in creative satisfaction, she pursued her creativity through studies in fashion production at Hornsby TAFE and later fashion Design at The Whitehouse School of Fashion
What’s your artistic background?
I have been drawing, painting and creating my whole life, well since I could hold a crayon and make a mark. Art has been a part of life for as long as I can remember. When I was a child, I drew and painted much better than my peers. I knew I was good at art but despite my natural ability, a well-meaning relative commented that ‘artists don’t make any money so being a good girl I decided to take a job. I followed my mother who worked as a dressmaker for many years and I studied ‘Fashion and Design’. After I become a mother myself, I then went back to painting. I went to hobby art classes every week, practiced art and read art books as much as I had time.
What’s integral to the work of an artist?
The integral part of an artist’s work is striving to capture the look, the colour, the right pattern and movement in your artwork, but even more than this. Sometimes I think that the most important part of an artist’s art process, is to tell the right story for that moment in time… I do this by capturing the right colours and patterns in the artwork. I feel my way through my artwork; they have emotional stories and memories attached to them. I am a visual story teller. What is integral to the work itself I would say colour!
What role does the artist have in society?
We excite, inspire and show people how to dream. When a client chooses to buy one of my artworks, they always want to know the story behind it. They will sit back and listen like a spellbound child, being taken on a magical journey in their imagination. As they look at the painted story, they see what their mind wants them to know. I think we help people to escape the boring.
What art do you most identify with?
I mostly identify with colourful abstract artworks. It is hard to have one particular favourite style or genre. I do love most art styles. Because I have so much history in fashion, textiles and dressmaking from my childhood memories and from my studies and early work history, I love anything that is highly patterned, colourful and visually rich. Fabric plays a very important part of my inspiration and what I seek in artworks I look at.
What themes do you pursue?
I really love rich, colourful, patterned fabrics, anything from Arabesque, to batik, to embroidery, florals, to name a few. The shapes I like are more organic and natural rather than strictly geometric, but a little bit of geometry is fine too, so long as it doesn’t seem too predictable. I much prefer asymmetry over anything that is too same or symmetrical. Childhood story book themes also inspire me, but they all seem to have a fabric link to the artworks.
What’s your favourite art work?
I absolutely love art from the Art Nouveau period; there is lots of lovely mystical colour and pattern which I love. I would find it hard to say I have a favourite artwork of my own because my choice would change based on my latest inspiration. So, I would conclude my latest artwork is my favourite.
Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
Generally, I go for a morning walk every day, there was a time I was heading up a small hill, in the Australian Winter time and the mist was just lifting with early morning light catching the mist from behind. The scene was just exquisite! The colours in the grass were all golden and russet, the leaves were many shades of pastel light colours and the tree shapes were dark and contrasting against the light filled backdrop. All in all, the shapes and patterns the landscape offered were all captured with my phone camera and I completed about 4 artworks from this one photo!
What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
I worked in the Australian Fashion industry prior to having my first child. It was a fun filled time and has provided much inspiration for my art now. I then raised four sons, which took up most of my time, but this was also when I took up painting as an outlet for me. In the years I spend being a full-time mother not working, I trained in art as much as I could. In the last 3 years I retrained to become a counselor and a facilitator of meditation. I work part time in this area and work almost full-time as a professional artist.
I love art!! I love playing with paint, capturing feelings, processing my own emotions on to the canvas and I love seeing other artist’s works. Art is fun and a fabulous way to express yourself, to express a message to the world!
What is an artistic outlook on life?
To me an artistic outlook on life is seeing something wonderful where ever I look. Even if the scene isn’t picturesque, I will always find something beautiful to see! I may need to zoom right in and see some tiny pattern or a particular colour palette that inspires me but there is always something amazing right before my eyes! I’m a very positive thinker and therefore I’m always inspired! I also often wonder what is going on over there, I observe life.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
‘your artwork makes me feel young and excited. Like I am riding a carnival ride’ they really liked the colour and movement…
What food, drink, song inspires you?
Because I love colour so much, I would say a food that would inspire me would have to be a beautiful table lavishly decked out with a stunning, and glamorous ‘High Tea’. I would like to say a tea party would give much inspiration. Or even all the ice-creams lined up in an Ice Cream Parlour. Drinks that would inspire me would be beautifully styled cocktails, or mocktails, or soft drinks/soda drinks at a child’s party. The laughter and positive vibes as a result of the party. Music would definitely be ethereal, meditation music, no words just the feel of the music. Feel is very important! Also, I’m a huge fan emotional operas and also folk style music from the nations of the world.
Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
Being an artist can be lonely if you only stay painting all day every day. I need people to talk with. However, I am never really on my own long enough to get lonely, not in a busy household like mine. All my sons are still living at home and still studying either at school or in secondary education. Other people’s opinions give me windows to other ideas, I love the puzzles people present and I love seeing the world through other people’s eyes in order to broaden my view point or gain new insights. Life is very interesting I find!
What do you dislike about the art world?
The first thing that comes to my mind is there are some people, like in any industry, who can be a bit too self-important. But I generally find they offer interest too, because I wonder how they came to be this way, and usually I guess they are just very vulnerable. There is always good and bad in any community and in any group of like-minded people. I also dislike that it is hard to be heard about the millions of other fine artists. Australia supports the sporting arena and academic areas but not so much the arts. This I find very disappointing.
What do you dislike about your work?
When an artwork doesn’t work well for me, when I am fighting with the way it is turning out usually because I find it too childlike. I have a habit of working too fast and as a result my art can take on a graphic, child like feel to it. Sometimes it will lack sophistication. This is quite frustrating!
What do you like about your work?
I love the transparent colour, when I have successfully layered the colours over one another and it creates these areas of rich interest patterns. I love my paint strokes that are almost drawn on to the canvas, this to me represents all the stories I paint into my artworks. Colour would be the first element that will speak to me through my art and then comes the story in the linework and shapes. When I layer different colours over this I feel really excited by my artworks!
Should art be funded?
Yes definitely! I believe that art is a fantastic way for children to become more creative in their thinking and answers to complex questions. Later in life art helps people to process life’s stressors, studying counselling I realise that almost everyone now has far too much stress in their lives where there really doesn’t need to be. I am a big advocate of a peaceful approach to life and work balance. Especially now in the pandemic times. Art should be involved in all areas of life, regardless of talent and aptitude. This could be in music, drama, sculpture, gardening or any creative pursuits. Art should also be funded with regards to supporting artists in making a living too. There are so many artists who rely financially on their art, but just make bare minimum money. This is a highly competitive industry.
What role does arts funding have?
Emerging artists find it hard to set up a business in the art world. There are many hidden costs that other industries don’t need to pay. Art is highly competitive so if an artist can get funding, they can financially meet the basics in order to get their career off the ground. This is an important avenue for launching careers.
What is you dream project?
I would love to see my artworks go full circle and have them printed onto fabrics for high end, exclusive small runs for top fashion houses. Seeing my designs on bags, shoes, wraps, dresses etc would be a dream come true.
Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.
I would like to be compared to the work of Gustav Klimt, Margaret Preston and perhaps fashion designer Christian Dior.
Favourite or most inspirational place?
There are so many incredible places around the world and right here in the country where I live, Australia. In Europe I would love to go to Venice, I would love to visit the Bahai Lotus Temple, and the Taj Mahal. In Australia I would love to see The Great Barrier Reef and Uluru. It is a hard choice to just think of one inspiring place. The thing that all these places have in common are colour, pattern and design.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
To paint into my artwork not to paint over things. I used to paint over the top of things to cover up something I didn’t like, now I paint in transparent layers to allow light and details through to the surface. This way the viewer can find lots of lovely areas within the artwork that are interesting, layers of meaning and hidden gems within each piece.
Professionally, what’s your goal?
Professionally I am aiming to create art that has multiple applications. I love the idea of wearable art. I would love to see my artwork being accepted in major exhibitions around the world, win some prizes and be appreciated. I want the people who purchase my artwork to love and cherish their new addition to their household, a bit like a new member of their family. I put a lot of love into my art and I hope that my client feels this love and loves their new artwork.
I am setting up a new website that will bring my art and workshops in meditation together. I believe that when you live holistically you will see more, be more fulfilled and have move joy in your being. So, my aim is to bring art to the minds of the people who are around me, to help them find freedom, joy and love in their lives. We as a human race, across this vast planet, can help each other, inspire each other and allow freedom of thought, in order to progress all people of the world to a unified, peaceful and positive future for all. My Bahai beliefs around unity, fuel much of my art making!
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