The workplace is the sacred universe of the artist. It is where the magic happens, where the gems are created. Today, let’s have a look inside the artistic mind of Fiona Chandler. She is from Sydney, Australia – a beautiful part of the world near the beach.
In my childhood, it turns out that – even if you accidentally slice up the much saved for new Lino on the floor – if the project is appreciated by the viewer you don’t get in trouble! My parents were practical people, often confused by my making and the mess it created. They were very supportive, several failures along the way… paper making in the washing machine is one that comes to mind. The paper worked out wonderfully – the washing for the next few months less so.
Career and education
I studied at the University of Newcastle and the Universe of Technology in Sydney. I did a bachelor of visual arts majoring in illustration, which lead to a career in Design. I also hold a master’s degree in Design. I was a graphic designer for 15 years ending up an art director working in homeware.
This study seemed more commercial than Fine art. Initially, I was hoping to become a props maker and then fell in love with drawing again. As soon as I finished my degree, I was hoping to work in design by day and paint by night. Then 15 years went by. I was running my own design company and knew it was time to start painting and see where it led.
Over the years I found out that you should keep swimming, keep going, your audience will find you and it will be better than you ever imagined. Just do the work.
Styles, technique and materials
If you ask me to describe my art, I’d probably say that it is a saturation of pigment and a wander with the line.
I am primarily a watercolourist, although most people are surprised by this; I use the watercolour in a very dense way. Landscapes or flowers – my painting always depict a story, a moment in time—a snapshot of life. I also run a gallery, talks and occasional classes. Art is a conversation. I love the challenge, the roller coaster of creating a body of work that comes together. The whole package. The village that surrounds you in the highs and lows. Expression and delight. Constant input leading you to places and people. Finding the people, you need at the right time to create something.
At the moment I am an artist collaborating with the manly art gallery and the q station (historical quarantine site) I am excited to see this come to fruition in December. I am currently working on a solo show girt by sea, opening in September.
A planned road trip for inspiration was cancelled as we headed into lockdown. The people in my community gravitated toward the sea. Families, people on their own, young and old. It was the rocks, rock pools and landforms with a view of the ocean that people were drawn toward. There was comfort in the beauty but also a realisation that this was something big in our lifetime but small on a timeline. The colours and detail, the slow observation was calming.
My local environment and watching the people surf, swim, wander, walk, run always stopping to say how lucky we are, created a feeling of optimism.
Beliefs and lifestyle
Family and learning the bought books, conversation and research. My motto is: Paint, read, cook, laugh, repeat.
Painting is something I do every day; it is a practice, a skill that time needs to be devoted to. Even on an administration or delivery day, I spend time painting or read because I research and read about techniques, other artists, and how creatives and business people work. I am always trying to learn more. Cook as if the fridge is full and when afternoon tea is on the table, family life runs a little smoother. Otherwise, it would be easy to spend an endless amount of time in the studio. Laugh – necessary – not to take this incredible job too seriously. I love getting out of bed in the morning and am always keen to get to the studio. I listen to podcasts and friends, and other artists call. I love to stay connected. The best ideas come when you are thinking of something else.
At the moment I am very much coming out of full-on family mode. The flexibility of painting is fantastic to fit around everything, but to know how serious chunks of time is fantastic and to take up opportunities offered. Next to art, I love books.
To work with an artist agent who follows through on all the details and to show in New York along the skyline.
I along with so many others, love that city. I think being represented by someone, whether it be a gallery owner or agent, is essential. Relationships are so meaningful, and it’s the conversations about possibilities I enjoy and get energy from. An agent works with this, and my commercial background loves an open chance and a deadline. What could be better than travelling to New York for work? Although travel at this point seems a long time away. New York seems very open to Australians, and I have a lot of enquiries from there.
Exactly where I don’t know, but with a much bigger studio. I would also like to travel with residencies, although international travel seems unlikely anytime soon.
In 10 years, I would like to be working in various locations. Many clients have holiday homes or other residences. I would love to spend time in random places and create a body of work in each, with my host choosing a piece for their collection. Doing this once a year would be a dream come true. There is a lot to be said about discovering a new place unexpectedly. A day would still be painting, but hopefully, I would have an assistant to do a few of the tasks I am not so good at. There is so much administration attached to being an artist.’