The most exotic and colourful birds take centre stage in Rebecca Cooke’s intricate acrylic paintings. Inspired by global textiles and ceramics, Rebecca’s patterned artworks have been exhibited at the Art Images Gallery in Norwood and the Adelaide Airport. In our latest spotlight, Rebecca talks us through her artistic process and the artworks she would love to own.
Q: Hello Rebecca! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
A: Hi there! I’m a South Australian painter living in the beautiful Adelaide Hills. In my arts practice I use acrylic on canvas, primarily focusing on the natural world for inspiration. I’m now living my dream, painting at home in my studio as well as working part-time as a gallery technician installing and designing art exhibitions.
The Curious Fish (acrylic on canvas)
Q: Who inspires you? What inspires your art?
A: Flora and fauna inspire me. Common themes in my art include bird-life, animals, plants, trees, sky and waterways. At the centre of many of my paintings is the bird, the hero of my landscapes and the feathered representation of freedom, beauty and harmony. Over time, a number of my other interests and passions have merged together also finding their way onto the canvas… I have always been drawn to textiles and pattern design as well as global traditional arts and crafts. With my background and training in graphic design, I enjoy designing motifs and patterns and applying then to creatively express the natural world around me.
I often draw inspiration from what other creative people are doing in their chosen fields… homewares and interior design, textile arts, ceramics, tapestries and rugs, tattoos and henna art. Inspiration for me is endless.
Q: Do you have a preferred medium?
A: My preferred medium is definitely acrylic paint on canvas. I use both heavy body and medium viscosity (fluid, high flow acrylic). I enjoy using acrylic as it dries fast, can be diluted or modified easily and has the kind of pigment I’m looking for. Years ago I started out painting on MDF boards and then as my skills developed, I started stretching my own canvas. I really enjoy the hands-on process of stretching quality canvas and I also love the slow-art experience as it gives me time to contemplate the next painting.
Pink Grasses and the Reed Warblers (acrylic on canvas)
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: Expressive would probably be the best description. Elements of my paintings also incorporate pattern art and decorative arts. I take colour and enhance hidden forms and shapes; merging the real and the decorative together in one painting. I try to express my personal engagement with nature’s beauty and the relationship that exists between colour, pattern, shape and repetition.
Q: Can you please describe your artistic and creative process i.e.: from lingering idea to putting it into practice?
A: The process of painting really has its emotional ups and downs. There is always a point I reach with every painting where I start to doubt myself, and then I push through and start to breathe again as it comes together. I always start with a very basic pen drawing, the simplest sketch, or ‘map’ as I call it. I’m not one for endless preliminary drawings. From there I paint straight onto the canvas, working through ideas and experimenting and discarding as I go. I can visualise a completed painting in my mind even before I have begun. The central idea for a painting can begin with a particular species of bird I have noticed, or it might be a colour(s) that I wish to create a mood with. At other times, it could be the season of the year and all the amazing transformations taking place in nature. Regardless of the seed of the idea, I am always chasing a tangible feeling or sense of harmony in the final painting. I will create an inspiration board, collect pieces of patterned fabric, feathers, seedpods, nuts, leaves, take photos of birds, landscapes and trees, and then constantly refer to my sketchbooks of doodles and pattern designs. Somehow it all comes together and tells a story, celebrating a sense of sanctuary in nature and hopefully encouraging people to notice the small things that sometimes go unnoticed.
The Wildflower Walk (acrylic on canvas)
Q: Where do you see your art practice taking you in the next five years?
A: If I ever think ahead, it is to just work towards constantly developing and improving as an artist and maintaining a balance in all areas of my life. Sometimes the business side of the art world can be very distracting and in complete opposition to the creative process. I never want to forget that I paint because I feel compelled to… it’s such a natural and fulfilling part of my existence.
I hope people continue to have a positive response to my paintings and that I have opportunities to exhibit. In five years from now, I like to think that I am surprising myself with the direction my style has taken. Long-term, I am inspired by many artists who continue to do their best work well into their 70’s and 80’s.
Q: If you could recommend one artist, who would it be?
A: I am amazed by the art of Joshua Yeldham. I’ve been following his work for years. He is an Australian artist that crosses many mediums. There is an incredible authenticity to his art and his dedication and skill is truly inspiring.
Through painting, object, sculpture, drawing, and photography he shows a deep and spiritual connection to nature. I would love to own one of his ‘Owls of Kyoto’.
The Quiet Hunters (acrylic on canvas)
Q: What is your favourite gallery?
A: Being Adelaide born, I feel at home wandering through the Art Gallery of South Australia. As a young girl, my mother and I would frequently go to the library and then wonder over to the art gallery afterwards. This was my early introduction to art and culture and the bigger world around me. Later in life I had the opportunity to get up closer to some of the collections at the Art Gallery of SA whilst studying Masters of Art History through Adelaide University. The Asian art collection is my particular favourite. I adore the detail and intricacy found in the works from Japan, Southeast Asia, India, and the Middle East.
Q: Where can we find more of your work?
A: Currently there are 3 of my larger paintings on display at the Adelaide Airport. These are part of my ‘remnants’ series, based on a patchwork composition (inspired by Kilim Turkish rugs), and incorporating South Australian flora and fauna.
The Morning Whistler (acrylic on canvas)
Q: What was your most memorable moment last year?
A: In November 2016, I had my solo exhibition ‘Sanctuary’ at Art Images Gallery. It took me a year to create the paintings for this show and was a major step in my arts practice. I was so nervous but at the same time I knew it would push me to paint a body of work and be challenged. I was also thrilled to have Silvio Apponyi’s beautiful sculptures exhibited alongside my paintings.