Australian artist Tracey Fletcher King is one of my top favourite contemporary artists. I simply adore her unique style of art. Tracey is a wonderful teacher whose enthusiasm and love for artistic expression instills confidence and pride in the work of her students. I could easily wax lyrical about how her work continues to inspire me, year in and year out; instead here is Tracey to speak for herself in the interview below the demonstration video. I have no doubt that you too will fall in love with her work.
- Who are you and what do you do?
I am an artist, and illustrator and a teacher. I work for a lot of companies producing illustrations of their products for them to use online and for marketing which is creatively challenging and a great way of keeping my eye in and my skills strong. I keeps sketchbooks which I draw in constantly, paint for myself and my own enjoyment, as well as to create prints to sell online, and work with an interior designer painting large scale abstract acrylic paintings which I love creating because they are the opposite of everything else I do. Plus there is online teaching. My life is one big creative ride
- Why do you do what you do?
Because I can’t imagine doing anything else. It is never boring, I get challenged constantly and I get to change between different creative modes… it is kind of perfect so why mess with it.
- How do you work?
I try, but usually fail to work in a very organised manner. I work long hours and have a lot of balls in the air so I tend to work on illustration in the mornings and painting and abstracts in the afternoon. I always warm up with a sketch or two, and often end the day the same way. Some days it works, but others I work all day on one thing or another. My big goal for 2016 is to take two days a week off from work. Not quite achieving that at the moment, but I am certainly getting better organised.
- What’s your background?
I was an art teacher after leaving university. I taught in secondary and primary school environments before taking a break and traveling and living overseas over a period of 9 years. In that time I rediscovered painting and sketching for the love of it. I came home full time and went back to uni again and did a Masters in art education, majoring in creativity theory and ran a small art school. I then got into botanical art as a way to get my skills back and rediscovered the joy of keeping a sketchbook, and it has all gone on from there.
- What’s integral to the work of an artist?
To work… I hear a lot of people complain they can’t think of things to paint or draw etc, but to me it doesn’t matter what you draw or work on just work… You will produce lots of rubbish work, but you will produce some gems as well. I do know that you won’t produce anything great unless you are actually giving it a go. Plus a “bad” painting or drawing can lead to many many new and interesting things to explore. The only way you can guarantee you won’t create anything you feel is of value is to be not working, so just bloody jump in and cram in as much work as you can.
- What role does the artist have in society?
I think the artist has the role of being a recorder of the life of the artist. The sights, the emotions, the experiences… it is all about exploring a world visually. We are so good at talking about things, or reading about them, but we need to also explore visually, and with the rise of a technological based world and the increase in manipulation of images using photoshop and things. I think that artists bring an authenticity to the visual world.
- What has been a seminal experience?
Having cancer and going through a year of heavy treatment. It changed everything for me on every level. It allowed me to be more fearless and open post treatment, and to not sweat any of the small stuff.
- Explain what you do in 100 words
Look, see, draw, paint, create, explore, make, splash, film, edit, photograph, share, research, improvise and teach
- How has your practice change over time
It has changed radically over the years. Some things stay the same in terms of techniques and materials, but mostly I tend to not plan or try to control the path of things, and so it goes where it goes. I adapt as opportunities come my way and see what happens. Sounds a bit airy fairy but for me control is the worst thing. Trying to force things is like a hammer to my creativity so I tend to just see what is coming up next and go with that. It has opened up so many more opportunities and made my work a lot more exciting and fun.
- What art do you most identify with?
I love art with strong colour and great lines. I like artists like Cressida Campbell who manage to infuse the ordinary with a kind of magical atmosphere. Her lines and use of colour are so perfect they make me feel a bit giddy when I look at them. But I love strong colours like Matisse and the clear blues of Brett Whitely and the atmospheric landscapes of William Robinson. There are so many artists and styles of art that I am drawn to from contemporary work by people like Tracey Emin through to some of the contemporary Australian artist like Tracey Moffatt, through to more traditional depictions… I could write pages on this question alone so I might just leave it there.
- What work do you most enjoying doing?
I like being able to mix it up between the illustrative style of work and large scale work. I enjoy the abstracts, but I have started creating large canvases of close ups of floral blooms, and things I love like perfume bottles and am very inspired by that direction at the moment.
- What themes do you pursue?
I like art as a record of my life and the world around me. I am not into big themes so much as recording my world and interests visually. That is what interests and inspires me.
- What’s your favourite art work?
I couldn’t choose… that is like a Sophie’s Choice type question for me… how could I choose without upsetting other ones…
- Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?
Real life inspires me every day. I try to find inspiration in the objects and items around me and it is endlessly inspiring once you give yourself permission to examine the mundane as subjects. I love that my morning cuppa can inspire me to pick up a pen and brush. That is what it is all about I think.
- Why art?
There are other things in life???… Other ways to express yourself??? Who knew… Can’t imagine anything would do as good a job as art
- What is an artistic outlook on life?
An artistic outlook to me means that you look for opportunities to find the visually interesting parts of your world. That you look to be inspired and express yourself.
- What memorable responses have you had to your work?
The most memorable are often the negative… people belittling what you do, dismissing it as feminine and not dealing with big themes… things like that. Or people being surprised that you created something… the good old… you did that??? You? Really? Never would have picked that… I have taught myself to loooove those comments because it reinforces that I am pushing myself , that I am not leading the expected life and that I am being true to me.
- Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
I quite like the alone ness of it… I don’t feel lonely and quite like hiding in the studio and creating, but I find it hard not to have people around me who can understand the process and the trials of creating. For that I have some good friends both in real life and online who I chat with regularly and skype with. Being able to chat to a fellow creative on the other side of the world and show them what I am working on and discussing it in real time is one of the great joys of the time we live in I think.
- What do you dislike about the art world?
I hate the elitist attitudes, the misogyny and the crap that goes along with so much of it. No time for that rubbish and posturing.
- What do you dislike about your work?
Not much to tell you the truth. I try to not judge or reflect on the actual work too much as I think it is counterproductive… I wish I was more organised I think… but overall despite it sounding a tad arrogant. I kind of like what I do.
- What do you like about your work?
I like that my work reflects me and that it tells the story of my life visually and reflects my interests and personality. I was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer a few years ago and the prognosis was pretty dire, and I found it was comforting to think that my work was there as a record that I had been here if that makes sense. I can look back and trace things I have seen, done and experienced through going through my sketchbooks or leafing through my work. I love that journey being there.
- Should art be funded?
I find this one a tough one. On one hand I feel that it should be, and hate the amount of funding that goes to bloody sport. But then I worry that all the funding will go to niche areas. I would like to see the arts better funded in schools so that we can get ‘em young and expose as many young people to art as possible. That way they will hopefully grow up to be participants and interact with art later in life.
- What role does arts funding have?
I think that the role is to allow people to create art and to disseminate the ideas of art and to be good advocates. I think in the visual arts we are very poor advocates for the value and role that art plays in all of our lives, so funding directed not just to exhibiting artists, but to training people to be better at advocating for the arts would be useful.
- What research to you do?
I am a voracious reader of all things art related, and love reading biographies of artists, and people in the creative arts in general. I have a huge collection of art books, and also books on things like urban sketching and graphic novels as I find them endlessly inspiring. I tend to research for inspiration… though I still read the latest on areas like creativity theory thanks to my post graduate study. It is endlessly fascinating to me.
- What is your dream project?
It isn’t something I worry about. I figure I am living my artistic dreams so all is pretty good. Having said that I am building and filming online classes I will be teaching in coming months and it is pretty cool to be able to plan and create a course not having to consider syllabi and rubbish like that. Teaching without external constraints is pretty cool.
- Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.
Comparison is like a disease… I just don’t do it, and don’t even want to think about this one.
- Favourite or most inspirational place
My studio. I get to surround myself with work by people I love, objects that inspire me or are meaningful to me, and I get to leaf back through sketchbooks and things. Doesn’t get much better than that I don’t think.
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Don’t edit your ideas. If you want to draw or paint something then don’t get in and place a value judgement as to whether it will be worthy or interesting enough, just paint the bloody thing. If it is an idea then it is worth pursuing even if you end up discarding it down the track, just don’t throw it out before you have explored it.
- Professionally, what’s your goal?
I am living it. To set up the classroom where I can run classes that I would like, and to keep working in the varied artistic fields I work in. Just keep doing it …
- What wouldn’t you do without?
To follow Tracey’s work or to sign up for one of her classes please follow the links below.
This exclusive interview was originally published on the blog (on this site), on February 3rd, 2016.