April 13, 2011

A Colourful Sense of Freedom

An Interview with Artist Bonnie Coad

Part 2 of 2 (link to Part 1)
Click on any image to enlargenize

Bonnie, your work shows hints of cubism, modern and abstract art and even impressionism, as well as in some cases strong flavourings of the Orient. Did you privately study these styles or has your knowledge grown as you’ve developed as an artist?

Apart from a couple of night classes learning about using water-colours – which I would note my mother had to drag me along to – and what little I learned in art class in school, I have had no formal training. Instead, every little ounce of ‘knowledge’ and experience I have gained has been through reading books, speaking to other artists and again lots and lots of hands-on trial-and-error. And there has definitely been plenty of error along the way!

I do love Cubism; being able to break things down into simple, recognisable shapes fascinates me. A lot of my art includes images or forms that are mere hints or suggestions, where I try to draw the eye in and make people look and choose for themselves what they take away from it. I like to challenge people to have a reaction to my art, good or bad. To me, it doesn’t matter what their reaction is as long as they feel something.

In terms of the oriental ‘flavourings’, my mother lived and worked in Japan for two years during her travels. She came back absolutely loving Japanese textiles and their culture. As such, we had a lot of Japanese items about the house. I think the flamboyant colours and free shapes and designs must have rubbed off on me.

Both colour and texture are obviously very important elements of your work. Why do you think you have developed such an intensely colourful palette?
Through my experiments learning to paint, I discovered that I love playing with colour! I love opposing colours, clashing colours! I like yellow and purple, I like orange and green, I like colours so bright you can almost hear them hum!

I really love to combine lots of different colours in a composition! To me, they are so happy, so vibrant, so challenging. I find using intense colour extremely satisfying, and I think that when you get it right, all these crazy colour combinations can actually come together to form an image that is quite calm and reflective.

So after that great big release... I guess you could say that I have developed my intensely colourful palette out of self-gratification to please my own tastes! And is there a better reason to develop something that that?

I understand that you also like to ‘experiment’ with paint applications and new effects, even including grain and rice in your pieces to add unique textures. How did you become interested in trying out different ‘additives’ to your pieces?
I learned about these kinds of ‘tricks’ through researching more about art and also of course talking with other creative people. I discovered there was no end to the things you could attempt, that the only boundaries in art are the ones you place in front of yourself!

I have to confess, my love of experimental paint application has reached almost obsessive levels! I can’t go anywhere without finding something I see as potentially useful. You should see my guest room (at present, I don’t have a studio and this spare room has become my art room): it’s full of boxes of old sewing patterns, sheet music, bags of fine and course sand, bubble wrap (used, for example, in the picture above) of every shape and size plus a thousand other possibly useful things I intend to use one day. I pity any poor guest that has been squeezed in there while visiting us!

Bonnie, you also act as the ‘house artist’ for the Riverside Café which is located in the Moutere Valley, between Nelson and Motueka (ok NZ Tourist Board, I linked all of that so don’t forget my check!). What exactly do you do as the ‘resident’ clever person for a cafe that isn’t even open year-round?
The Riverside Café is a beautiful old (1860/70) cottage which was converted into a café/restaurant in 2000. The award-winning gardens are lovely. They were recently voted “The People’s Choice” for best rural café in the local Nelson and Marlborough Magazine “Wild Tomato”. The café is an off-shoot of the Riverside Community, originally established by Christian Methodist pacifists in 1941.

You’re right, they’re not open all year because the economics just wouldn’t work. In fact, during the winter, they are only open weekends to cater for the locals and they even close down completely for one month of the year. Being a rural establishment there is simply not enough human traffic to keep it running during this time and with the current economic situation things have been even slower than normal.

When they are open, I exhibit my works there, adding fresh works periodically as well as selling my art in the more affordable forms of cards and calendars. Plus, each October, I hold an opening to launch the new season’s exhibition.

Can you talk us through a typical creative ‘process’ for one of your pieces? With some of my favourite of your works, you mention having even started from scribbles or doodles! Wow!
Yes that’s right: sometimes if I’m in that sort of mood, I will do a big scribble and look to see if there is some aspect of it that I like. I find it’s a good way to unblock myself if I am getting a bit frustrated with a piece that’s not working out the way I want. I think the human brain is always looking for shapes it recognises! So, if I see a face or the outline of a woman in one of my doodles, I’ll build it up from there.

In fact, very few of my works are planned and neatly laid out from concept to the finished piece. My working style is very “organic”. Sorry, I don’t mean to get all arty on you. All I mean by that is that many times my paintings continue to grow as I paint them. Often, I only have a very vague idea of what I am going to do and sometimes not even that. I just let the paint take me where it will. In terms of how I work, well, I am an early-riser and get up around four a.m. most mornings to get a bit of painting in before I go to work. I like to listen to music and even sometimes talking books while I am working; it helps to clear my mind. In
fact, I once did a series of paintings in response to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” (also the name of my piece here). I had the CD on repeat for about three days straight!

Concerning my process per se: I normally start with a textured base. Tissue paper is a favourite of mine. Then I’ll use cutlery, bubble wrap and anything else I think will create an interesting effect to apply the paint. Plus, I’ll normally have about three paintings on the go at once.

I was interested to see that you stated ‘I don’t believe in painting chiefly for profit and reproducing works to order.’ Why is that?
I think it takes away from the creative process and the artist’s integrity. Sometimes people will ask if I could paint them a copy of a painting that I have sold already, maybe because they liked that one. Or they really like another one BUT the colours are wrong for their decor. So they’ll even ask ‘could I paint it in blue?’

I’ve even had people come to me with quite detailed concepts and ask if I could do these for them. To be honest, I find this sort of thing a bit insulting. If my heart is not in a painting, no amount of money will convince me to do it. I think we live in such a consumer-driven world these days that people sometimes forget that there are limits to what you can buy. At the end of the day, the pieces that result from my creativity are only for sale on my terms.

In addition, I don’t think its fair at all to previous clients who have brought work to have that same work reproduced for someone else. I mean, I don’t disapprove of making prints and selling them as such or even as greeting cards, especially to make the art more affordable and accessible to more people. Still, a print like this will never be the same as the real thing.

Your pieces quite often feature women, sometimes very clearly as a portrait or even merely hinted at in a dancing or otherwise graceful movement. Is it important for you to include women in your artwork or is this more of a case of painting what you know?
It’s definitely more a case of painting what I know. The female form is so familiar to me that I see it in everything; so, when I am painting it often just jumps out at me.

Also, I guess I’m a bit lazy at heart, too: I let my works breeze in like old friends instead of agonising over them for hours and hours. Well, sometimes there’s a bit of agonising!

While we’re on the topic of truly ‘artistic’ endeavours, you’ve mentioned you’re also involved in the local wine industry?
Ha ha ha ha! While wine-making is rumoured to be a very artistic pursuit, take it from me: WORKING on a vineyard is nowhere near as romantic as some people assume!

But yes, I have been working for Wither Hills Winery for about seven years, simply because a mortgage is a hungry wee beastie that needs to be fed!! While making a living with my art is my dream, as many artists will no doubt confirm, the reality is that the cash flow from art can’t always be relied on, especially in the current economic environment! New Zealand is no different to the rest of the world in this regard: things have slowed right down and people are strapped for cash! So, what’s the first thing you cut from the budget when money gets tight? Exactly...

Even with the slowdown though, 2010 and the first few months of 2011 seem to have been very busy for you, with lots of shows and even a well-deserved ‘Best of Show’ award. What big events have you got planned for 2011 and beyond?
Yes, it’s been busy lately but a lot of fun! I recently exhibited in Auckland at the 2nd Pink Noise Art Show and I am working on a solo exhibition to be held locally here in Marlborough. Plus, I just signed with an art agency in Auckland called ‘Art and Soul’ and have been busy getting my some work together for their promotions.

I have also been invited to exhibit in Fusion Gallery & Studio’s “Undy Four Hundy” art show. In addition, there are several other group exhibitions I have been invited to enter my work in ... and if you want, you can add that I need to come up with approximately twenty new works for the next café season, which will kick off in October 2011! So all in all I am going to be terribly busy!!!!

I’ve been involved as well in work for a couple of on-line magazines:
Pink Noise founded by Katie Robinson, and also Rem Magazine, which is the brainchild of Orchid Tierney. Orchid has asked me to be part of the editorial board for Rem in the role of a ‘blind reviewer’ of submitted artworks to help in selecting work for the magazine. Both of these are non-profit magazines so there is no payment involved. But they are good exposure opportunities and they are full of wonderful and interesting arty stuff! In fact, my own work was featured Pink Noise’s zine #4 & #5 and Rem magazine’s first issue. That was fun, even though I will now no longer be eligible to submit work for Rem, as there would be an obvious conflict of interest.

Where would you like to see your art ‘career’ head over the next years? Are you looking to expand beyond the local market or just take it as it comes?
I am expanding out a bit this year. After all, being a successful artist is about exposure. Again, it does take me out of my comfort zone putting myself forward for exhibitions and more; but if I don’t make an effort to get my work out there, who else will? I have always been a bit of a “take it as it comes” sort of person but I think now is the time to step it up a gear. I would ultimately like to one day make a living from my art.

Finally, what is the one thing that you would like for ‘viewers’ to take away with them after enjoying your art?
I would like for people to feel the sense of freedom my art gives me when I am creating it; to feel the freedom to do things differently, and not be limited by what has been done before.


Bonnie Coad is the proud owner of a – if not precocious then I suspect somewhat aromatic – cat nicknamed ‘Farty Moo’. No, I’m not making that up and yes, I did think that would be a more interesting start to Bonnie’s biography section than with the usual fluff. Though I suspect he also causes enough fluff as well...

A self-taught artist, Bonnie’s work continues to gather accolades for its originality, unique expressionism and creativity! She has been featured in a number of publications throughout New Zealand and has recently also graciously contributed her work and time to the cause of raising funds for the Christchurch earthquake victims.

Bonnie loves to include copious amounts of bright colours and interesting textures in her work. Her ‘experimental education’ in the arts has led to a sense of innocence in many of her pieces yet she offers a style that is both aesthetically pleasing and definitively professional in its execution. Despite the prolific number of pieces she has created in the past months as a result of what seems to be an almost obsessive work ethic (we didn’t even know there was such a thing as 4 a.m.!), her works continue to show a wide variety of novel themes and distinct constructions. She has a particular knack for capturing the soulful reflections and moods of the women and other subjects she paints.

Bonnie’s career will certainly be one to keep on your radar for many years to come! We wish her all the best of luck and want to thank her again for her time spent on this interview!

Profile: http://www.thebigidea.co.nz/profile/bonnie-coad/30579
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/bonniecoad

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All pictures, videos and other media are used with written permission of Bonnie Coad, including all current or previous business affiliations related to same, or are available in the public domain (noting copyright and other restrictions, accordingly). No further reproduction or duplication is permitted without contacting the artist directly.

Some pictures have been modified slightly or combined only for the purpose of space limitations. In all cases, we invite you to visit the artist’s site(s) for more!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, Thanks Ziggy!!!! I know I know, I was saving it for the weekend but "yay" it rained today and we finished early. I couldnt wait.............Thanks for the time you put into this, it came togeather wonderfully and the images you chose worked really well! Now I am off to do a bit of linking..........:P
:) Bon.