LOIS Brown does not see a need to leave Gippsland to paint – just hours from her Drouin home is the snow Mount Baw Baw, the sea around Wilsons Promontory and the captivating mists of Dargo.
First published in the 12 June 2015 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
She paints full time and travels a lot to find inspiration for her work, but one place in particular has stood out.
“You find places in Gippsland,” she told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
“You stop at the side of the road or you go up to Dargo specifically to get mist and trees and autumn colours and things like that.
“It’s really fun, you find new places all the time and it’s really interesting to see the sun on objects, [unlike] in Drouin.”
Lois does not mean to disparage West Gippsland – she also paints locally.
“It’s just Dargo I’ve been to a few times and have seen the place with mist, and the Dargo pub with mist is just fantastic,” she said.
“That whole valley is covered in mist and then it rises, and it’s really fascinating to see that.
“Not only is it painting, you actually get to see some beautiful things.
“But it’s not only Dargo, because I do it everywhere. Noojee, Toorongo Falls, fantastic subjects, and they’re everywhere.
“I actually haven’t painted a lot in the centre of Australia or Alice Springs or somewhere because I have so much I can do down here.
“I can get to the Prom, which is the coast, then I can go up to the snow, then I can go up to Dargo – within two hours you’ve actually got some really good subjects.”
Despite that wide variety of places, the watercolour artist who started painting in the medium 30 years ago does not need any more than six colours. Blended, of course.
“It’s usually about six colours, depending on the subject,” she said.
“For Gippsland landscapes I can work with six colours, but if it’s a new subject that requires a different mix of colours I have others to use as well.
“But you can usually get a good range of greens or mauves or oranges just with those colours.”
Twenty-five years ago Lois started painting full time, leaving teaching art at secondary schools.
“I did teach secondary school for 18 years, but then I found I was thinking more about my painting and I decided it would be better if
I just cut down to three days and the I left,” she said.
“But I still teach private classes with adults. I do like the teaching side still.
“I’m still alive [as a full time artist] and it’s been 25 years I’ve been painting full time.
Lois has a new exhibition on at the Town & Country Gallery in Yarragon called The Colours of Gippsland. With no particular theme in mind, it is simply what Lois likes to paint.
“This is just subjects I like, and that’s what I paint,” she said.
“I actually paint watercolours because I like it.”
Although not intentional, there is a lot of disaster in this exhibition. From landslides to other natural disasters, several works feature changed landscapes.
“Every now and again I need to refresh myself or I get a real buzz from seeing students work because they can teach me things even though they’re not tutors,” she said.
“But if you find a subject that is really fascinating, like the light on the side of a tree trunk or something new [such as] the landslide down at the Prom, that was after the massive flood in 2011 I think.
“That was amazing because that subject reminded me a lot of Arthur Streeton’s work so I actually refer back to other watercolourists for influence.”
As part of the exhibition, Lois conducted a live painting demonstration last weekend. Attracting a strong crowd, she went through the process of watercolour painting while a room of people looked on. For a teacher it was nothing new, but she still finds painting in front of a crowd difficult.
“You do have to really concentrate on what you’re doing, and a couple of times I wasn’t and put paint where I shouldn’t have,” she said.
“When I’m painting on my own I find I can get a better result because I am focussed on what I am doing and not focussed on the people around me, it’s a bit like trying to block them out.
“I talk while I’m painting because it stops people from asking me questions and as soon as I’m asked a question I have to stop the brain and think about it.”
But the demonstration did have its perks.
“There’s a really big buzz that you can get when people learn,” she said.
“Some people I know were really quite fascinated with what was happening and that was really nice to see, their interest.”
The Colours of Gippsland will be on display until the end of the month.
In paraphernalia for the event, Lois said she considered herself something of a record keeper.
“I consider myself to be a witness to the present and as an artist I like to record facts but also rearrange and interpret the scene to create interesting and engaging images,” she said.
“I like to tackle subjects that present problems of technique that I have not faced in previous works and after [30 years] I am still touched by the spontaneous, exciting and frustrating qualities of the watercolour medium.”
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