Artists of the Outback Creative} Kathy Ellem
Who are your influences?
Bill Sass has been the most profound influence on my career. Right at the beginning he took me under his wing and gave me direction, and way to pay for the rest of the journey. I learned how to do the ‘dusty’ paintings under his tutelage. I have also attended many workshops with John Wilson, my whole career I’ve fought with myself to produce landscapes as they were my primary love. John’s understanding of how to create depth has allowed me to understand how to achieve this with my horses. Another artist whom I’ve admired and attended workshops is Lyn Diefenbach. The critical thing I learned from her was that value/tone is king, drawing is critical then colour. I played with that concept for 12 months trying to prove it wrong, and thus proved it true to myself. Other artists I’ve followed over the years are so many, but I love Scott Burdick’s work the way he combines abstract with realism, which is also what I like about Hans Heysens work. I am intrigued by the impression of precision but on closer inspection you just see a brush stroke containing many colours that expresses so much.
Ready to Roll - 121cmW x 91cmH - Original oil painting on gallery quality, primed linen ready to hang
Where in Australia do you find is your best source of inspiration?
The draught horse paintings have become something of an identifier for me, and those paintings all started when I attended the Moora Draught horse field day at Easter. I’ve since attended as many of those kinds of events as possible.
Autumn Light in the Gully - 101cmW x 76cmH - This painting was finished completely with a palette knife
What do you find are the most difficult subjects to capture/paint/draw?
I’m pretty much stuffed if I don’t have good light and shadows, so overcast days don’t do well for me when I’m out gathering material. I have always struggled with portraits, but they are now on my to-do list. Years ago I decided that I needed to work on my weakest aspects, and at that time, it was drawing. No one believes that I was terrible at it. Now, it is photo manipulation and portraits.
Morning Reflections - 60cmW x 76cmH - This is an oil on canvas
What makes you start to create a piece and how do you know when you are finished?
Most paintings I aim to learn something, sometimes I have an idea that I want to test so I find a subject that best suits the concept. At other times I just want to have fun and play with colour or technique. I love the way colours blend together with a palette knife, you can achieve effects with a knife that is just not possible with a brush. When I am almost done I start to slow down and do a whole lot more looking, and my final question is, will another brush stroke enhance this image any further? I really don’t like over working a painting, as it kills all the joyful strokes I put in along the way. When I am doing the more complex paintings I don’t leave an area unless it is done, so it is like a complete painting in each section.
Did you hear...? - 91cmW x 91cmH - This painting has a beautiful leather frame that just has to be felt to be believed
Do you have an artwork you are most proud of and why?
The most obvious one for me is ‘Just one short straw…please?’ as it won me the National Equine Art Prize in 2017 worth $8000. But at the moment it is ‘Steering’ because the major element within the painting is a portrait of a person, the first one I’ve attempted in one of my ‘for sale’ paintings. I’ve attempted portraits at workshops and life drawing sessions but never for sale.
Waiting for the Break - 91.44 cmW x 60.96 cmH
What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without?
I have a cluster of things that are critical, my palette, counter weighted easel, laptop and screen. But the most valuable thing I own is a little palette knife I’ve affectionately called ‘precious’, because Bill gave it to me, and they can’t be bought.
I am all Ears - 60cmW x 91cmW - Original oil painting on gallery primed linen ready to hang
What would you like to achieve out of your art?
I would like to bring people closer to the bush, and represent a monorities way of life in a positive aspect. After going through several issues on our property in SW Qld, then being faced with the ban on live export, closely followed by the drought and knowing that so many people were against the wall it almost crushed my spirit. I did a lot of soul searching at that time, and questioning why I was doing it. I just felt that there is a lot of negativity in the world and I want people to just feel pleasure, joy, comfort when they look at my work. They can watch the news for their daily dose of depression then turn around and look at an art work and let it all go again. I also love connecting with people at workshops, the therapy that can be achieved is immeasurable, I will always miss my weekly class with the girls in Surat.
Next Barrel - 76.20cmH x 60.06cmH - This acrylic painting is a fun combination of abstract with realism
Where do you see yourself in a couple of years?
Well, things have moved incredibly fast in the last 2 years since we moved to Victoria. My long term goals that I had set for 10 years and beyond are being ticked off now, I’ve been for a trip to the USA to see as much art and artists as possible, and now I’m in the process of opening a gallery in Beechworth. My goal is to teach and exhibit across Australia and internationally. To meet and make lots of art and horse lover friends and to never stop improving the quality of my work.
The funniest thing is, I got bucked off a horse when I was a kid and never got back on, if someone had said that I would be painting horses 6 years ago I would have laughed at them. So it is hard to say where life will take me.
All works above can be purchased on Kathy's profile, please follow link below to purchase.