Off the Beaten Track: Landscape Artist Karyn Fendley
Landscape artist Karyn Fendley has always made art. “When I was a small child,” she remembers, “I had a blackboard that I loved to draw on and I also used to play with clay. I was just naturally drawn to these things.” Even at that young age, she knew that she wanted to make a living from her passion. “When I started school I remember one day we were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up and I was the only one in my class who said artist. I wasn’t too sure if you could be an artist as a job, but that was my first choice of career.”
In her early twenties, some seemingly unfortunate circumstances allowed Karyn to pursue this dream. “Following graduation [from the Queensland College of Art in Brisbane], I worked as a graphic designer for a few years in my early twenties. The company hit hard times during the recession in the early 90s, and I lost my job. Although it was stressful being without a steady income I realised that while I loved design, I didn’t want another design job, and I decided to try selling my artwork for a living instead.” Karyn gradually built a name for herself with her landscapes at local markets, opening the door to exhibitions and galleries. She looks back on what turned out to be luck with amusement; “You could say that losing my job was the most significant milestone in my career.”
Since then, Karyn’s art style has evolved and changed over the years, from her early surreal pieces depicting the figure within the landscape, to a recent series of rock pool inspired works comparing macro and microscopic landscape imagery. One thing that hasn’t changed is Karyn’s focus on nature, which remains a consistent theme. “I think it is very important for people to connect with the natural world. I believe that while spending time in nature or when looking at images of nature, we become aware of our own small space in the world, bringing a little perspective into our lives.”
Karyn approaches her art with the adventurous attitude that has seen her through her career, literally straying off the beaten track to fully immerse herself in the subject of her work. “For the last decade or so I have painted about places I have visited. I like to spend some time camping in a place then create a whole series of artworks about it. When I exhibit the work altogether, I hope it gives a strong sense of the place that inspires the work.”
“After spending time in the field,” explains Karyn as she breaks down the process for us further, “I return to the studio and translate my experiences of the place into composite images sourced from my sketches and photographs, blending memory and observation. I am interested in what we notice and what we remember about a place and focus on those elements rather than trying to record every detail.”
“My most recent series of paintings, with their bright skies, deep shadows and silhouettes, was inspired by spending time at various local beaches along the north coast of New South Wales last summer. The artworks in this series explore extremes of lightness and darkness, and the transient liminal spaces created by the shadows.”
Currently taking a break from the solo exhibitions that have kept her busy over the last few years, Karen is instead enjoying her time in the studio working on a new series of landscape paintings. She also has plans to expand her Bluethumb range to include some limited edition prints of her digital artworks later in 2017 after the medium is introduced onto the site.
“It’s fun to experiment [with digital art] because every action you take can be reversed if you don’t like it. I find it a very liberating creative process. I am pushing in a slightly different direction towards new processes and ways of thinking about my subject, and I am looking forward to where this may take me.” So do we Karyn!