The Accidental Artist: Tania Chanter Interview
Driven by an intuitive process and a profound love of colour, Tania Chanter is an abstract artist whose work focuses on landscapes of the natural world and the ever-changing influence of the elements on the environment. Based in the Yarra Valley, Tania’s aim within her abstract landscapes is to capture the atmosphere of her surroundings, and to communicate an emotive response.
Over the last four years, Tania Chanter has developed a signature style that is unique to her work, earning her a space as one of Bluethumb’s bestselling artists. We caught up with Tania to discuss the ‘accidental’ inception to her creative journey and her continuity as an artist in the face of fear and failure.
How did your creative practice come about?
I wish I could say I had the burning desire to paint ever since I began finger painting in kindergarten and after years of study, multiple art schools and hours and hours of practice I have developed into the consummate professional I am today. But that is just not true. My creative practice began almost by accident. After binging on Bob Ross videos one school holiday, my teenage son suggested we get ourselves a canvas and follow one of Bob’s tutorials. So, on a sunny day under the shade of a large oak tree with my two boys focused on an iPad watching a whispering man sporting an impressive afro my creative practice began. Since that day I have painted almost every day.
Throughout my creative career, I have enjoyed working in a diverse range of roles including 12 years in advertising at The Age newspaper, as a voice-over artist and media presenter and as a director of a graphic design company. I have enjoyed all these endeavours and while painting began as a creative experiment with my children, I never anticipated falling so completely in love with the expression and freedom it provides. It meets every creative impulse I have and is a source of endless inspiration and satisfaction.
Discovering my love for painting has not only enriched my life but also taught me a valuable lesson. Fear is a very negative and crippling emotion. It can prevent you from trying new things and in so doing limits your potential. I am not talking about fear of high-risk activities and encouraging people to take risks for the sake of overcoming healthy fear, but rather overcoming fear of failure and being willing to just try. How many times do you hear people say, “I couldn’t do that!” And maybe they couldn’t, but how will they know unless they try. If “I couldn’t do that!” is based on fear or worse still, laziness, then it should be challenged and overcome. Life is a precious gift – don’t let fear rob you of enjoying a full life!
Your work on Bluethumb is predominantly in acrylic. What do you like about working in this medium? Do you experiment with other media?
Even though my first painting was in oils I soon moved to acrylics primarily because I am fundamentally impatient. Waiting for oils to dry, even with the addition of mediums frustrates me. I also find the crisp edges that can be achieved with acrylics satisfying. I work quickly, and often thickly with a mountain of paint. Thin coats of acrylic paint can be used to give a watercolour look. Currently I am experimenting with introducing metallics in small areas of my landscapes.
When you’re feeling low on inspo, what’s a go-to for you?
It happens to most of us. You finish a painting and feel a certain sense of satisfaction. Then in the blink of a synapse you doubt, not only your ability to paint, but your ability to do just about anything. In this state all you need is the slightest negative comment and you’re finished! What do you do now…
Here’s what helps me. Try to break the looping of negative self defeating thoughts. The best way I have found to achieve this is to stop doing what I am doing and exercise. Exercise hard. A vigorous bike ride, a long walk or a gym class – all options work for me.
The next step is to focus on something positive. Returning to those who inspired me to begin painting can be refreshing. Bob Burridge, a contemporary American painter, has inspired me for some time. I recently read a quote from Bob that is well worth remembering:
“You, the artist, have to develop to the point where your eccentricity blossoms. My advice is, don’t let anybody tell you what or how to paint. Don’t let others limit you because they can’t imagine doing it themselves. People who judge you don’t matter…and people who matter don’t judge you. Do everything to support your own dream.”
Bob’s words are a reminder that painting is about the doing and whatever would prevent you from that is not worth focussing on. In short; paint, paint, paint and keep painting. Paint yourself out of negative thoughts and don’t give up.
Where do you source inspiration from for your creative outlets?
Around my home nature overwhelms the human environment. Trees command the skyline, not buildings, and beauty rules over bitumen. My work reflects the deep inner peace I feel when outdoors, from the smell of the rich red earth in autumn and the tang of spring, to the crisp apple coldness of winter and the ochre glow of lingering summer sunset.
I am not a person who focusses on detail, rather I am moved by the feeling and atmosphere of a landscape. If I’m feeling flat and lacking inspiration I go for forest walks. Living in the Dandenong Ranges I am privileged to have some beautiful forests right on my doorstep.
What attracts you to painting the abstract landscapes you’re well-recognised for?
I have always had a desire to express the emotions I feel from nature. The depth and richness of the colours, the complexity of the sky – the romantic feeling of stormy clouds, the churning foam of the ocean on those days and the sunlight playing through tall grasses as they bend and wave. My feelings flow directly onto the canvas in an uninterrupted, intuitive flow; layers, textures and colours blend and evolve before me until some secret inner part of me feels satisfied. I don’t question or reflect on the process as it takes shape, I simply let the emotions rule the head.
Could you tell us about your process of creating an artwork?
All my pieces start by laying down a base of impasto spread and shaped with a spatula, palette knife, needle and whatever I can find that makes interesting marks. Sometimes I paint directly on the impasto while it is still wet, pushing paint with large brushes, sponges and my hands. After this base layer has dried I add washes of colour, fine ink lines and details.
What highlights have there been in your artistic career?
Even though I’m in my early 50s my artistic career feels like it’s in its infancy. So everything that happens seems to be a highlight. Having my first solo exhibition in 2019 was a highlight. Being able to earn a wage from my art has been a massive highlight and this has been made possible largely due to Bluethumb. Reaching over 2000 followers on Bluethumb, and being a finalist in the Bluethumb Art Prize in 2020 and 2021. While we are talking about Bluethumb, being featured in the Established Sellers is the ultimate highlight.
As for me, the most satisfying feeling is when people are prepared to spend their hard earned money on my art. That is a highlight that I never tire of and am forever grateful for.
Do you have any small goals for the future of your artistic journey?
I don’t set myself huge goals other than striving to make each painting better than the one before. As world conditions worsen and we are continually bombarded with distressing news events it’s easy to retreat into the bubble of creativity and become completely self absorbed. My goal is not to let this happen. Whilst being grateful for the ability to provide a source of income, I never want to become so absorbed that I have no time left for what’s really important and that is helping others find a way through the problems we face.
What advice would you give someone who might be looking to start an artistic career, or a creative path?
If you are thinking about starting an artistic career, don’t let fear hold you back. That having been said, be prepared to work very hard. There is no substitute for practice.Want to stay up-to-date with Tania’s latest uploads? Follow her profile on Bluethumb here.