Michelle Keighley

August 3, 2023 by Artist Lane

Q. You have a very talented family, your grandfather,
grandmother, your mum and even your sister painted,
do you think you were always destined to be a painter?

A. As far back as I can remember, I had to be doing something hands-on and tactile. Even at school I never responded that well to being told how to do something, you had to show me and then let me do it. That was my learning style and I learnt fast. I assume that’s why I did well in subjects involving manual arts and struggled in subjects where learning demanded that I listen or read. 

Q. What made you pick up a brush again after a decade,
and how did that emotional journey lead you to where you are now as a full-time artist?

A. In a way I think my creative side started to emerge

again as an outlet to process some of the grief of losing
my Mum to cancer. I dipped my toe in the water with some little watercolour landscapes and that was enough to fan the flame and get me moving again. Before long I was working with oils again. I lived in a stunning part of the northern rivers in NSW so I was never short of inspiration.
I found momentum creatively and my practice took off from there.

Q. Did you ever dream of doing anything else?
A. Definitely. Working with animals was my number one dream. Had things been different I could have found myself in a caretaking role at a sanctuary or wildlife park. Even if that dream had eventuated, I would like to think that there would always have been room in my life for art.

Q. What inspires you to be creative? 
A. I need to spend time in amongst nature to keep things flowing creatively. Often a long walk among the coastal banksias where I live will lead me straight back to my studio to begin working on something new. My creativity also benefits from a good mood in general, so I have

found focusing on gratitude and positive things brings
its own inspiration.

Q. Your style has been described as Abstract Expressionism, can you explain what this means?
A. Probably the best way I can describe it in context with

my work is Impressionism but with more spontaneity. I paint readily recognisable scenes and forms but I loosely interpret these but not to the point of symbolism where pure abstract can take us. In other words what you see is what you get. Not too much to interpret.

Q. What emotions or messages do you hope viewers 
take away from your art?
A. My goal is to convey Australia’s unique lighting and

flora in a way that stimulates an emotional connection
with the land. Sometimes my work elicits feeling of nostalgia even homesickness. My paintings are really memories, moments in time that I have tried to preserve.
A reminder of one’s childhood or of a loved one. 

Q. Can you discuss the role of colour in defining the
mood and atmosphere in your paintings?
A. The colours I mix are largely impacted by my mood. In saying that the moody greys and greens I often use don’t necessarily reflect sadness but rather that I am feeling grounded and content. 

Q. You mentioned being addicted to trees and nature. What emotions do you aim to evoke in your viewers through your nature inspired artwork?
A. Yes I am a bit of a tree hugger and a barefoot girl. It is always interesting seeing the different things people take away from an artwork, and I have learnt that it really is a  personal thing. It is my hope that my work evokes feelings of fondness and attachment to the land, protectiveness and a desire to care for it well. but ultimately if it simply sparks a little bit of Joy in someone it’s all worthwhile.

Q. What and where is your happy place?
A. Walking barefoot through the sandy trails near my studio on the edge of the Burrum Coast National Park.

Q. Given a choice between only using a palette knife
or paint brushes, which would you prefer? Why?

A. What a painful choice! 

I can’t imagine life without either one, but if you forced
me to choose I would say brushes. The brush allows
for subtle layering and I find I can express a bit more warmth. Brushes also allow me to take a slower more mindful approach to the work, whereas Palette Knife
pieces tend to be high energy, created in a single take.
But ask me again tomorrow, I will probably give you a different answer.

Q. Are there any specific artists or movements that have
influenced your artistic journey?

A. Looking back I would have to say it’s the Australian
Impressionists that speak to me most.

Not sure if could say I’ve been influenced but definitely humbled by the work of wonderful artists such us Tom Roberts, Margaret Olley and Hans Heysen.

Q. You draw inspiration mostly along Australia’s east coast, is the coastline and its changing natural beauty what feeds your soul? 
A. Absolutely. I guess you draw inspiration from what

you know and the east coast has been a constant feature
in my life since childhood. I will always feel that deep connection with the coastline and the hinterland regions
of the Mid north Coast, the Northern Rivers, and the Gold Coast. Now I am so thrilled to be exploring the Fraser Coast which has its own unique personality which is already influencing my work.

Q. What is the most valuable lesson you have learned on your journey so far?
I have learned to never allow the joy of creating to take

a back seat to the demands of life or business. While art
is my living, something I am exceedingly grateful for, it
is completely counterproductive to become stressed or overwhelmed by the mechanics of my practice. So if I ever feel that happening, I know to stop pull back, get back into nature and spending time with my family and have the reset needed to remind me why I truly love what I do.

Shop Michelle Keighley’s collection here