Q. How did you start your artistic journey?
A. My artistic journey began with time spent with my sister Julie. While my husband was at work I would visit her at her house in Alice Springs. It was 1993 and I was pregnant with my son Kyle. I was on leave from my job as a hairdresser. My sister had a lot of work as an artist. She also had commission work to paint bush bananas on panels for one of the local shopping centres, it was a lot of work, so I helped her. She was painting t-shirts for a lady called Simone who had a small business called Walkabout. Many young women had their first start with Simone, painting on clay and fabric. I soon began designing artworks for Walkabout t-shirts, as well as painting them. I stayed with Walkabout after it was sold to two local ladies from Alice Springs. I continued to paint for them until they decided to close down around 2004. I was determined to continue on my path as an artist. I began painting for a few of the Aboriginal Art Galleries in Alice. It took me many years to develop a signature style that was uniquely my own.
Q. What inspires your art?
A. My art is inspired by the life that I have lived. I feel privileged to have spent the past 42 years with my people here in Central Australia, 27 of those years raising our 2 sons on my husband’s country west of Alice Springs. It is so beautiful here, inspiration surrounds me every day.
Q. Tell us more about the meaning of the shapes and colours in your art.
A. My artwork is both iconic and figurative, which makes it easy to understand. The symbols I use in my artwork have been used by Aboriginal people for thousands of years to tell stories. The figurative side is represented by the animal life here in Central Australia. The colours I use in my artworks are often colours I see in the environment. When I paint traditional stories, I use natural ochre tones. If I paint children’s stories I use colours that are playful and vibrant. With my birds, I like to make them appear to be 3D, by using contrasting colours.
Q. How are your family involved in your work?
A. My family are my biggest supporters. My youngest son Klinton had been learning to paint from me, he is actually quite good too. He paints out in my studio when he feels like it. His favourite thing to paint is landscapes. My eldest son Kyle has moved out of the home. He used to help me run my studio, this job has now been filled by my husband Keith. He is my art worker, and I love that.
Q. Where do you like to create your art?
A. I really enjoy creating my art in my studio, because that is the studio’s dedicated purpose and it is beautiful and peaceful there. But if I get bored I usually go back to my original space at the kitchen table. I think most artists can relate. If you don’t have a studio, the kitchen table becomes your studio. I was laughing with a fellow artist once, he said that his family doesn’t get to sit down at the table for dinner because it was always covered with his paints, brushes and canvas. I said, “It’s the same at my house”. I like to paint at night as well, so I always gravitate back to the kitchen table where I can enjoy the company and conversation of my family.
Q. What is the highlight of your artistic career?
A. I have had many highlights. But the most outstanding was winning Best Design in the 2017 Inaugural My Travel Research International Tourism Toilet Award. Those toilets are a little bit special. The dot painted doors are so pretty.
Q. How do you fit art around your life?
A. My art is my life, so my life fits around my art. I paint just about every day. My priority each day is making sure I have enough paint canvas to continue to produce my artworks.
I think I might be the best customer at the local art supplies store. In Aboriginal communities, I would say that art is one of the biggest economic drivers for Aboriginal people. Art allows Aboriginal people to share stories with the world but also benefit financially from artworks sold. My art is my livelihood.
Q. What does a day off from creating art look like?
A. I paint just about every day. But if I do get a day off,
my favourite thing is to go back to my home Community, Hermannsburg (Ntaria) 120km West of Alice Springs swimming and digging for honey ants. To me, that would be a perfect day, I have so many happy memories at that place.
Q. Besides your art, what other business ventures are you involved in?
A. At the moment I am project managing, building a huge multi-purpose shed on our small outstation community which was funded by Aboriginal Benefit Account. Our community has never had anything like this before so it is very exciting. I no longer open my studio to the public.
During the past two years, like many people, I have re-prioritised what I feel to be the most important things to me. I have decided to focus on my family and helping to care for my mother as she gets older. So at this time in my life, I won’t be taking on any new business ventures.
Q. How do you engage with local, national and international artists?
A. When my studio was open pre covid I was teaching young Aboriginal women from my home community Hermannsburg (Ntaria) how to paint. I absolutely loved them coming to my studio, they would come once a week. They developed a body of works, from small canvases to painted tissue boxes and jewellery. We then decided to have an exhibition night at my studio it was a huge success. The young women sold most of their collection and they were so thrilled. I do miss them. Covid changed a lot of things for all of us.
In-person and through social media, I encourage the next generation of Artists to have confidence and develop their own style and tell their own stories through their art.
I also paint for a gallery in The Netherlands called Maliyaa (Australian Aboriginal Art), I have known them for quite a few years. They often include my artworks in their exhibitions. You can find them on Facebook. They work with many Aboriginal Artists. I was privileged to meet a lovely couple that had been collecting my art from Maliyaa, they travelled to Australia from the Netherlands a few years ago. One of their goals while in Australia was to come and meet me, as they had quite a few of my paintings hanging in their home in Rotterdam. I thought that was so special. I introduced them to Tim Tams while they were here. I have met the most amazing people from all over the world at my studio in the Central Australian bush, some of them remain my friends to this day. These days, the main gallery I choose to paint for is Kate Owen Gallery, Rozelle in Sydney.
I have engaged in a few collaborative arrangements with Australian Businesses. Allegria Designs, Koh Living, Better World Art, and Bulurru. I am most excited to be on board with Artist Lane.
Shop Kathleen Buzzacott’s collection here.