Australian Fine Artist

Kristen Headlam

Visiting Artist
May 25th, 2012

Kristen lives and works in Melbourne and her education includes a Bachelor of Arts (1972-76), Departments of Fine Arts & English at the University of Melbourne and Painting (1980-81) at the Victorian College of the Arts. she has been an exhibiting artist since 1982 and her works are in several prestigious galleries overseas and in Australia.

A large part of her early work was inspired and drawn from photos that she saw in the newspapers from which she did a series of politically and socially based subjects mostly in watercolour.

She has also used photography by an early 20th Century French photographer as the basis for a series of “parks”, drawing on her upbringing in Tasmania for similarities in concept. Later photos that she took herself were in parks and based around taking snaps of wedding events. Some of these were composed to bring out some humour or a tell a story from an interesting interaction of the people in the groups.

Many of her titles and themes draw on “classical” themes which have been attached to contemporary stories and a limited palette was used for added drama. Some of her work is just for fun and others are aimed at serious social commentary.

As her career progressed she found that working from photos was restricting her in many ways. She also worried about the copyright aspect as this was being more widely monitored and upheld in the courts. The move to using live models (albeit friends and family in a lot of cases) was a good one as she was able to craft the paintings, as well as interacting with the model, which would help a lot in capturing their personalities.

Over the past few years she has returned to her home and garden for her inspiration. Kristen feels that you don’t have to travel all over the world for subject matter. This is such a relief as many artists go to Europe and other places leaving many to think that if you don’t go to Italy or France for example, to paint and learn, you haven’t really completed your art education or are not extending yourself as a professional artist.

Kristen finds great subjects in her own studio and especially in her yard. She paints them from life at all times of the day and all year so the light is vivid and the colours fresh. She works in water colours an oils and her works are of all sizes including some rather large pieces. She markets her works through only a couple of reliable galleries that she has built up a long relationship with. Kristen suggested that to get your career going that entering as many exhibitions and art prizes as possible is a good idea and also applying for arts grants and artists in residence calls. She also said that we need to make painting from life an integral part of our practice. Photos can only take you so far and they can flatten out colour and light that is required to make your art look fresh and painterly.

It was also suggested that trying to second guess the art market can be a bad idea. Keeping your artistic integrity is very important as the market can change very quickly and if you keep trying to move with it, you will get lost and lose any idea of who and what you stand for. You can be miserable painting things that just aren’t you and still be rejected by galleries so you may as well stay true to yourself as many artists that have succeeded have stayed true to their vision.

Kristen is an artist with a great deal of common sense and business sense as well and being near the same age as her I really could identify where she was coming from. Her art can be powerful and not what you may think would come from a female artist of her generation, which is another thing that I liked. It showed me that you can produce anything you want to as a female artist – better now than probably any other time in history. It is just up to you to work at it and put in the effort and dedication.


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