The art world is very demanding, yet talents are thriving from all walks of life. But it’s the fascination with natural landscapes’ colour and beauty that makes artist, Sophie Ryan, one of a kind.
Art has always been a therapeutic outlet for her, and jumping and dancing around the canvas provides a mental recharge for the young, aspiring artist.
Sophie showcases her fascination with the use of the constant expression of colour as it formulates her need for happiness through chaos.
She prolongs her love for the natural environment by extending its beauty through uncommon yet unique cycles of opposite assessments of colour and expression.
Sophie’s paintings are bright; she uses this by drawing inspiration from her home in Bathurst, in the farm-life atmosphere.
I sat with Sophie to explore her outback, natural landscape paintings through emotion, colour, energy, and bursts of dance.
Q. Where are you from and how does this affect your work?
A. I’m originally from Bathurst, NSW, from a farm about half an hour out of town and I’ve always been surrounded by nature and very isolated.
I guess I draw a lot from nature in my paintings and that really influences my art, being in the city I often draw on the landscape to take me back home.
When I go home, I tend to recharge, and painting is a very grounding thing for me, and so is nature so it kind of works together.
Q. How do you find these inspirations?
A. It is a lot from my home but also in lockdown 2021. I was studying, full-time painting at ANU, the Art School, and I was really struggling to find inspiration.
I’ve got a painting of my breakfast bowl and my plants, things that are around me. I tried to do it in a chaotic, energetic way to display that sense of frustration and feeling trapped in that time.
I think it was quite a dialogue of what was going on in the world at that time, even though it was my small domestic space. I’ve done a few different collections where I have drawn from different things but mostly nature and what surrounds me at that time.
Q. How would you describe your artwork, what emotions do you like to portray in your pieces?
A. Most of my art is a sense of energy, my movements are quite quick and I’m constantly moving the brush. Its never slow, so there’s a sense of vitality and energy, it’s almost like a ‘buzzing’. I am literally dancing around and I’m constantly super-fast, and that comes across, as there is a lot of layers there.
Q. I saw from one of your Instagram videos, that you describe the expression of your paintings as, “magical, dancing colours”, can you please elaborate on this?
A. Yes, I said something around, that the colours needs to dance together, I feel like my artwork is quite colourful and for me, a painting is like a balancing act.
I constantly need to balance the colours and balance the composition because I always have to have purple somewhere. It acts like a shadow and then I need to balance that with a yellow or a lighter colour. Once I put the purple down and I think, ‘ a yellow needs to be there’, in my head it’s like a dance, that’s how I described it, like a magical dance.
I love colour and I have to have these really bright colours because it is exciting for the eye and it’s exciting for me. It’s making nature, which is quite colourful in a way but kind of distorted in that colour to exaggerate the shadows and exaggerate the lights. Shadows in real life aren’t purple and the sunlight isn’t bright yellow when it hits a surface.
I like to exaggerate those lights, darks and middle grounds to be exciting to the eye.
Q. As seen on your social media, you express that you love flowers, the quote of Claude Monet’s, is expressed within your Bio, how does flowers make you feel, why use them in your art?
A. Ever since I was three years old, I believe, I’ve been obsessed with flowers. My mum and I would go on a walk and she’d have to stop me from running into people’s gardens to pick their flowers. I was obsessed. I always just loved flowers. I think it’s something to do with the colour or the nature and attraction like the birds and bees.
For me and my painting it’s like a sense of displaying femininity, because a lot of my work in art school I did focus on the female nude body. The flower represents so much to me about femininity.
My mum is a very good gardener, and we’ve always had a beautiful garden and I think it is that connection to home and family. It’s like a subconscious thing, like at work when I’m in defence, I’m sitting there and waiting for something to load, I will just be drawing flowers constantly. It’s like a tic, because all my notebooks, just have drawings of flowers.
Q. What’s the purpose or goal of your artwork?
A. I didn’t paint for a year recently, like I’ve only just gotten back into it because with lockdown. I felt like there was a lot of pressure from the lecturers and being stuck in a space where painting became quite triggering for me. I couldn’t paint for ages. I had a few people that asking for some commissions and I had to force myself to do it.
Now, I feel like I’ve broken that block and I think the foundation of what I want to do is, create because I feel like there is a drive. It comes from outside me as well and I need to create, and that’s my fundamental purpose. But then there’s the idea of wanting to have a career out of that.
I’ve got the Instagram which started off as a hobby but I’ve been more consistent this year with posting and getting a few people asking for commissions. Some galleries have been getting in touch which is exciting.
I just want to keep creating and keep true to myself and hopefully something comes from that. Ideally, I would love to do this full-time but the art world is a nasty place, it is very hard. I think consistency and keeping that energy going and being true to yourself and hopefully something comes from that.
Q. What does your mindset look like when painting, does this change or is it constant?
A. The most intimidating part is the blank canvas. I’m like, ‘Oh no,’ and I always have this big self doubt, like ‘I can’t do anything’, it’s like ‘just get something on the page’.
I often don’t sketch out anything before I start, I just throw paint on, and I’ll just go, ‘yep, we’re going pink, we’re going purple’, and I’m constantly moving. It’s almost like rapid, chaotic, I get a little puffed out, because I’m so concentrated on it.
They say your right side of your brain is so focused and creative that you forget to eat and you forget to go to the bathroom, and drink water. I’m in that zone for like two hours, and I go, ‘oh my God, I’m so hungry’, it’s like you snap out of it.
Q. Describe the best piece of art you’ve created, and what emotion did you try to portray in the piece?
A. I heard a quote, it’s, Stevie Wonder, it’s like, ‘the best song, I’ve written hasn’t been written yet’. I feel like my painting is constantly being developed and again, that self-battle, is being developed at well.
I don’t think the best thing has been created yet.
I think one I had the most fun with was, I did it a few years ago, in 2019, it was 2m^2 and it was for an assignment.
I had this big piece of canvas and I was at home in Bathurst, because I just go on the grass and go crazy, I pegged it to the clothes line, and I have all this paint and I was pinning the clothes line and I was running around, throwing paint at it and I was dancing under the sun. Then I put salt on it, I wanted to be fun and quirky, and the salt had a reaction with the paint and made it look crackly, and lots of water.
I would layer it and ended up being figurative line drawings, intertwined, together like women and there was a sun in the middle, that’s when I started to get into crystals, I called it ‘Sun Dance’, feminine energy, natures vital energy.
Q. How has your degree helped you in your career?
A. I started Art History and Curatorship and Visual Arts, so I’ve got the history of art and archiving, cataloguing art works and I’ve got the making arts. I think it was really beneficial for me to learn about history and the way of the world. That degree really helped me understand art but also politics and the current climate of the world because everything is connected in a way. Art and life, people of different minorities that everyone expresses themselves through creating.
My degree did help me realise how hard the art world is to navigate and break into because it is very elite. If you haven’t already got a huge following, or connections in galleries, or got heaps of money, you’re a bit stuffed to be honest.
Q. What advice would you give artists, advice that would help them to sustain the richness of emotion and being true to themselves as artists?
A. For me, I loved my degree, I loved what I did but I don’t think you need a degree in order to do that.
For me, what really helped, and what really helped a lot of people in my cohort, was having that sense of freedom, when you’re painting, my painting friends paint quite realistically, and small scale.
What helped them a lot was putting a piece of paper down or a canvas down and just letting go and drawing big, getting in touch with your emotions when painting or drawing. Just mark. Release those boundaries of what art should be.
Constantly challenge yourself, have some fun with it and don’t forget why you’re doing it.
Q. Where can people find you on social media?
Original photos by Jaheedah Arendse