Meet the Artist: 5 Minutes with Beth Kennedy

When did you realise that you wanted to become an artist?

I was about 16. I’d always loved to paint and draw and was loving my art classes in high school. I had a brilliant teacher. It’s always just fascinated me, art history and the processes of drawing and painting… I never wanted to do anything else. I finished advanced art in high school, went straight to TAFE and worked two jobs while completing my Certificate in Visual Arts before moving to Canberra to complete my degree in Visual Arts at the Australian National University.

Can you tell us about your process?

I developed the processes that I still use today while studying painting, life drawing & art history at ANU (many years ago now)! I always start with a drawing from life, then enlarge this image onto a canvas and begin to wash the image in. Opaque areas of paint, patterns and lines all dance in and around each other as the painting comes to life. My paintings do seem to have minds of their own, quite often taking directions that I hadn’t anticipated! The “happy accidents” that occur when painting are all part of it for me. I love to play and experiment with acrylic, ink, gouache and watercolour paints.

Do you have a favourite photograph or painting?

I have always adored the work from the French Nabis Art Movement (1888 – 1900). Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard especially, I was lucky enough to see some of their paintings in Paris last year, which was beyond amazing! 

I recently saw Bonnard’s ‘Nannies’ Promenade’ at GoMA’s Margaret Olley exhibition. It’s just beautiful, as was Margaret Olley’s work. For a colourist like myself, it was such a treat to see so many examples of her work in the flesh. Totally inspiring!

What's the inspiration behind the pieces you’re exhibiting? 

Spring is in the air (I live in Brisbane, so spring’s been in the air for a while)! I’m inspired by the vibrancy of the colours here, such lush greens and vibrant blooms. This body of work is a celebration of spring and colour. I always pay homage to the artist’s I love when I paint as well. The flattening of my images comes from a fascination with Japanese woodblock prints, and I’m loving the work of Cressida Campbell – divine!

What are some of the things you’re loving at the moment?

I’m reading ‘Margaret Olley, A Generous Life’ (QAGOMA exhibition catalogue) & the ‘Outlander’ book series by Diana Gabaldon.

I love cooking and trying new recipes (the challenge is getting my four and eight-year-old to eat them!)

Regular brunches/nights out with girlfriends is very important. It's a chance to chat and share what’s happening in our lives.

What are your words of wisdom for younger artists? 

No one gets it right straight away. Just keep practicing and trying new things with your art. You have to be dogged, and you have to be willing to work hard and not take yourself too seriously.