Friday, November 4, 2011

Interview with an artist: Fiona Kahler

Fiona Kahler is a mixed media artist living on the NSW South Coast. Thank you Fiona for taking time out to share your creative experiences with us.
Q How would you describe your art?

A My art is acrylic & mixed media, full of texture, usually created in many layers, over a long period of time, with attention to detail. I love to experiment with many techniques & products. I often use mediums & products that interplay with light & change the whole look of the piece when viewed from different angles & in various lighting.

Q You said you recently stayed up all night in your studio? Do you often work in the flow like that?

A I have always been a bit of a night owl & find my creativity flows better at night. I can shut myself away in my studio with some good music, no disturbances & just create!

Q How do you make time and energy for your art amidst your day job, home, family, life?

A I am working 3 days per week, so this gives me a bit of extra time to juggle. My partner is good with the housework too & having my own studio at home means I can go back & forth between my art & the things I have to do.  I often add a layer or a few details to a piece whilst doing laundry or preparing dinner.  My 8 year-old daughter also shares my love of art, so she spends time in my studio on her own projects, while I work on mine.

Q What do you love most about your studio?

A After years of ‘rented carpet’  where I’d been unable to spread out or make too much mess, I had visions of my own studio where I could create with abandon & have a sink nearby to clean up afterwards.  We bought our first house on the NSW south coast 4 years ago - I was sold when I saw the granny flat! Before settlement, I’d already chosen my aqua, lime & purple colour scheme; repainted some old bookcases & furniture to match. The carpet was pulled up & I painted & clear-coated the chipboard flooring.

I LOVE that I can splash paint around (it adds character to the floor). I love having lots of storage, both built-in & freestanding & even though I have collected lots of ‘stuff’ over the years, everything has a place, and is easy to find. I love that it’s my dedicated creative space & I can leave out everything I am using for my current project/s. It has everything I want, including the kitchen sink!

Q What do you do with the art you create?

A I’ve made art for throughout the house, gifted some & sold some. Now I’m concentrating on getting a good body of work together to do my first solo exhibition in the new year.

Q Have you always created art? 

A I have always been into all things creative. I spent many hours drawing & doodling as a child, then completed a 2 year Fine Arts certificate after finishing school.  I worked as a cartoonist for Rodney Rude on a cartoon book & album cover & also as an illustrator/paste-up artist for David Graphics (in the days when it was all done by hand). Over the years I also dabbled in making/selling polymer clay jewelry & freelanced in sign writing & logos, illustrating & graphic design. More recently, I did quite well in the scrap booking industry, with a lot of work published, design team work for magazines & stores, & some competition prizes.

I see everything I did as a lead-up to what I REALLY wanted to do, which is larger-scale canvasses & mixed-media & making lots of mess!

Q How do you deal with artists block if you ever have it?

A Definitely have my fair share of creative blockages! More often, it’s actually procrastination.

I work slowly & tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, so the fear of ‘ruining’ a  painting, wasting time, products etc is often there. Sometimes I just have to make myself get in there & start doing something, even if it’s choosing my paints & materials, sketching up some ideas, or preparing a canvas with gesso - the creativity will often flow from there. I also remind myself that the world won’t run out of canvas & art materials, I can always buy more!

I also find that I get ‘blocked’ if I am creating to a specific plan for others, rather than just going with what I would like to do. For example, I painted a series of ocean/wave canvasses. These were very popular, & no problem to sell, but after I had done a handful, I wanted to move on to other projects. I would rather put my heart & soul into a piece that I feel like doing & it’s just the icing on the cake if someone else appreciates it too!

Q What inspires you to keep creating?

A Art books, magazines, blogs etc are a great source of inspiration for me. My starting point is often a colour scheme or technique that I see & would like to try & I will build up an idea for a piece from there. Sometimes a basic idea can take months to formulate from a basic idea to finished art.  I think creativity is also in the blood. Though the mediums might change over the years, I can’t imagine ever not doing something creative.

One of the best things I have done for my creativity is joining a local art association (Red Point Artists Association) It’s been great meeting up with other artists & participating in events & exhibitions. Every time I return home from a visit to RPAA, I am full of inspiration & head straight to my studio to create!

Q Any advice for other creatives?

A Do what works for you! Some creatives thrive on deadlines, or having someone else choose a theme or starting point for them. Other people fare better if they go entirely with creating from their own visions & instincts. Don’t compare yourself to others. Everybody has their own style, methods & techniques & what may not appeal so much to one person, someone else will absolutely love! Do what makes YOU happy!

Get your supplies organised & labeled – don’t spend your creative time hunting for items that you know you have ‘somewhere’. When you have totally finished a project, put away the supplies you used on it. Obtain colour charts with your paint purchases & make sample swatches of other mediums. It’s so much easier to choose colours, or know what your finished effect will look like, rather than guessing by looking at the jar or bottle.

Take some photos & collect images, colour schemes, techniques, clippings etc. from magazines or the internet which inspire you. Use these as a jumping off point to build an idea around. I have printed & laminated (to protect against damage) many images to use as references whilst painting.

If you paint, always use Artist Quality rather than Student or Craft paints. They are more expensive initially, but it evens out, as the pigment load is far greater & they don’t use fillers. This means that you can dilute your paints with mediums & water & they will go a lot further without the colour being weakened. The colours of artist quality paints are far more rich & vibrant than craft paints too.

Most people lead busy lives, but if creativity is a passion, make time for your art! I like a few late nights, balanced by some 1hr nana naps!

Above all else – ENJOY!

You can find out more about Fiona's art on Facebook.

Link here to read my interview with illustrator Marcelo Baez


  1. Thanks for the interview Jodie, was lots of fun!


  2. Hey Fiona, hope you think it looks good because I think its great. Thanks so much

  3. Fionas art is amazing! Keep your eye out for her gallery showing because it really is something to see.

    1. Very belated, as I just found this interview again, but thanks Joanne :)

  4. I'll be there. I've only seen photos so would very mush like to see the real thing. I like your avatar Joanne!

    1. Been ages, but thanks Jodie :)

  5. Hey there, so glad you like it. I need to more of this.



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