ABOUT ME…Pamela Fairburn

I was born in Sydney, Australia in 1953, Pamela Francie Firth, and cannot remember anytime as a child that I wasn’t drawing, painting or creating things. I was designing and making dolls’ houses, dolls dresses, cubbies in backyard trees or sculpting mudpies that became little pottery objects or pots ….generally making and creating wonderful messes!

The youngest of three children, I spent much time outdoors in my parents’ Epping suburban home, exploring Nature and using my vivid imagination. It was a great childhood! I was never lonely.

It is that Creative Spirit which children possess that I have come to realise is precious not only to “artists” but to all people young or old. Picasso and Matisse were often quoted as saying that they too wanted to paint as a child would. “Every Child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up” – Pablo Picasso.

In fact when I have been unable to paint, draw or create for some periods in my life I have felt despondent, irritable and I think my health suffers. I’m certain there needs to be a creative outlet in all of us. As I’ve discovered this part of my psyche, I also endeavour to show others too the joys of drawing, painting, sculpting, printing….even thinking in a creative way which can challenge us and open up our lives. Art in so many ways can enrich our lives.

BACHELOR of EDUCATION (ART) 1972-1976: As my vocation I studied Art and Education in Sydney at Alexander Mackie College of Advanced Education (later to be known as C.O.F.A…Collage of Fine Arts) where I gained my Bachelor of Education (Art). During that time I was fortunate to have studied with Ken Reinhardt, Kevin Connor, Rodney Milgate, Ted Hall, Leslie Penny, Robin Norling, Roy Lewis, Keith Looby, Liz Ashburn, Earl Backen and many other great Australian artists. It was an all- round artistic education; studying painting, drawing, colour and design, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, jewellery, weaving and even leatherwork! There were many Art History, History of Architecture and Philosophy classes.

ART IN HIGH SCHOOLSI taught Art in high schools (1976-1980).  First Evans High, Blacktown a new young vibrant school with a strong art and music department… many backdrops and musicals. Then I spent some years at Castle Hill High where there also was a strong enthusiastic art department and culture

SPECIAL EDUCATION and ART THERAPY: After travelling to Europe I then returned and taught “Art” at a Special School, Cromehurst, Lindfield in Sydney’s North. These children were mild to moderate intellectually disabled.

Although I was the “Art Teacher” these children taught me more about Colour, Communication, Narrative and Meaning. In our program, it was “learning and communicating through Art”. We used unusual painting mediums, tools and techniques, such as sponges, sand, wax, water pistols and scrapers. With these materials it was hard to make mistakes. My philosophy began to grow, I became to realize that mistakes are not to be feared and without them we would not learn! Many of the children were unable to read or write as their contemporaries could, but through their artwork they found other ways to communicate.

In Education and Art many people are traumatised in childhood with poor or naive drawing skills, often resulting in negative criticism. (An adult parent to child; “what’s that! It looks more like an elephant than Grandpa!” these comments are very destructive to an innocent drawer). These types of criticisms can often inhibit Adult Creativity.

Our book was written in 1981, “the Year of the Handicapped” named “Paintworks”. Alan Oliver and myself wrote this book as a guide for other professionals and parents caring and educating special children, but in fact, it was distributed throughout Australia for general reading. The stars however were the young artists whose paintings had been exhibited in galleries and now displayed in our book. During this time I was developing my ideas about Art and Therapy and starting to understand that this Creative Life in us needs to be nurtured.  

POST GRADUATE STUDIES: In 1986 I went back to studies and gained my Graduate Diploma in Professional Art Studies from City Art Institute Sydney. During this time I concentrated on my own painting development and was fortunate to have Colin Lanceley as my tutor. I found that I was enjoying experimenting with mixed media…combining watercolour with sculptural elements such as collage and using a variety of techniques and materials.

WOODFORD BAY ART GROUP: From my own new studio in Longueville I started conducting creative art classes for adults both during the day and some nights. I formed the Woodford Bay Art Group and have been running classes now for 25 years. Over 200 people have enrolled in these classes over the years. I have tried to give my students the desire to create, explore and experiment with the goal to enrich their lives and gain wonderful artistic experiences and knowledge. And to be BRAVE! In being a Creative person it is Freedom that is so attractive and intoxicating. We strive to achieve expression and reveal the “Essence”. Rules once learnt can also be broken…there is a rebellious side to the Creative mind!

ART IN THE COURTYARD: Over the years, our group has had exciting exhibitions. These exhibitions have been in my studio and courtyard… wine, food and music has flowed. Many artists and students have shown their works over the years at these annual events and viewers have always remarked on the variety of styles, the vibrant colours and the mood of joy and visual excitement in all the works.

ART WORKSHOPS and ART TRAVELS: Maybe I was a gypsy in another life…my father had worked in a shipping company and travelled often, and sometimes  his cruising friends joined us for dinner when they were in port….they talked about exotic places and brought me little dolls from amazing countries! Maybe this love of travel was born in me then! I am fascinated with experiencing new places, people and exploring the wider world. I also enjoy exploring the art, the archaeology, the history, the cultures and the artists of those far countries. I have organised and conducted art tours which include painting workshops, visits to galleries and artists’ studios. I have taken groups to Vienna, Croatia, New Zealand, France, Spain, the USA, Sicily and Fiji. Closer to home I have led tours and workshops to Kangaroo Island, Central Australia, Bundanon (Shoalhaven River), Colo River, Norah Head Lighthouse, Cockatoo Island on Sydney Harbour, the Hunter Valley, Lord Howe Island, Tasmania and Central Victoria.

 

DIRECTIONS: Past, Present and Future

In all my creative works; drawing, painting and even sculpture, I have sought to find the ‘Essence’ of the subject whether it be landscape, still life or portraiture. Looking back over the years, my works tend to be very linear (many of my watercolours have calligraphic drawing and line work incorporated) and strong, and often unusual, colour combinations are used. I enjoy using colour intuitively rather than scientifically or rationally! I like to express my All in Colour. Colours are like the ingredients of Life!

These last few years I have been experimenting with various mediums and textures. Firstly I have an interest in using hot wax on paper. I enjoy the resist method as well as the interesting linear effects and a build up of pure powder pigments ‘cooked’ into the molten wax which imbeds into papers eg…washi rice paper as well as watercolour papers. (see Water Stories Series 2012).

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have also explored painting with collage. I am very interested in laying down surface texture and then building up with more papers, fabrics, threads and gouache and acrylic paint and acrylic mediums and textured gessoes. This layering technique allows my sculptural tendencies to come to the fore! I enjoy using my own travel sketches and watercolours as collage materials, tearing and partly destroying them to make a new work. (see Coastal Landscape).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I progress through these mixed media paintings, I can feel that I am becoming less reliant on Reality and Realism and my goals are tending towards more Abstract ideas. My imagination and experimentation is becoming stronger. (See mixed media paintings below: Santa Fe, Sedona and Grand Canyon)

 

My Colour over the last few years has also become more vibrant and conforms less to the ‘Rules’! I enjoy being a bit of a Rebel!

I have been very influenced by our stay at Henri Matisse’s villa in 2014 and his flat exciting colour designs and collages are a great inspiration. While there, too, I enjoyed looking at the Human form and Portraiture (see below: ‘Matisse’s Girls’).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want to work more in this area in the future (see below: Portrait of Professor Lyn March 2015).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have also learnt that I will always love the fluid spontaneous water-infused colour of watercolour painting. It so very quickly can express a feeling, a movement, a landscape an object or a person. I have been using stronger gouache pigments as well in my works on paper.

Drawing and mark-making is so important to me as an artist, I see it as the bones and structure of a painting and I like to keep incorporating it into the build up of the concept, to re-find and refine the subject. I like to involve line and drawing throughout the whole painting process.

With our art tours travelling all over Australia and to other countries, I have been fortunate to learn from other artists, see wonderful works in museums and galleries and experience amazing, striking and often beautiful locations. Inspirations….so many!

As I mature as an artist I am becoming more confident in my Art Experiences and how I am progressing. However I still want to explore more and to be ‘brave’ with my painting. There is also a yearning to go back to my sculptural roots (I majored in Sculpture and ceramics during my student years at City Art Institute in 1970’s!) and play a little! Watch this Space! My journey continues…

 

Pam Painting at Matisse's Villa le ReveView my Biography in PDF format