An interview with award-winning artist, Llewellyn Skye by Jennine Primmer
JP Hello! So is it Skye or Llewellyn? I called you Skye just now and then had an anxious moment. Did I just call you by your surname?
LS Ha ha, don’t worry, you had it right. My full name is Llewellyn Skye Quabba so Llewellyn is my first name but I’ve been know as Skye since I was around three years old. Totally confusing, I know. You can call me Skye!
JP Ok, Skye it is and what a movie-hero name! So, where are you located exactly and can you paint us a picture of your home and studio space? I note you have little kids – how does that pan out with your arts practice or is your studio away from your living space? (I just checked myself to see if I would ask that of a male artist, but you mentioned your kids and I’m really interested in how women artists make this work – creativity and mothering little ones…).
LS I’m located in Palm Beach, Queensland which is on the coast but also 10 minutes drive to the Hinterland. My studio is upstairs in our family home, attached to our main bedroom. I love waking up and walking through my studio first thing in the morning. I live and breathe my work so it gives me so much pleasure being able to do this. I have a space to paint, a space to write and a space for all of my materials. My studio leads onto a large balcony that faces east so I have lots of natural light, sea breeze, a great view of the trees, rooftops and open sky.
Ahhh, the crazy juggling act of raising kids and maintaining an arts practice. I have three young kids, so life is extremely busy and my studio time has to revolve around their schedules. I have very limited time to paint, sometimes none at all through school holidays or when they are home. Because of this I have learnt to switch into artist mode quickly, there is no time to waste or to wait to feel the ‘creative urge’. This has been a good thing though, I can get a lot done in a short amount of time.
JP I see you studied at NAS and the Sydney Gallery School, both great grounding for artists in the technical and tenacity muscle-building skills. I imagine you also found that strong connection between drawing and painting there? I particularly love artists like you, where you can see the drawing hand in their work. Can you tell me about the connections? For you, are drawing and painting the same thing or does one inform the other?
LS Oooh, I love this question. NAS gave me a strong foundation in drawing. I majored in life drawing so I had a lot of practice throughout art school. It definitely informs my work. I guess painting and drawing, for me, have become the same thing. I can switch from one approach to the other and in no particular order. I like having both present in the finished piece.
JP Yes, I’m really aware of the ‘extra’ that the drawing component adds to a work as the viewer. I really love the strength of this line work in your paintings.
So, I want to hear more about your thematic and where your inspirations come from. I see your beautiful, expressive blooms are representative symbols and metaphors? Am I right in thinking your work is less about capturing a realistic image and more about expressing an emotion or a feeling?
LS I am totally inspired by life, love and all the emotions – all the ups and downs they bring. Florals in bloom represent all of this to me. They are magical and fleeting, mysterious and fragile and so, so, precious. The use of colour and composition is an important part of the process. We respond to colour on so many levels. I want the viewer to be moved, in whichever way feels right and yes my work is much more about feeling and emotions rather than about me trying to recreate a realistic image.
Florals represent abstract beauty and impermanence, all the qualities I enjoy in life and love. – Llewellyn Skye
JP Do you work with real flowers and blooms? Or do these works emerge from your mind’s eye? I’m interested in how you capture this sense of something that’s very much alive?
LS I invest in good quality dried and artificial flowers as they are easier to manipulate and sculpt. I also use fresh flowers but find it hard to get the particular flower or arrangements that I want to paint and they always die too quickly for me.
My process is a combination of working directly from the floral still life set up in my studio, painting what I see, and working intuitively and abstractly from my imagination.
JP Can you tell me a little more about the links between your paintings and poetry. Do you write poetry? How does word play link in with the visual pieces or is it the work of poets that inspires you?
LS I’m not a writer but I’m a hopeless daydreaming romantic. Poetry and song lyrics connect with my soul and the only way I know how to express that is through paint. I go to a deeper more connected place when I make art. Like in poetry and song, I’m searching for rhythm and emotion in my work.
JP Yes, I see that. There is a playful, melodic, energy in your brush marks and layers, for sure.
So, we are kind of fascinated by these links and the overlaps with olfactory and visual senses.
And we were so inspired by your paintings that we designed our latest candle, Sunshine State around your blooms. This scent was born out of COVID and lockdown and we wanted to design something uplifting, sunshine-y, alive and full of possibility. How does it feel to inspire a scent with your paint brushes?
LS Wow, I love that I’m going to be a part of that sunshine-y vibe! It’s beautiful that art can connect with different senses. It blows my mind.
JP You have just won two awards – the @artloversaustralia abstract award and the Fenton & Fenton Rising Talent award – and you have a new exhibition coming up in May at Metro Gallery in Melbourne. Firstly, congratulations! How is your year ahead looking?
LS Thank you so much. Well, I thought I had a busy year ahead, but then everything just got a lot busier! I am so excited about my new exhibition, it’s called Hue to Hold and is with Metro Gallery. It will be the first exhibition for me in Melbourne which is very exciting. Winning the Fenton & Fenton prize means another big show soon after which is super doubly exciting. I also have various group shows here in Queensland and then another solo show at Revival Art in September (in Brisbane) so it’s going to be a big year, look out!
JP We will look out Skye, for a career that’s well and truly positively blooming!
See more of Skye’s work here