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9 June 2020

With free-spirited brush stokes and bold joyful colours, Nadine Sawyer’s painting exudes a sense of playfulness. Based in a garden studio, a stone’s throw from the beach on the Redcliffe Peninsula, Nadine loves making people smile with her ethereal pieces.

We caught up with Nadine to learn more about what first drew her to painting, and the inspiration behind her work.

Your pieces convey a sense of free-spirit and whimsy, what inspires you to create?


Living life fully!! Dreams – listening to the intuitive voice and being in nature! Watching inspiring art and music docos, films and visiting art galleries.


When did you feel the first urge to pursue a creative path? How did that make you feel?


I felt creative urges from an early age, around 4 and 5. I would stare at flowers in a bit of a daydream and get in trouble for picking the neighbours pansy and daffodil heads off… that sort of thing!

I was so inspired by flowers and making art quite unconsciously as you do when you’re little. Then as I got older, I did elective life drawing classes at highschool and attended the Queensland College of Art Saturday classes for grade 11 and 12 students. That was enormously helpful being in the art school environment early on! At Eumundi markets back in the 90’s I had a stall with my family, and I sold a lot of pastel drawings. I also worked in some of the top florists in Melbourne in the 80’s whilst at high school and later in the 90’s. Then it was onto art school – that was the kicker, art school for 6 years. That’s when I got really serious about being an artist and made the decision deep inside myself that I had to go the creative path fully!



You collaborate with a ceramicist to bring your vases to life. How did this collaboration come about, and what do you think is the secret to a successful collaboration?


I was living in Caloundra and there was a pottery group there, so I joined up for a while and started to do some hand building. I was looking for the right person to do some production pottery and I met Ruth Ham – this was in 2012 and she has been making beautiful thrown vases and jugs for me to paint ever since! Ruth has a large kiln so can handle rather decent sized firings and she also clear glazes my work too. I’m very lucky!

We have become good friends and I feel like part of the family. We often have long morning teas at her dining table with her husband Charles. Communication is the key and I have a lot of gratitude for her work, lots of appreciation helps. 


What does a day in the life of Nadine look like? Tell us about your creative process.


I get up and walk by the ocean (sometimes a bit of jogging and steps), breathe in the ocean air and get good ideas and feelings for the upcoming day. It can be getting into the studio and making, working on the computer, driving in the car to do deliveries of art, see clients or pick up art supplies. Sometimes I’ll watch an art or music documentary when I eat my lunch, or sometimes have an afternoon siesta. When I make work it is often rapid and comes in bursts – I love siting at the table in the back garden painting on ceramic vases and bowls surrounded by plants and birds. When I am painting in the studio I always listen to music!



How does living in the Brisbane region influence your creative practice?


I have grown to truly love and appreciate Brisbane – it’s the spaces and nature that are good for me, I love the raucous birds here and the large flowering trees; flame trees, jacaranda and frangipanis. I live on the outer of Brisbane, and I’m fortunate to have the ocean 5 minutes’ walk from my home. There are bike paths for miles and miles, and I love getting my shoes off and walking in the sand. It’s having the space and access to nature that nurtures me. Brisbane also offers great galleries, cafes and wonderful Queenslander homes. The Queenslanders evoke welcoming and friendly feelings in me. I think it’s the timber, the detail and the verandas; they are raised for the air to flow and to sit amongst the trees.


Career highlight to date?


Definitely my postgraduate award to do my Masters at Monash University. It was a lot of money which helped me live for two years and focus on my practice! I had my own studio at the university.


At that time, I was living in the cultural mecca of Melbourne, I saw a lot of live music and went to a lot of festivals and art exhibitions – it was an uplifting and intense two years! My boyfriend at the time also received the award so we were both the stars of the school for a wee while! Then you leave and real-life hits you hard and you just keep going!!! Facing uncertainty is difficult but it can build courage, faith and strength.



How has your practice been affected by the current state of the world?


In some ways it’s been enhanced as I have had more time to look inward and focus and produce. It’s also been a time for me to visualise what kind of world I would like to see – to visualise a more caring, nurturing and loving world. And to work on becoming a better person – to be calmer, kinder, more loving etc.


What are the things you’re trying to do to stay creative on a daily basis?


Keeping up the creativity means keeping up the inspiration! For me inspiration comes from nature, dream, interactions with people, observing people, seeing new art, seeing old art – the list is long and never ending really. I am open, and I hopefully allow it all! It’s a continually evolving thing!


Who or what is bringing you happiness right now?


I’m a bit obsessed with watching birds, knowing which is which, and I love watching them bathing in the bird bath and having a drink. I also get a bit excited about the amount of passionfruit growing in the back garden – I must have picked around 150 so far!


Who are your favourite Brisbane makers?


My favourite makers are Barbara George, who makes gorgeous ceramic birds, and artist Donna Malone.


Do you have any exciting projects coming up?


I’m working on creating a collection of A4 and A3 sized digital prints from my paintings and drawings. Also, I’m getting an online store up and running!