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“Feels amazing to declare myself a professional artist, finally!”

Liz Gridley’s paintings seem to capture strong emotions and feelings in every piece, especially in her portraits. This talented artist was born in Melbourne in 1989 and showed her artistic side since she was a young girl. Now, after several awards and exhibitions, she can proudly consider herself a professional artist.

She recently presented her first solo show “Empathy, My Witness” in Melbourne, a beautiful exhibition of paintings with “heightened colour, expression and flesh” at the Off the Kerb Gallery. The audience got to see her work first hand and experience strong connections with her soulful artwork.

Photograph of her painting “Withheld” exhibited at “Empathy, My Witness” (shared by artist) /
Model: Chelle

In this Q&A interview, Liz shares with PoseSpace her thoughts, the names of the artists she admires, more details about her work and the most valuable lessons she has learned as a professional artist:

Can you tell us about your background and how you got into art?

As many artists do, I started by being the ‘arty’ kid at school who wanted to do nothing more than draw and draw and draw. My main academic interest started when I was 14 and tried my first Life Drawing class (a bit daunting for my father at the time, to leave me to draw nude models with strangers, but he got over it very fast when he saw how excited I was with the drawings!) I’ve been happily stuck on the figure ever since, completing a Bachelor of Visual Art Honors in painting at Monash University in Caulfield (VIC, Australia) in 2010.

I’m now (after a bit of life happening) 2 years into a full time art practice and it feels amazing to declare myself a professional artist, finally!

What life experiences have influenced your work?

In 2008 I was lucky enough to be able to do one semester of my university degree at the Monash University Prato campus (near Florence, Italy). The months I spent in Italy were very crucial to my love of Baroque masters and pursuit of a marriage between traditional and contemporary techniques. I focused my projects on the abundance of figurative sculpture in Florence: the drama in posing, lighting shifting during the day highlighting narratives and moments of emotional tension. Experiencing these pieces I’d seen in books or online was so fundamentally different in the flesh, so to speak.

What is the importance of life drawing for you?

As I mentioned, life drawing sort of kick started me on my art journey! When I haven’t been able to paint, when life or work became the priority, it has been life drawing almost every time that kicks me back into gear. By focusing on your forms, working in fast quick moments and slowly building to longer poses it is an exercise that lets me shut my brain up and get my arm back into form. I thoroughly recommend life drawing as a regular habit to realist artists as it refreshes you and allows for play and experimentation that can sometimes be more difficult to fit into your studio practice if you’re focused on a subject or style.

How do you use PoseSpace.com’s photos?

I stumbled onto PoseSpace’s archive on Tumblr years ago, initially it was a great resource to just find interesting poses for figures (I’ve never been good at drawing from my imagination, reference is essential) but I started using the images more when I bought my first book & disc collection Art Models 6 – The Female figure in Shadow and Light. The accompanying disc is a well loved resource, not only for the 360 degree views but for the high resolution detail! Zooming into the faces and details has allowed me to practice not only figure drawing but portrait techniques in paint as well.

Images of Liz Gridley’s work in progress and final result using PoseSpace’s model Luana as a reference (shared by artist)

In 2018 I also did my first demonstration for Ringwood Art Society, in a room of 50+ people, with open doors and drafty conditions it wasn’t appropriate for me to have a live nude model, so I spruked and used my Art Models book! Live drawing in PanPastel straight from the reference image was convenient, it was visible on a projected screen and I received lovely comments from the audience.

Do you have a favorite living artist, whether famous or completely unknown?

The problem with smartphones and instagram is I find new amazing artists to watch everyday! Up at the top I’m a huge fan of Roberto Ferri (contemporary artist, painting in the style of Baroque Old Masters), Jennifer Gennari (Oil Paint artist, master of portraits & animal paintings) and silicon (hyper realist) figurative sculptors such as Sam Jinks, Patricia Piccinini and Ron Mueck.

You have won several awards ever since you started your career. What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as a professional artist over the past few years?

I’ve been very lucky and honored to win some gongs in drawing and painting, most notably the 2017 Graeme Hildebrand Emerging Art Prize (Body of Work, Major Prize). I’ve learnt so much from taking chances to enter things and say yes to opportunities.

I think one of the hardest lessons is how to deal with comparison against other artists. With Instagram and online communities its all too easy to feel overwhelmed by seeing artists accomplish what you’re working for (a technique, an award, getting an opportunity) it’s part of being human, but you can’t let it stop you! So many people tell you “everything’s been done” and “nothing is original” –the hardest part is believing that. Trusting that even if 20 artists all do the same thing, there’s no loss in making art, all 20 would still be unique to each artist. In short: no matter what, just keep making!

Liz Gridley’s website: https://lizgridley.com.au
Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/lizgridleyartist/

Interview by Andrea Miliani

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