To the world, artists may be dreamers, philosophers—the lifestyle of living in-between an array of colours, shapes, styles and reality. But for the Outback, they become more; they are the architects capturing the grain in our timber, the blood-orange of our soil, the magnificence of our open skies. They are the collectors of all that makes the Outback so magical on those starry nights on the property or lazy days spent by the river’s gumtrees. Truly, what of the Outback’s beauty would go unnoticed without them?
Susanne Denham is one such artist that the Outback treasures. Working in both watercolour and printmaking, Denham focuses her work around the textures, shapes and patterns that she finds inspiration from around our region.
Beauty in the Outback
KNOWING WHAT TO LOOK FOR
‘What I love to do is go sketching in the bush—and luckily enough, I know people who are happy to let me paint and sketch on their property. Sometimes, for example, I go down to the Alice River and look at the gums and the life there. It all starts with that first field trip, where I can take some photos and sketch my inspiration. It’s about seeing something new that really inspires me to work with it.’
Capturing a moment in time
A celebration of the Outback through Art
Through exploring the Outback and the hidden charm it holds, Denham is able to capture the beauty before it fades to the tests of time.
‘I really love the older buildings you find around the west, like the Lodge in Blackall or the Masonic Lodge in Barcaldine,’ says Denham.
‘I just love to record the little details in the architecture of our region—like the falling-down sheds in the middle of paddocks, paint that’s peeling off, old corrugated iron. Quietly, the forces of nature are overcoming places like this, so I find joy in recording them in various ways before they go.’
A rewarding medium
WATERCOLOUR AND ITS MYSTERIES
Through the artist’s eye, we are able to see our Outback not only celebrated, but also captured and archived in its ever-turning journey through time. In the artist’s hands, paintings and sketches become something almost historical, detailing the curves in the footstep to a well-beloved pub, or the worn metal in a doorknob to what was once a home.
‘People think that watercolour is an unforgiving medium, but its just not true. You can make mistakes but most of them can be corrected. It definitely isn’t an easy medium, of course, but it’s rewarding. For example, I once painted an old door to a cook’s kitchen. There hadn’t been shearers or sheep on the property in a long time, so it had seen better days. But it was painted a fantastic green colour that was now peeling from the wood, and the missing panel in the frame meant you could see right through to the inside. I recorded this subject in different mediums, and the final piece won the best overall entry at the Blackall Heartland Art Exhibition.’
In truth, the magic of the Outback thrives with the artists it inspires—without this relationship between subject and creative, the charm of our world in Central Queensland would remain as hidden and elusive as a good summer rain. Now more than ever, the importance of providing a platform for artistic talent to grow has magnified under the pressure of dwindling Outback populations and excruciating drought.
‘I’ve always loved drawing ever since I was a little kid. I loved learning about art while I was growing up—I even wanted to be an art teacher. But when I finished school, I stopped doing art,’ explains Denham. ‘I cant really remember why that was, but the only thing I did afterwards that could be artistic was making quilts. And I loved crafting them, but it came to a point where I thought to myself, ‘what can I do next?’. That’s when I had the opportunity to attend a workshop held by Christine Porter on watercolour, and all of a sudden, I fell in love with making art again.’
Through workshops and platforms we can provide our communities, artists like Sue Denham are allowed to blossom within the Outback. In turn, the magic and romance of our region is then captured and celebrated within the artwork created by the artistic talent we foster. Invaluable, crucial and irreplaceable to our culture and history, artists like Sue Denham are a part of the lifeblood that keeps our Outback, the Outback.
From us at Red Ridge, we thank Sue Denham for allowing us to tell her artistic story on our platform. If you are interested in seeing more of Sue Denham’s work, you can find her on instagram @jazzymouse61 .