Australian flora and fauna are the heroes here.
The first thing you need to know about paintings by Natalie Martin is that they are brilliantly Australian. They capture our unique flora and fauna, not just mimetically, but with character and colour. For Natalie, painting is about slowing down and observing what is often overlooked in the natural world. “There’s not much that captures me in this way in this super-fast paced, information saturated world, but the Aussie natives get me every time,” she says.
From her studio at Ashmore Arts in Torquay, Natalie needs only to step outside her front door to find inspiration. Situated amongst towering gum trees and rugged native bushland, the private precinct provides the perfect launchpad for new botanic discoveries.
“My whole last collection was inspired by me driving around and spying new natives in flower on the side of the road around the Surf Coast. I’ve got a pretty keen eye for it these days, as generally natives make terrible cut flowers so you have to find them in parks or gardens or on the side of the road. I really enjoy learning about the endemic species, the invasive species, popular landscaping plants and the times of year they explode in blooms,” Natalie explains.
Looking at her paintings, it is impossible not to notice her ardent appreciation for nature. There are pastel pink gum blossoms, brilliant cobalt wattle leaves and vibrant king proteas bursting across the canvas; each painting showcasing the beauty and detail within these delicate plants.
Primarily known for her watercolour paintings, Natalie says she loves the medium for its unpredictability. Like a dance between human intention and the uncontrollable nature of water, watercolour is a lesson in mindfulness and creativity.
“I love the fact you can’t control it; you can guide and cajole it but really, it’s going to do its own thing. There’s something magical about watching that happen. It’s unpredictable and when you truly let go you get the best results. It’s humbling and a lesson in patience every time I pick up the brush.”
They do say good things come to those who wait, something Natalie can probably attest to. Since she quit her job as a graphic designer six years ago to pursue painting full-time, she has exhibited numerous times, released limited edition prints, taught watercolour classes, done countless commissions, all with an ever-growing online fanbase. It’s been a massive journey – one she has never regretted.
“There’s been tears, there’s been tanties and very empty bank accounts but there’s also been the most incredible highs. Opportunities that I could never anticipated. Everything feels exaggerated when it’s the product of your own hard work.”
Indeed, hard work seems to have carried Natalie through even one of recent history’s most challenging years. Despite the world being in lockdown, she found a way to use the newfound time and creative blocks to her advantage.
“At the beginning when everything was escalating I couldn’t have felt less creative, I really need to be feeling good mentally and physically to create work. Instead, I went into a strangely productive phase of rebuilding my website, and planning the new online course. All these things that had been on the to-do list for years and I never had time for. For someone who is always time poor, I tried to see it as an opportunity to take stock and consolidate.”
Consolidate she did, because as of this year, Natalie has launched two online watercolour courses – ‘Watercolour for Beginners’ and ‘The Magic of Colour Mixing’. Aimed at folks looking to give the medium a go, Natalie guides participants through a series of techniques to get you painting like a pro. And the best part? You can do it from home, at your own pace.
“I really hope people find an outlet in watercolour, like I did. It is the most mindful of the mediums – in my opinion of course! It’s unpredictable nature can suck you right in and you can lose hours to playing and exploring. You can also just pick up the paintbrush for five minutes of ‘me time’ and it can transform the rest of your day. It’s compact, non-toxic and easy to pack away, so it’s the perfect medium for the hobby painter living in a share house or a family home.”
Whether you’re a budding artist or just looking for a creative way to wind down, Natalie’s courses have something for you. And her advice to prospective participants?
“Art is very much play, you have to allow yourself to make mistakes and messes, that’s how you learn… Remove some of the expectations and try and enjoy the experience rather than the outcome.”
So grab out your paintbrushes and roll up those sleeves – painting like one of Australia’s finest watercolourists is just a click away!