Sydney artist Sally Browne grew up in the UK and always had pencils and a sketch book with her. “Back in the 80s, kids’ TV was only on for two hours a day and there were no devices, so I amused myself by getting lost in my drawings and own imaginary world.” Her father is an accomplished painter and taught Sally to paint and draw at a very young age. “Some of my earliest childhood memories are of rummaging through his cigar box of oil paints, and the smell of linseed oil in his house.”
At 16, Sally left home and school and went straight to art school. It was there she became interested in surface pattern and went on to study textile design for a further two years before heading to Australia with a backpack in 1993.
Sally studied Graphic Design and spent 15 years working as a commercial Art Director and later Creative Director. “Suffering from creative burnout, I hung up my director’s hat in 2011, just before the birth of my first daughter, Pearl, and joined my husband’s creative business in a marketing role. It was only in 2015 when I was pregnant with my second child, Honey, that I became really inspired by my surroundings, and picked up my paintbrushes again. I began working in watercolour on paper on the kitchen bench in between baby naps. I enjoyed this medium due to the minimal clean up and ability to pack it all away when the babies woke up and needed my immediate attention.”
Sally now works from her own studio at home, allowing her to expand her practice into larger works and messier mediums such as oils. “I am a prolific painter; I go to sleep thinking about painting and wake up and go straight to my studio in my pyjamas before the rest of the household wakes up to look at whatever I was up late painting the night before. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with the amount of ideas I have and not enough hours in the day to get them all out. I try to control the creative crazy by working on several ‘series’ or collections at the same time which helps me focus my energy, experiment more and avoid the rut of producing the same work because it’s popular.”
Sally is best known for her stylised paintings of Australian flora and fauna. “My work is informed by the wild nature that flourishes in the unkempt gardens and streets of my inner-city neighbourhood. I explore colour, composition and line to generate two dimensional narratives of my surroundings. Our flora and fauna here in Sydney is exotic and unique, and for the moment, still thriving in pockets amongst the hum of the big city backdrop. I draw and paint every day; studying nature provides me with an endless supply of ideas and inspiration, as well as a quiet escape from reality.”
“I love pattern and colour. I especially enjoy working in limited and/or unusual colour combinations. Colour is an intuitive and spontaneous part of my painting process; my colours are mixed and decided upon ‘on the fly’ and never really planned. I like the excitement and occasional disaster of working this way. My studio is home to literally hundreds of paint-covered palettes, saucers, teacups, takeaway containers, you name it, that tell the story of my somewhat reckless colour journeys. Since I work mainly in gouache or oils, I often go hunting for past experiments to revive with a little water or medium and enjoy again.”
The Intersect Series is something Sally has been working on for a couple of years now. “For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in the relationship between art and design. When I commenced my formal studies back in 1991, they were thrown into the same basket, but I feel like they are wildly different subjects. Having studied and practiced both disciplines, my work sits somewhere between the two, and it’s not always a place I feel comfortable. I have an ongoing tussle about where my art belongs. Every now and then I have to down my usual tools and set up a traditional still life scene that I studiously render in oils to prove to myself that I’m a ‘Real Artist’."
“The Intersect Series is about letting go; an admission and acceptance of my design background and a conscious merging of both disciplines into a body of work. Still life is my favourite genre, yet these flowers in vases are clearly not painted from life. They are informed by synthetic cubist ideals and early pop art and are unconcerned with form or perspective. Pictorial flatness is a naturally occurring theme in my work after many years designing logos and icons for single colour output, and the restraints of a long print design career have unlocked a deep appreciation and respect for the pleasure of applying the paint itself.”
“The works in this series explore both painterly and linear techniques and are characterised by a central line through the composition that serves as the water line, refraction and intersect between the background, vase and surface. This technique somewhat mimics the imaginary grid structure I would use to set type and images in a traditional page layout.”
Sally’s work is held in private and commercial collections in Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, USA, France, Norway and Denmark. “Art and design are in my DNA, and I am fortunate to be enjoying an extremely productive time at this point in my life with more inspiration than I have time to create! I hope people enjoy looking at my paintings as much as I do creating them.”
See works from Sally’s Intersect Series here!