Originally from the UK, Carly and her family made the move to Perth in Western Australia when she was just 5 years old. 20 years later she gained a masters in Fine Art and Painting from Edith Cowan University in Mount Lawley and then went on to complete a teaching degree. Following this she secured a teaching post in the Pilbara where she first fell in love with the wide-open spaces of the Australian countryside. A necessary move south to Cranbrook when Carly was pregnant with her twin daughters worked out well and she continues to work part time at the primary school there as well as creating her mixed media artwork at her home studio in Mount Barker.
Carly began her career as an oil painter but always preferred to use plenty of texture in her painting, which then would take months to dry. But when she attended a workshop with Patricia Seggebruch, who taught her the art of Encaustic Painting, it was a revelation. Encaustic art is a way of blending hot wax, resin and pigment, applying it to an absorbent surface and then re-heating it to set and fix the picture. It does not require varnishing, doesn’t use any solvents and never yellows. It is a beautifully opulent, organic artform which originated in the 1st and 2nd century AD by Greek painters in Egypt. Originally used to create funeral portraits which were placed on mummified remains as a memorial, it is a testament to their longevity that many of these pieces have survived, and remain as vibrant and colourful today as when they were first created.
After attending the workshop she was inspired to return home and gather all the equipment she would need. She began to practice the art form on small wooden tiles, gradually mastering the different techniques and methods and learning how the materials worked together and what effects she could create. 100 days, and 100 small test tiles later, she created her first large scale piece which she entered into the Great Southern Art Show. She won 1st place and subsequently went on to win another award later that same year, the Minnawarra Art Prize, which gained her $5000 in prize money. Delighted with her new painting techniques she used the money to turn the basement of her property in Mount Barker into Hill View Studio. With a rural aspect and peaceful setting with unbroken vistas to the horizon, she spends most of her spare time in the studio creating the large agricultural pieces she is celebrated for.
With a growing army of followers on Instagram, now almost 5000, her work began to attract more interest and there was an increasing demand for her work over on the East Coast. Indeed the Paper Pear Gallery in NSW became her first major client. A huge roll of bubble wrap sitting in a corner of the studio attests to this, awaiting her latest work which is to be shipped off to the next gallery display or direct to a lucky owner. This is even more impressive when you consider that agricultural paintings are historically a more male dominated field.
“I just love the patterns and shapes of the aerial aspect,” Carly tells me, “The old tracks, the fields and pastures, they all tell a narrative, the story of the land.”
Carly’s affinity with nature, along with the personal stories which are encapsulated within the land, are what she is trying to capture and recreate with her artwork. Working mainly on commissions she used to hire a small aeroplane to get the aerial shots she wanted, but this was expensive and timely. She now mainly uses a drone, or sometimes Google Earth, to capture the images she needs to create her scenes. She then gathers the beeswax, resin and pigment and these are mixed together and applied in textured layers to a plywood panel before being intricately carved and shaped into trees, hills and pastures to give a lifelike representation of the area.
“It’s very important to me to capture peoples stories and evoke their memories of a place and time,” Carly explains. “See this line of trees here?” she says, pointing to an area on a large commissioned piece, “This is where my client used to go as a child for picnics. These are her childhood memories and I love being able to give her a part of her childhood which she can visit every day,”
Carly’s enchanting artwork is currently exhibited in numerous galleries in WA and the East Coast. Here in the Great Southern she exhibits at the Aura Gallery in Kojonup and the Petrichor Gallery in Walpole and Hill View Studio is open by appointment. You can contact Carly via email email@example.com subscribe to her website www.carlylecerf.com her facebook page www.facebook.com/carlylecerfartist or her Instagram account carlylecerf-artist.
(Main Photographs by Megan King provided by Carly Le Cerf with thanks)
The not-as good ones were taken by me during the interview 🙂