Bridgette McNab // Still life & portrait painter // Wearing our Birdie in Honey Flower
Describe yourself in a couple of sentences
30 something Aquarius obsessed with painting portraits and still lifes. A happy-go-lucky, disciplined daydreamer.
How did you discover your love of painting? And how did you evolve as an artist?
By learning what I didn’t like! I had always enjoyed making art growing up but never really thought it was a ‘career’. After school, I tried a wide variety of different jobs and hated all of them. I got back into art again as a hobby when I was 22. The more I made the more I wanted to make and that led me to enrol in art school when I was 24. I first called my self an artist when I was in my 3rd year at art school and a Self Portrait I had done was accepted into the Portia Geach Memorial Award ( a prestigious portraiture prize for women).
Are there ever times when you don’t love it/get blocked? If so, how do you overcome this?
If I take more than a week off, the beginnings of a block start to emerge. Waiting for inspiration is a myth as far as I’m concerned. The more I make, the more energy and ideas I have to keep making. When I take a holiday I drop the ball. When I come back into the studio my ideas are all jumbled and I make ugly work. Then I feel depressed about making ugly work and start doubting myself. I have to really psyche myself up to keep going to get back in the rhythm. If I can’t talk myself into painting, I do ‘prep’ which is stretching canvases, looking for imagery, writing, submissions and research. That eases the guilt of not painting.
What influences the subjects you choose to paint?
The bulk of my subjects come from film stills and found images. Once I find a key image that excites me, I start to build a ‘story’ around that. I usually have 3 -4 themes simmering in the back of my mind at one time. This is the main influence of the subjects I paint. I’ve constantly got my eyes peeled for colour palette inspiration, still life ideas, portraits – anything that will help build the visual story.
What do you hope people will think or feel when they see your work?
Firstly, I hope they enjoy the colours and mark-making. Secondly, I hope they bring their own meaning and narrative to the work.
What are your biggest challenges being an artist?
Money! You have to have two or three professions as an artist as art doesn’t pay the bills – well not in my case anyway. I work as a florist on the side which thankfully I love. It took me ages to think of a job that involved me working with my hands, colour and form. If you think about it, flower arranging is basically painting and sculpture mixed together – the best bit is that Mother Nature has already mixed your palette.
What or who is your “muse”?
I have 5 main muses, all of which are painters. Henri Matisse, Karen Kilimnik, David Hockney, Alex Katz and Euan Uglow. Whenever I’m ever in a funk I pull out their books and I get excited to start working again
What place do platforms like Instagram play in the life of an artist?
I think Instagram is an instrumental platform for artists to promote themselves without leaving their comfort zone. I think about 5% of the artists I know are good at self-promotion and the rest of us are nervous over thinkers who dread the idea of schmoozing! It basically allows us to share and connect with people without feeling like a wanker.
What’s next? What would you love to achieve in the future?
I’m currently working on two solo shows. The first is in October at Boom Gallery in Geelong which is my first time showing there. The second is in November at Robin Gibson Gallery in Sydney.
As for the future, I try not to get too far ahead of myself. I’m a firm believer in staying present – making work I like and letting the rest follow. As long as I’m painting and learning that’s all the matters.
Do you dress in a certain style? How would you describe your fashion taste/style/look?
My style, like my music taste, is very eclectic. 50% of my wardrobe comes from the Op Shop, except for my shoes- I love having new shoes. Things I am always on the lookout for are; high waisted pants, oversized dresses, weird earrings, vintage tees, unusual shoes and anything in mesh and linen. And of course, I can’t get enough of my Wild Rhino birdie boots.