Art Inspiration

Marie (Baker) Rodden

My mother was my first inspiration. With such a large family to care for (there were 8 of us) she of course started very late.  She only managed to go to art classes after her last child, myself, was at school.  

She'd probably hoped to have this adventure in the city at the Harrington Street Studio in The Rocks to herself. Nevertheless, I have wonderful memories of sometimes accompanying her to her art classes when I was very young. I could sense her frustration at times, having me tagging along when I was home from school 'sick',  but I loved this world where colour and shape and creativity ruled. 

I am proud of her artistic achievements, including this work which was hung in the Blake Prize.

We were brought up to respect Indigenous culture and this image was inspired by a story she had found in a collection of tradition tales. 

Nature is a constant in my work, that is the environment we live in as well as the nature of people around us. Growing up near the Royal National Park in Sydney gave me access to a wonderful range of experiences in the bush, and I am constantly drawn back to the wild for my artwork but also my writing. In The Crushers, the natural world beside which the characters live (the Blue Mountains) is not just background but also a character in itself, exerting an influence on the story. 


This is a new project for me in which I continue to work on embedding my art with nature. I began this with using natural materials in my work in many mixed media compositions. But I have also been creating a wild garden and learning about the native plants in my area of the Mid North Coast of New South Wales. I am interested in creating media from my own garden, which will be sustainable and also less toxic to the environment than using paints and inks made in factories. I suppose I am creating my own 'factory', although I am making it as simple as possible and am aware of how my work impacts on my surroundings.

At this time I am in England, visiting family. I feel very much out of my comfort space but we are close to an oak wood so I have been excited to work there and develop extracts from oak leaves and bark to make art. There is a lovely clearing with benches which I have been using, people pass by, sometimes with their dogs. Some say hello but most ignore me, which is fine. They are often on their way to work or home and perhaps the sight of a 'crazy artist' working in the woods supplies them with a bit of light relief. 

(photo by John Bennett) 

Here is my photo of detail in Jean Dubuffet's Clown to show the wonderful explosion of mixed media he employed in  his work. I love the energy and the use of various materials embeds it with all sorts of collateral values. He was at the forefront of the Art Informal movement in Europe in the early to mid 20th Century, where there was a rebellion against formal art practices as there was against the waste and destruction of war. Many artists, such as Karel Appel were influenced by the new understanding of madness and Appel went to an exhibition of art by psychiatric patients (now called Outsider Art) and was bowled over by its expressiveness. When he found that his catalogue of their works was not illustrated, he was moved to do this himself! Here is the catalogue open on one of the pages - you can see his energy and excitement at the exhibition in the works he created.

Contemporary Artists

Some of my favourite artists include

 Andy Goldsworthy, whose often ephemeral works magnify nature in ways few other artists can. 

 Australian artist Elisabeth Cummings is an important artist who continues to produce new beautiful work taking the Australian landscape to ever new heights. 

John Wolseley, another Australian artist, who works in the bush drawing on a scientific perspective and embedding his art in nature.

 Rover Thomas, Indigenous Australian artist, whose work draws on his cultural background but seems to resonate with the 21st Century experience.

 Mark Rothko, an American colour field artist, is also an important influence and it is often the meditative quality of his work that inspires me.

 Fiona Hall, also Australian, inspired by nature and the human body.

 Chris Gentle, another wonderful Australian landscape artist.

 Barbara Rae, Scottish artist and incredible colourist.

 Ian Bettinson (in the hat), twice winner of the Wynne Prize for Landscape Painting, AGNSW

Art Criticism

John MacDonald