How It's Made: Step Inside the Studio of a Sydney-Based Abstract Artist

Lauren Powell

What’s better than appreciating the beauty of some of Australia’s most iconic locations in real life? Hanging an abstract-inspired version on the walls of your home, that’s what.

If you’d like to admire the best of the outdoors all day, every day (yes, please!) and adorn your walls with an acrylic on canvas representation of some of the most beautiful waterside settings in the country, Sydney-based artist Jennifer Lia is your girl.

Created in her sun-drenched Manly studio while she overlooks the beach and listens to the constant crashing of waves, it’s no wonder Lia is inspired. 

Aptly titled ‘LOCAL’, the latest collection is an ode to the iconic beaches of Sydney. “From the cosy cove of Shelly Beach in Sydney’s Manly (my local) to the one and only Bondi Icebergs, the series sits together almost as a collection of postcards, transporting one to Sydney’s coastline,” explains Lia of the works, which feature broad gestural strokes and lashings of cool aqua, deep teal and arctic white wash. And the best part? They’re 100 percent Australian made and eco-friendly. Scroll on to find out how these Aussie-inspired masterpieces are brought to life.

MYDOMAINE: When did your love of art, painting and illustration begin?

JENNIFER LIA: I've always loved drawing and painting since I was little. My mum and dad are naturally creative and I think that rubbed off on me too. Throughout high school, every single book was covered in drawings. From there I moved into painting and then textiles, making dresses and selling them, as well as my paintings at Bondi Markets.

MD: What is your inspiration behind your artwork? 

JL: I just recently moved to the beaches, so the ocean and its fragility and raw beauty are a constant inspiration in my work. Travel and music also inform a lot of my work—the three of these intertwined are all very much healing, cathartic, and magical in their own special ways. 

MD: What are your artworks made from?

JL: I mainly work with acrylics on canvas. I used to use mainly oils, but I've come to love the speed in which you can use acrylics and build layers, use water, or dry brushes to create movement and depth which works with my subject matter. I also frame my canvases in a soft blonde Tasmanian oak shadow box frame, which finishes the pieces off beautifully.


MD: Where is your studio located?

JL: I work from home, so my studio is a converted bedroom. There's a lot of natural light and storage space and the beach is right outside my window, so it's incredibly inspiring! I have a beautiful writing desk for emails and general admin right next to my paints and palettes with a heavy duty drop sheet. When I'm working it can be organised chaos, but I have a ritual of brush cleaning, pack down, and reflection most days. 

MD: What do you love most about creating your art?

JL: To me painting is meditative in its own way, so I paint to create my own sense of calm. I love creating beautiful destinations that had been pockets in my memory up until that moment. Seeing it come to life, sometimes with a few bumps along the way is incredibly rewarding.

MD: Talk us through the process, from start to finish, of creating one of your artworks (Step 1, step 2, etc.)

JL: I have a general starting point, but it can sometimes change course unintentionally! Recently, I had a happy accident come about where I transformed a piece I wasn't initially feeling into one of my favourites. It's a new direction in my stylistic practice where I paint over a completed landscape and draw over this using oil pastels then paint around the illustration creating a multi layered yet simplistic feel. Here’s an overview of my process below:

1. I sketch out a rough plan of my subject matter, colour, palette, and concepts on paper and do a quick watercolour composition.

2. Prime my canvas—I generally use pre-primed canvases, but if not, I lay on a few layers of gesso [product used to prime canvas] to form the base.

3. I use hardware industrial brushes as I find I get the coverage I need and layer on the lightest of hues from each corner of the canvas. 

4. I start to build depth of colour by adding the mid and darkest tones of my hues, then I add water to soften where needed. I'm always drawn to turquoise, chalky limestone, and crisp white.

5. After drying, I'll go back and either add more layers with a dry brush or finely draw in the pool lanes (for my Icebergs pieces) or draw over using oil pastels.

6. Leave to dry and add a light matt varnish.

Love Lia’s Australian-inspired work? Shop the collection here and visit the exhibition of her latest series 'LOCAL' at the Paddington Reservoir on Friday December 2 from 6pm-8pm.

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