Critical Annotation

Again I tend to post predominately female artists as I just seem to identify much more strongly with their practice. Definitely the prior four posts are woman who either write or paint or both – two major frameworks for my practice. Add to that the feminist side of my practice as in Sollee and her writings in her novels and her website, the flora and emotional with O’Keeffe and the gothic and imagination inspired from Hearman and Yiadom-Boakye – its my artistic practice rolled into a neat little package.

But who wants to be neat? I want realism but I want darkness, I want mess and angst and goth and I want to not only paint from life but to paint from imagination. I want both and why can’t I? Hearman does a brilliant job of doing just that. Being able to paint authentic portraits of people as well as her eerie, goth fantasy world, delving deep into the darkness of our psyche. Its just so beautiful!

O’Keeffe has always inspired me to paint flowers and upon learning more about her and how she paints her emotions and doesn’t sketch a work first but goes straight to her large canvas, aligned her with my practice even more so. I rarely sketch and had only really used Procreate for composition of the main elements of a piece. Though I have done a few digital paintings while doing my MFA and have started to sketch from my imagination much more recently. And while I am not into painting enormous flowers like O’Keeffe (I’ve tried and I don’t have the patience for it haha), I do add smaller versions to my work as symbols of vulnerability, sexuality or mortality or just for decoration!

Realism, Surrealism, Figurative, Symbolism, Expressionism and Feminism are all frameworks of my practice. Is there a term that signifies all of these? I’m discovering artist upon artist that have come before me doing a lot of what I aim to do, and I am learning much from their work and practice while hopefully instilling my own personal style and story into my work. The learning journey continues to be fruitful as always and while not all artists suggested to me resonate as deeply as the ones I choose to write about, they all help to inform my practice even if it’s what I don’t want to be doing.

These ten artists all inform my decisions when it comes to my creative practice especially my paintings. Even though there are only 2 guys, those two are important and should feel a sense of pride to be amongst my chicks. Fantauzzo is beyond amazing! So if I could combine him and Hearman I would be one very happy girl! And how brilliant they are both Australian (I just realised) The point is they both paint realism and surrealism and delve deep in to the psyche and maybe this is why they are my standouts.

I feel I have so much I want to paint with the usual ‘never enough hours in the day’ scenario. I know that’s why sometimes the words come easy and the paintings will follow or I will quickly paint something digitally to remember a thought or feeling. Wherever my MFA takes me I know that I have gained so much knowledge already about different genres, artists and the Why, Who and How of my practice and I just need to be able to articulate it better. I hope I’ve done so with this annotation….

Poppy – oil on canvas – 36 x 36cm – Leesa Gray-Pitt

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

This unusual artist was brought to my attention by one of my lecturers, Steven Rendall, and while I always research artists that my lecturers and peers tell me about regarding my practice, the quote he posted resonated on a level so deeply I had to find out about her. Writing is central to Yiadom-Boakye’s artistic practice, as she has explained: ‘I write about the things I can’t paint and paint the things I can’t write about.’ ** I couldn’t have put it any better! This is so much what I do in my practice.

The artist herself in her studio.

Yiadom-Boakye paints beautiful portraits of fictional characters, created from her imagination and found images. These portraits are not set in any particular period in time or place because she wants her audience to interpret the work for themselves. While I also use images from the web for my paintings, I also paint portraits of actual people, some who are known to me and others who are not. I think for me using an image I’ve found on Pinterest or Instagram is a way to protect myself from my auto biographical subject matter in my paintings, but I am keen to paint images from my imagination and have started sketching on Procreate. I have also started altering my images from shoots I have done and models more than before, enlarging eyes and adding different features for example. It’s almost like Yiadom-Boakye has allowed me the freedom to play with that.

While the artist represents much of her ethnicity with her work I like to think I bring in different cultures to play. But let’s face it, there is definitely an under representation of African portraiture and paintings. In an interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist in Kaleidoscope, she explained “People are tempted to politicize the fact that I paint black figures, and the complexity of this is an essential part of the work. But my starting point is always the language of painting itself and how that relates to the subject matter.” *. Yiadom-Boakye uses a more earthy palette which lends itself perfectly to her subject, I tend to use either a lot of colour or black and white with a splash of red or gold.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

Born in 1977, Yiadom-Boakye is a British writer and painter currently based in London. She is the recipient of the 2018 Carnegie Prize and was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 2013. She has had many solo shows from the Tate Gallery UK to the Guggenheim Spain and currently has work included in Ghanaian pavilion at the Venice Biennale. A Stella career and artist who inspires my practice with the written word, the titles of her work along with the painting.

I have actually just collated my poetry and prose from the past 5 years into a book. Re-reading and visiting that emotional state during the time of my daughters illness and death has surfaced many emotions and I have slowly started to put pictures to some of the words. Since finding Yiadom-Boakye’s works and hearing how she creates I am inspired to use my imagination much more going forward. As always my art helps me navigate my way through this hellish journey and to heal. It is my catharsis and saviour.



Georgia O’Keeffe 1887-1986

O’Keeffe has popped up many times in my MFA studies so it’s about time I did a post on this artist who greatly inspires me, not just with her paintings but her quotes also. She is most famous for her paintings of flowers of which she painted around 200 of them. Beautiful close ups of petals and blooms, some vibrantly coloured and others in more muted tones but they are all so beautiful and sensual.

O’Keeffe developed her own personal style when she veered away from realism, which was how she was taught, and started experimenting with abstract compositions. Dow’s principles that she studied at the University of Virginia, were pivotal in O’Keeffe’s development as an artist. She helped develop the American Modernism movement.

Any suggestion that O’Keefe’s paintings of flora being a metaphor for female genitalia were denied by the artist, the fact remains that flowers by their own nature do resemble the labia and clitoris in many instances, especially at such a close birds eye view. Whether intentionally or subconsciously, there is no denying that the resemblance is unequivocal. After all isn’t the labia referred to as petals and losing our virginity as being ‘deflowered’? And the stamen in some instances are extremely phallic!

However you want to look at it, her work it is truly breathtaking. Like me, O’Keeffe enjoyed sunrises and sunsets and developed a fondness for intense and nocturnal colours. Oh how I love the darkness – Bats, spiders, spirits, the moon and stars and death are all subject matter for my art. I also use art to express myself, painting my feelings and emotions onto the canvas. I never sketch my paintings prior but use Procreate to configure my subjects and decide on layout though the painting will often take a different path once I start. O’Keeffe never sketched and also painted her emotions, We really do have so much in common and why she resonates with me extremely.

Flowers for me represent beauty, fragility and sensuality. Often they are similar to the female and male genitalia. They are symbols of life and death, love and femininity. Their delicate petals and heady scents are divine and a true testament to mother nature’s glory. And yet again their blooms are a reminder of our mortality as they only last days, a mere week before they wilt and die.

While I don’t have the inclination or patience to paint large sensuous flowers, I photograph them constantly as they are an enormous inspiration. Their beautiful colours and petals that open up like a woman, beckoning to the bees to enter for their honey conjure sexual delights. And as an ornament in my paintings of women I can think of nothing more appropriate or complimentary.

Through all my travels they are a reminder of the beauty of where I’ve been. My home in Bali with frangipani‘s absolutely everywhere to springtime in Paris and the wildflowers in the countryside. My walks at home in Australia with our divine native flora especially wattle, kangaroo paw and beautiful gums, springtime really is my favourite!

O’Keeffe’s 1932 painting Jimson Weed sold for $44,405,000 in 2014, more than three times the previous world auction record for any female artist. Wow how’s that for a record! It’s a shame it takes the death of an artist for their work to escalate in value.  The Georgia O’keeffe Museum was established in Santa Fe after her death at the age of 98.

Louise Hearman

My supervisor at RMIT, Sally, pointed me in the direction of Louise Hearman, knowing my fascination for the real, surreal, macabre, fantasy direction of my work, she obviously thought Hearman would resonate and she was so right!

Born in 1963, Hearman grew up in Melbourne and has been painting and drawing since she was young. Attending VCA to complete her Bachelor degree, she has just gone from strength to strength with her career.

Her painting of Barry Humphries won her the coveted Archibald Prize in 2016. Like many of her paintings this one of Humphries captures a wonderful likeness of the man in Hearman’s light, appearing out of the dark background. Her way with light and darkness to me is a signature of her work.

Hearman has a way with story telling through images. Taking photos through her life journey and using them as a slightly warped lens she creates beautiful paintings. Artwork that documents her life but also juxtaposing a dreamlike sense of reality. Its dark, gothic, erotic, surrealism got me from the first viewing. Hearman’s practice almost parallels mine to a degree as she delves into the darkness of our psyche – which is exactly what I am aiming for – bringing it to life.

Haunting images of endless roads, girls floating in ice covered lakes that eerily meet your gaze. She doesn’t title her works and let’s the viewer decide how they feel about the pieces, refusing to dictate or label her art leaving the audience open to interpret her paintings through their own lens.

I can learn much from Hearman and how she presents her work. I always felt the need to have the whole canvas covered – a complete painting – but I’m learning I don’t have to be so pedantic. My artwork can stop when I see fit. Faces are my true passion and I can spend hours, days, weeks trying to get a face to where I’m happy with what I’m trying to say as well as it looking like my subject. Some of Hearman’s heads seem to float and I just keep returning to look at them.

Even her painting of the road the disappears into the darkness makes me want to follow it to see where it goes even if it’s no where. A truly talented artist who is very deserving of her accolades.

We have much in common, Hearman and I, as she is only 2 years older than me, we have both grown up in Melbourne and started creating in our youth but unlike Hearman, I chose the life of children and family over my artistic pursuits. Now it’s my turn to shine and if I can shine as bright as this talented artist I’ll be extremely happy!

Witches, Sluts, Feminists

Witches, Sluts, Feminists – Conjuring the sex positive by Kristen J. Sollee is a brilliant read. This book brought me to artist Leonor Fini, who I previously blogged about, but more than that it is an insightful look into our contested identities as women.

The triple Goddess as I like to call us – Witch, Slut Feminist – Maiden, Mother, Crone – Madonna, Goddess, Whore – woman are all these things and this book goes along way in helping us embrace all our identities. Helping us reclaim and be empowered despite our tortuous history of misogyny, Sollee juxtaposes scholarly research on the demonisation of women and female sexuality that has continued since the witch hunts with pop occulture analysis.

Kristen Sollee teaches undergraduate studies in gender at The New School and is founding editrix of Slutist, an award winning sex positive website. She also curates the annual Legacy of the Witch charity festival in Brooklyn, New York. She interviews activists, artists, scholars and Witchcraft practitioners for this book that enriches the current conversations about all womens issues including reproductive rights, sexual pleasure, queer identity, sex work and more.

Personally I found it such a great read that I was highlighting so much of the text because it resonated with me enormously. My life as a woman and what I want to convey in my artistic practice is all in this book. I’m sure I was burned at the stake for practicing witchcraft in a previous life and I think thats part of the appeal but the fact that being a healer or a midwife was classed as witchcraft says a lot! The patriarchy was alive and well back then and still is in many countries. The world turns but the rights of women is a very slow burn. The fact that religious and government officials, particularly in America, leverage their positions to thwart female bodily autonomy is just disgraceful and really does make you ask “How far have we truly come?”

I was reading this book in conjunction with “See What You Made Me do” by Jess Hill. That book is brilliant but can be a really tough read and I still haven’t finished it. While both books are about the horrendous abuses suffered by women Hill’s research is a thorough investigation into domestic violence in Australia whereas Sollee’s research dates back centuries and she uses humour to help lighten the mood because a she says “You can’t make this stuff up”. Thats how ridiculous some of crazy stories were about witches and women.

Anyway it is time we reclaim the term “Slut” to mean a sexually empowered person like the term “stud” for a man and I for one have already started. I actually started years ago but I’m putting more energy into it these days. No longer should any of us feel shamed being a Witch, Slut, Feminist – after all I am all 3 plus more!

So while I busy myself trying to come up with an acronym for SLUT – Sexual Lady Ultra Tasty? Hahaha! I will continue my slutty, artistic, Witchcraft practice, and conjure more themes of empowerment for my fellow Goddesses. Through my art I hope to empower us all to be stronger, braver and free to be the best version of our femme selves in all our forms.

Madonna Goddess Whore! This will be the title of my ADR!


Critical Annotation

There is such a change in my artistic influences and artists relevant to my practice this semester. I do feel I have expanded my knowledge and stepped completely out of my comfort zone over this year during my Master’s. No longer treading water, trying to stay afloat in the process of my MFA but I feel I’ve hit a rhythm – and I’m loving it!

This new direction, new purpose, new found vigour for my creative practice and the styles and works I want to create and exactly what I’m trying to say through my art is exactly why I wanted to do my Master’s. I feel like it’s all starting to come together.

While my passion for art, music and fashion will always remain, I have discovered a treasure trove of artists and painters from across the centuries who are integral to art history and my practice, and magnificent female ones at that!

To think I had never heard of Henrietta Rae and Leonor Fini prior to 2020 is a travesty. These women were ahead of their time, forging sustainable art careers and pushing feminist agendas in what was a (much more) male dominated world than we have today. Rebelling against patriarchal constraints and doing life their way, something my sisters and I are still fighting against – it’s slow going – but these hell raisers paved the way!

All of the artists I have included in my blogs so far this semester are brilliant in their own right but I feel women always seem to have more to prove and maybe why I have always had such an affinity with the femme. Maybe the fact that male artists are still over represented in our galleries and prizes, as in all walks of life, has me always bowing down to the ladies more. While all these artists inspire me in different ways the women have had a much harder road.

The common thread that I see with these artists is that they are all figurative/portrait artists. Even Hansen, who though a photographer, her images are still in that genre, capturing very alluring beautiful photos of faces and figures. While some are painting from personal experience, self portraits and portraits of well known people of the time, there is a thread of realism and fantasy. The Pre-Raphaelites were big on symbolism and painting from mythology and literature. While Fantauzzo tends to get into the psyche of his subject to capture the essence of the person (this is my absolute goal – to get behind the mask and paint what is not seen) he also has painted what I would call Expressionism with his self portraits in particular!

All of these artists have been chosen because they not only inspire my practice, they all create/created in a similar vein. With my work there’s the tension between the real and the imagined, documentary and fantasy. I tend to use both of these genres as a way of communicating my feelings and those of my subjects. Though I can learn much from these artists in how to represent my emotions and what I am trying to say with my art in different ways. I only hope I can have a career that has my audience engaged and continues to do so like those that have forged the way ahead of me and those that are creating in Contemporary Arts practice today.

Bonnie Hansen

Art and fashion are my main passions and why I started in makeup. I didn’t think I was good enough to be an artist, just couldn’t get noses right, so painting faces in the literal sense was the next best thing. As I stated in a previous post, all the years of makeup really honed my creative skills and gave me confidence to start painting. And what else would I want to paint but beautiful women! It’s always been what’s inspired me to this day!

Bonnie Hansen is an Australian Photographer who recently moved from Melbourne to Sydney (damn it) because her career was taking off! Sadly I have never had the opportunity to work with Bonnie despite trying on a few occasions, our calendars never synced for it to happen. It was obviously a wise move because Hansen’s star just continues to rise!

Working in editorial, fashion and beauty, Hansen has an excellent eye. Her bubbly fun personality puts people at ease and she has compassion and empathy, wanting a better world for all of us. I know in my brief discussions with Hansen we have much in common regarding current issues including homelessness, equality and blak lives because they matter! We both have burning passions to try and right wrongs the best we can because it does start with us!

All photos by Bonnie Hansen Photography

Hansen’s work is true art. Her composition, the way she captures the light is just inspirational. I have a Bonnie Hansen file of all the photos that inspire me to paint – current total 124. She takes pictures like I want to paint – How I want to paint them! Wether it’s a close cropped beauty shot, face in full frame or an editorial by the pool or some other glamorous location, Hansen captures a mood or attitude perfectly.

Bonnie Hansen Photography
“Alibi” acrylic on canvas by Leesa Gray-Pitt

Hansen is such an inspiration and as relevant to my arts practice as my paints, brushes and music. On top of that she’s a damn nice chick which is why the sky’s the limit for her career which is great for me because while she keeps creating, I keep getting great fodder for my paintings!

Vincent Fantauzzo

Vincent Fanauzzo is everything I want to be as an artist! The way he is able to let the personality of his subject shine through onto the canvas is a real talent. Its really something to be able to paint the essence of a person, like painting their soul. His use of colour, light and composition just blows me away.

Fantauzzo was born in England in 1977 before migrating to Australia with his family. Growing up in Broadmeadows as one of five siblings in tiny 2 bedroom commission house is tough. Broady is a well known rough northern suburb of Melbourne where there’s plenty of criminal activity to immerse yourself in, especially f you’re not doing well at school.

Vincent Fantauzzo

Constantly struggling at school and thinking he was stupid, Fantauzzo never understood why he couldn’t read like his peers. But the boy was far from stupid and could draw. He has enormous empathy and intuition which enables him to really get into his subjects psyche! Personally having so many emotional experiences through life enables you to empathise. I think it’s one of the best things to come out of loss. As a makeup artist working closely in a clients personal space and enabling them to feel relaxed and comfortable is a learned gift. Something that I use in my painting today.

Fast forward to his early 20s and he was selling portraits of famous people to make a living. Painting for 12 hours a night! Damn when did he sleep?

Forging his name on someone else’s school results, he scammed his way into university at RMIT. Got caught paying others to do his assignments, confessed, which then led to him being diagnosed with severe dyslexia. Fantauzzo says “You can be dyslexic with numbers and you’re incredible with words and not numbers — I got the jackpot, I got all of them,”* This severe dyslexia also affects his memory. Man I can’t even imagine not being able to remember things, though I am getting old and memory loss is a little thing for me, to have something so debilitating growing up must have made life really difficult. The best way he knew to communicate was through his art.

Through RMIT he obtained disability support liaison and was able to dictate his assignments. He completed is Masters of Fine Arts at RMIT in 2005. You know we don’t all fit into a “mould”. We all learn in different ways and the sooner mainstream primary schools recognise this the better! I know we have come a long way since Farauzzo (and I) were at school (hold on I’m back at school hahaha) but the generic way of teaching is still there and I don’t believe recognises those with different needs earlier.

At the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Fantauzzo has won the Packing Room Prize and been awarded the Archibald People’s Choice more than any other artist! When you look at his portraits you can see why. This one of Heath Ledger really captures the actor and man. Fantauzzo paints souls and that is EXACTLY what I want to do. I only hope I can be as good as Vincent Fantauzzo but at least I’m at the same art school.

Now he has an Art Series Hotel named after him. The Fantauzzo, at Howard Smith Wharfs in Brisbane is filled with his paintings. In a life that has been about overcoming so many odds, Fantauzzo can now joke about it. “I definitely feel that dyslexia is a superpower, and I’m sorry for all you people that don’t have it.” *


Henrietta Rae 1859 – 1928

While searching the Pre-Raphaelites I stumbled across Henrietta Rae. I’m sure y’all know by now how important the femme is to my life and art, and considering the Pre- Raphealite’s seemed more of a boys club it was a brilliant discovery!

Born on 30th December 1859 in London, she started her formal arts training at age 13 as the first female student at Heatherley’s School of Art. Apparently she applied to the Royal Academy of Arts five times before she obtained a seven year scholarship – persistence pays!

Rae married fellow student and painter, Ernest Normand in 1884 and kept her maiden name which just wasn’t done then, but she was already making a name for herself on the art scene. Love this woman!! Headstrong and rebellious with feminist attitude to burn! They lived in Holland Park which was the place to be as an artist. Frequented by other creatives including Millais and Leighton to name a few.

In 1890 the couple moved to Paris to study at Academie Julian before moving back to Upper Norwood to custom built studio. What I wouldn’t give for a custom built studio! I really can’t complain as I have a large studio space with loads of natural light though the ceiling is rather low. Anyway I digress….

Like her Pre-Raphaelite contemporaries, Rae drew inspiration from classical literature and mythology. her painting of Florence Nightingale (also known as the Lady with the Lamp) is probably her most well known artwork but I feel she had so many better pieces.

Considering women weren’t allowed to attend life drawing classes (WTF??) Rae’s paintings show a femininity that isn’t apparent in the likes of Millais and Waterhouse. Her use of gold, flowers and the sheerness of some of her fabrics are so beautiful. But she also could show strength in her subjects like Florence Nightingale and Ophelia.

Rae broke down barriers helping make the nude a socially acceptable painting in the 1900’s. She was a feminist and suffragette juggling two children and an impressive art career. She had many exhibitions including one she organised in 1897 for women artists to commemorate Queen Victoria’s jubilee.

My practice is already verging on the whimsical fantasy and floral like Rae’s but I can learn much from her composition and female nude. I particularly love her paintings of nymphs and the colour choices which seem much softer and almost dreamy. Rae continues to inspire new generations of femme artists.

Into the Light: Henrietta Rae and the academic nude

John William Waterhouse 1849 – 1917

Waterhouse is an English painter who was born in Rome in 1849 to English parents who were also painters. He embraced the Pre-Raphaelite style (which has been like an epiphany for me) painting women from Greek Mythology and legendary Arthurian figures.

He enrolled in the Royal Academy of Art when he moved to London. Painting figures on large canvases from the likes of Shakespeare, Keats and Tennyson. He obviously gained much inspiration from the authors as he painted The Lady of Shalott – from a Tennyson poem 1832 – 3 times, as he did Ophelia. I gain great inspiration from Waterhouse!

As with his Pre-Raphaelite contemporaries, his use of colour, composition and detail of the human form are exquisite! His haunting paintings of women are often set amongst nature, flowers and water, where the likes of Ophelia ultimately met her untimely end. Maybe he was fascinated with the poetic tragedy? He was certainly inspired by it and the fantasy of nymphs, mermaids & sorceress.

Like Waterhouse, I am always inspired my the mythical and magical femme. Mermaids, nymphs, sirens, the femme fatale in particular are some of my favourites and I have a number of large scale pieces planned. My hope is to also capture the essence of these fragile beauties in my own way while taking my inspiration by the likes of John Waterhouse.

Some of my favourite paintings by Waterhouse are attached below and not all the victims are female haha. Have to love the lust of man being lured by nymphs to their death!

Hylas and the Nymphs 1896