For artist Prue Sailer, depicting the natural world is the real deal.
Prue Sailer’s studio in Port Stephens is a serene space off the beaten track, in a bushland setting, surrounded by huge gums, old banksias, noisy cockatoos and colourful lorikeets. It is a fitting workspace for an established and respected artist whose primary focus is on the natural world, on realistic renderings of landscapes, botanical subjects, birds, mammals and aquatic animals.
Prue has exhibited professionally since 2002 in public and commercial galleries. Her works are held in many private collections within Australia and overseas, in Japan, the UK and Germany and her illustrations have featured in several publications, including art books, children’s stories and scientific works.
“What drives me,” Prue says, “is travelling around this country with my husband and like-minded good friends, hiking, searching for birds, soaking up the beauty of natural places, gathering inspiration and resources for artworks.
“It’s during these times that I will be constantly thinking of how I can paint whatever I am seeing. Whether it is the light at a particular time of day, the character of a bird, or the colours of new leaves. “Seeing species that I haven’t seen before, particularly in their natural environment and learning more about them is a huge incentive, as it helps me to understand them and therefore paint them more accurately.”
Prue’s is a traditional style of drawing and painting the details, textures, forms and colours of flora and fauna, inspired by a deeply felt respect for the connection between all living things. She believes that, whilst our understanding of the natural world grows through scientific research, so does the need to communicate this knowledge through art, to spark conversation and for audiences to understand and reflect on its diversity and complexity.
She appreciates the sense of freedom contained in expressive art and abstraction, nevertheless she prefers the realistic portrayal of form and nature.
“Realism is an artistic genre that I have enjoyed and been driven to do from an early age, despite often feeling the expectation that I should ‘loosen up’ or ‘be more expressive’,” she ponders.
“It allows me to focus intently on the subject and to be truly absorbed in the drawing or painting process. This type of work is an acknowledgement and celebration of the beauty I see around me. The world can be an ugly place, so why not focus on the good bits.”
It’s not an easy task to replicate exactly what you see. Prue says it requires careful and prolonged observation and many hours of practice to override what your mind and memory think should be there.
With time and dedication, the skills and techniques used to accurately depict form, proportion, structure, texture and light eventually become second-nature. Although she has been inspired by many artists past and present, such as the ‘Heidelberg School’, she believes comparisons are counterproductive and doesn’t try to emulate other artists.
“I believe that artists should be true to themselves, and I’ve found that I do my best work when it comes from within, without expectation.”
Read more in our Winter Edition of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.
Story by Nick Resch, photography courtesy of Prue Sailer.