Maria Paterson – Artist

Maria Paterson hails from the north coast of NSW and is represented by Gallery 82, Adelaide. You can check out more details on her website


Maria, how long have you been making art?
I started studying and making art when I was 17, So Im coming up for 30 years now

What are the main medium/s you work in?
My main mediums are oils and dry pastels, I also make ceramic sculptures when the mood hits me.


How do you describe your work, realistic, stylised, abstract, narrative, symbolic, other?
My work can be described as realistic, though stylised, with hints of the narrative and containing symbolic meanings.

What are you currently working on?
I have been working on a series based on the children’s circus my daughter attends, the expressive quality of the figures and theatre of the performances gives me many opportunities to create interesting pieces. The parallels of human existence interests me.


What fascinates you?
The visual fascinates me, I am constantly seeing frames as you would with a camera of life around me.

How did you get into art?
I was always interested in drawing as a kid, and that just grew as I got older, I remember hassling my parents when I was 15 to do a correspondence course in graphic design to no avail, it wasn’t till I completed a course in secretarial studies, which I was totally unsuited to, and ended up working in a shop, that I gained financial independence and enrolled at Tafe to do the Arts certificate course at night.

That set me on my course till the present time.

How important is art for you?
Being able to create art will is an amazing experience, it will always be there and even when you get older it will still be there..


What is it about Visual Art you find compelling?
The amazing things people create and the reponse that triggers in the viewer.

Your art education was?
I started with the arts certificate course, then later on I completed by B.A visual arts and a diploma in education.

The craziest thing you did at art school was…
Creating a baby half way through.


Do you remember your first painting or artwork?
I remember talking my parents into letting me paint the back of my bedroom door, it was a forest scene looking out into a clearing with a deer in the background, I was always searching for nature.

Was art a “thing” that was encouraged in your family?
It was admired but not as an occupation.

Did the place where you grew up have an influence?
We migrated to Australia from Scotland, and ended up in the outer western suburbs, which I couldn’t find much inspiration in. I was always searching for that in nature. In a way it probably helped me by having to develop my imagination more. I headed for the hills as soon as I was old enough.

What or who inspires your art?
There are a lot of artists you come across that will click with you and that changes as you change.

Artists like Jeffery Smart, Margaret Olley, Degas, artists that go the long hall, interest me.

Has your work changed much since your early efforts? (e.g. as a student).
One of the great rewards of seeing your work develop over time, and how your perception changes, should be embraced, it’s the discoveries you make along the way.

Have your artistic influences altered over time (e.g. artists.) Every year I find a new artist that interests me, it just adds to your library of knowledge.

What can you tell us about your planning and making process for making art, and has that altered over the years?
I’ve been through many different phases in my art making. When working with my interiors and still life, it was integrated into my domestic life. I would set up objects and paint from life, I would also photograph images such as backgrounds or views to incorporate into these. I was interested in the relationships of the objects themselves and what sort of narrative they could tell. This is where my interest in structures and using them to integrate the work began. This could be patterns or edges of rooms, furniture etc..

My latest work is more of the game of chance in the work. I will take hundreds of digital photos of the night performances of the circus, then go through to find possible images I can work from, sometimes I can use the accidents that can occur. When planning the work I am as interested in the lighting and structures behind the subject as much as the subject itself.

Does the “creative process” happen easily for you?
Yes I am lucky in that way, I always have more ideas than I can realise, which can make it hard to knuckle down on one project, I always want to deviate onto something else, such as at the moment, I am doing a portrait of two family members, I like to take on a challenge.

How important is the clarity of concept to you, prior to starting an artwork?
I have never started my art from a conceptual attitude, I much prefer intuition and that instant recognition of a visual moment that inspires you to paint or create something, I think about the work later on and try to make sense out of what they mean. Im enjoying that process more these days as its like opening a Christmas present and discovering whats inside. Back to front different to how they teach art these days!

Have you had any commissions? Any of note etc…
In the early nineties I produced a lot of commissions for the corporate art world, which allowed me to work on large pieces, such as a painting for Okinawa resort in Japan, paintings for the Marriott in surfers paradise, Green Island resort, and private homes.

How important do you think craftsmanship is to artistic creation?
I believe craftsmanship is your tools, a fundamental skill for me is drawing and I still practice this skill through life drawing. Every medium you use has different qualities to learn about. Experimenting is an important part of this process.

Working towards an exhibition, is it a daunting task?
I don’t go about it from that angle, Im always working on something, and when I start to accumulate the start of a series, I then think about exhibiting. It has to come naturally or I don’t think you can produce your best work, the pressure of exhibiting can stress this process.

Some say the lifespan of many “artists” post educationally is about five years, any thoughts on that?
That is very understandable, the life of an artist is not easy, you are usually doing two jobs, one to support you while you keep your art going, and add family responsibilities if you choose to have one. There is a lot of pressure and expectation on you. You are usually left with the hard core that have the will to keep going. Its important not to drive yourself too hard, so you can keep in for the long hall, its not an instant gratification occupation, its part of your life and you have to learn to balance it successfully.

Tell us about your connection to your subject matter, way of working, concepts etc?
An older artist gave me some advice when I was young and I didn’t know what I was doing. She said do what is closest to you. It was too simple, I was off on another tangent, then I started realising how true that was. So I never discount the obvious or what’s right under your nose, its what you have the most feeling for and knowledge of.

Some say a measure of an artwork is the ability for it to hold a persons attention or cause the viewer to come back after an initial glance and become captivated by the work, is that so for your works or an intention of yours?
Because I am a visual person, when I see art it has to convey something to me visually, I will read about it after it has said something to me. This is how I like to make my art, I am always striving for the work to have something that will communicate to the viewer in this way.

Do you have a connectedness to other art forms?
I love sculpture, that tactile feeling you get when you handle a piece of clay or feel a piece of stone.

Some artists are more “at home” isolated in their creative process, while others revel in being part of a group to bounce “ideas off” how about you?
I’m very much into working in my own space, though I recognise the value of interacting with other artists and the stimulation this brings.

Which is more important to you, the subject of your painting, or the way it is executed?
I like to give equal weight to the subject and the execution of it. I will finish a painting to a particular point but I will also consider the subject and the expression of this, which requires more feeling than finishing.

I don’t compromise my technique but use it to express gesture in my work. It’s a fine balancing act.

Are you the sort of artist that seeks out promotional opportunities or one that shuns the limelight?
I’m pretty hopeless at promotional stuff, its better if I’m not in the equation, and left to others.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
Be true to yourself, and you will create your best art.

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Compiled and edited by Steve Gray © 2009+

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