Artist Liv Lee shows us the process behind her “loosey-goosey” paintings of backyard flora
For those of us who boast nothing but a few dying dandelions outback, the back garden can seem like a place where inspiration comes to die. But, for artist Liv Lee, it’s where her artwork takes root. More specifically, in her childhood backyard in Port Macquarie, Australia, amongst the native greenery that populates it. Which, is also home to a brand new print collection with Evermade.
Currently working as a freelancer, Liv Lee is primarily a painter and surface designer. The artist splits her busy schedule between a part-time marketing role and creative work, rising early to spend the wee hours of the morning painting. It is then you’ll find her turning "plants, fruits, and animals" into wobbly forms, all arranged into pleasingly structured yet peculiar patterns.
Droopy tulips, misshapen melons, and bendy bananas are some of Liv’s regular subjects. Although recently, she has been turning her attention to the "unapologetically bold" flowers of her childhood home by the coast. "During lockdown, we decided to stay with my mum in Port Macquarie," the artist tells us. "For those months, I had to find inspiration literally in our backyard. Luckily, dad’s legacy was his garden, and you’ll find most of the flowers in this series growing there."
While homebound, Liv painted these various species of flora in an array of colourful vases, using gouache and her signature wonky form. We loved them all to bits. So, we're over the moon to be collaborating with Liv to release the fruits of her labour as a new print range. Featuring nine paintings, Liv's verdant collection is explosively organic and featured in full below. Hardcore botanists and horticultural sticklers, look away now. These perfectly imperfect floral depictions are not to shape, colour, or scale.
While Liv’s new vase series has us captivated, her creative process has us stumped. So, we caught up with the artist to get the skinny on her methods, inspirations, and creative journey so far.
Tell us about where you’re from. Does your home influence your artwork?
After 12 years of living in Sydney, I have recently moved back to my home town of Port Macquarie with my husband and daughter in tow. It’s a small coastal town with stunning beaches, and we’ve also got rainforest and bushland. My home and surroundings completely influence my artwork - I am forever inspired by the form, texture and interesting shapes of Australian native flora. The flowers here are unapologetically bold and a little bit crazy - I just love them.
Talk us through your process. Are you more digital or analogue?
A bit of both! I always start out analogue - even if I know it is going to end up vector, I have more control with pencil and paper. My usual process starts out with a rough coloured doodle to work out the shapes, colours and layout. I’ll then sketch it out with more detail at a bigger size before I paint it in gouache. The painting is then scanned in at the highest res possible, and I clean it up and play around with the colours in Photoshop.
You’re holding an exhibition of your work, but the power fails and we can’t see a thing. How would you describe your art?
My paintings are bright, bold, wonky interpretations of plants, fruits and animals. They are all very loosey-goosey and wobbly in their form.
Who are your biggest artistic influences?
My dad is my biggest artistic influence - he was an incredible artist who made intricate wood carvings and detailed drawings. His art featured mostly native Australian cockatoos and native flora. He showed me the endless beauty and inspiration we have in our own backyard. It is safe to say our styles are very different! Other artists that I love include Mirka Mora, Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson.
"I always start out analogue - even if I know it is going to end up vector, I have more control with pencil and paper."
What have you been listening to whilst working lately?
Podcasts have been my go-to recently. I’ve been binging No Such Thing as a Fish (I know I’m late to the party on this one!) Risk and How I Built This. My high-rotation Spotify playlists are Kitchen Swagger and Mellow Beats if I really have to concentrate!
Is painting still life important for you?
Absolutely - with a baby and more recently a pandemic, being house-bound means finding inspiration in the ordinary. I love being able to bring bananas to life, add a personality to apples or paint flowers in a different, wonky perspective.
As a freelancer, how have you been finding balancing creativity, work, and life this year?
It’s been a big challenge. We unexpectedly moved cities, bought a house, and I landed a part-time marketing role - all during COVID and with a baby who refuses to sleep. It’s been almost impossible to try to do everything at 100% - being a mum, wife, employee and freelance creative. My creativity has taken the biggest hit, and I try to find time in the early hours of the morning or during nap time to do as much painting and freelance work as I can. My husband is so supportive, so if I am on a tight deadline he’ll do whatever he can so I can get it done.
How did you cultivate your style?
From years and years of constantly creating and trying all different mediums and different styles - from woodblock printing to collage to fine- line botanicals - I finally landed on my current style, which I would happily hang on my wall. Everything I created before this just wasn’t quite me, but it all helped get to where I am now creatively - you have to go through that mining stage, it is so critical. If you scroll down far enough on my Instagram, you’ll see my creative progression!
You’re stranded on a desert island with a brief to finish. What do you bring with you?
I’d bring paper, pencil, paints and my laptop (fully charged).
What surface would you love to see your patterns on?
Kid’s clothing! I think my wonky illustrations lend themselves well to children’s clothes.
Let’s talk about your new range of vase prints with Evermade! What kind of flowers are on display and what drew you to them?
During lockdown we decided to stay with my mum in Port Macquarie - it was meant to be for 2 weeks, which ended up being 4 months! During this time, I had to find inspiration literally in our backyard. Luckily, dad’s legacy was his garden and you’ll find most of the flowers in this series in my childhood backyard. They are mostly Australian native flowers - Lilly Pillies (you can eat their fruit - they’re like a very tart, mini apple), Wattles, Banksia, Kangaroo Paws and Wax flowers. The non-natives are loose interpretations of Agapanthus, Camellias and a Ponytail palm (this is actually a tree).
Wattle by Liv
Tulips by Liv
Ponytail Palm by Liv
Loosey Goosey Wattle by Liv
Loosey Goosey Camelias by Liv
Lilly Pillies by Liv
Banksia by Liv
A Bunch of Natives by Liv
All of Liv's floral arrangement prints are available for purchase here.
To check out more of Liv's backyard creations, follow her on Instagram.
All images courtesy of Liv Lee.