Interview with Artist Isabelle Devos
The team at Creative New England is creating a range of exciting competitions for one and all to get involved in over our lockdown period. We were lucky enough to spend some time chatting with the incredible Isabelle Devos who recently helped us create one of a series of Artist videos with our friends at NERAM.
Isabel, we’re really excited to share some of your story!
Tell us a little bit about your job as an Artist and how you got to where you are today?
I’ve been a practicing artist since 1991 when I graduated from art school. I went to art school in a very small university on the east coast of Canada. I came to Australia about 16 years ago and settled right into life in Armidale. It took me a few years to find my feet and it was landscape painting that I delved into. I wanted to paint the spaces I saw and walked through and drove through every day in the areas around me. I always had other jobs to bring in enough money so that art was not pressured to bring in the money, but allowed me to be free to paint and do what I liked. I raised a young family and kept on drawing, painting, photographing and creating…not going more than a few weeks without it. Sometimes the only room was the kitchen table or a small corner in a crowded bedroom but I made do.
Now I feel so lucky to be able to have a dedicated studio space of my own. I still balance another job while being an artist. I exhibit solo and in groups at various galleries including NERAM, Gallery 126, Weswal Gallery, Armidale Art Gallery and Frances Keevil in Sydney as well as entering art prizes when I can. I put 2 or 3 days per week aside to be focused on studio time or connecting to other artists to connect to them and share what we do and why we do it.
Do you think your career as an Artist has been influenced by your upbringing or personal life?
When I was a child, I was always drawing. I was a very shy child who didn’t speak English as a first language and I was always observing and looking at things. I loved colour and shadows and things that were a little bit mysterious.
My father was an amateur photographer and cinematographer and encouraged me to draw and create. I was not great at crafts but was always good at drawing.
When setting out on a new project where do you “find” your ideas?
New project ideas just come to me out of things happening around me that make me curious.
With my paintings, I do not think of projects but just let things happen. I’ve done some more conceptual pieces in the past and these were more thought out and planned but again, sparked by events around me such as 9/11 terrorist attack starting the Insecurities Project photography piece in 2002-4
How do you share your creativity?
Creativity for me is about letting things go and tuning in to what comes through your heart, soul, mind, and into the piece you are creating. Reading widely and being curious about the world around you in every way can be the spark to an idea or a new body of work.
How do you decide if an idea is worth it?
So many ideas come in and sometimes they just drift past or you pop them into a room in your mind where they might be useful later on. Having undisturbed time on your own is important to allow all of the ideas and thought to filter down to something you then ‘need’ to start and do. I have many ideas that I have started and stopped or have just let simmer until the right person, time, or event brings it into being.
Can you tell us about a personal highlight in your career as an Artist?
There are a few highlights for me that stick in my mind: being the subject of a story in the New York Times newspaper, having my work included in Italian Vogue about five new female conceptual artists, having my first solo painting show sell out opening night and being awarded a major artist grant in Canada in order to create a large scale project.
One of the most satisfying moments is still when you get the right brushstroke, colour, and shapes in a painting and you just get a thrill down your spine!
What is your favourite medium to work with and why?
My current favourite medium is acrylic on board, for the precision and accuracy in the paint flowing easily from brush to surface.
Do you feel that you’re influenced by any other Artists/creatives in particular? Who are they?
Do you have any other hobbies, outside of Art, that influence you creatively?
Drawing and photography are my other creative interests.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
Luckily for me, I have never had to worry about motivation and happily give up many other activities in order to get into the creative work. Driving, walking, looking, visiting galleries, meeting up with other artists are other activities I do as part of my creative process, and habits.
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Are you working on a specific project at the moment?
I am currently working on a small series of paintings of suburban houses for a group exhibition.
And, this collaboration with NERAM and Creative New England, sharing what I do to start a painting, how I get it going and to share some of my tips for getting in that space and ready to work. I have always enjoyed working with the broader community with NERAM as a studio artist and with Arts North West as a lead artist in a project across the New England.
The creative industry isn’t always the easiest – can you tell us about a challenge you’ve faced
in your work and how you approached it?
There are always challenges and difficult times in the art world because you are reaching out into an unknown and using intuition and feelings to guide you. A hard thing can be when an exhibition opens and not many people attend or not many works are bought on the opening night. It can be disheartening and you might convince yourself that your work is not good. It is hard to continue after something like that.
I find that taking a short break from the studio and understanding that your work may be in a transitional phase and might not be popular at that moment in time. How you get past it is to have faith that you will create new things and just tune in to yourself and trust in yourself to find something else to say that builds into something else.
What would you say is the most enjoyable thing about being an Artist?
The most enjoyable thing for me about being an artist is the joy in translating a feeling and an idea into an experience and then into an object that others can perhaps understand and share what you saw. When a person then chooses to purchase a painting I have made, I get a deep feeling of contentment in connecting in this way with another person.
As a creative, what is the best advice that you’ve ever been given?
The best advice I have ever gotten is to choose a life that allows you the space and time to create, if you feel this calling. You must be prepared to sacrifice other things that can be appealing: sleep, money, social outings, and events. But if it calls to you, you are happy to follow this road.
And finally, what’s your favuorite thing about being a part of the New England community?
I love being part of the New England artist and the broader community. I chose to come to this area due to its perfect blend of country and rural living coupled with the arts and cultural sector. The artistic community in the area is very supportive to each other and together with economic and environmental concerns, brings the community together in wellbeing and connections.
Isabelle Devos Portrait BW by Simon Scott
Thank you so much for your time Isabelle, it’s been awesome to work with you!