Meet the Maker Monday | Merry Robertson
What is it that you do artistically? I am a Visual Artist specialising in printmaking, drawing and mixed media. My printmaking is mainly in three forms - linocut, etching and collagraph. Lately I have been experimenting with solvent transfers too. The beauty of printmaking is that it is unlimited in the way you can use your images, plates and papers. While my drawing skills are utilised in every aspect of the printmaking process, I also produce works in coloured pencil and enjoy interpreting a subject in more than one form of artwork. My mixed media work sees a combination of printmaking and painting on a range of hand dyed papers. I will often then add wording and stitching, and even turn some of these 2 dimensional works into handmade books. The wording is always unique as I write and collaborate with my mum, Jo Robertson, who is an awarded writer. We have produced printed 2 books together too. I also teach drawing classes and have had the privilege to teach for VAC and Albany Summer School.
Why do you do what you do? I think it is because I have drawn from such an early age that it seems to just be part of who I am. I grew up with three brothers who generally didn't think playing with their sister was as much fun as playing amongst themselves! As a result I enjoyed three personal activities - reading, learning every word on every record of my mum's, and drawing. We didn't ever have a TV so there was lots of time for these things. I just see art everywhere - scenes, shapes and shadows... textures, tones, and the tiny natural world. Not one single day goes by that I do not feel the urge to capture what I see in some way. When did you start in your industry? I did art all through school, skipped year 9, and started a 3 year full time Diploma in Graphic Design when I was 14. When I finished I already had a job with a design agency in Perth and stayed with them for 4 years. While my career varied over the next 45 years, I was always involved in either commercial or fine art production in some way. How would you describe your style? My style is quite influenced by my Graphic Design training I think. I like my artworks to be strong, accurate and conforming to good design principles. Most of my work is realistic with a contemporary feel. I don't produce abstract works, but really enjoy working with the completely random (and beautiful) eco dyed and rust dyed range of papers that I make. I can print, paint, stitch and draw over these producing a unique piece of work every time.
Has your style changed over time? Yes and no. I used to produce a lot of work in very detailed gauche paintings usually of birds and animals, but I do less of that now. However my focus always seems to turn to the natural world as the main subject matter. I still have the same commitment to accuracy and good design, but am really enjoying the influences that learning from other artists brings. What does inspiration mean to you and who inspires you? Inspiration seems to have no beginning and no end. I am fortunate to have a home and art studio overlooking Princess Royal Harbour so just looking through the window, working in my garden or walking in the area brings new observations every day. I always have my camera with me and have literally thousands of photos of things that inspire me... a shell, a plant, a bird, a sunset. I am also inspired by the work of other artists. I was a Guide for the Art Gallery of WA for a number of years and immersed myself in the most stimulating environment every week. I attend as many workshops as I can with other often local or regional artists and am always inspired by their talents, and grateful for their generosity. What memorable responses have you had to your work? People will often comment..."I've been there" or "I have that plant in my garden and it is my favourite." When I add words to my artworks I am often told that the works then reaches out and really touches them as it relates to a feeling or observation that they too have had. It is a beautiful reward to hear that my work has real meaning to the people that see and buy it. What have you been working on recently? My focus for this year is the endangered flora and fauna of this region and the effects of bushfire. I am using all the mediums I mentioned before - dyed papers, linocut and etching, drawing, and more. It required detailed research first and I am so grateful to Meri Spencer from Great Southern Bio Logic, who provided me with very best information, and access to images and environmental specialists. My overall aim for this body of work is to donate a percentage of sales to conservation work being carried out in this region. What is your dream project?
Care for, and protection of the environment is a cause very close to my heart. Many years ago I owned a farm tree production nursery growing thousands of trees every year for use in degraded wheatbelt areas, and I think this is where my real connection to this land started. My dream project would be to use more of my art to support these organisations, and perhaps what I am working on this year will take me a step closer to that. How would you describe the Arts & Culture scene in Albany? I have only lived in Albany for 4 years and certainly one of the deciding factors in moving here was the strong arts scene. I really just observed for the first year and was so surprised at the diversity of artists in the region. The Southern Art and Craft Trail was a real standout and as a result I joined the committee and have been Chairperson for 2 years. In this short time I have also seen community groups, local, and state government make real commitments to strengthening the Arts and Culture scene. As a professional marketing consultant I see unlimited potential for the arts, history and culture of this region to contribute to the overall deep satisfaction of the people living here, and success of the economy.