Richard Musgrave-Evans is one of Australia’s most talented plein air landscape painters. Plein Air (a French expression which mean “in the open air”) requires the rapid application of paint in order to capture the fleeting moments of the scene before the artist - the light, clouds, shadows etc. It is “to look rather than copy” which results in beautiful paintings such as Richard’s.
AC: Richard you are a self-taught artist, what started your love affair with painting? RME: My parents are both artists and I have a strong love for the natural world.
AC: At which point did you think this could be a career? RME: I always drew and painted but I started painting seriously from about 18 years of age and from that point I knew. My parents, as artists themselves, never discouraged me or told me to ‘get a real job’.
AC: What lengths do you go to in order to capture the perfect moment? We’ve been told that swags and sleeping under the stars are sometimes involved... RME: swags and sleeping under the stars are definitely part of it, but believe it or not, it all usually starts in the dark, hours before sunrise, stoking the campfire, having two cups of tea to clear my head and get me psyched into my painting session ahead. Then, when there is a slight glow on the eastern horizon (or in some cases just the light of the moon), I’m off, precariously climbing hills with my easel, paints and board strapped onto my back, setting up in a position I am hoping to be a good location and being ready for action when the moment presents itself.
AC: With such transitory moments of light you evidently have to work very quickly and spontaneously, how do you set yourself up to achieve this? RME: I have simple equipment that I can carry on my back and I work with basic colours that I can mix quickly. Basically, I keep everything simple and follow the same routine every time, with everything set up around me in the same order - paints, brushes and knives, making it as familiar to me as a studio would be to another artist.
AC: The colour in your paintings is so raw and imbued with emotion; how important is colour to you and how do you think it affects people? RME: I love the colours in nature and I try to analyse them and reflect them in my paintings so that other people can enjoy them as much as I do. Being there in the moment with the excitement of creating, quite often makes the colours outgoing and celebratory in character.
AC: When you aren’t painting the landscape what do you do? RME: I never stop observing nature, and working out what colours I would use to paint the observation. If I am not painting though, I do enjoy gardening and am also renovating our Victorian stone home in Quorn.
AC: Do you have a favourite place in Australia? RME: I love the outback with its clarity of light and form. In saying that though, I also love the opposite, mist on mountains or the smog on Sydney harbour.
AC: What is your favourite childhood memory? RME: I loved designing, building and sailing model boats. I had a real sense of achievement and fierce enthusiasm for those projects.
AC: As an artist do you have any advice or motivational words to offer to other aspiring artists? RME: Use the ups and downs, the positives and negatives in your career as motivation to improve, always looking for ways to strengthen your vision.
AC: And finally, what music do you listen to? RME: As I play guitar and sing myself, I like musicians like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and the Bee Gees. It kinda makes me sound very uncool doesn’t it!?