Danielle McManus has beguiled us with her whimsical, gentle figures for a long time. Set in a dreamlike landscape, her work inspires us to stop and “smell the roses”. Art Chat has had a talk to Danielle to see what she has been doing and what we can expect from her new exhibition. AC: Danielle many people relate to your depiction of life and the stories you tell with your work, do you have a plan or do you allow intuition as the first step? DM: Most of the time my work comes from a story either from my own experience or those of my kids or from stories of family history. I’m usually thinking of a particular story or feeling when I am designing the work. Other elements, however, come from intuition; such as the flowers I use or the birds etc.
AC: Can you remember the first person who encouraged you to pursue a career as an artist? DM: The first person I can remember to encourage me was my cousin Jo. She liked to draw herself and I would stay with her during the holidays where she would encourage me to develop my drawing. Jo travelled a lot and spent a lot of time in England, so she also introduced me to Beatrix Potter, which led me to want to be an illustrator of kid’s books. I still have a passion for children’s books; I don’t know what I’ll do when my daughter is too old for them!!
AC: Your work is quite narrative, why did you choose the visual arts to describe your stories. DM: I don’t think I chose Visual arts I feel that it chose me. I was very quiet as a kid and probably solitary so drawing and painting by myself suited me very well. I seemed to have a knack for it and I guess you do something long enough and practice enough you become good at it. I certainly don’t have the personality to be in the dramatic arts!!!
AC: Flat colour fields feature prominently in your work, do you see the negative space as an important element in the composition? DM: I like to place my characters in a less detailed landscape to make them stand out I guess. I like to concentrate detail in certain aspects of the work like in the dandelions for example. I think it creates a balance. The poppies are a good example. They are so detailed and so much to look at, you need a large expanse of sky to “even” it out.
AC: What is your favourite childhood memory? DM: I was so lucky to have such as happy childhood, so I have many fond memories. But I guess one that stands out was when our parents took us to America for our first white Christmas. We had a great time staying with relatives over there and went to Disneyland, which is every kid’s dream!!
AC: If you could choose to spend a day with any artist living or dead who would it be? DM: I would love to spend a day with Mirka Mora. I have read many interviews with her and I think her story is a fascinating one. I admire her so much, her dedication, her talent and her “no regrets” kind of attitude. She makes “no excuses”; you take her as you find her. She is confident and witty. An absolute inspiration!
AC: Do you work set hours or when inspiration strikes? DM: I work every day at something. So whether it’s painting or sketching or ceramics, I try to accomplish something every day. As I have had my kids at home mostly, they determine the amount of time I work!! But this year my last little one started school so I will be back to full time work! I think if you choose art as your career, or work for yourself in general really, you need to dedicate yourself to it the same way you would if you worked for someone. Sometimes you’re so tired doing the everyday stuff, if you waited for inspiration you’d never get a painting finished!!!
AC: What can you see from your studio window? DM: Unfortunately at the moment I have a make shift studio in my dining room! We moved to an old house and we are renovating etc. so we will convert the garage into a studio as the time (and funds!!) become available. So I don’t see too much out of my two smaller windows mainly the driveway and some garden!!!
AC: How do you relax when you are not painting? DM: It sounds cheesy I guess but I love spending time with the kids. Whether it’s watching a movie, going for walks or to the beach. I don’t want my kids growing up thinking they had come second to my career. Family is the most important thing in my life so hanging out with them is my favourite way to relax!
Danielle McManus will be exhibiting at Red Hill Gallery 61 Musgrave Road, Red Hill, Brisbane in the month of February together with two other promising female artists Linda Vario and Lola Santiago in the exhibition "Women Of Substance" .