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Stuart Whitelaw

What medium do you work in?
Mostly in Pastel and charcoal on canvas, I use a matt clear acrylic medium to both bind and move pigment around.

Where is your studio?
In my home at Bingi.

How long have you had your studio?
I built the house in 2000/01 so it is almost 20 years now.

Tell us what you love about your studio?
The location is next to a large dam which is a home for lotus and waterlilies as well as many waterbirds. It also attracts a lot of other wildlife.

The studio has a stone wall on the south side and full glass on the north. It has pretty good light year round but I sometimes have to use white roller blinds to diffuse the strong winter sun. The big doors allow me to connect with the landscape.

Tell us about the strangest object in your studio?
It is a corroded cast iron nameplate given to me many moons ago. It looks like something that would have been a part of a steam engine. Naturally the name is ‘Stuart’. I like to think he may have been a compatriot of Thomas.

Tell us about the oldest object in your studio?
Probably a broken mandolin, which looks at least 150 years old. I have no idea what I will do with it, there is something so appealing about the shape and the bent timber.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what one thing from your studio would you most like to have with you and why?
One of the fishing rods hanging from the central beam over the studio. Coconut fish curry would be on the menu. Pencil and paper are two things and not a lot of use without the other. Maybe my pastel kit counts as one ‘thing’?

Tell us about your art practice?
I work in bursts and usually in autumn and winter. There is something about the angle of the sun at this time of the year that is so transformative. There are many sources of inspiration just metres from the studio which is surrounded by National Park and the ocean is a few minutes walk away. I have spent most of my time painting outdoors within a short walk of home, and I am beginning to know the colours and moods of this place.

I enjoy the physical challenges of taking moderate sized canvases out to work in situ.

My preferred medium of pastel with clear acrylic medium can shift between large washes to dense drawn lines and I have found no other medium that can render passing light as quickly or effectively. Because the pastel pigment is captured between layers of clear medium, the completed work has more of the quality of oils than normal acrylics.

Increasingly I am doing more studio based work, but the intensity of working outdoors is still my bedrock. I gather to do life drawing every 2 weeks with others at a neighbouring house. Life drawing has been a constant in my practice for nearly 60 years!

Stuart Whitelaw, The Rat Tails of Stinky Creek

The title refers to the orchids (rat tail orchids also known as ‘bridal veil’) and to the local name for the lagoon (so called because of the occasional seaweed dumps).

Stuart Whitelaw, Camp Creek cliff face, 2013, pastel, charcoal, clear acrylic medium on canvas.

See more of Stuart's work:

His most recently exhibited work can be seen at the Gallery Bodalla website: