This interview with Libby Hyett – from the Studio Gallery in Windsor – was conducted by Sarah Josie, as part of a four-part series of interviews related to artists, arts spaces and infrastructure in New South Wales.
What was your defining moment as an artist?
My breakdown in 2012. I was 29 years old. I didn’t do much art at the time but I was so distressed I abandoned my self-restraint. I found solace in art, music and creative writing, in contrast with trying to reason my way out of the muddle in my head.
Did you try other disciplines before you got into painting/drawing?
Yes. I completed a Bachelor of Music in 2007. I play the piano, clarinet and I sing. I also write fiction and have been working on a novel for young adults for eleven or twelve years! I’m on my fifth complete rewrite and I’m just starting to feel comfortable with my process. I’ve written and illustrated several picture books for preschool children.
What was your first exhibiting experience and how old were you?
As a teenager I entered the art competitions in the Hawkesbury Show.
How did you feel when you got your first commission?
I felt capable of making art my career. My friend Cat encouraged me to work for myself, because she said I was so talented I didn’t need to work for anyone else. I’d drawn a portrait of her horse, which she loved so much she went looking on social media to see if she could find someone who would commission me (as I refused to let her pay me)!What emerging artist do you admire that you want to give an honorable mention to?Melanie de Bohmer (I think that’s how it’s spelled). I found her art in the Elephant Bean in Katoomba and I fell in love with it.
What artist have you been influenced by in your practise?
My favourite art was always the Australian Impressionists - Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts et al. I do landscapes and I love hiking and the Australian bush - in fact my creative writing is often based in nature. Commercially I do portraits and my style is developing into its own... rather than try and pinpoint individual artists who influenced me, it’s probably fairer to say that I’ve been inspired by movements such as expressionist, realistic and modernist.
How did you start your own gallery/studio? What advice do you have for those who aspire to start their own galleries/studio space?
For six months or so I ran a stall at the markets, then I was on Gumtree one day and saw my current space advertised to rent. No one could talk me out of it! The idea of upgrading from a market stall to a proper shop seemed a no-brainer! I could use it as a studio as well as a gallery, when I wasn’t there the window displays would still be advertising my work (because it’s located in Windsor Mall), and better still, it came with its own ceiling. I don’t have advice for people who want to start their own gallery or studio space because I feel like that would be presumptuous of me. If something comes along that suits your circumstances and you can conceive of it working, then it’s your choice.
Do you think that having an art event for artists who struggle with mental illness would be good for making the art industry more inclusive?
Yes. Isn’t mental illness a pre-requisite to being an artist? (jokes)
What art exhibition have you seen recently that has really stuck with you?
I visited Julie Simmons’ studio gallery when she was holding an open day recently. She is a water colourist and by looking at her work up close I felt like trying watercolours too! She frames her own artwork and I realised framing would be a good skill to acquire.
This piece was produced in collaboration between Framework and Arcadia.