“Majestic Banksia Aria”, oil on canvas, 150 x 120 cm
Elisabeth Howlett makes expressive portraits of flowering Australian flora. Her love of native Australian flowers is clearly evident. Her work is about the forms of these plants, their ancient personage. Elisabeth is enamoured by the unapologetic forms of native flora, their ancient shapes and crazy leaves that splay out in all directions. To her, natives hold elegance, poise and unassuming timeless beauty. Elisabeth wishes to capture the effortless grace and dignity inherent in native plants and flowers.
Elisabeth enjoys foraging local wildflowers and formulating them into sculptural arrangements. Next is photographing, drawing in charcoal, often underpainting in acrylic, and finally, painting the outer final layer in oil on canvas. Elisabeth describes her subjects with vivid, deliberate brushstrokes laden with impasto oil. She applies generous quantities of impasto oil paint to describe her chosen subject. She describes the form of her chosen subject matter expressively and unexpectedly, emphasising the impression made by each brushstroke. Elisabeth’s paintings are highly textured, owing to the application of thick oil paint.
Prior to being an artist, Elisabeth worked as a lawyer. She spent the majority of her 15 year legal career on matters impacting the natural environment. The last project Elisabeth undertook was an assessment of the laws impacting the conservation of native flora and fauna in South Australia. The protection of nature conservation in the legal sphere had a lasting impact, fostering Elisabeth’s love of native plants and flowers.
Elisabeth has worked as an artist for the last 10 years. She has held 3 solo exhibitions, and has taken part in many group exhibitions locally and interstate. Elisabeth has worked as an artist in residence in councils and schools, and conducts online art classes with adults. She is married to Simon and has 2 children, Alice and Sam. The Adelaide foothills where the Howlett’s reside provides the perfect daily inspiration for Elisabeth’s art practice.
Searching for the Sparkle, oil on canvas, 100 x 100cm
I am coming up to 10 years in professional art practice. I work from my home studio in the Adelaide foothills, near a conservation park and bushland. Following a legal career focussing on the conservation of nature, I have dedicated much of my art practice to painting flowering Australian natives. Partly this is because I have grown to adore them. But mostly I paint Australian natives because they are whole. They don’t explain who they are. They are of the ancients. I love how their forms are of the earth. Out of the dirt grows something so distinctive. They arrive at the right time, without comment. No one tells them to be there. They just belong. And they are free.
Where I live I am surrounded by native plants and flowers. I enjoy foraging local wildflowers. I formulate them into sculptural arrangements. I take a lot of photographs. I begin by drawing my subject in charcoal, and often proceed to underpainting in washy acrylic. I paint the final layer with thickened oil paint. I apply generous quantities of impasto oil paint to describe the forms of native plants and their flowers. My intention is to describe them in an expressive and unexpected way, emphasising the impression made by each brushstroke. For this reason, my paintings are highly textured, bearing sculptural elements.
Native flowers can tell you some ancient stories. They can tell some tales. Their story is their own. It belongs to them. They don’t care what anyone thinks. They are magnificent for their effortless grace, their messy grandeur and their timeless shapes. And though they be small or large in stature, they are magnificent for their inherent dignity.
Recent large work featuring Dwarf Apple Gum (larger arrangement) and Coffin Bay Gum (smaller bouquet, at the front), 150 x 120 cm, oil on canvas.