Featured Artist - Valerie Khoo
At Calypso we publish cards by artists from all over the world – tell us where you grew up and where you live and work.
I grew up in a coastal area of Sydney, Australia and have always lived near the water. I now live in Avalon Beach in Sydney and love getting inspiration from the water nearby. It’s so refreshing to be able to go to the beach or hop into the kayak to clear my mind and then head into my studio to paint, design and create.
What is your work environment like, do you have a home studio? An ocean view? What sort of music do you like to listen to while you work?
I have a studio at home that overlooks a bay called Pittwater so it’s great to be able to look out the window to see boats meandering around or yachts racing at twilight. When I’m working during the day, I listen to podcasts like ‘Talking with Painters’ and ‘The Jealous Curator’. I also love many of the podcasts by Wondery. In the evenings, I love listening to jazz while I paint. My two fluffy white cats are always nearby, they love hanging out in the studio!
How is your day structured as a working artist?
I do admin in the mornings. That’s emails, creating marketing materials, Zoom calls and so on. Then I move on to designing, usually drawing either in a sketchbook or on the iPad. I start painting in the afternoons and, after breaking for dinner and family time in the evenings, I often go back into the studio and paint into the wee hours! That’s when I find I am the most creative and productive.
How did you begin your career as an artist?
While I’ve always been passionate about art, I didn’t make it a professional pursuit until later in life. I started as a weekend artist but then became so immersed in it that I ended up doing lots of courses, completed a diploma and worked as a curator for a couple of years. Working on my art fulltime is a great creative outlet and it’s incredibly fulfilling when it resonates with people.
What was your first big success as an artist?
I was honored to be commissioned by the City of Sydney to design a 17-foot sculpture, made from forged steel and thousands of lights. It was a sculpture of a rooster that was featured on the foreshores of the harbor between the Sydney Opera House and the iconic Harbour Bridge. It was really humbling to see so many people visiting the artwork and taking selfies!
What inspires your work?
My work is inspired by stories that are usually underpinned by positive emotions. I’m a big believer in having positive artwork on my walls – images that are infused with a wonderful energy so that feeling is reinforced when you look at it every day.
Are there other artists that inspire you?
I’m inspired by Australian artists like Wendy Sharpe and Luke Sciberras.
What is your earliest memory of creating art?
I remember going to one of my first ever art classes at school and we had to draw an elephant. I absolutely loved the process and my heart just sang. I should have trusted that feeling from the start and nurtured my creativity. But, instead, I focused on math and science! There’s nothing wrong with those subjects but they didn’t make my heart sing in the same way. It took decades before I finally gave myself permission to do what I truly love.
What is your favorite medium?
To be honest, I love all mediums. I love the unpredictably of using different mediums for different projects because, sometimes, the happy accidents are what make your work so special.
How has your style changed over time?
In my early days as an artist, I simply painted for joy. Then I started to paint artwork that I thought I should paint in order to get to the next level. While I learnt a lot, I’ve now realized that I need to go back to painting images that are simply bursting to be created, images that bring joy to my soul. Because if that’s where they come from, they will only be infused which an energy that’s palpable.
In terms of an overall style, I do switch between abstract and representational work, depending on what I want to convey. But both styles typically feature bold colors and vibrant hues – because who doesn’t want some gorgeous color on their walls and in their life?
Of all the cards we publish by you, do you have a favorite?
I love the card that features my artwork ‘Dialogue’. It has a great quote from Lao Tzu “Great acts are made up of small deeds” and that really resonates with me. It works on two levels for me. First, it’s a thank you card and I love the practice of gratitude because I think it does wonders for your soul and your psyche. Second, I connect with the idea from the quote that you can achieve greatness one small step at a time. You just need to start.
Click here to see the entire Valerie Khoo collection.