Conversations with Creative Women – Honor Bradbeer

Honor Bradbeer is an exceptional young Melbourne based artist. Her work has an ethereal quality about it and the viewer always feels that she is straddling the physical and the spiritual, when she puts ink to paper. I am always intrigued to find out how creative women arrive at that place of bringing beauty and inspiration to others. In this short interview Honor gives us a glimpse of who she is and what makes her creative.
What does being creative mean to you?
Being creative means the world to me.
But if you’re looking for my definition, I suppose being creative means making tangible what is intangible. In particular, I think the creative act is taking something from the deep privacy of our unique understanding and giving form to it, so that others may experience it, or so that we can understand it anew. The wonderful thing is that in this process of bringing out something from within, something is actually added in translation: there’s always, without fail, some by-product that was not intended, something new for the world, however tiny.

Do you remember the first drawing you ever made?
No. I’m sure I scribbled out all kinds of baffling stuff from an early age. But there is certainly a drawing that is celebrated by my family as my ‘first’, because it was the first that communicated something they clearly recognised. It’s a portrait of Miss Piggy from The Muppets. I honestly thought she was the most beautiful thing in the world at the time. The portrait is all snout, pearls and curly hair, and I drew it in texta when I was three.

Where did you grow up and how did family life and your home influence how you “see” the world and ignite this desire to create?
I think the desire to create is primal, it just isn’t always supported or celebrated or understood. I grew up in the inner western suburbs of Melbourne. One of my uncles is an artist and his family lived in the same street as mine. My parents were well aware that art is not generally a lucrative business, but they encouraged and supported me, from the start. The option of taking up art as a career was always simply there, and it was always what I wanted to do. I think it would have broken my spirit if they had ever tried to push me in a more sensible direction.
As to how I see the world… how long have you got? … I consider myself very blessed to have grown up with a religious mother and an atheist father whose ideologies actually manage not to be at odds with each other. The idea of an inner life has tremendous value for both my parents, and my sister and I were brought up talking and thinking in those terms, and feeling more or less comfortable with those big mysterious spaces and resonances of the mind and heart. It wasn’t easy sometimes, trying to orientate myself spiritually, but that struggle has left me with deep longings and vast landscapes inside – good, mysterious, open spaces in which still echo a beloved warmth and presence. I can think of no better play-space for an artist.

What are some of the ways you have had to juggle your creativity around different seasons in life?
I’m almost thirty-two, but I haven’t experienced very striking differences between seasons, yet. I very much want to have children and I look forward, with some trepidation, to the changes this will bring to my creative life. Certainly I have experienced that love can be a challenge to creative practice. I think love resonates in, and draws from, those same spaces that creativity does. It takes diligence and practice for them both to exist there harmoniously. I know I’ll have to make room in there for the kids, as well.

How do you balance life with time to create?
I don’t. I am perpetually wobbling on this tight-rope, and finding a consistent routine is an ongoing project. This year I have given my art practice priority by cutting back work and living off my savings. It’s wonderful, but still a battle. The problem is the desire to live as richly as possible in all directions. It can be paralysing!
Tell me about your studio and workspace. How do you keep it well stocked and organised?
My studio is a 4×5 metre white box with a concrete floor, housed in a wonderful old building that used to be a wool mill. It hums with the industry of other creative people and their musical preferences. It isn’t perfect, but I love it – it’s my own creative space and even paying the rent feels like an act of self-respect. 
I am not very organised. I re-stock as I need, and if I’m short of one thing I’ll use something else. I often draw over old drawings when I find I’ve suddenly run out of fresh paper. 

As an artist do you have other artists that you admire? How have they influenced your work?
Whenever anyone asks this I think of Vincent van Gogh first. I don’t know why, except that I have so much admiration for the way he was really chasing down something very important in his mind’s eye. When I look at his work, I see all that fevered endeavour, stripped of artifice and self-consciousness, and it is one of the most beautiful qualities.
Sometimes I see that in the work of other visual artists – Alberto Giacometti is a favourite, Giorgio Morandi, Edgar Degas, Käthe Kollwitz, Mark Rothko, Cy Twombly…
To be honest, I am more frequently inspired by musicians and poets. If I read it or hear it, I can visualise something new, and feel empowered to create. The excitement I get over visual art is tempered by a personal sense of redundancy.
Do you have a favourite medium to work with?
I’ve been working almost exclusively with ink on paper for ten years. Black ink, blue ink, sometimes red ink, but that’s it. Three colours in ten years!
I’ve just started playing around with lots of colours – watercolour, pencils, bright inks. It’s terrifying.

What can we expect from Honor Bradbeer in the future? How do you envisage your business developing in the next few years?
I don’t really know what to expect. This is the first time in all these years that I’ve really craved something very different, and I feel like a beginner, again. When you’ve established a practice that is so identifiable by its method and media – such as my big, monochromatic ink work – it’s challenging to think of putting something very different out there and retaining a clear sense of identity. 
Colour and movement. That’s what’s coming. I’m restless for a sense of movement in my work. I don’t know how, but it will come. Watch this space.

How do you use your artistic talents to support and serve others locally and globally?
Oh, that’s a perennially troubling question!
In order to be at peace with myself, I just have to have faith that what I do is inherently worthy. It’s important to me to be a useful body in the world, but I think that, with art, it can be a long time before it does its work for the wider community. That said, I think it is really important that there is a large body of artists in any society. It can be hard, lonely, spiritually draining work, and there’s definitely a sense of being called to do it. Creativity is knowledge, development and communication on a suprarational level – beyond rational bounds – and I think a lot of our living actually happens on that level, and we need stimulation and solace and help there as much as we need the rational stuff. 
It’s tempting to think artists aren’t essential, but I think we’re like garbage collectors – it would be felt pretty quickly if we all stopped doing what we do.
If I could deliver anyone at all to your studio who would you most like to sit and sew with over a cup of tea?
Oh, Leonard Cohen, always. I’ve turned his words round and round in my head since I can remember. There is just so much meaning in there. I can know and love a song for years and then discover a whole new perspective in it that I hadn’t picked up, before. Every new album is like a letter from a trusted mentor, and I spend hours decoding it. He’s striding through his seventies, now. I don’t know what I’ll do when he dies.
I’d also very much like to see what his sewing is like.

Complete this sentence: I wish I had known……
How many different methods and media I would like to utilise throughout my career. I shrugged off a lot of good opportunities to learn new things at university. “Animation? It’s just not my thing.”

And finally, what advice would you give someone starting on their artistic journey.
A trusted mentor once told me: “whatever you do, if you do it with integrity, you will have an audience”. It’s the single best thing anyone ever told me about being an artist, and it guides my practice.

You can view more of Honor Bradbeer’s work online here.
Honor Bradbeer exhibits at Dickerson Gallery.