Inspired by the feathered inhabitants of our native forests, Anoushka Szybowski creates strikingly detailed drawings of New Zealand's native birds. A former art teacher, who mainly started working in pencil to build up her drawing skills, we spoke briefly to Anoushka about mixing nature, art and family...
What were your first inclinations toward being creative? Was it something that was always a part of you or was there a pivotal moment?
Creativity has always been a part of my life & upbringing. Being resourceful and making things I didn’t have (e.g. dolls clothes) was always fun as a kid & as I grew older I discovered the art of making was what I love. Making artworks, re-upholstering furniture, having to think creatively to problem solve.
Can you remember one of the first things you painted? What makes it memorable?
One of my earliest art memories must have been when I was about 3 or 4. I had woken cranky from a nap & my Mama had encouraged me to draw with her. I had angrily done some scribbles on a page & later she gave it back to me where she had carefully coloured in the scribbles creating beautiful patterns. I remember being so impressed and I love how something/anything can be enhanced with patience and care.
Growing up you spent time in Israel, France and New Zealand. You must have noticed a huge cultural difference spending time in the three places. What influence, if any, do you think this has on your work?
The cultural differences weren’t apparent to me as a child. Of course we had to learn Hebrew but we always managed to play, language never stopped my sister & I from making friends. As an adult I have discovered that our family has its own unique blend of the different cultures. We all deeply respect education and try to be open-minded. Learning new skills is something I try to do often; I have recently been to a very inspiring workshop with Flox and Michael Tuffery.
You work mainly in pencil capturing exquisite detail. What drew you towards creating complex images in such an accessible medium?
I have always loved the clean simple lines that a pencil can make. I wasn’t a skilled drawer at art school and it was always something I wished to develop. Once I began teaching I decided to teach my classes the steps from Betty Edwards book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. After doing & teaching the exercises a few times I was amazed at how my drawing abilities had improved. I try to be an observant person and to enjoy the details in objects. Pencil allows details in a simple and immediate way.
Prior to the birth of your son you juggled your own artwork with being an art teacher. Now you juggle creating with motherhood. How do you manage to set aside time to create?
Creating and especially drawing is part of my life and is fitted in just like doing the dishes. I have always been able to work within the hustle and bustle of daily life. While working I managed to sneakily finish drawings down the back of the staff room. These days I work furiously during nap times. Drawing for nearly 2 hours a day is a lot when you add it up over long period of time and I am able to be quite productive. I commit to exhibitions and Art Shows all around the country and find working towards something very motivating.
Night Owl #5
What does art mean to you? Is it therapeutic? An outlet? A compulsion? A hobby? A career?
All of the above! I really enjoy the deep absorption that comes with making artworks a bit like a meditation so I guess that’s the therapeutic side. And I can feel my frustration levels rise when I am not making works so there is definitely a compulsion aspect to making works. As a career I have chosen to be an Art Teacher so that I can share my passion for art with young people, as well as be surrounded by all the art materials and inspiring artists.
Anoushka's exhibition 'Flock' opens Saturday 3 September.
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