At home with artist Casey Burrill

A fond memory of her grandfather, Ted Burrill, painting around her as a 5-year-old became the foundations of Casey Burrill’s love for the craft.

“He’s a watercolour artist in Tassie and when I was a kid he used to sit there and paint for me. I was just in awe and I thought, ‘I have to do that’,” she says.

It’s a moment she now shares with her own children, who occasionally make their own contributions to Casey’s art.

“Mika loves it and will sit with me, she actually did a bit of that one,” Casey gestures to a large painting in the hallway. “The kids get in there, which is kind of cool.”

Up until recently, Casey saw her art as more of a hobby. Working as a primary school art teacher and having three children, she didn’t allow her dreams as an artist to be fully realised. Starting an Instagram account and partnering with various local businesses, Casey got an offer of a lifetime and made the decision to just go for it.

“I got offered an opportunity at Fenton and Fenton and naturally I would have just let that go, but I made a commitment to say yes,” she says.

With her youngest child of five months still at home, the instinct to say ‘no’ is reflexive as the focus for mothers is often on others. But this time around, Casey made things work.

“I’m going to be tired, but I said, ‘I’m not going to be scared of being tired anymore’. So, I paint late at night until about 12 o’ clock because that’s the only time I can do it. But it’s one of those things where it gives you energy rather than takes it,” she says before adding, “and that’s how I know I’m doing the right thing and I’m on the right path.”

As a result, the kitchen table is now a vibrant explosion of colour, tools and various found-palettes. Paint is crusted in colourful patterns on each one, an indication of the late nights Casey has spent applying, scraping and creating.

“I use a lot of scraping tools and I try to make the process pretty organic – so nothing with a paintbrush,” she says. “I’m always looking for marks too – so marks and scratching. I did a lot of mark painting when I was teaching at primary school and I think that’s where it came from. I just got fascinated with that process of things,” she says.

A penchant for pastels and pink has been a feature of Casey’s work, with the same shade of dusty pink marking the entrance to her home with the front door. There are traces of her love for colour throughout her home.

“I constantly need to change it up, I can’t go monochrome,” she laughs. “I get bored with colours too. I’ve moved towards the earthy colours now, but I’ve had an obsession with pinks.”

An earthy-toned painting propped up in the hallway soon set for Fenton and Fenton is where Casey sees her artwork heading stylistically.

Previously using everything from inks to watercolour, Casey has found her niche with acrylics and by creating movement in the works through her vivid use of colour and marking techniques.

When her base colour is decided, the paint is mixed with medium to improve the coverage of the acrylic. What follows is a somewhat unpredictable process, which often takes place at the kitchen table or with the canvas propped up on a chair in the lounge room.

A child of a musical family and a singer herself, music plays a key role in the creation process of Casey’s works. As a result, brush strokes bounce off the canvas and seem to perform a mesmerising dance before your eyes.

For select pieces, the addition of gold leafing is gently applied to the work, adding a luminous quality to an already diverse painting.

“I use it a bit more sparingly now, but I used to go nuts,” she smiles about her once excessive use of gold.

As for many artists, it’s hard to know just when a piece is complete. When one work may take a day, others take weeks, even months. Now with an increase in demand for her pieces, particularly from wholesaler Fenton and Fenton, this process needs to be consolidated going forward. Still, an artist is its own worst critic.

“Even if you don’t like it, someone else will look at it differently and love it,” she says.

Something more challenging than perfecting a work for sale, is the daunting process of placing a value on what you do.

“That’s something I’ve learned in this industry, is it’s difficult to put a value on yourself,” she says.

“You do your time in this industry, you do these jobs for exposure and you network – and that’s really important in this industry, you need to do that – but then there just comes this point of how am I going to make money and do this for a living?”

Luckily, with her experience at Fenton and Fenton, a value has been placed for her. However, it was also this thought process that lead to a new project, working with fellow local artist Rebecca Kate on Paint Smoothie.

The concept is essentially to see artists collaborate on artworks to be sold in a charity auction, as well as hosting art-based workshops run by the duo.

“Because we’re doing charity auctions, all profits go to the charity, but that project was a way of giving back. So I’m saying put value on yourself, but have something where you feel you’re giving back and making a difference as well,” Casey says.

With the first charity artwork created by Casey and Rebecca selling for $650, the next artwork is now underway between artists Monica Henry and Morgan Jamieson. The overall goal is to have several artworks auctioned each year.

“You never know what it’s going to look like when you team two artists together, it’s like a little art baby,” she says.

Written by Amanda Sherring and photographed by Leiko Manalang of Leikography.

Follow Casey Burrill on Instagram and see her work on Fenton and Fenton.

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