by Becky Holland
Fiona left school in year 11 and did a variety of jobs. In 1985 to 1990 she attended the Julian Ashton Art School in Sydney. Founded in 1890, it is the oldest continuous fine art school in Australia and is still operating today in assisting artists achieve their dreams. Over the years, Fiona has thought of herself mostly as a visual artist doing black and white pen drawings, but also gouache colour pictures.
Most recently, Fiona took an opportunity to be part of Stuff of Tales. Each writer or artist is paired up with a museum in the New England area and conducts workshops. Fiona had the chance to explore Saumarez Homestead with the view to select an item from the collection to become the basis of a story.
I asked Fiona if her personality is reflected in her work, she said, with my pen drawings, I build up detailed, highly rendered scenes, in which I like to add bizarre or quirky elements. Not sure what this says about my personality but I think people who know me would identify me by my pictures.
A few examples of Fiona’s illustrations are included in within The New England Muse.
At times, we all have creative blocks and Fiona is just the same and her way of moving past a creative block is to, just draw, doodling is great to overcome blank paper syndrome. Fiona uses Kate Grenville’s automatic writing technique where you sit and write for two minutes and don’t stop to think. You have to write whatever is in your head at the time, even if it is “I don’t want to write”.
We all have methods or even a muse to get those creative juices flowing and Fiona begins her process with thumb nail sketches of a scene to work out composition. She then, lightly draws in the main components in pencil before rendering them in pen, or paint. Recently, Fiona was asked to produce roughs for an entire book, which she found really hard yet turned out to be a very good exercise.
In conjunction with the illustrator David Allan, Fiona has developed Authors’ Elves. A business that will cater for any aspect of book production. They will even ghost write a book for you as well as edit, design and arrange to have it printed. A manuscript assessment service and the opportunity to host workshops is also available.
I asked Fiona five things that inspire her right now, she said, fairy lore, as I’m rewriting a story from some years ago, which I knew had a weakness three quarters of the way through. It is now much richer and has a lot of layers and excites me very much. I’m also thinking about goblins in some form, maybe a picture book, maybe even a satirical novel.
Finally, Fiona leaves us with some advice, Work hard. Do lots of workshops, classes and practise, practise, practise. Do not make excuses for not doing the work, such as you don’t have time, or inspiration won’t come. Inspiration is just a word for a sudden thought, most ideas have to be wrestled out of your brain with hard labour. Follow your passions always.