Interview with Renée Treml

May 2009: American born Renée Treml moved to Brisbane at the end of 2007, and judging by her work, hasn’t looked back. Her work is filled with Australian fauna in a variety of mediums, including scratchboard.

What have you been up to lately?
Right now I spend all of my studio-time working with scratchboard… lately I have been experimenting with new tools and textures.  I have been integrating new animals in my work – trying to get beyond just birds (even though I really do love the birds!).  I also work part-time as a research assistant in an environmental management/remote sensing program at the University of Queensland and try to spend as much time outdoors as possible.

"Tea Cosy"

"Tea Cosy"

What is your background, how did you develop your style of illustration?
My college and post-graduate education focused on ecology and environmental science, with a few art classes tossed in.  In 2004, I completed a Professional Certificate in Botanical Illustration (North Carolina, USA) and began studying fine art through local art classes.  I was really lucky in that the area where I lived was a magnet for artists – I had so many high quality options for classes.

As for my style, I can’t help but focus on details… I would love to illustrate things loosely, but for whatever reason, I always come back to detail. That said, I get really bored doing realistic illustrations, which is why I love clayboard.  I can be so incredibly detailed, but I can do things like put a frogmouth in a teacup or a bilby in a bird’s nest, and it looks believable.

"Restore"

"Restore"

renee_treml_scratchboard

You have been doing a bit of work recently in scratchboard, describe this technique and what it’s like to use it.
I buy my scratchboard already prepared, although I would love to learn how to make my own.  Scratchboard consists of a piece of board that is coated with a thin layer of kaolin clay and it is either inked (black) or left white.  The brand I use, Ampersand, is eco-friendly, using sustainable wood products and non-toxic chemicals, which is something I really value.

My tools are a sharp #11 or #16 craft knife (with lots of spares and a sharpening stone), black acrylic ink (or any waterproof ink), a few brushes, and a felt-tip black waterproof pen.  There are lots of special “scratch art” tools available, but out of all of these, I like the fiberglass brush or very fine steel wool the best.

Working with black clayboard is very straightforward – I just need my knife and my drawing.  I scratch through the black layer on top to reveal the white beneath.   White clayboard requires a lot more patience and effort.  When starting on white clayboard, I paint black ink in washes, slowly layering it until I get the range of tones I want, and then I start scratching. This is a slow process:  for a 30x30cm piece, the layering/painting part can take me a lot longer than the actual scratching.

I love this medium, but don’t get me wrong, there are times when it is incredibly tedious (imagine the detail in peacock feathers!).  It also is not the most forgiving medium if I make a mistake, as a result, I have to figure out my drawing completely before I even think about scratching.  A big mistake more often than not requires a do-over (something I learned the hard way a long time ago).

"The Keeper"

"The Keeper"

"Emma by Moonlight"

"Emma by Moonlight"

You also paint in watercolour and acrylics, how do you find working in the various mediums?
I really enjoy working with color and paints – I especially love painting on textured surfaces such as canvas, collage, and textured clayboard (I promise I am not a paid promoter!). I love the unpredictability of what the paints will do… just the different weights of the granules and pigments and how they settle on the surfaces.  Every time it is different.

I tend to work in waves.  I spend a year or two on one medium and then switch back to another.  I’m not sure if I get bored or if I see something interesting about another medium that draws me away.  Fortunately for me, my subject matter and style is the same throughout, so I do not feel like I am making massive changes when I switch around.

Who/What is inspiring you at the moment?
Australian wildlife!  I just can’t get enough of it.  Every time I turn around I am learning about some new critter I did not even know existed.  I hope someday soon my schedule will allow me to get into wildlife rehabilitation.  I used to volunteer at a wildlife hospital in North Carolina (USA) and it brought me so much joy and an overwhelming amount of inspiration.

"Nocturnal Barred Owl"

"Nocturnal Barred Owl"

"Bilby"

"Bilby"

Do you have a favourite artist, or artists?
To be honest, I can’t think of any one artist in particular.  I love non-realistic paintings of real things (probably because I don’t do them).  I also love ceramic and glass art, which was very popular where I lived in the US.  A good friend is introducing me to the world of print-making, which I am really finding amazing and connected to scratchboard.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?
In the very near future: I will be participating in the Paddington Precinct Artwalk as part of a group exhibit at Kiln Gallery; I will continue to have prints and originals online at Udessi; and I will be participating in two environmental-based art events this spring, the Environmental Art Collective Exhibit Art|Science|Play (September) and Caldera Art 2009 (October).
More scratchboard – I would love to have a solo exhibit focusing on environmental issues.
Hopefully a book illustrated with scratchboard… I have a few crazy ideas I am working on (well, crazy for me).
I would love to learn how to make my birds with sculpture – ceramics or metal or some undetermined material.
At some point, I want to organize or participate in benefit art exhibitions again.  This is something I used to do with a group of artist-friends in the USA.   It was a lot of work, but so rewarding for everyone involved.

Links:
www.ReneesArtwork.com
www.Udessi.com
www.Kiln.com.au

comments

  1. I love the work – so beautiful. Would you know where to obtain other ampersand products such as claybord? they seem hard to find.
    thank you
    Pam

    pam pullman, June 18th, 2013 at 7:13 pm

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