This week we had the pleasure of interviewing Australian artist Damien Venditti. A painter and an active member of the Artfinder community, Damien is based in Perth, Western Australia and chatted to us about his love of painting fruit, why he looks to the masters for inspiration and what made him decide to take the leap from a regular job to becoming a full time artist.
Plus, discover the 'Jona Lisa', as Damien transforms Artfinder's CEO into something a little more...feminine.
Hows things going Damien, what are you working on at the moment?
Damien: Things are good. After having a break over the holidays, I'm now back to painting everyday. I have completed some still life works already and I'm gearing up to try some portraits.
What's life like in Perth for an artist?
Damien: Perth has a great creative community spirit. Having said that, I do spend most of my time painting in my studio. Like most cities street art is becoming more accepted and is popping up everywhere. We also have had some fantastic touring exhibitions coming to Perth and there are lots of theatre productions, live music and so on. For a relatively small city, we do alright!
You occasionally paint seascapes, are these inspired by the beaches in Perth?
Damien: Beach culture is a big part of growing up in Perth. Western Australia is a large state and the coastline is amazing; the constant sunshine made going to the beach every weekend practically mandatory. I guess as a result, I was more inspired to try seascapes before landscapes, though the Australian landscape is equally inspiring.
I haven't painted as many landscapes as I would like, but I'd certainly like to turn my hand to them one day.
Have you always been an artist?
Damien: I grew up always drawing and really enjoyed being creative. As I got older my creative outlet was music.
The need to make money meant working various jobs over the years; however none of these ever satisfied me as much as being creative.
When did you decide to take the plunge?
Damien: At around 31 I felt too old for rock'n'roll and so decided to go back to creating art. At this point, I had never painted before, but I thought I'd try it out and really loved it. I decided to save my money, so when I hit 33 I quit working and became a full-time artist.
What is it about painting that you enjoy?
Damien: My interest in paint and particularly oil paint comes from my love of the Masters. All of my favourite painters paint using oil.
At first I experimented with paints that I had no idea how to use. I then started to research oil paint and how best to use it.
I love the feel of paint, the diverse range of consistencies available and the richness of one colour to the next. I now use Old Holland oils for the high pigment load and perfect consistency, as well as the Australian-made Art Spectrum oils. They base one of their colour ranges on the Australian landscape and they are brilliant!
How do you approach a painting?
Damien: When painting still life objects I alternate between painting from life for more simple compositions and working from photographs for works that are more complicated. At times, I also paint straight from my imagination.
Where do you paint?
Damien: I have a room that I use as my studio with a desk with a few small easels, a still life shadow box, a computer and tv monitor as well as a large standing easel for bigger canvases.
I often head out to a workshop and cut and prep my own art boards, and canvas. Other than that it's all about painting long hours.
Many of your still life paintings include fruit. Why fruit?
Damien: When I paint larger canvases I like to get the tea pot, cup and other objects out. With smaller works I like the design value of having space, so I usually focus on one object.
Fruit is readily available and goes back to the influence of past Masters. I'm interested in they way that they would take everyday objects and paint them in ways that they had not seen before. I love the challenge of being creative with simple objects and exploring news ways within the limits of fruit; it pushes me to be creative each time. Whether it's realism, slight abstraction, palette knife work, stripes or adding graphic design elements, I am now hopefully closer to defining my own style.
Has joining Artfinder changed your career as a painter in anyway?
Damien: Yes, very much so. When I joined Artfinder I was trying a bit of everything, but felt that this was slowing my growth as an artist. In 2016 I chose to focus on still lifes. In doing so, I think it has helped me improve my painting techniques and develop a stronger sense of style. That was partly inspired by several great artists on Artfinder.
Also for me, the exposure and ability to sell globally was career-changing. Having a great response from collectors helped to build my confidence and to encourage me to continue to paint without focusing on trends.
Not having to continuously rely on brick and mortar galleries also gives me more time to paint and as a site like Artfinder grows, you attract more collectors who don't get time to visit galleries. More people collecting more art is a great thing.
How would you describe your experience of being a part of the Artfinder community so far?
Damien: I have lots of great conversations with customers and think it's great to be able to do that. They have been great so far and I have a few repeat customers. A person buying my work and telling me they love it is the highest compliment.
The artist community on the site is great too. I have artist friends all over the world now. Through the Artfinder artist Forum, emails and social media we communicate all the time. Some of us are a part of a daily artworks group on the forum, which is full of support and laughter. I now have a group of artists wanting to escape the European cold for the Aussie sunshine!
The staff have also been fantastic from day one. They go above and beyond and are really passionate about art.
We couldn't interview you without asking about the hilarious photographs you've created of Jonas, our CEO. What on earth inspired you?!
It didn't go unnoticed that Artfinder's staff had a lot of J's. Starting with CEO Jonas, you then have Jen, Jane, Jayna, Jaye, maybe more now. It seemed like a conspiracy for control against non J's. There were rumours of a non-J uprising, so I tried to settle them with the Jona Lisa.
The non J's are growing in numbers though, I'm hoping for a successful year so I can buy the team 'Jona Lisa' t-shirts. I studied graphic design for a year and a half, and so far it's only culminated in the 'Jona Lisa'.
Ha! Thanks Damien. So, what's next?
I want to keep pushing myself with still lifes, but am also interested in transferring my skills to other art categories. Portraits and figurative work is something I'd like to try, as well as a few more seascapes and abstracts.
Taking part in Artfinder's collaboration with Friends of the Earth UK for the Great British Bee Count was a great experience, and being one of the eighteen artists selected to have work in that exhibition was brilliant. I would like to be a part of more group exhibitions which have a cause. Hopefully my sales on Artfinder continue so I can be free to do that.