Febe Zylstra

Artist of the Month July 2016

Each month we choose one of the great artists represented on our website to be our Artist of the Month. This month, it's Febe Zylstra, who creates beautiful paintings. 

When and how did your interest in art develop?

I first started painting after my daughter was born nearly 19 years ago. I hadn't done art at school or studied it up to that point. I was a registered nurse and after my daughter was born I was diagnosed with post natal depression and anxiety. I felt this intense need to be creative; it became my outlet and my safe place to go to. In 2011 I was then diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder Type 1, of which my psychiatrist thinks was triggered by my pregnancy.  My art, I believe, is paramount in keeping me balanced and healthy for the most part. My love of art has just continued to grow more with each year and I did a visual arts diploma in 2006. I focus on my art full-time now.

What influences your art?

Definitely my moods, emotions and immediate surroundings are huge influences in what I paint and this often dictates the palette I use. There has been many times, especially in my darker periods where a frequent comment from a viewer is that 'they love my work but wouldn't hang it on their wall as it’s too dark' but in the same token I have collectors of my art who keep coming back to me because they feel that emotional connection with my work. Either they have experienced mental health issues themselves or know someone close to them who does. Nothing touches me more when someone gets emotional when they view my art - it's like they get me, and in return I've given them something back! 

What process do you go through when you are creating a piece (starting with the initial idea)?

I tend to have reoccurring symbolic references in my work such as faceless superheroes, balloons, masks etc., and or birds and animals, which help narrate the meaning behind the painting. I usually just spontaneously start painting with a blank white canvas and see where it goes. My figures are from my imagination and the only photographic reference I use is for my birds and animals if I want them to have a realistic representation. I also research the totem of the bird or animal I use to accompany the figure. 

Besides the figure I also paint landscapes and abstract pieces. Most of my pieces are mixed media and a huge part of what I love about painting is experimenting with materials, such as acrylics, oils, charcoals, bitumen, sand, gold/silver leaf, fabric and papers, etc. I push myself to get better at my painting and drawing and besides it being an emotional outlet for me, it's also now something I work hard at make a living from. When I'm well I'm very prolific in my art studio.

Which artists, if any, have you drawn inspiration from?

Australian master artists such as Arthur Boyd, Charles Blackman and Russell Drysdale. Other artists I love are Rauschenberg, Marlene Dumas, Paula Rego and Rita Ackerman.

Do you have a favourite piece? If so, which one and why?

I have a couple of favourites, all done at raw emotional times in my life. The painting 'Unwanted Noise' was painted during a hospital stay about a year ago when I was admitted during a Bi-Polar episode. I believe this piece is a strong emotive piece that was done in two days with very limited materials - I did this painting with my hands, one small brush and a limited palette. At the time I was very depressed and hearing a constant voices/whispers in my head. This painting reflected how I was feeling at that time.

'The Promise' is another one of my favourites, I love it's message 'Listen carefully to your inner voice and be guided to recapture the knowledge of your true path in life. Owl’s senses pierce through shadows, beyond fear and darkness, through to the other side that promises light, happiness and knowledge, which brings with it inner peace and freedom.' Besides darker emotions, often my paintings offer up such emotions as hope, freedom, happiness and protection.

What do you hope the viewer gets from your work?

What I love the most is when someone connects emotionally to a piece, and it’s even better when they purchase it as I know it's going to a home where it will be loved. It makes my day when I get a 'Thank You' message/card and a photo of the painting hanging in its new home/space.

What has been the highlight of your artistic career?

The highlight would have been a successful joint exhibition I had with artist WHO at the 'Lower Repose Gallery' in Chicago USA in 2010. 

Has being a part of Outside In been beneficial for you? If so, how?

I have had a few people contact me saying they are loving my work and it has increased the exposure of my website www.febezylstraart.com I hope in the future it will lead to some sales of my works too. I would love representation of my art outside of Australia at some point in the near future!

What is next for you as an artist?

I have just been a feature artist for the annual art exhibition for MIFQ (Mental Institute Fellowship of Queensland) in Australia, which brings awareness and support for those living with mental health issues in our community. 

There are approx.. 400 pieces of art and 150 artists exhibiting in this show held in the centre of Brisbane City, QLD, Australia. I also have a solo exhibition mid August with Feather & Lawry Gallery, Toowoomba, QLD, Australia of which I am currently represented by. I will follow that up with an invitational group exhibition in October for the 'Ambience Store Project' which showcases and highlights up and coming artists in the Brisbane area, QLD, Australia. I have also been asked to hang 4-6 pieces of my art in the foyer of the 'Aurecon' building in the Brisbane City Centre, QLD, Australia in November 2016.

My goal is too have further gallery representation and I'm working at building a large body of work that is ready to go and available for presentation to perspective galleries. Although I never really have down time from my studio, unless I'm unwell of course, I am extra busy painting until the end of this year at least.