Into the Blue with Stacey Petersen
Penny Brand dives into the work and life of our front cover artist whose love of the great outdoors comes to life in watercolour.
The sun is about to peek its head over a deep blue ocean directly in front of their campsite, and the warm salt air provides a natural incense throughout the tent.
Stacey’s dad taps her on the shoulder and as her head lifts off the pillow the morning calls of wildlife in the rugged local forest beckon them.
The youngest of six siblings, Stacey shares her dad’s thirst for adventure and the natural world.
Every morning for eight weeks of the Christmas holidays the pair would set off deep into the national park which sat right behind their tent.
“We would look for rock wallabies, koalas and other wildlife. Then we would go back and have a swim together before breakfast,” Stacey says.
“Once the whole family was up, we’d head down to the beach with our blow-up surf mats. Mum would sit under the umbrella and we would spend hours surfing, swimming and fishing.
“In the afternoon we would pump yabbies at Tallebudgera and then go fishing off the rocks at Burleigh. The days would end with dinner and a walk into town for ice cream.”
If that wasn’t idyllic enough, Stacey’s childhood extended well beyond holidays in the outdoors to another wonderous, but creative realm, right on the family’s living room floor.
Now a mixed media artist living in Tewantin, Stacey grew up in Brisbane where she would while away her spare hours painting and drawing, and always planning the next craft project.
“My parents always indulged me in whatever project I wanted,” she said. “I was into crocheting bikinis in the 70s. I also did leather work and used to make glasses cases for my mum, and belts and horse gear.
“Then I was into rug making, where you get hessian and wool and you can make shaggy rugs. Once, I found a craft shop that had real horse hair, and used that for the horse’s hair on the rug!”
Stacey’s backyard even had its own kiln, where she would hone her pottery skills for hours on end.
“I tried everything to do with art and craft throughout school,” she said.
And while Stacey spent 12 years as a swimming coach and learn-to-swim instructor before taking on a primary school teaching career, art and nature remained a permanent fixture in her life.
“Art was always there in the background and I always thought that I would pursue it one day when I had more time,” she said. “It was something that I loved to indulge my school students in as much as I could.”
A few years ago, Stacey felt a life-long calling to make more time for her art, setting up a studio space at home and was soon addicted, spending as much time painting as possible.
This year, Stacey’s husband Brian encouraged her to participate in the Noosa Open Studios Art Trail which saw more than 100 artists open their private studios to the public in October.
Stacey’s studio showcased her Indigo Coast series, which exquisitely portrays her experimental, spontaneous approach, nudging simple watercolour paint beyond its traditional confines.
Drawing inspiration from the amazing diversity of colour, form and texture found in nature, Stacey loves how the unpredictability of watercolours echo the unique and uncontrollable aspects of “every wave, petal or ray of sunlight”.
“I love drawing the human form especially the tonal variations created by the play of light and shadow on bare skin,” she said. “It can be difficult to get right because our eye is so acutely attuned to the lines and shapes of the human form.
“My aim with the Indigo Coast series was to create life-like and yet simple figures that merge with the coastal landscape, conveying an emotional tie to the ocean.
“The backgrounds tend to be more impressionistic in order to emphasise the figure, while at the same time flowing in and around the figure, connecting it to the landscape.
“The ocean, sand and sky provide an ever-changing inspiring backdrop.”
Stacey says there’s a sense of serene harmony and peace about the beach that the indigo tones are able to convey.
“It’s what draws us to the coast to relax, to escape the clutter of life,” she says. “For a lot of us it’s a place of treasured memories, of precious time with family and holidays with friends.”
Stacey loves being able to connect others to their own special coastal memories and has recently painted commissions based on her clients’ treasured family photos
Stacey’s current exhibition at Stevens Street Gallery, Yandina has a slightly different flavour, this time a selection of semi-figurative floral paintings in a loose impressionistic style which seek to interpret rather than imitate reality.
Drawing on a mixture of illustrative and decorative elements, the collection optimises contrasts of strong and muted colours, warm and cool tones, and hard and soft edges, to give an atmospheric, almost dream-like quality.
When Stacey isn’t painting, it’s deep in the natural world she remains, seeking out inspiration for her next masterpiece.
Now with three adult sons, Stacey continues to follow in her father’s footsteps as an avid adventurer, swimming most mornings in the
“Winter is great because the water clarity is better and it’s just so refreshing. There are schools of fish in the bay.”
Dive into the blue at Stevens Street Gallery, Yandina where Stacey’s Indigo Coast series will be on display throughout January and February.