Ishtar’s Room of Magic, Creativity and Good Ideas

Ishtar’s Room of Magic, Creativity and Good Ideas

A short journey led me to an unassuming house, situated on the corner block just a few streets back from the main road in Bayswater. As I was greeted, we walked through the entrance, I couldn’t help but notice the mauve walls that lined the hallway, the light turquoise hue’s that filled the kitchen, the large pieces of art stacked up against the walls. This was the home of an artist, and that is exactly what I was there to see.

Coffee in hand, we made our way to the studio, AKA the spare bedroom. As we entered, a sign hung prominently on the door that read “Ishtar’s room of making $$, magic, creativity and good ideas.” Instantly, I was filled with the same joy kids (both young and old) feel as they enter candy stores. I could sense this room was a hive of creativity. I immediately spotted the little corner of inspiration, the hanging indoor plants and the desk that had everything you needed to create the day away. Today’s artist is none other than Ishtar Sophia, hospitality superhero by day, intuitive artist, nature lover and occasional art nude model every other moment. 

Ishtar was born into a family of creatives, her father, a talented musician and carpenter, creating incredible privacy screens with intricate patterns (amongst everything else carpenters can build). Her mother, a sewer, drawer and all-round creative, helped shape Ishtars love for all things creative. Attending a Steiner school with a strong focus on all things creative helped re-enforce the love for sewing, painting, drawing, music. The passion sort of fell into the background after finishing school. It wasn’t until a trip over east with some friends and meeting an artist named Stewy reignited the flame. Since then, she has spent the last six years developing her style and building the business. 

As we took a moment to flick through her drawings, I asked her how she would describe her work, to which she replied, “I don’t know, “I guess it’s just line drawings, line work and dot work to create minimalistic textures.” This is a pretty accurate representation since she loves tattoo arts and would love to be a tattoo artist one day. It’s fair to say that Ishtar’s art frequently features the nude female form, some more explicit than others. I quizzed her on the inspiration behind it, to which she replied, “I don’t know, I just love females, they are so good to look at with all the curves. The mother nature vibe, just natural, being nude is good, it’s good for you.” I asked if being an art nude model influenced her to draw in this style, however as it turns out the art nude modelling came after the drawings but has helped with compositions, poses and other inspirations for the illustrations. 

Ishtar’s art portfolio includes everything from small line drawings to bigger, colourful mural pieces, recycled skateboards, and canvases created with a wide range of media. I once again found myself in complete awe of her talents. Her next big project includes painting the canopy of a mate’s mums troopy. I can’t wait to see the results! 

Life, Death & Unruly Gardens

Life, Death & Unruly Gardens

It’s a beautiful, overcast Summer’s day in Perth with alluring moody clouds filling the air as my good friend Trinity and myself made our way south. Soon enough we were navigating the backstreets through the various warehouses and businesses located in the Dunsborough industrial district. As we pulled into the parking bay, we exited the car to stretch our legs after a 2-hour drive. It was then I spotted a portable camping stove out of the corner of my eye. A few dents, a few scratches and a little dust, this small camp stove is well-loved and used.

As we entered the warehouse-turned-studio, we were instantly greeted with Mel’s work, beautifully framed and hanging elegantly on the wall. There was also a staircase leading up to a second level that filled me with intrigue. As we reached the main studio area, it became evident that the creative mind that occupied this space was simply brilliant. The room was filled with finished works, work in progress, shelves filled with knick-knacks, religious items, headless dolls, CDs, books, corners filled with vintage suitcases, and old window coverings – the centrepiece of the studio space being a beautiful printing press. It was a little space filled with massive inspiration. 

 By now it’s about time I introduce you to Mel. Mel Lamanna is a printmaker, drawer, painter, workshop extraordinaire and well whatever else she feels like putting her mind to at the time. Inspired by some of the great Spanish artists such as Francisco Goya, I can only describe her work as both haunting and beautiful. “Sometimes, my art is about the impermanence of things and the struggle we have dealing with the idea of life and death and the meaning of it all.” With this, Mel’s work can be perceived by some as too dark. I, for one, was utterly fascinated by what we could see. 

  Mel went to university initially to do a bachelor of education; however, she had some personal things going on in her life and decided to stop university altogether. It was a lecturer who encouraged her to enrol in an elective and not pull out of uni. Mel decided on drawing, thinking it would be straightforward, which turns out wasn’t quite the case. By the end of it, Mel fell in love with drawing and with another elective up her sleeve her lecturer suggested Mel attempt printmaking next. “I did that (printmaking) and loved it, and then just wanted to use all my electives doing art stuff. I ended up changing my degree so I could do more art stuff. All up it was about six years part-time as I was working, had two kids, wanted to go surfing and to music festivals.” Mel reflects on her time at uni as “enjoyable pain” which I’m sure anyone who has been to uni can agree. 

 By this stage Mel had put that old, loved camp stove to good use, the air was filled with the aroma of coffee as we ventured up the stairs, we entered a little room of curiosities. This was Mel’s brain hub where inspiration lived. Again, more bookshelves filled with books, ornaments, photos and small keepsakes. It was right about here where the day took an interesting turn. The focus soon turned from Mel, to Trinity and myself, as Mel asked so casually ‘do you guys want to try and make a print?”. Obviously, one would be foolish to refuse an impromptu workshop. So began a lesson in printing Monotypes from drypoint on acetate plates. I admit I would have loved to have spent more time ‘interrogating’ Mel about her inspirations, her thought processes, and what makes her creative mind tick. I’ve now got another excuse to head back down, drink a glass (or bottle) of wine or two, chat some more and create some more art.  

 Mel’s teaching style is so encouraging and helpful. Having never done any form of printmaking, Mel had nothing but patience. Explaining every step of the process so that artists (or budding artists, non-artists, you get the point) of any level could understand. It was a teaching method that left you feeling inspired like you could achieve anything you set your mind to. I can’t wait to organise a proper workshop with Mel, as this little taster has filled me with eagerness to have another go. 


Photo of me (guy in black shirt) take by Trinity, check out her Instagram.

The Artists Way: Sue Leeming

The Artists Way: Sue Leeming


I was there to support Sarah Thornton-Smith and her group exhibition when I happened to run into a friend who was chatting with Sue. Again, there I was inviting myself over for a coffee and a front row seat to where Sue’s beautiful work is created.

For Sue, art has always been a part of her life. Growing up in a broken home and being of a quieter nature, Sue used her room as a retreat, a place for creativity to blossom and a place where Sue would look back for inspiration time and time again. You see Sue grew up in Taranaki, a province of New Zealand in which, no matter where you were, you could see the great Mount Taranaki. In fact her bedroom window had the perfect view. This view, now embedded in Sue’s mind along with the buzzing sound of the ocean, play a major role in the inspiration behind Sue’s work.

It wasn’t too long before Sue knew she had to pursue art in a more serious manner. She first attended workshops at the local Polytechnic with local artist Tom Kreisler (Argentinian) enjoying the opportunity to work on her own ideas and long conversations about life and art. Tom then introduced her to the work of New Zealand painter Michael Shepherd encouraging her to attend one of his workshops.  The workshop introduced her to 17th century Dutch painting technique’s, something Sue fell madly in love with, particularly Shepherd’s response to that knowledge. It was about this time (1987) that Sue decided to up and move to Auckland where she worked in the accounts office of the DSIR. She had also rented a studio space on site at the Mt Albert campus so she could begin working on a portfolio and continue to learn from Shepherd over the next three years. It would be this portfolio that was her ticket to the University of Auckland, Elam School of Fine Art.

The foundation units in Sue’s first year of study covered everything from photography to sculpting. Obviously, Sue already had a love for painting, but photography was another subject that caught her attention. Shooting mainly in black and white, Sue loved hanging out in hair salons, capturing intimate portraits of the ‘interviews’ that happen between the cutter and the client. Ultimately Sue decided that although she had a love for painting she was aware she had become heavily influenced by Shepherds passionate approach to oil painting and decided it would be beneficial for her to use a different medium and chose to major in Printmaking.

Printmaking allowed Sue to further explore and to find her own visual language – therefore defining her own artistic voice. For Sue her work was, is and always will be, about her own life experiences – a reflection of an authentic life journey. Sue also had a love-hate relationship with Printmaking. While she loved the dry point technique, as soon as something required acid or layers, Sue found the process became a barrier to her concept and slowly developed the more immediate approach of monotypes, working directly onto an aluminium plate and layering as she would with painting. Her post-graduate year was spent consolidating these ideas under the auspices of Paul Hartigan.

While she admits not all artists think this way, for Sue, it was ultimately why painting became the main medium for a lot of her work – it was an immediate and organic result.

In 1998 Sue made the move to Perth, Western Australia where she now lives as an Australian Resident in the Peel Region. Her current work explores ideas of displacement (suddenly finding herself in a completely new environment, essentially a blank canvas starting from scratch), abstraction, identity and spirituality. Sue will continue to create art based on the source of uncovering memories. Sue also plans to get back into some printmaking and learning some new art-forms including exploring some of her heritage with traditional Maori Weaving.

I for one cannot wait to see Sue’s accomplishments over the next few years. I highly recommend you head over to Sue’s website to see her completed works and to find out when her next exhibition will be!

“I want to create art that people want to live with, that will create that same beautiful meditative quality that you experience when you’re actually out in the country side, cruising along, unwinding and just feeling that load of urbanisation coming off you”

The Artists Way: Ross Potter

The Artists Way: Ross Potter

2B or not 2B? (SORRY, NOT SORRY.) No doubt this is a question that plagues the mind of artist Ross Potter.

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, it is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to the works of Ross Potter. Ross is a graphite artist (fancy way of saying he creates his intricate work with the humble lead pencil), originally based on the East Coast (Brisbane to be exact) he made the move west back in 2007. Growing up in a large family meant it was a fight to get a word in, so drawing fast became a form of communication. Although drawing was a huge passion, a little thing called life soon got in the way. Ross went from spending a lot of time with pencil and paper to spending a lot of time working in kitchens – ultimately ending up in the steel industry where he stayed for a good 12 years. After a trip to Fremantle and encouragement from those around him, Ross decided to repurpose the toolbox to become one of the best pencil storage devices I’ve seen in a while.

It’s no surprise that Ross fell madly in love with Fremantle and the heritage of the buildings, but Ross fell even harder for the old derelict South Fremantle Power Station. The notion of preserving certain buildings, noticing which buildings are well used and which buildings are not so well used, lead to the buildings becoming the subject of Ross’ early work. Each building had its own story to tell of what it once was and will never be again. It’s only fitting that we had this conversation at the Fremantle Art Centre, which just happens to be the old Asylum now repurposed for the artistic community.

Ross’ philosophy is essentially all about observation. If you spend enough time looking at something you will see something different – something that everyone else walking past won’t. Ross was exploring the Boranup Karri Forest where he noticed a tree where people had been carving the word ‘love’ into it. What they thought was a romantic notation was actually detrimental to the tree. The subject matter of his second exhibition ‘Wood’ all came together through a simple gesture from his nephew, “My nephew was about two and grabbed a stick off the footpath and put it in the letter box and pretended it was mailed to me. That just changed everything. To appreciate a stick that everyone just walks past and not even think about. That stick was the main piece at about 6m long to amplify it as much as I could to make up for our adultness.”

Ross’ more recent work involves large scale animal projects, from whales to a life-size drawing of Tricia the Asian elephant. Currently working on a little project (still in its early stages) called ‘Bread and Bone’ and looking to incorporate more emotions into the works, Ross has invited other Perth Based graphite artists to collaborate. With all the artists having small families, they are exploring the treatment of food in our society and how having children influences and challenges that idea. I for one am excited to see how this comes together.

As luck would have it, I managed to catch Ross just before he headed off for an artist residency at Vasse Felix in the beautiful south-west. In hindsight perhaps, I should have postponed and met hit down there, we could have traded coffee for wine and let the good times roll.

With a young family myself, I’m really looking forward to seeing Ross’ current project come to life. Do yourself a favour, get down and see his work in person if you can. It’s nothing short of incredible.

Pencil and paper for me is like a language, a lot of people say, ‘why don’t you use colour?’, I say, ‘Why don’t you speak French’.

The Artists Way: Sarah Thornton-Smith

The Artists Way: Sarah Thornton-Smith

Sequenced cuts, beautiful folds, gradated colours, majestic light and deepening shadows. Welcome to the beautiful mind and amazing works of Sarah Thornton-Smith.

I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Sarah (albeit digitally, it is the age we live in after all) through a mutual friend. Naturally as I do, I invited myself over for coffee under the premise of talking all things art and taking a photo or two (ok more like one or two hundred photos). Coffee was drunk, conversations were flowing and photos were being taken.

As conversations progressed (actually, I think it was the first thing we spoke about!) we landed on the topic of, yep you guessed it, music. It always fascinates me with what people listen to while in pursuit of their creative endeavors. For Sarah her current ‘soundtrack to art’ is Korean pop (you didn’t see that coming, did you?). Sarah admitted she listens to anything and everything from jazz to rock and pretty much anything that gets her going for a particular project. Pop seems to always pop back to the forefront (pardon the pun), not so much for the lyrics, but the layers of rhythmic beats built into the songs. This often influences her work, as she builds layers, finds colourways and gradates them leading from one point to another.

Sarah has always been drawn to colour, filled with a curiosity in the way in which colour influences our lives. This notion intertwines with Sarah’s work as she adopts harmonious colour palettes that are found simply by observing the colours in nature. Gradating these colours, building layers and some sharp knife skills leads to something truly unique and ever changing, as the light fills the shadows and the shadows fill the light.

With me launching a full-scale interrogation into the effort to learn as much as I can about this brilliant art form, we landed on the subject of labels (I’m not talking about pantry labels here!). I simply asked, “Is there a word that encapsulates all that you do here, in other words, when people ask you what you do, what’s your answer?” This led us down a long and windy path. Sarah’s always struggled with what to call herself. She paints but is she a painter? She uses paper but is she a paper artist? We could go on and on here, but ultimately her business card reads artist designer, which is fitting. However, regardless of title we can all agree her work is uniquely stunning.

“When I look at sunsets I often think, how does it work like that? How does it become blue and then pink and then the bluey purple…”