A conversation on colour with Libby Haines

You may recognise Melbourne based Libby Haines from the stand out, still-life art filling your Instagram feed. Talented & with a unique eye, we discover more about Libby's creative process, her use of  and love for colour & how she balances her work and personal life. Join our conversation on colour (and life) with Libby... 

We’re so excited to learn more about you, where are you from and what do you do? 

My name is Libby and I’m originally from Sale in Gippsland. I have lived all over, I currently am living in Melbourne which I consider to be home! I’m an artist and Mum of two wild (but adorable) toddlers.

Tell us about how you came to create, what was your journey to today? 

I studied Visual Arts at university many years ago. After university I felt unsure of what it was I wanted to paint and what I wanted to say as an artist. I went on to study Fashion and after a few years in various Production roles I started my jewellery label Lemon. I slogged at Lemon for 6 years. It was a real passion project and I ran every aspect of the business myself. I worked various jobs on the side to fund it and managed to have some success with it and sit alongside brands I have always admired. It brought me so much joy and gave me the opportunity to learn so much. However, it was hard. It always felt three steps forward two steps back, and once I had my two kids, it felt like I was taking precious time away to work on something that was never going to get there and ultimately something I was no longer passionate about. It was such a hard decision to walk away, it felt like a failure in some ways but in other ways it was a huge relief. As it turns out, it is not a decision I have regretted once, it opened up the space I needed to start creating again.

Around the time I stopped Lemon, Melbourne went into its first lockdown. The last few years I had been wanting to paint again but I think I was a bit scared about starting. Lockdown provided me with the perfect storm...I wasn't able to work, I had my toddlers full time and my husband was still working long days every day in Construction so I was alone a lot. Whenever the kids were asleep I would paint. The first few paintings I did were pretty bad, it had been a while and I didn't know what to paint. It was when I started painting the interiors and scenes straight from my day to day life that something really clicked for me. I soon found myself painting compulsively. Shoving down any feelings of isolation and loneliness (because there was lots of that) and putting all my energy into painting. I became obsessed. I dreamt about painting and when I wasn't knee-deep in parenting, I was painting. It was a few months before I decided to share my work with anyone and I was absolutely terrified when I did. But lockdown kept going and I just kept painting and eventually I became less scared about letting people see my work. I think all those years away from painting gave me perspective and when I started again there was no pressure. I was painting for me and whatever subject matter I wanted.

Since then it seems to all have happened so quickly, I never expected the response I have gotten to my art and am still pinching myself that I am able to create with such freedom and have it be received so positively. I still suffer from imposter syndrome and self-doubt which is something I am trying to overcome, but I suppose it’s pretty normal too and all part of the creative process.

We’d love to learn more about your creative process and how you prepare yourself for new projects or bodies of work?

A new project or even singular painting, usually starts from very simple moment. It might be a combination of colours I can’t stop thinking about, or a seemingly ordinary corner of my home I pass every day suddenly takes on a new perspective in my mind.  I usually let the idea stay with me for a few days before I take any action, then once it feels solidified I create a rough sketch and write a few notes/thoughts. At the core, there is usually a feeling or an idea I want the painting to evoke and this stays with me during the process. Ultimately, I think the magic happens when paint hits the canvas and I apply wet paint on wet, the concept in my head can really come alive with colour and the texture. That is usually when I feel the happiest and in my element.

At the moment I paint nearly entirely still life. I have spent so much time inside with my toddlers (and of course with lockdowns) so the inside of my home is real constant in my life. It's what I am surrounded by, bored by, and adore, all at the same time. I think there is something so ordinary about the interiors of our home, yet they bring us some of our most joyous and pivotal moments ... and the mundanity of it is beautiful, our homes hold stories, keep secrets and (hopefully) provide us with solace and protection

Your use of colour is inspiring, what does colour mean to you?

Colour provides such endless opportunity to express myself. No matter how tight the subject matter, colour can unearth and evoke such a wide range of expressions and emotions. In fact, I think the subject matter is almost secondary in importance when it comes to my paintings. Colour is the part that comes really easily to me. I love being able to use colour in a way it isn’t usually seen in real life, taking somewhat uninspiring scenes and transforming them through colour and texture.

And your favourite colour to paint with?

I think this changes constantly for me, but at the moment I am drawn to warm autumn colours, mustards, browns, pinks and olives. Each painting I do seems to be getting thicker and thicker in paint application, I am loving how it feels to be so liberal with colour, using texture and brush strokes to create movement and liveliness.

What are your key principles to balancing business and your own rituals?

I have a pretty structured work/life balance and I try to stick to it. My main objective is not let stress impact my personal life (too much) and the ability to be present in whatever I am doing.

My husband Sam and I share the load of working/parenting pretty well and the kids go to Day-care a couple of days too. This means on the days when I am working I really go full throttle and when I’m not, being present and in the moment with my kids is really important. I think Sam would agree that we are both pretty exhausted at the moment as he is also building the frames to my paintings outside of his day job. The kids are still very young and it’s all hands on deck with they are awake. So our house is a mess most of time, and there is a general sense of chaos in the air. But as is the way with parenting, there so many cute, funny and memorable moments that outweigh the exhaustion and chaos!  I think after nearly two years of being in and out of lockdowns and being restricted what we can do, Sam and I try to enjoy the little things, cooking, nice wine, pasta, spending time with the kids.. I’m also painfully aware what a privilege it is to be able to still work (on something I love no less) during a pandemic and to have a space I can safely exist in.

Where can we find your MARLOE MARLOE pieces in your home and how do you incorporate them into your daily rituals? 

My Marloe Marloe pieces move around depending on what is happening in the house and life in general .The Stevie Capri is always showcasing something, fresh poppies, or wild flowers from the garden or just dried greenery, and I move it from room to room depending on mood and what is happening in the house. The flowers I have in at the moment are from our garden and smell incredible so I have it in the bedroom so I wake up to them every morning. But it also looks stunning as centrepiece for a dinner party paired  with my Mini Bobby Candle. I burn it nearly every day, the scent lingers in the house in such a lovely way, it is quite literally has a calming effect on me.

And finally, what do you hope to achieve for the coming year (hello 2022!)?

I have a few exciting things happening next year including a solo show in Sydney which I’m really looking forward to. These will be some of my largest paintings yet which is daunting but exciting. I am so hoping I can actually attend as this year my exhibition this year was entirely online due to the snap lockdown! And other than that I am trying not to think too far ahead and enjoy the moments and new opportunities that come, I love painting so much, it brings me immeasurable amounts of joy so if I’m able to do that, and be with my friends and family, then I’m living the dream really.

Libby styles our STEVIE and MINI BOBBY CANDLE in Capri.