In Conversation with Stacey Rees

Stacey Rees works from her home studio in the Grampians. Her work encompasses a wide range of subject matter, including abstract form, landscape and of course the much loved abstract portraiture. As part of her first solo exhibition, All Your Gold hosted by Modern Times and our exhibition partner SAMPLE Brew, we asked Stacey to let us into her world of painting, inspiration and ideas.

Stacey, can you start by telling us a bit about how your portraits come about?

I kind of start off by thinking about the composition of each portrait, where it will sit and how much space it will take up. I usually work within a square format, but for my larger pieces I like to work on a rectangular canvas. I’ll then think about possible colours I’d like to use, textures come a little more intuitively during the painting process, I guess.

Often I’ll flick through a magazine or online for a photograph that I can see will work with what I have in mind. So while painting I’ll incorporate aspects of this, it’s hard to pinpoint what the particular qualities are; I feel it’s an intuitive process that happens in the ‘studio mindset’. Sometimes I’ll just leave out or add in a mouth or a nose, its just kind of what I think works best in the practice of painting and the image I hold in my mind.

Can you tell us about the mediums you use and what’s important for you when choosing the medium?

It’s only in the last year where I have converted over from oils to acrylic. I think acrylics works best with the style of painting I’m doing with my portraits. It dries quicker and allows me to work with textures and dimension in my pieces. It creates new opportunities and challenges of course, but at this point in time it is working really well for me.

Can you reveal some of your process, is it instinct when creating a portrait or selecting a colour or do you find yourself laboring over these details or particular pieces?  

My process is really quite unsystematic. More often than not, I’ll just think of colours and compositions in my mind that I’d like to use and work these into the piece, but in saying that, sometimes that can all go out the window if I see that its not working. I think layering works best for me, seeing what works and what doesn’t as I do that, it’s all a bit of ‘trial and error’ during the painting period. I find that I often just need to put the piece away and not look at it for a while, days/weeks/months. It’s only when looking at it later, the piece will reveal that it’s often something really simple but also quite important that I need to add or change. I think that time apart from the work lets me see it as a whole, more connected and I can see where there is room to move within the work.

How do you know when a piece is finished?

It might sound funny but I know when a work is finished when I allow people to see it!

I get a sense of it during painting, when I’m happy with it and ready to step away, I stop seeing those inadequacies in it that make me want to set it aside and just feel ready to reveal it to someone.

I love getting up in the morning and going to have a look at a painting I’d been working on the previous night and being really excited with what I see.”
Looking Back, Acrylic on Canvas by Stacey Rees

What do you think draws you to paint female figures over male ones? Or is it something that you don’t even consider perhaps?

It’s hard to say what it is I wouldn’t say it’s always intentional. Sometimes I’ll start off painting more of a male figure and throughout the process it’ll become more feminine or vice-versa. For me it’s always about creating what works, the shape of hair, mouth or face is not determined by any more than their individual qualities.

With this being your first solo exhibition, what do you hope for you next step to entail? Are you looking forward to more doing more shows? What have you learned about your practice as a result of this show?

I feel like I’ve only just started, I’m really excited to get painting after this exhibition. I love painting on board, I think it helps my paintings gain more emotion through the texture it creates and so I’m keen to go further with this medium. Painting a body of work for the show has taught me that I can go with the flow a lot more; it’s definitely built my confidence with painting. Possibly in the back of my mind I was slightly concerned as to how my paintings may be perceived, but maybe everyone wonders about that.

I think that is something that I have always battled with but as I get older I’ve become more aware that I shouldn’t be afraid of what others may think of my work and just do what feels right for me.

Red Stripes, Acrylic on Board by Stacey Rees

What do you enjoy most about painting?

I know this sounds cliché but I truly love everything about painting!

I’m so happy in my studio painting away and then realising, ‘is that the time!?’. I get lost in the moment; it brings me immense joy to create and to paint. I love getting up in the morning and going to have a look at a painting I’d been working on the previous night and being really excited with what I see. It’s a privilege to get such pure joy from your everyday work!

If you weren’t a painter, what else do you think you would have liked to be?

A gardener. I love unusual plants and gardens!

What influences or ideas outside of visual art do you think inspires your work?

Patterns in nature, textures in fabrics and colours in the surrounding landscapes are definitely influences for me, I work across a number of ideas and painting gives me the opportunity to explore these.

People are also inspiring to me. How we live as a society and who we are, or who we ‘think’ we are. I find people fascinating to observe, their expressions and habits are interesting to me. I think with social media it’s becoming easier to observe these aspects of people and reflect on them as an artist.

What’s important to you when starting a new work is it having time, the right space and a cup of tea? What is it that pushes you to a start?

I love listening to music; it’s amazing how different styles of music can influence my work! My taste is pretty broad so I’ll listen to what I feel like on the day and that gets me motivated to paint.

I guess I’ll have a vague image in my head about what I’m keen to do. If nothing is working with the pieces I’m currently working on, then I’ll just put them away and start fresh. I’ll start a piece and kind of feel excited about how the first few brush strokes are going, it’s a good indicator as to how I reckon the piece may end up!


We can’t wait to see more from Stacey!

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