Jan Lawler

Jan Lawler Secret Men's Business

Jan LawlerSecret Men's Business (pastel) 

Art Form: painting, found objects

Lives: Balranald

Jan Lawler is an artist from Balranald NSW, just outside the Central Darling Shire border. She is actively involved in local arts and cultural activities including her work with the Balranald Ink Group, South West Arts, the Five Rivers Outback Festival and the restoration and running of the local art space, The Gallery. Jan has also been a member and organiser of the Painters of the Plains for 25 years.

She prefers working with pastels, painting portraits, landscapes and still life of what she describes as 'blooming junk' - her arrangements of flowers and found objects. Jan regularly shows and sells her work in New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. In 2010 Jan held her first solo exhibition in Griffith.

What is unique about the Far West?

I love the landscapes: the skies, the colours and just the openness of the plains. I'm orginally a the city girl but whenever I've been away I just feel at ease when I start to cross the Hay Plains. I like the people, I like the lifestyle. 

Describe your creative practice?

I'm a traditional realist artist.  I'm mainly work with pastels but I also work with oils and watercolour and drawing, a lot of drawing.  I paint landscapes, still life, animals and people. 

My favourite found objects that I use in my artwork seem like a lot of junk. But to me these 'junky things' are very special - people have given to me what to others are worthless.

How are you involved in the arts and culture locally?

I'm involved with our local art gallery, South West Arts, a theatre we've restored and any other cultural activities that come along!

I'm most proud of the art gallery in Balranald's old Masonic hall. It's been a really hard road to preserve that old building, one of only four remaining historic buildings in town. We set up a committee and bought it and we now hold exhibitions and workshops there. The gallery has a permanent collection of paintings including pieces from the old homestead at Abbotsford.

What has living here taught you about being an artist?

I think one of the most important things is to be true to yourself. I could probably do much better in selling work if I worked 'for' the market. But I don't do that, I do the things I love and if other people love them too that's a bonus.

Be true to yourself.  Don't chop and change just because the market does.

What do you think is needed to help people living in the Central Darling be more creative?

We need more access to the arts.  We don't have the money or the expertise within this area to run workshops or to promote the arts and creative practices are the lowest priority. The local schools don't even teach art anymore. (That's the biggest disappointment, really, the way it's been pushed aside and it's all computers, computers, computers!)  There's no music teacher, there's no art teacher. Many young people are creative but are not academic and so they get left behind.

Also, people don't seem to value the creative process or the results of it as much as they used to. Everything has to make money or be seen as a means to an end. We don't accept 'having a good feeling' as a result.  Being creative - thinking 'I've actually made this and I could put this on the wall' or 'I could wear this' - gives people positive vibes about themselves.

Tell us about your best time out and why was it such a good time?

In 2003 we celebrated the 25th anniversary for the Painters of the Plains. About 50 people came back. We all brought a piece of artwork to hang and we had an old shearer's cook doing the catering. She did all the cooking for us and we had a great weekend. Lots of laughter and reminiscing.  

Edited from an interview with Sinead Ambrose, May 2011

Jan Lawler Bloomin' Enamel

Jan LawlerBloomin' Enamel (pastel


Jan Lawler Winners and Losers

Jan LawlerWinners and Losers (oil