Joan Vagg

Joan Vagg, Australian Native Flora Joan Vagg, Australian Native Flora Joan Vagg, Australian Native Flora

Joan Vagg, Native Flora Triptych (watercolour)

Art Forms: painting, drawing, quilting

Lives: Hillston

After grazing sheep and cattle with her husband on their remote property in the Central Darling, Joan Vagg retired to the town of Hillston where she has continued to pursue her artistic practice as a painter, quilter and art teacher at the Hillston Red Dust gallery. 

One of the founding members of the Painters of the Plains, Joan has worked with pastels, oil and watercolours for more than 35 years and has won a number of competiions. Nowadays, she takes commissions from local people who find her by reputation.  

During 2010 Joan completed an extensive tour of the Outback.

Describe what it is like living in the Far West.

This area consists of quite large properties and the homesteads are a long way apart. People live in isolation but they get together for all sorts of things. On the whole the landscape is fairly flat but in some places it's rolling plains. In good years it looks very luxurious and in bad years it's full of dust storms. It is a lifestyle of extremes and it can be a very difficult but most of the people who live there say they wouldn't live anywhere else. 

What do you like about where you live?

The clean air, the freedom and the lack of stress. The busy city life we leave behind.  

Although we're always terribly busy, people have time for each other. I can remember being bogged on the road and being pulled out by passers-by or being helped to change a tyre, things like that. 

I like the independence of the people here. I also like the wide-open spaces, the landscape, the flora and the fauna and the whole atmosphere of the West.  If I were to leave I would miss that level horizon.  

Describe your commissioned work.

I've been 60 kilometres out in the bush today surveying a site that people want painted as a wedding present for their son. It's a scene of their property. People also like paintings of local wildflowers.

What is your best memory of living in far western NSW?

The art classes at Ivanhoe. The Painters of the Plains started more than 30 years ago (we were all a lot younger then!). We had a tutor who came from Melbourne six times a year and we gathered in an old homestead that was lent to us by the owners. We camped there and we learnt to paint. 

I remember the time we went to Mungo National Park to do some painting and we camped in the shearers' quarters.  We had a big fire and it was absolutely freezing. I couldn't get warm all night.

How has living here inspired your art?

The unique colours. The washed out bleached landscape in the summer and the lush landscape in the winter and all the colours in between. My artwork reflects whatever the seasons dish up. 

I carry my pencils and sketchbook with me all the time and I'm creative wherever I go. You have to be when you live in the 'back blocks'. Creativity is a part of your life. You can't go and buy it so you've got to make it. 

Edited from an interview with Sinead Ambrose, May 2011.