Sandra invites you to imagine and discover what might be within each image…

We recently spent a few minutes with regional artist and printmaker, Sandra Batten… here’s what she shared with us.

Sandra, please tell us a little about yourself, your processes and practice…

I live in a small town in the Otways with my partner. We live in a little house we lovingly rebuilt and renovated as a weekender many years ago and now after leaving a crazy working life in Melbourne we call home.

Simplicity and telling a story are what I like to do in my creative practice. The story does not unfold until the shapes start to form usually through print making and collage and I then intuitively start to build the work. I ponder and joyfully immerse myself into the piece and then ponder again and again until I think it is telling me something. My work is usually small.

How did your story book series, currently on display, evolve and what inspired you to create it?

My story book theme began when I found a book left in a park. This book included an illustration of a girl standing on a hill with her arms outstretched. Using the image as inspiration I collaged, hand coloured with oil pastel bits of paper, added thread and pieces of fabric and created the ‘Girl with the flying book’ in response to an open entry exhibition titled ‘Flight”.

My love of and search for old illustrated books and appreciation of the work of George Baldessin, Edgar Degas and Paolo Ventura along with characters I have met while living in country Victoria inspires me to continue every so often to create work with a story book theme.

The work is hand printed, deliberately small and simple and somewhat imperfect in technique reflecting an imagined character in their environment with a suggestion of emotion and story. It usually reflects what I see and feel at the time.

Can you please share with us what sort of studio or making environment you currently have?

My making environment has always been flexible and is usually wherever I can find a flat surface. Now, it is mainly in the kitchen of the old farmhouse we recently purchased and on the dirt floor of a beautiful rusted old dairy made from bush poles. My partner and I love old sheds and buildings and are slowly restoring and revegetating the property.

The old dairy, a happy place will be my ‘shed’ and art space where my boxes of bits and pieces will (finally) have a home. With its history being the core, the dairy will be reimagined full of inspiration and a gentle place to reflect and create – hopefully this time next year!

What are some of the processes and techniques you use in your image-making?

Using printmaking and mixed media techniques, I generally create small works. I like to collect materials from my natural and physical environment and these are usually placed in a box or on a shelf somewhere for me to ponder what might be.   I particularly love the search for old illustrated books.

My work is deliberately simple and is usually hand printed with the occasional use of a printing press. Wiping, hand colouring, tearing, scratching, gluing, use of hand cut stencils, collage, mark making, oil pastel, pencil, stitch are all techniques and materials I choose and are important in my art practice. I work intuitively and embrace the happy accident. My intention is always to invite the viewer to imagine and discover what might be within.

What or who inspires and drives your creative practice?

The physical and natural landscape around me, the many places I have travelled, the colours I see, the black and white memories I have, old books, pieces of paper and fabric I find are all things that inspire me. My creative practice is now part of my life and just something I have to do. I am grateful for the time I have, the support of a loving partner and for the friendships and mentors I have and have formed on this creative path I am now lucky enough to be on.

Is there a special piece of advice that you cherish and work by? Do you have a favourite quote?

While playing around with my own untrained practice and questioning my transition from a busy working life to the desire to make things a friend, who is also a wonderful artist, gave me some words of advice “just have a look in your box of bits and pieces and start playing”. This is now always my starting point.