FK chats to Renee Treml about her wonderful illustrations.
How would you describe the style of your paintings and illustrations?
My work is a little deceptive – my illustrations look very realistic yet have very unrealistic qualities. I work in black-and-white on scratchboard which has a very scientific look-and-feel, yet I personify and exaggerate characteristics of my animals and place them in unexpected situations, which is very unscientific.
What is your background and when did you start creating?
I have been drawing since I was a little girl, and kept creating all throughout school and into my adult life. During school I studied science, saw it through to a postgraduate degree and ended up in a high-tech remote sensing job. Eventually I realized that this formal job was interfering with my creative side and I quit to pursue my passion. It has not been the easiest path, but I have never been happier.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I am inspired by nature – it sounds cliché but it is so true. I just have to go for a walk in the woods or even in a city park to start getting ideas for new work. As I have been reading lots of children’s books lately (I have an eighteen month old baby), I have been finding amazing inspiration from the illustrators – Shaun Tan must be my favorite. His illustrative-interpretations are gorgeous yet quirky and he has the most interesting and creative compositions I have ever seen.
What do you find most inspirational about Brisbane?
I love Brisbane – it is the largest city I have ever lived in, yet it feels safer, greener and healthier than anywhere I have been before. I love being able to hop in the car and be in a rainforest or the mountains or on a beach within an hour – access to the outdoors is so important to me.
Talk us through your creative process?
I often have a nagging idea trapped in my head – sometimes it takes a long time to work its way out. A few years ago a neighbouring forest was cleared and all I kept wondering was where did the owls go, as I could hear them hooting most evenings. Everywhere I went I started imaging them – in mailboxes, in sea shells, in flower blossoms – until finally I imagined one in a tea cup and realized that was the image I had been searching for.
I keep sketch books full of ideas (and all those scraps of scribbled paper for when those ideas come at the wrong times) and I often go back and flip through them to see if any old ideas have matured and grown into complete illustrations. For me, the hardest part is containing the idea and getting it into a place where it can be captured on a piece of paper.
What challenges have you learnt and what advice would you give to others about managing an art practice?
My biggest challenge is time. I have a very young son and just spent six months battling breast cancer, and as a result I have a massive back log of ideas for new illustrations and new products and only a small fraction of time to deal with each of them. I would tell any artist who is managing a job, kids or other crazy life situation, that just because you can’t do everything you want to right now, doesn’t mean you won’t get to do them later. I just keep stock-piling those ideas and sketches and thoughts for a better day…
What has been your favourite project or exhibition and why?
My newest projects are always my favourites. Right now I am working on illustrations for a children’s book. I love the idea of committing to a long series of illustrations – even though some of them will be really hard to complete and the project will consume a lot of time.
What are you currently working on and what exciting things do you have planned for this year?
After many experiments and tweaks and sketches, this spring and summer I will be introducing a new line of ornaments and brooches that feature my illustrations. I am so excited to see my little birds on something other than paper!