When Gaye Chapman, who lives and works in Sydney, was an artist in residence in the Dorrigo Rainforest she had a “lights on” moment. “I was thunderstruck to pursue my own vision and not be intimidated by external pressures to conform to zeitgeist of fashions in contemporary art,” she says. But, she says, this desire to follow her own path was planted during her childhood. Her mother, Patricia Chapman, encouraged her to pursue the arts while her father Peter Chapman, an amateur geologist, took his children on pilgrimages. “In particular, we went into the outback Gibber deserts - collecting, observing, and identifying rocks, insects, fish, bird and plant specimens; and conducting archaeological shard digs in the historic remnants of white settlement - white man’s middens,” Gaye says. “As a result of that, my paintings are a palimpsest of multi-layered experiences, their surfaces punctuated with experimental painting and drawing techniques, traditional painting and drawing media, and the Australian landscape of my bush childhood.”

For 20 years Gaye’s work has focussed on regular working expeditions and research on the Castlereagh River in Central and Far Western NSW and aspects of the adjacent Goonoo country. In recent years she has incorporated the opal mining country around Lightning Ridge in Far Western New South Wales; where her father had an opal mine. “This intense connection with the land is integral to my painting,” she says.

Gaye has a PhD in Contemporary Art from the University of Western Sydney and a Masters degree in Visual Art and Design from the University of New England. She studied fine art at The National Art School in Wollongong. Gaye has been a finalist in many leading awards, including the Doug Moran Portrait Prize and was appointed artist in residence and Honorary Associate with the Macleay Museum of Natural History at the University of Sydney in 2010.

Which five words best describe you? Passionate, obsessed, determined, kind, wild.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I have painted since childhood. My art career began with drawing pictures with sticks, onto the dirt road at the back of our bush house on the river. I won my first art prizes in 1967 at 14; a drawing prize for a self portrait at the Mendooran Agricultural Show and a CBNTV8 Orange NSW art competition to design “Mod” sneakers. I also took my first commission at 14, to paint psychedelic murals on the youth drop-in centre in Mendooran. I had my own painting studio at home, bought plywood canvases from the local agricultural supply store and studied fine art through the NSW Correspondence School in year 5. I left school to study Fine Art at the National Art School in 1970 and have worked and studied consistently in the arts since then; as an exhibiting fine artist, and variously as a graphic designer, illustrator, events manager, art director and the media.
What’s the best lessons you’ve learnt along the way? Stick to your guns and don’t be swayed by fashionable thinking for the art world is full of trickery. That you are always better than you know/knew at the time and many times I have painted “ahead of my time”. I have had the luxury of being able to see works I painted over a decade ago, and to realise they were good. Swallow the bitter pills of the art world and go on into the journey of the work, for that is what matters.
What’s your proudest career achievement? There are many, but here are two: One. That I am still standing at 63 as a practicing self-employed professional artist/painter. Two. Fulfilling my childhood fantasy and walking into the Art Gallery of NSW on a red carpet opening night with my work hanging for the first time in the Sulman Prize. 
What’s been your best decision? To never say die.
Who inspires you? Not famous people - unless you mean Turner, Rembrandt, Mark Rothko and Lloyd Rees. People who fight with courage and maintain their eccentricity and humanity and bravery.
What are you passionate about? The demise of true Feminism; the suppression of gifted and talented people; the decay of the Arts in Australia; bullying in any form; snobbery and classism being denied in Australia.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? A Pagan god, to prove his/her existence.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? To establish a life where I can continue to paint.
What are you reading? Anything that takes my mind out of the mundane world for a while. I have been known to resort to the back of jam tins!

images courtesy of gaye chapman