INSIDE THE STUDIO OF Geoffrey Carran
Geoffrey Carran’s curiosity for nature and its majestic unpredictability influences almost all aspects of his life.
Born in Gore, New Zealand, the Jan Juc artist can recall only fond memories of his youth.
If he wasn’t at his desk drawing birds, he could be seen tramping or out in the garden thoughtfully tending to his parents’ impressive display of plants.
For Geoffrey, exploring every unusual detail of the environment with inquisitiveness enables him to accurately replicate the natural world’s most beautiful assets, brush in hand.
“It (art) was inextricably linked to who I was. I explore the world visually and for as long as I can remember I’ve been drawing the environment around me,” he says.
“Birds is one of them. I’m fascinated by everything, but I grew up with the mythology of New Zealand being an animal-less island, like traditionally before colonisation it was just birds – there was no animals. Birds and reptiles, that was it.
“And I loved that idea that there was this little tucked away island and (that) the birds would fulfil every ecological aspect that an animal normally would.”
Departing from the mountainous landscape of his birthplace to Victoria’s capital in pursuit of a sustainable career ignited a wave of cultural shock, however it eventually steered him to the Surf Coast, the region he’s now proud to call home.
Geoffrey, who studied a masters in fine art after starting a landscaping business in Melbourne, spent three years working at RMIT University as a lecturer.
The institution also happens to be where he met wife and fellow artist, Rowena Martinich.
“I loved parts of it. I always thought I wanted an academic job, and the reality of academia is far, far from the imagination of it.
“It was preventing me from doing my own arts practice, so I just went after that – I just went all in. I finished at RMIT in 2011 and I’ve been a full-time practicing artist since then.
“I totally forgot that I used to draw birds when art school got into conceptual art and laying in heavy narratives to my work. After working at RMIT, I got sick of that side of art and I just started painting these (birds) and everything sort of just fell into place.
“I found a subject matter I could really sink my teeth into, technically as well as there is a broader story to tell by painting birds because they’re a conduit between us and the natural world.”
And so, birds returned to the forefront of Geoffrey’s boundless imagination.
The artist says each bird has a distinct personality, quirks he strives to represent through his works.
The biggest challenge in painting a species with wings is analysing their unique features before take-off.
In Geoffrey’s words, “birds never sit still”.
“That’s what I try to capture in my paintings – that moment when they’ve just popped in, they’re looking at you for a split second before taking off again,” says Geoffrey.
“They’ve all got their own (personality), when you look for it. I started with the obvious ones like cockatoos, rainbow lorikeets – the loudest, most flamboyant ones, but I really have a love of the smaller varieties now.”
Having dabbled in portrait painting, Geoffrey’s innate capacity to incorporate texture, colour and linework brings about a lifelike quality to his craft. Geoffrey says the key to any portrait is the eyes.
“If you don’t get the eyes right, the whole piece will just look flat,” he says.
While his love for his artistry is fiercely undeniable, Geoffrey is also an avid surfer. Paddling out at some of Torquay’s most iconic beaches during his time spent living and working in Melbourne allowed him to escape the confines of the concrete jungle.
He officially moved to Jan Juc in 2012 and has since established himself as a prolific name in the local art space.
Geoffrey, who is this year’s Surf Coast Arts Trail (Saturday August 10 and Sunday August 11) billboard artist, says he is constantly inspired by the region’s creative community.
“The Arts Trail is always fun, it’s really good for the Surf Coast. It’s good to foster a more balanced community and having an active arts participation does that,” says Geoffrey.
“It’s pretty amazing being able to live down here and use this as a base to send my work out of. I couldn’t think of a better spot.”
Geoffrey is currently working on several commission pieces while preparing for Sydney’s Wild Thing exhibition.
Geoffrey and Rowena most recently completed a range of artworks for the Mantra Hotel in Epping, Melbourne.
Their studio is located at 55 B Ashmore Road, Torquay.
For more information on Geoffrey, head to geoffreycarran.com.au.