Sally Paxton’s paintings are made up of thousands and thousands of tiny dots. A detail that might easily be overlooked at a glance – that’s the magic of her pointillist technique. Developed by French painters Georges Seurat and Paul Signac in the late 1800s, pointillism involves the somewhat scientific patterning of dots to form an image. The dots are made with primary colours, and in a type of optical illusion, our brain blends these dots into new colours that help to form a complete image. In the case of Sally’s work, dots make up her vibrantly detailed birds, lush leaves and intricately repetitive patterns on large-scale canvases.
“I work horizontally. My work is very labour intensive and usually takes months,” says the artist. There are no easels in this painter’s home studio; rather her paper or canvas is spread across one of two large trestle tables where she works from early in the morning until mid-afternoon each day.
Her home, in the coastal town of Yaroomba on the Sunshine Coast, is sandwiched between mountains and coastline – a move closer to nature that Sally and her husband embarked on back in 2006 with their kids. She was raised on a farming property on the Murray River near Mildura. “My childhood is best described as free range, I would disappear for hours exploring bush,” says Sally.
When she was young she scribbled on the walls, on the back of doors, and even her sister’s bedspread. “It was before Ken Done started his linen range, I was ahead of my time,” she jokes.
While the canvas has changed, Sally still looks to her surroundings for inspiration, from the family of kangaroos that live in the bushland next to her home, to the birds her husband – a wildlife photographer hobbyist – captures, and the leaves and feathers she sees on the ground.
As the artist concludes: “Just as my reality and my imagination blend onto the canvas or paper, a part of me is embedded into each work.”