In the studio with Kendall-Leigh Nash

19 Apr 2016
Kendall in front of the desk where she creates her detailed pencil drawings

What themes do you pursue?
It changes and evolves constantly based on what I feel influenced by at the time. But I mainly concentrate on portraiture. I’ve started to explore people and their relationship with nature and animals. Nature and animals are another love of mine, and a theme I turn to when I need to get away. In the past I’ve drawn and painted animals or nature as a sort of escape. So I’m exploring themes where I can have the best of both worlds.

How many years as an artist?
I’ve been working as full-time photographer for about 5 years now, and I would say about 3 years as a part-time artist. However, this is something that I am hoping to turn into a full-time thing.

Which living or dead artist would you most like to meet?
If I could choose both, I would’ve loved to of met William Turner. I love the energy and colour in his paintings and the overall message of the Romanticism movement-emphasising emotions, imagination and nature. I would love to meet Zaria Lynn Forman, she does the most amazing colour pastel drawings of Icebergs and uses her art as a tool to speak about the changing landscape.

Tell us about your studio...
My studio is somewhat makeshift. I work from my small flat, either using the desk or clearing some wall space if needs be. But because I use my home as a studio space, I try to keep it as neat as possible, because working in such a small space can make it quite tough. This is a temporary situation for now though-things will change when I go full-time, but for now it works.

Glimpses of Kendall's studio environment, showing her interests and passion for nature

Do you prefer to work with music or silence?
Oh definitely music. I find I can draw and concentrate for much longer with some noise on in the background. I like the company and I go into a kind of meditation. 

Where can we find you outside of the studio?
I’m usually with family or friends enjoying a nice glass of wine. I love being outdoors as well. You’ll usually find me either running, hiking or swimming.

If you couldn’t be an artist, what would you do?
I’m still coming to grips with the fact that I can even call myself an artist, feels quite surreal. But I guess the most obvious choice would be, a photographer. But that’s what I do already. So besides those two things, I would love to be an art teacher. Inspiring children through education is a powerful tool and like they say, knowledge is power.

Some of the art materials that Kendall use in her painting and drawing

Interests other than art?
Photography would be number one. But I love to read and write and just spend time with the people I love.

What do you collect?
Some would say wine bottles, ha ha ha? But no seriously, I’ve built up a collection of scarves. I didn’t even know that I had all of these scarves until I moved into this spot and had nowhere to put them, so now they just hang over our railing forming a colourful curtain of joy. Oh and pencils! I can’t get enough, you can never have too many.

Are there specific underlying messages within your work?
I’m exploring my love for nature and animals within a more conceptual realm by combining people and using that as a tool to speak about our relationship with animals and the elements. I’m trying to do this in a humorous way, trying to express that it’s not something we should be scared of or ignore, but rather something we should respect and have compassion for because we are not the only ones on this planet. And not one thing deserves to be here more than the other.

Kendall's studio and exquisite drawings

What are your inspirations?
I am inspired by light, shape and composition-thanks to my photography background. But people’s stories, nature and animals are my greatest inspirations. I have a strong desire to make people more aware of themselves and what’s around them. With awareness comes change.

Do you have specific coping strategies for bad days?
To just step out, get some air and get some perspective. I sometimes have to force myself to not think too much into it and just leave it alone, because I have a tendency to tear work up if I don’t like it. I am learning to leave it and come back to it and if that doesn’t work, I usually just give a drawing away to a friend or family member that likes it.

What does your art process entail?
I’m not sure how to explain this, but it feels like I am always open to the elements, not physically-but mentally and emotionally. So often I will see something that just sparks my imagination or creative juices and it sends me on a journey. I use that openness as a tool to explore my concepts. I’ll often have visions of how I could portray it and then I roughly sketch what it could look like and then I either find images or take them myself to use as a reference to work from.

Wall decorations and collections in the artist's studio

What is the most important thing you’ve learned as an art student at Rhodes?
Rhodes taught me to be open-minded but also to know when to trust your instincts and allow the space for your ideas and concepts to evolve without judgement.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
Create art for yourself. Create the kind of work you could see in your hanging in your house and follow concepts that mean something to you personally. It’s so easy to get caught up in what you think people would like to see and you miss the purpose completely.