Natasha Daniloff is a Mountains painter well known for her powerful local landscapes. She talked to us about art and living in the Blue Mountains.
Q: How long have you painted?
A: I always drew, but I became a teacher, at first of history and English. Then I taught visual arts and finally decided to make the plunge into full time painting.
Q: Why did you move to the Mountains?
A: We needed more space, Sydney was getting too busy, and we liked the weather in the Mountains, where we’d been coming on holidays for years. My parents were Russian – they both fled the Stalinist purges and went to Iran before coming to Australia. I grew up in Brisbane, but I love the fact it sometimes snows here! My husband and I moved to Blackheath in 1997. It took five years to find a place we liked and with a building I could use as a studio.
Q: You focus on landscapes?
A: At the moment, and the sky – I love the skies up here. After we moved, it was what struck me. Sometimes I’d just go into my backyard and stare at the sky, and I spent a lot of time at the lookouts at Mount Blackheath and Hargreaves. I’d prepare a playlist of classical music and just sit there and look out the magnificent skies and the way they push against the cliffs. There’s a powerful personality there, I just love it.
Q: How do you go about painting a landscape?
A: You don’t just reproduce it. It’s more an emotional thing. You can’t really put it into words. There’s different stages: research, thinking, absorbing, and painting - but you go back and forth a lot during the creative process.
And with the sky, the interaction of the atmospheric with the solid is inspiring. It’s not: landscape – horizon - sky. It’s where they merge. You’ve got to get into an emotive state to do that, what artists call ‘the zone’. When that happens you don’t think logically or consciously, it’s just pure instinct, drawing on all the skills you’ve picked up over the years. The painting is about my participation in the scene.
Q: You’ve done quite a few paintings of the Kanimbla Valley lately.
A: There’s so much happening in that landscape, the dirt roads across the rolling hills, the clouds coming over the cliffs, the colours – around dusk they’re just gob-smacking! But I love all the landscape from here to Orange, the way the hills flatten out to just paddocks, with that dry brittleness. Then a grey cloud comes over and sits on it.
Q: I suppose like many artists, you’re also a small businessperson?
A: Yes. Fortunately the Mountains and the Central West have a good art scene, a lot of artists have left Sydney because it’s too expensive, and there’s quite a few galleries here. And then there are the buyers: quite a few people in Sydney have weekenders out as far as Orange, which gives customers for places like the Cornerstore Gallery there, and Gang Gang in Lithgow.
Q: What else do you like about Blackheath, as well as the sky and the landscape?
A: I love Gleebooks. And the Victory Theatre. I collect little vases, bits and pieces there – they come in handy for still-life paintings. Sometimes when the prospect of doing a landscape is just too emotionally draining, a still-life can be quite relaxing.
Natasha’s work is available in galleries around the Mountains and Central West. She is part of group shows at Cornerstore Gallery Orange (opens 16 April) and Gang Gang Lithgow 4 – 28 May, which will include recent work of the Kanimbla Valley.