Sydney Artist Phoebe Stone has become well-known for her ability to capture the simplistic beauty of objects around the home and the charm of table scenes. To her, drawing is therapeutic, something she does to unwind – and once she starts, she feels a sense of urgency to finish what she started.
She tells a story through the objects that remind her of a moment in time and it is her ability to evoke feelings of joy and nostalgia that allows us to be transported to places and scenes we may have been before or perhaps one day desire to travel to. Her use of oil pastels is warm and playful, honing in on colour and texture to further make us feel we are right there with her – sipping a glass of limoncello.
Read on as Phoebe shares how she started as an artist, her creative process and the concept behind her collaboration with us.
What is your first creative memory?
Creativity and doing art is something that's always really been encouraged in my household. My parents had a gallery and a small framing business in the middle of the Northern beaches when I was very little. They were quite creative people and art was something that I was always encouraged to do as a child. Anytime I would go anywhere, I usually had a pad and pencils with me. I would just sit and draw. So I think drawing interiors and objects at home is something I have always done.
You have spent the past decade as an interior designer, what inspired you to become an artist?
Honestly, I started in earnest. Last September/October I began and it has grown from there. Drawing is always something I have done in my downtime, and a little bit of painting here and there but largely, drawing. At the end of last year, I went on stress leave – there was just so much going on in my life. Working from home and having our little girl home from daycare, I just needed to step back for a moment.
It was while I was on leave, I wanted to draw some art for my daughter's room, and that’s where it began. I wanted something nice and colourful for my daughter’s room, so I just walked into a local art store, and the oil pastels seemed kind of fun and a little childlike. I bought them, and I did her one little drawing. I thought, "Oh, I quite like this. I've never used these before." I had always used pencils and I just started drawing, and really enjoyed it.
From there I ended up leaving my job. I decided I just wanted to give it a go. I started freelancing as an interior designer so I could give a bit more time to my art. COVID put a lot of things in perspective for a lot of people including myself. I didn't need to live my life a certain way anymore, and I could do more things that I enjoyed and brought me pleasure and didn't leave me stressed out, and struggling to get back to my baby by bedtime.
Has isolation at home been a protagonist in your work?
The more time we're spending at home, the more this is where all my inspiration is coming from. Pretty much everything I draw is objects around my home. So it's very much informed it. So yeah, it's been a big instigator. It’s directed my lens to what’s right in front of me.
Art can be quite an exclusive world to break into, how did you make a start?
There was always a sort of dream or fantasy of becoming an artist, but the more pragmatic side of me ensured I got a career first. There are very few people who can make a living off art alone, and at the beginning, I was not confident that would ever be something I could do.
I posted one or two pictures on my personal Instagram. And it was Alexandra Ponting from AP Design House who contacted me and asked about one particular drawing and if it was for sale. From there she wanted to see some of my other pieces and she ended up purchasing about seven or so. She was encouraging and told me I had something – a good style and a good stroke. It was news to me really that anyone could enjoy what I was doing.
I started posting a few more pictures just on my personal Instagram again and I had a lot of encouragement from people. I must have also been encouraged to start a separate page, which I did, and it just kind of snowballed from there. Every day I was getting people contacting me about pieces and when I'd have more available. I guess that's one of the great things about social as well. Just one person seems to find you, and then it can just snowball from there.
How would you describe your artistic style?
I suppose my style, which isn't so much a contrived style, but I'm very impatient. My work isn’t particularly neat or perfect or precise. There is a sense of urgency in my work, which is why I don't paint. I'm not patient enough for painting. Once I have an idea of what I want to get out. I can't labour over any detail. I just, I don't. I just want to see it and get that sort of satisfaction from seeing it complete quite quickly.
Is that sense of urgency the reason why you were drawn to oil pastels?
Yes, I like to see the composition takes shape quickly, and you have to wait too long with paint, wait for things to dry and layout. Whereas with oil pastel, in particular, you don't. It's immediate. So, it's a lot of texture and artistic stroke, it's quite quick and rough and textured because I'm trying to get something out there quickly. It's like, I so desperately want to see it. I want to see that beautiful thing there in front of me, complete and done.
A lot of your pieces capture the beauty and sheer delight of ordinary domestic scenes. When did your fascination with objects around the home first resonate with you?
I think my work shows my love of the home and the domestic, and the feelings you get when you create a home of your own. It's a special place, and it should be. I like to fill my home with beautiful things.
Apart from memories of travel, a lot of what I do is drawing objects from around my home that has all of those beautiful memories and feelings embedded within them. Quite often it was really about the composition and just drawing pattern, colour, texture, and seeing that all take shape. I think this is what led me to become an interior designer in the first place – my love of all those things. And now that is something I'm also exploring differently through my art.
What do you enjoy most about creating?
To me, it is a very grounding and meditative thing. I just like to sit and give in to the practice and see what I am drawing, take form. In a way, it’s kind of selfish. I draw because I enjoy doing it. It is a therapeutic thing for me, and I started to do it as a way to unwind. I love that you can travel through my art and go back to the moments and places that are stress-free and really enjoyable.
Your work has a Mediterranean theme weaved throughout it, what memories do your pieces evoke within you?
In the beginning, I was quite drawn into referring back to the memories and photos from more recent, big overseas trips we had done, like our honeymoon in Italy and France. I think with COVID hitting, it gave everyone the feeling of the walls closing in on you, and I was dreaming of slightly more open borders again. So I started drawing a little series that was based around travel – the beautiful food and table settings we had on that trip.
For me, it is the desire to experience broader and far-reaching horizons and wanting to escape a little bit, which is what originally led me to go back through all my old travel photos. Looking at a beautiful photo of a table that was in Tuscany with nice linens and a glass of limoncello. I just wanted to be there. And so I drew it, and that's how I was transported there.
Your collection with us captures the collective memory of sharing meals and those beautiful table scenes– what was your intention when creating this particular collection?
Visually it focuses on the beauty of fresh food on a plate. It has tables with that beautiful fare on it that you would find in a Sydney summer – which is something, I think we're all craving right now. It's the idea that people are coming together for a meal or sharing food around that table. It’s a sense of familiarity. We can all remember meeting our friends and family and sitting around a table, sharing a beautiful meal, with wine and drinks, and just really enjoying this gorgeous food, together.
Your process seems very intuitive, can you tell us a bit more about this?
My process is a bit of a mix. I don't insist on drawing from a still life set up in front of me. I will draw from bits of photos. I'll sort of augment them with imagination or memory. Sometimes I like to arrange a still life. In fact, I was just doing that before with a rockmelon. Also, I sometimes add things that aren't there. So a lot of the pattern or the textile, that's not there, I just add it in. Or I might add an object from a memory. Other times I draw purely from imagination, and it might start with an object that's in my house or one I've drawn many times before, and I might place it in there.
When we use to go out for meals, I would take lots of photos. If we were out having oysters I’d take a photo then turn them over and take a photo of the other side – I like to capture the light or the composition of things like glass in front of a wine bottle. Sometimes, at home, I might see something as simple as an orange sitting on the table and think it’s nice and I’ll take a picture and come back to it later.