Artist's Biography

Jo Shea’s artistic journey has been actively in progress since she was a small child.

One of her earliest memories was of intuitively knowing where colours should be placed in a painting or drawing. Drawing was something she instinctively knew how to do, with detailed realism being a natural talent and winning her prizes at school. Jo’s mother, a primary school teacher librarian, encouraged her talent and brought home books that introduced Jo to the art of the great masters, further fuelling her love of illustration and writing. At high school Jo led her art class in all years.

As she was leaving school her teacher told her she was too meticulous to be an artist. This fateful comment contributed to Jo’s decision to follow both her love of art and science and she completed a Bachelor Degree in the Conservation of Cultural Materials, specialising in Paintings Conservation.

Jo’s career as a conservator spanned 30 years, working both privately and for state galleries. This experience gave Jo a unique insight into the art world with access to important works of art, an experience that was not only inspirational, but also invaluable as an artist.

Recently, Jo has been following her creative inclination and creating more art of her own, as she transitions from art conservation and into full time art practice. Whilst she could be loosely regarded as an emerging artist, she has always made art and several of her pieces are already in private collections and she has exhibited work in small local galleries.

Jo works in two distinct mediums that express two sides of her character – her meticulous and highly observant side, and her expressive side. Both mediums are informed by her utter absorption and love of nature.

The first of her creative expressions is her detailed realistic pencil drawings of botanical, fauna, portraiture and figurative subjects, done on paper or plywood, and sometimes life size. Jo’s interest in how far graphite (pencil) can be explored as a medium has led her to study and practice the academic and highly technical form of drawing known as Bargue Plates, whereby profound attention is given to proportion, form, line, tone and rendering. The resulting ‘perfect’ drawing can take over 100 hours.

Jo’s other artworks are her contemporary landscape paintings that are loose and expressionist, perhaps a rebellion to her detailed drawings and meticulous conservation work. Her landscapes are confident, playful and accomplished, a culmination of all the experiences from her emersion in the art world, and her spare time spent exploring wild places in nature. Her previous study in calligraphy and the patterns and shapes in nature directly influence the mark making in her paintings where she explores the ideas of spontaneity and pre-determinism.

Speaking of the depiction of nature in her art, Jo says: “I am drawn to places where nature is more dominant than man, where the wildness evokes a feeling of awe and wonder, and where an energy thrums with a harsh magic.”

Her latest series of landscape paintings were inspired by the dynamic dune systems of Fraser Island and the Cooloola National Park.

Jo’s acute observation and fascination with nature is apparent when she describes (in beautiful poetic terms that also reflect her love of writing), her reaction to being in, and then inspired to depict these places: “… wind and rain re-shape the forms at all scales. A trickling sand fall can become a landslide, revealing fresh colour and structure. Trees and bushes twist and grip the sliding grains of sand. I see all the small things. The way patterns replicate. The directions of growth. I feel the playfulness building in my imagination. I feel at home. I allow my mark making to be guided by the unseen hand of the universe. I wonder about predeterminism and whether intuition is an illusion. Trees become quirky characters and I allow a looseness to flow. Guided spontaneity. I become a catalyst for something to emerge. My connection with these places deepens every time I channel a work and I marvel at the beauty and the mystery and my place within it.”