Self-taught Gippsland based artist Natalie Jade caught our eye recently. While her paintings draw heavily on her Indigenous heritage, her vibrant palette extends beyond the more orthodox, earthy tones. “Traditionally, the colours were made from the earth but these days we have access to a lot more colours. These days, a lot of Aboriginal art is very colourful,” says Natalie.
Natalie’s high school art teacher was the first to recognise her talent and tried to encourage her to study art at university. “I decided against it because my sister went down that road and I didn’t want to copy her. I also saw how hard it can be to make it as artist, so I choose something more practical,” says Natalie.
Beyond school, Natalie worked many jobs including retail, hospitality and childcare but none of them stuck. “I’ve tried many different jobs throughout my life but none of them felt right or worth the money and time taken from me. I never lasted long in any of them because I felt too trapped in the 9-5 world,” says Natalie.
But painting had always been there, and Natalie eventually started selling her artworks on Bluethumb and at local markets too. “But I often struggled with depression and a lack of money to keep my practice going. After my last baby was born, I was able to save enough to start up my own website,” says Natalie who began slowly adding to the site around the demands of her youngest child.
“I painted while she slept on me every day and basically, just didn’t give up. Somehow, I ended up where I am now,” says Natalie.
The artist’s Aboriginality comes from her mother’s side which has its roots in Tasmania. “My great grandmother grew up being told that she was Maori and it took my brother years of digging to find out who we really are. I always felt I was different and once I found that I was actually Aboriginal, white or not, it was like I had discovered a missing piece of myself,” says Natalie.
Working primarily with acrylics on canvas, and sometimes paper, Natalie draws on her culture, life experiences, feelings and the colours in her surrounding environment. “I also call on my ancestors to help me paint and am often told to use this colour or that. I rarely start a painting with a pre-planned idea. I usually start with a colour then just go from there.”