Her roots are rich with culture and love for the Manning-Great Lakes … Indigenous artist Lara Went shares with FOCUS her artistic journey.
You’re no stranger to our local creative scene. Take us back to the beginning; what was it that first sparked your interest in art?
I was a very creative child and carried my love for painting right through school. If I was going to narrow it down to one event in my life that gave me that extra push, it would have been doing visual arts for my HSC- I chose to do a three piece collection influenced by my culture and traditions. Probably about six years out of high school, my mum got hold of my works and hung them in her house. Seeing my artwork hanging on the walls made me realise that I had to pursue my talent and passion.
Tell us about your heritage and traditional connection to the Manning-Great Lakes?
I am a Worimi woman. My Aboriginal heritage is from my mother, who was born and bred in Forster. I feel a very strong connection to the Manning-Great Lakes, especially to the ocean and waterways.
Can you please share with us some of the stories and inspirations behind your artworks?
Each artwork that I design and create tells a significant story. No two artworks are ever the same.
For my prints, my inspiration is drawn from my culture, my surroundings, beliefs and events in my life. A few of my prints have been inspired by my daughter, becoming a mother, and one in particular was inspired by my own mother and her beautiful/strong nature.
For my custom artworks, my inspiration comes directly from my customers. I ensure that I gain an insight and understanding into exactly what the customer wants the painting to represent, the message they want it to convey and more importantly, the personal connection it has to them or the person it is intended for. My goal is to develop a trusting relationship with my customers and treat them as though I would my own friends, so that the whole process can be very relaxed.
Your following over the past year has grown in leaps and bounds. How do you keep up with the demand not only of current works, but ventures in the pipeline?
This past year has been an incredible ride. I have had a lot of ups and downs since I began my business in August 2015. Some choices I have made did not turn out positive; however; I believe that you need to make mistakes in order to move forward. I do not treat my work as a job. I feel as though I am very blessed to be able to do what I love and make a living out of it. I think if you just stay true to yourself and be honest with people, then you will always move forward.
Don’t get me wrong – I have stressful times. Being a stay at home mum, working at home and expecting another little bub takes its toll some days. But, I just tone it down a little. I tell my customers that all good things take time. If they are in a hurry to get the artwork, I find this out at the beginning, so I know where I stand and always keep them updated on the progress.
My number one priority is producing quality work; if I feel like I cannot keep up with that some days, I just don’t paint. I take some time out and come back to it a few days later with a clear mind and my mojo back intact. The key is to not lose sight of why I started my business in the first place.
What medium do you like to work with?
I mostly work with acrylic paint and posca paint pens. At this stage these are the best mediums I find to use for my style of art. The posca pens allow me to add in all those tiny designs and patterns that give my works a unique edge.
Collaborations and custom works are also a prominent part of your story; what are some of the projects you’ve worked on?
I would have to say my most successful project would be when I was chosen to design an artwork for the University of Sydney. The artwork was printed onto the students’ folders, as well as chosen for the university’s Leadership Team. They ended up loving it so much, it was used again for the University of Sydney Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Guide 2017. This would be my greatest achievement so far.
My favourite collaboration is a more recent print series that I worked on with a fellow Forster creative, Brigitte May. The range has been designed to capture the beauty of our homeland, with a few of Australia’s most loved creatures surrounded by their natural foliage of wattle, gumnuts and kangaroo paw.
As a Worimi woman, what does being able to share your stories with the wider community mean to you?
I feel honoured to be a Worimi woman. I thank my parents every day for choosing the Great Lakes as our home. The pristine waters, sea life and land all greatly influence my artworks, and I am so thankful that I get to shine a spotlight on Worimi Land through my paintings and prints. To think that someone on the other side of the world or even the person down the road has a piece of my artwork hanging in their home is unbelievable, but also the fact that they chose it because of its meaning and story behind it is even more incredible.