Some days you meet someone and just know there is a story waiting to be told. That someone walked past my desk a few weeks ago. Lyn Aeberhard is one of those women who carry herself with grace, dignity and a unique style all her own.
Alittle asking around and I discovered that Lyn was a ceramic artist, and an amazing one at that. Last week we met out at the Kingfisher Café in Pacific Palms so she could show me two of her commissioned works, which are on display there. They show scenes of lush tropical forest meeting the crystal blue sea of our coast line, very reminiscent for me of the children’s book “Where the forest meets the sea” by Jeannie Baker. Our conversation covered just about everything from her unique technique of painting with glaze on ceramic, the pressures women place on themselves as mothers and career women, faith, what makes an artist great and everything in between.
Growing up in Mosman Sydney, Lyn raised two children for several years on her own until she met her loving husband Rudolf, and didn’t come to her artistic career until what some might say ‘late in life’, but that hasn’t stopped her from having a fulfilling and successful artistic career. Famous Australian artist Ross Davis said of her work: “Using large ceramic pieces as her canvases, Lyn paints in glaze to create unique richly coloured landscapes, people and flowers. She is creating great beauty with a timeless quality of depth and originality.
”You call yourself a ceramic artist who paints in glaze. How did you get started?
I have always been able to paint and draw, but I have never had an art lesson. I did Latin at school, and you couldn’t do art and Latin. Latin was my best subject, so Latin it was. I was never terribly encouraged; it was just leave school and get a job in those days. Girls didn’t go to uni unless they were absolutely brilliant and their parents had money. So I worked from the age of 15.
I became a certified teacher when I was 45 or something – so you can start again, you know. Some people think that at 40 life’s over. But I did train and became a very well loved teacher. I was working in a ceramic studio, were I was teaching students under glaze with clear glaze on top, Chinese brush strokes and folk art and all that, which are some of the techniques one teaches; and it never interested me to do it, because it is so easy. My boss in the studio told me that you cannot paint in glazes, and I thought, “Well, I can” – so I did.
I got very good at it, because I can see the finished product before I start. You see, glazes are all tones of greys … green is actually a rust colour and midnight blue is a pale mauve, but I know what it will look like when it is finished.
My first exhibition was for the Manly Daily, and I sold quite a lot of works there. I sold enough that I was able to buy my first painting by another artist; it is still hanging in my lounge room. I then went in Art In Action at the showground – it was the first one they ever had, and they were very happy to have me. From there, I got offerings from other galleries for exhibitions, including one from the Bell Gallery in Berrima with Robert Dickerson on the wall, which he very kindly agreed to, although I was virtually unknown.
With your own work, what is the process?
I get an idea, and I just paint it. At the beginning, most people will look at it and say, “Well, what is that?” But I know what the colours will be like in the final work. Many of my works are double sided; one side will be a ‘cool’ scene, and the other a ‘warm’ scene.
I love the colours of the Australian landscape; they are like nowhere else. To do landscapes, I had to paint a coat of grey and a coat of French blue and a coat of green, and that would look like smokey hillsides in the distance. You had to know your glazes – it was not something that you could teach; you had to see it.
Unfortunately, they changed the formulas in the glazes; they took all the lead out. So what was once a vibrant blue is now just a wishy washy imitation. There was no way I could paint what I wanted to paint anymore … all my glazes dried up, so it ended.
I still paint on canvas using acrylics. I like acrylics, because they are easy and fast; they dry, and you can put a frame on it. I would like to do watercolour; they lend themselves to a similar flow as glaze.
Oil painting I used to love. I love the smell of them, but they are expensive, and you need so many colours. You just can’t do it with 6 colours, but you can with acrylic.
Have you noticed the art landscape in Australia changing over the years? Do you think that people are appreciative of art?
Definitely, much more so than they were. For example, one local lady owns five of my works, she has collected them over the years. That wouldn’t have happened 20 years ago. There are more galleries and upmarket gift shops that have art or prints available, which enhances your appreciation of them. The ordinary person, of course there are not ordinary people, but I mean, the man in the street is far more likely to save up to buy one thing he really likes to have on the wall as opposed to nothing. It is very rare to see empty walls these days.
But do you think that with the availability of cheap prints the true artist is being muscled out of the market place?
Well yes that could be true. There are many artists out there who get out of art school get themselves an agent and pushes to get their work out there, then there is the ‘true’ artist who suffers and goes without food and just paints. I think there are still those and unless you are prepared to compete with the people who blow their own trumpet and talk big –which I couldn’t do, you sink into obscurity, but I didn’t mind, because my works are one offs and they are as one friend said to me “hidden treasures”.
As a teacher, you would have seen a lot of students come and go. What is it that makes someone an artist? What separates the good ones from the great ones?
I think possibly that people recognise that special spark in their works and they don’t need other people to tell them they are terrific; they just have to get it out there. It doesn’t matter if other people think it is dreadful or ridicule it. You know, some of the greatest artists suffered this and as we now know, they were great artists – like Van Gough, and even Picasso wasn’t too famous when he started.
I used to love encouraging the ladies who came to the studio. They would come along to do the ceramics course and find that they had this fantastic outlet and discover that they could do this beautiful Chinese brush work better than anybody else, or folk art – something like that. They went on to add another dimension to their lives – lovely.
It is very heartening and heart warming to be able to encourage people to do things beyond their abilities normally. I think true artists have a vision that doesn’t really have to have the approval of anyone else.
Here’s to true artists. Thanks Lyn.
Interview by Amy Heague.
This story was published in issue 68 of the Manning-Great Lakes Focus