The art of life on the land

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By Gabrielle Hall

Alysha Sparks stands bare foot in her studio applying liberal layers of acrylics, Posca markers and spray paints to a canvas.

With son Bodhi on her hip or playing at her feet underneath a growing baby belly, colour by colour, layer by layer, the talented self-taught artist brings South Australia’s landscapes to life with a modern twist.

For the girl brought up in the bush with a keen eye for colour, her passions come to life on canvas and be it human, bovine, botanical or landscape, Alysha has a talent for capturing something special.

Also a gifted photographer, she has a knack for encapsulating the personalities of the families she frames, and the raw character of the farm animals in front of her lens.

Right at home in the paddock are some of Alysha Sparks’s art works flanked by a few of her subject matters.

“My work is fairly eclectic I guess,” Alysha says.

“I paint cattle and birds but then do abstract florals and landscapes as well, I guess my style is a modern take on traditional.

“The florals give me the freedom to use any colours I want and everyone loves flowers, they make you feel happy and last a lot longer than the real thing.

“As for the cattle, they have so much personality, each one is individual and I love seeing them evolve on the canvas.”

Much of Alysha’s inspiration is sourced from the natural colour of the landscape, and now with a drone camera as well, she is given a different perspective from the sky to translate onto canvas in her studio at Jamestown in SA’s Mid North, about 2.5 hours from Adelaide.

Alysha’s works will feature in an exhibition in Adelaide’s Hyde Park as part of the 2018 SALA Festival.

“The colours and textures take on a new perspective from the sky and out in the country there’s such pretty light, you get those beautiful colours coming through,” she says.

“I see a colour combination I like and snap away on the camera, take it back to the studio and start creating inspired by it, and apply it to my landscapes.”

It was her mother who first bought a 13-year-old Alysha a blank canvas and paints, giving her the freedom to experiment with colours and styles and eventually develop her own niche.

The daughter of sheep, cropping and export hay farmers, Alysha has the country in her blood.

Like so many others before her, Alysha was keen to spread her wings, moving to the city and then travelling the world, but love eventually brought her ‘home’ to Jamestown and ultimately back to her roots.

With partner Tom – a local stock agent – Alysha has embraced country life again and it is not uncommon to see her out, boots on, son Bodhi in tow, helping Tom at the sheep yards or travelling across country with him.

It is all part of her inspiration, and as much as she has wholeheartedly returned to her roots, she is grateful for the community’s welcome back into its fold.

Alysha’s modern take on traditional landscapes looking right at home.

“We came back to Jamestown five years ago, the community has really embraced my art work and photography and they’ll come to me to buy my art or have their family photos, both because they like my work and because they want to support local,” Alysha says.

“The people have been so embracing and lovely, and that’s part of why my business is going so well.”

The shop local ethos is not lost on Alysha who works alongside local framer Clive Palmer in Jamestown to finish her works, and Daniel Blackman at Blackman Gallery in Clare who she entrusts to create “world class reproduction prints”.

“Local is best, if they support me, I support them,” Alysha says.

“It’s really just about everyone supporting each other.”

While she relishes her country life, the road to Adelaide is also a well-worn path for Alysha who regularly makes the trip to deliver her art to clients as well as restocking her ongoing exhibits at The Gallery on Waymouth Street in the city.

Locally her works are on show at café Bindlestick in Jamestown, and at Atore gift shop in Melrose, as well as through her website, alyshasparks.com

Alysha has an exhibition, Native, on show at Toop and Toop at King William Road, Hyde Park in Adelaide, as part of the SALA festival until the end of August.

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