In the studio with Kate Jarman
The granddaughter of a nurseryman and daughter of a veterinarian and horse trainer, Kate Jarman grew up surrounded by plants and animals and spent her childhood riding horses, making cubbies in the bush and swimming in the Serpentine River.

Kate's lyrical abstract paintings are popular with interior designers, collectors and home owners around Australia, and it's no mistake that they are a celebration of that joyful connection and sense of wonder we have with nature.

We visited Kate's Stackwood studio and talked more deeply about her practice and why people so readily bringing nature into their homes. 
Tell me about your practice, how did you start?

I have always painted, as far back as I can remember. When I was about 5 years old my Dad was getting up early to study his PhD before work so he set up a little painting station to occupy me because I would wake early too.

I continued to paint during school and then outside of work, and managed to continue it even when I was living in hostels in the UK. I studied painting on the weekends at the Byam Shaw school of Art in London for a while and when I returned to Perth in my late twenties I started my Bachelor’s Degree of Fine Art at Curtin University.

I had my first child before I had completed my degree so my last semester was done with an 18 month old under my arm. My painting career as such didn’t start until after I’d had my second child which made finding the time to do it difficult, but it also made me very efficient with the time I had.


It's clear from your work that you have a fascination with the natural world, where did this begin?

I grew up on 12 acres surrounded by all sorts of animals as my Dad is a Veterinarian and my Mum was a Vet nurse and horse trainer. Dad had a live racehorse goanna in the fridge as part of one of his research studies and I remember a frill neck lizard living in the hallway for a time too.

He brought home some almost extinct hopping mice for my sister and I to look after at one point and was always pointing out different types of birds and explaining about their habitats, quirks etc as he is an avid bird enthusiast.

The family business on my Mum’s side is a wholesale plant nursery and I think I am somewhat a culmination of all of that! We spent our childhood climbing trees, riding horses and swimming in the river so I was very much engaged in nature growing up. 


What draws people to hang nature on the walls of their homes?

I think nature is grounding because we are reliant on it for our survival and are also innately part of it. There are so many benefits to us physically, emotionally and spiritually from being in nature or being surrounded by echoes of it in our homes.

I came across the term ‘Biophilic Design’ recently, meaning ‘love of nature’, it’s a design philosophy founded on the belief that our connection to the natural world is genetic and comes from hundreds of thousands of years of living in agrarian settings.

I find it interesting that nature feels like home yet at the same time it is full of so many colours, patterns, designs and quirks that it holds an element of wonder and awe also. It’s familiar yet endlessly surprising and inspiring. You see some of the bird species in particular and the creativity of their design is mind blowing.


Why paint as a medium?

I love paint because you can literally create whatever your mind imagines and your only confines are your abilities. It’s incredible how much one brushstroke can change the whole picture, for example which way a birds eye is looking. You are the creator and the paint is your medium and you pretty much create your own world, if you want the sky to be lilac then that’s what you make it. You can break any rule of realism you want. 

I also enjoy the challenge of the technical aspect. It’s a dance between your mind, your hands and the paint and sometimes you are in the flow and it all seems to go right and then at other times or within part of a painting you are at war with it and can’t seem to get it to work. Sometimes it’s the most joyful synchronistic experience and at other times it’s angst ridden and just seems to resist you at every turn.

I think if it were easy it wouldn’t have the hook on me that it does. It’s very satisfying to create something out of nothing other than your imagination and your hands, you get to bring something completely original to life.

In a world saturated with images and with so many ideas, concepts and designs having already been brought into existence it’s very special to bring something original into the world. 


What is your favourite part about doing what you do?

There is so much to love, being my own boss and the flexibility of it is perfect for motherhood but the real joy is the moments of stillness in the studio when you are completely present and engaged in each brush stroke, colour mix and choice. I am mostly inspired by colour and choosing colour combinations and seeing how they play together is a big source of joy for me. Painting is a very immediate process and I am quite impatient so we work well together.



We've all made big adjustments lately, what did "mid" and now (I guess in Perth) "post" Corona look like for you as an artist?

It was a weird time and still is in a way, although there is a greater sense of normality now. I definitely lent into my creativity as a way of dealing with the uncertainty and it makes for a very enjoyable form of escapism.

It’s been interesting to see how the different sectors of our national economy have been affected and one result of people staying home and not having the option of travelling overseas is they seem to have been nesting and purchasing more art than usual.

I didn’t predict that as an outcome as our industry is usually the first to be sacrificed in difficult times. I’m not sure where it will head now but it was a welcome relief to feel supported during that period.


Who are the Australian artists on your crush list that we can all go support?

Being fortunate enough to be part of the Greenhouse Interiors family I have great admiration and respect for all of the artists they represent. I have an original from Belynda Henry which I bought when my Mum passed away in 2016 and prints from Kate Mayes, Natalie Jade, Spencer Shakespeare and currently have my eye on some of Kimmy Hogan's work.

I am also completely obsessed with Sage and Clare who make bedding, bath mats, cushions etc and have their pieces in pretty much every room of the house including the bathrooms. Their pieces make my heart sing and I love being surrounded by them.

I also have quite a bit of Byron Bay artist Jai Vacisek’s work which I adore too. My friend Natalie Jones is a textile artist in Sydney who has a very earthy and organic materiality to her work which is very much an aesthetic I enjoy.


Any collaborations lately? Tell us about them.

I don’t have any on the go currently but I am keen to collaborate with a textile artist to help me turn some of my work into a repeat pattern and have it printed onto fabric for clothes and or bedding. I have been saying this for some time now but I would like to do a mural at some point and may join forces with someone to do one.  

My new little pup Nora would like to collab with me in the studio sometimes but often she's more trouble than she's worth! 

What's on your studio playlist?

I have such an eclectic mix on my studio playlist, quite often it’s true crime because I’m interested in people, psychology and relationships but it’s interspersed with podcasts about spirituality, parenting, ted talks and random youtube sidebars I fall down!

Kate Jarman has a studio here at Stackwood which is open by appointment. You'll find her here most days painting with all work for sale at Greenhouse Interiors
Photos by Rae Fallon. Words by Jasmyn Woodford
October 15, 2020 — Jasmyn Woodford