Step into the vibrant, Wes Anderson-inspired world of this month’s TOCH Local — Bronte based painter, part-time crotchet hobbyist and sea breeze enthusiast, Camille Olsen-Ormandy.
Here, Camille takes us on a very cool, calm and considered tour through one of the East’s most frequented beaches weaving in idle reflections on her childhood, future plans and creative process along the way.
With an art practice that centres on portraiture, her body of work spreads out from canvas to canvas in bold pops of colour, sleek, considered brush strokes and playful patterns. Each painting, although consistent in style and framing, bares its own unique perspective, carried by the somewhat Mona Lisa-like gaze of her subjects (if the famed 16th century icon was a 21st C. instagram ‘baddie’).
Adopting the thinking of many great painters, such as those whose stories run through her veins (Camille is the granddaughter of famed Australian landscape painter, John Olsen),her paintbrush points to a quintessentially human desire — the need to understand. As Camille explains,”the people I paint are always reflecting something back of myself. A conversation with my inner world projected and reproduced on canvas.” We learn that when it comes to this inner world, hers has its roots in Bronte.
Read on for Camille’s take on the area, including her tip to finding the best beachside view — a must visit during your staycation here at The Old Clare.
TOCH: You live and grew up by the seaside, on Bronte Beach — what’s an average day look like for you there?
My day starts with the sun peeking through the old gum tree, with a slither of ocean glistening through from the horizon, gazing out into nature. With the sliding doors pulled back, I let the cool sea breeze fill the space. Whether I’m drawing, painting or crocheting, I’m always catching a deep breath looking out at the landscape. Sometimes, I get a visit from a kookaburra or rainbow lorikeets when the gum tree is in full bloom.
TOCH: Describe the area to someone who’s never been there before.
Hills and valleys wrapped in sunlight, the smell of salty air. Families and friends with towels over their shoulders walking to and from the beach. You could be a couple of streets back from the beach but still feel the ocean’s energy.
TOCH: What about the area allowed for you, personally, and therefore your art practice, to flourish?
The ocean is a powerful force, robust yet calming. I find, for my artist practice, the Bronte area gives me the space to drift freely. It uplifts and energises me whilst also centering and giving space for contemplation.
TOCH: Favourite bar, restaurant, park or beach spot in Bronte?
The Broth Bar is my favourite for healing soups, if you consider it a bar. My favourite restaurant was the Three Blue Ducks, but it closed down recently!! So, I am now on the search for a new favourite. And — the best place to sit down at Bronte Beach is the grass looking out at the Bogey hole.
RESTAURANT or COFFEE SHOP:
The Bogey Hole Cafe — they’ve been making the same muffins since I was a kid and I still love them.
Bronte Gully, for sure.
BEST SPOT ON THE BEACH:
The grass opposite the Bogey Hole, or sitting under the large sandstone rock for shade during the day.
BEST TIME TO SWIM:
Early morning, sunrise! or late afternoon.
Hard to pick just one, on your way up from the beach there are a couple of beautiful viewing spots. From sitting on the cliffs to park benches scattered through the hilltop streets.
TOCH: What does ‘home’ mean to you?
Home is a resting place, somewhere to unwind, comfort is key and familiarity.
TOCH: There are those who think that talent is transmitted by magic, and others who think you simply have to put in the hours. Tell us a little bit about your creative process.
I grew up in a very creative environment, being taken to art gallery openings and exhibitions from a young age, my creative process has been there since I was little. I find that I can’t separate the process of art making from my life. I’m always searching and looking outward into the world and seeing what I respond to. I primarily paint portraits, the smell of solvents and mediums from my oil paints alway linger around the house. I find that the people I paint are always reflecting something back of myself. A conversation of my innerworld projected and reproduced on canvas.
“I find myself looking for similarity or a reflection in others, in the search of a face to paint I’m also searching for myself. “
Photography: Chad Dao @chaddao
TOCH: You’re at your home studio in Bronte — brushes deep in a canvas — looking to stretch your legs (and your mind) for a quick break. Where do you go?
I’ll walk down to the beach, watch the waves, maybe put on a guided meditation. I never stop appreciating where I live and the beauty it holds.
TOCH: What was the first artwork you saw that made you think you wanted to be a painter yourself?
I have seen so much art over my 24 years of life and have visited major galleries and institutions from around the world —Tokyo, London, New York and Paris — I couldn’t say that just one single work convinced me but one experience in Paris at the Musee d’Orsay really set things in stone. It was a simple portrait by Vincent Van Gogh called ‘Eugene Boch’. I had never stood in front of a painting for so long, the longer I looked the more secrets revealed itself. His use of mint to highlight on the tip of the subject’s nose and eyes, to the oranges and deep purples in his cheeks and neck. I could go on and on about his use of colour.
TOCH: How has your upbringing influenced your perspectives on art and the industry?
The way I view, interact and create art has been largely influenced by my family’s perspective. They’ve shown me ‘How to See’ to really look, observe and be curious. Being surrounded by their own art making definitely leads to being influenced, whether through colour choice or composition. But my art will always be distinctly my own, as we all approach art with our own individual touch.
TOCH: Your primary focus tends to revolve around people and faces, what do you find to be most intriguing or revealing when it comes to portraiture?
Is it cheesy to say a face can tell many stories? I think as an artist I’m always looking upon others, like a call and response. What can I make from an interaction, a conversation, connecting and being the social creatures we are. I find myself looking for similarity or a reflection in others, in the search of a face to paint I’m also searching for myself.
TOCH: Ever find yourself people-watching, dreaming up portraits round Bronte way?
Definitely! I love people-watching, even driving around the area. I’m always observing, and sometimes I’ll see a face and instantly see a painting or photograph.
TOCH: What do you do in Bronte when you’re just not in the mood or feeling uninspired?
I crochet, write poetry or read. If I’m not feeling creative in one aspect I move my creativity to a different medium. Creating becomes more like an exercise, and you have to work all different parts of the body. Poetry is a great way for me to express myself when feeling uninspired. It gives me a sense of reassurance.
Photography: Sam Armstrong @sam_m_armstrong
TOCH: Do you listen to music whilst you paint? If so – what’s your go-to playlist, genre or album?
Constantly! Painting is my time to explore my music knowledge. I’ll listen to Portuguese jazz (Bossa Nova), to Afro Beats, Early Country American Blue, French Indie Funk, Japanese psychedelic to Aussie indie bands. But I can’t forget my favs: Metronomy, Whitest Boys Alive, Gorillaz and Tom Misch.
TOCH: You’ve been exploring some new subject matter of late; dreamy landscapes, still lifes of cars and a very sunset-esque colour palette — like a scene out of a Wim Wenders film. Do you think art comes as a product of the artist’s environment? If so, how does Bronte inspire your creative focus?
Your environment truly shapes who you are. I’ve been lucky to travel all around the world from a young age and live temporarily in cities like New York and Tokyo. But Bronte is my real home and I think it’s a space I have not tapped into yet, and what it would mean to me and my practice to explore my childhood home more. I’ve done the odd arts school project to do with the beach. Even writing this question out, I feel a push to interact and paint the local scene I know so well. Watch this space.
TOCH: What’s the most important piece of furniture in your home or studio?
Definity the Eames lounge chair. Black soft leather. It’s the first chair I sit in when I get home.
TOCH: Do you have an idea of what you’d like to explore next?
I want to start exploring colour in a different way. I’ve always been representational in my colour use, the urge to start breaking the rules from what I’ve learnt. Painting people with blue skin, or a blurred out division, breaking down the structure of what a face is or can be.
TOCH: What are you reading right now?
I’m currently reading Dune by Frank Herbert. I loved the Star Wars movies growing up, so learning the book was a huge inspiration for George Lucas in creating Star wars. I was instantly intrigued. Plus the new adaptation of Dune came out with Zendaya and Timothée Chamalet — which I loved, so I had to know what happens next.
TOCH: Your go-to films for a cosy autumn movie night?
Anything Wes Anderson, he is a constant inspiration for me creatively. LOVE LOVE LOVE.
TOCH: Role Play — you’re hosting an artists week away staycation at The Old Clare — who do you invite?
Firstly, I’m inviting all the creative people I know in Sydney. The dream guest list would have to include — Chloe Wise, Louise Bourgeois, Elizabeth Peyton, Gill Button and Robin F. Williams. All my favourite women portrait artists, maybe Frida Kahlo? Or is that too cliche.
Photography: Chad Dao @chaddao
QUICK FIRE ROUND: ‘WOULD YOU RATHER’
Show or tell?
Sweet or savoury?
Impressionism or Surrealism?
Pen or Pencil?
Mary O Suite
Big Canvas or Smaller Canvas?
Portrait or Landscape?
Cinnamon Waffles or Smashed Avo?
Secondhand or next season?