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Q&A: Ingrid Bartkowiak

23 JUNE 2020

Growing up surrounded by Mt Coot-tha bushland, artist and illustrator Ingrid Bartkowiak easily found inspiration in the nature of her own backyard. Working with watercolours and oils, Ingrid paints a whimsical world of native flora and fauna.

We recently collaborated with Ingrid on an exclusive MoB Shop tea towel featuring the Great Barrier Reef. We chatted to Ingrid about the inspiration behind this magical depiction of an Australian treasure. Explore a range by Ingrid Bartkowiak at MoB Shop!

Your work often features native Australian flora and fauna. What draws you to the Australian

Growing up our parents always valued taking us on bush walks, experiencing nature first hand, and that focus definitely guided my obsession into painting plants, animals and the Australian landscape. I also remember often going to the art gallery with my mum and unconsciously being influenced by what I saw there, although I was only five, and I think I was mainly there for the babyccino we’d have after.

I think art can offer an accessible entry point for viewers to become aware about certain issues or topics – as I personally have been really enjoying learning about Australian flora and fauna, and the importance of habitat, I think it was a natural progression that it began to flow into my work.

When did you feel the first urge to pursue painting and illustration?

I had always loved art as a child and teenager, however when I left high school, I thought the idea of being an artist seemed a bit unrealistic, so I enrolled in midwifery. I lasted four weeks before I realised that I was not cut out for that kind of work. I then went to study a Bachelor of Fine Art at QCA, and that really solidified my genuine love of painting.

Detail of Ingrid Bartkowiak illustration. Courtesy Ingrid Bartkowiak.
How does living in Brisbane influence your creative practice?

I grew up in a place that was surrounded by the Mt Coot-tha bushland – it’s a place that is full of birds, gum trees, and even wallabies if you’re lucky. This had a huge impact on the direction my early work took, especially in my first year at uni, when all of my work was based on my local surroundings and the walk home from the bus stop.

One of my favourite places in Brisbane is the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens. My whole graduation portfolio was focused on that place. I also love watching the way that Brisbane changes with the seasons, especially the beautiful flame trees that come out in December!

We recently had the pleasure of collaborating with you on a tea towel for MoB Shop. What was the inspiration behind this piece?

About five years ago, I was lucky enough to travel up to Heron Island with my family. It was probably one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever experienced, to see baby sea turtles hatching and the Great Barrier Reef first hand. I worked on this painting while we were there – we would go out to snorkel on the edge of the reef each day, and I’d add in certain coral, fish and colours that I saw. There was a guide who gave me a little book of all the local fish to use as a resource for my painting.

Ingrid Bartkowiak in her studio. Courtesy Ingrid Bartkowiak.
MoB Shop and Ingrid Bartkowiak collaborative tea towel.
What does a day in the life of Ingrid look like? Tell us about your creative process.

I often start the day by going through admin tasks and packing orders – I find that my best painting time tends to start after midday, so I’ll usually move onto watercolour or oils then. In the afternoon I’ll often go on a short walk, just down the road or through our local bush track. I try to visit the Botanic Gardens every week or so, it’s a fabulous place to gather reference images. I’m actually a bit of a night owl when it comes to painting, so after dinner I get back into it until my eyes are ready for sleep!

Career highlight to date?

I really love every element of working as an artist and illustrator. I especially love hearing stories of why people are commissioning a piece, or who a card might be for, but a big highlight was producing the 2020 Australian Native Plants Wall Calendar last year.

This project was a highlight on many levels. I learnt so many new skills (especially time management!) and I really felt a sense of community support. To help with the printing, I ran the project as a crowdfunder and was so overwhelmed by the support and excitement. It was also a great opportunity on a personal level to learn more about the plants native to south-east Queensland.

Ingrid Bartkowiak in the Australian bush. Courtesy Ingrid Bartkowiak.
Who are your favourite Brisbane makers?

So many! But I love Holly’s work from Paperhands, Therese from Busy Head and Clairy Laurence.

Do you have any exciting projects coming up?

I’m currently working on the artwork for next year’s wall calendar. This time I’m focusing on endangered Australian animals and I’ve been sharing the process through short videos on my IGTV and YouTube. It’s been a really great way to educate myself and share that with others. The highlight so far has been interviewing Phil Wise, who works with Tasmanian Devils, for one of the videos.

Explore Ingrid Bartkowiak at MoB Shop!

Detail of Ingrid Bartkowiak illustration. Courtesy Ingrid Bartkowiak.
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