Chatting environmental influences and density of colour with artist Luke Taaffe

Luke Taaffe is a visual artist and textile designer from Sydney (though he’s currently based in California).

His work is defined by colour, and a juxtaposition between organic and inorganic lines. There’s an inherent simplicty in his style, but one that is free-flowing, textural and somewhat psychedelic.

Nature is the centrepiece on many of his creations: the sun, the beach and flora are his muses and these are imbued with an exoticism that borders on escapism – he takes you to another place.

Luke has held solo exhibitions at China Heights Gallery in Sydney, Helder Supply in Biarritz, and recently at ‘A Spot of Genius’ in Byron Bay. His work has been a part of numerous group shows throughout Japan, Australia and USA, including New Image Art Gallery in Los Angeles. He has also collaborated with brands such as Billabong and Roxy on a range of textiles – mainly swimwear.

We had a chat with him about his creative process, and his style is changing and his definition of success.

Chatting the influence of environments, ideal collaborations and density of colour with Sydney-via-California artist, Luke Taaffe.

HAPPY: Hey Luke. Describe your creative process.

LUKE: The creative process is initially driven by location and the surrounding environment of where I’m living at that point of time. This inspires the content and drives the colour palette for the body of work at hand. A new piece of work usually starts from a pivotal point that I find from photos that I take of a particular place or subject, to which I then make loose sketches. Even though the work can begin from a photograph, I never have a complete idea of where it will end, so I let the work dictate where it goes from that initial point.

HAPPY: How would you say your style has developed over time?

LUKE: The style of my work has remained pretty consistent over the last three years, but the content has changed as I’ve relocated to different locations. There’s definitely more of a personal connection to each piece and more thought to colour execution now. When I first started painting, I would rely heavily on outlining elements with black Indian ink. Removing the outline five years ago freed up the work and gave a more concentrated focus on colour.

HAPPY: What’s your favourite part about working with your medium?

LUKE: My favourite part of working with acrylics is that you have fair amount of control with colour, the way it can be applied and mixed to any shade. My work is still relatively flat in density of colour, so acrylics work well for this, and they dry quite fast which is important for my process.

HAPPY: How do you personally define success as an artist?

LUKE: ‘Success & Artist’ are two words you don’t see together all that often… I feel you can’t define artistic success by the amount of money you make from it, but how happy you are in your creative pursuit. I’m fortunate that I get to be creative for a living and it supports my family and that’s success for me.

HAPPY: What’s your ideal collaboration?

LUKE: There’s some amazing Aboriginal creative centres in the Northern Territory that I’d love to spend time with at some point of my life. One of these art centres is called Tiwi Design which is located on Bathurst Island about 80km north of Darwin. They produce all sorts of amazing things like traditional fabrics and paintings that are sold to help to promote and preserve Tiwi culture. My mother visited there a few years ago and brought me back a pair of shorts that were hand screened by one of the indigenous artists… they’re really amazing!

HAPPY: What are you working on now?

LUKE: I just finished an installation of work in Long Beach CA that included a series of new paintings and four canvas wall hangings. These wall hangings which look like flags, are sewn, colour blocked elements from my paintings juxtaposed in simple and interesting ways. I’ve been enjoying working with this new medium in my personal work, even though I work in textile design on a day to day basis with Billabong. Next I’m travelling to France, so I’m currently working on a small print edition and flags to take with me.

HAPPY: What’d the single most important piece of creative advice you’ve been given?

LUKE: Have fun along the way!

Follow Luke’s work on Instagram.