Interview - Tasmin Witkamp


Twenty Three, Scorpio

With a love for oil painting, her heritage and nature… Meet Tasmin (Taz) Witkamp – an emerging artist behind the revolutionary oil paintings, “If I’m painting I’m happy, I’ll never stop regardless if it’s my job or not” expresses Tasmin.  

Growing up on Sydney’s, Northern Beaches firstly in Narrabeen and then moving to a treehouse scaped home and historic property known as ‘Hy-Brasil’; Tasmin spent her childhood nestled between two sisters, one older and one younger “I’ve always loved painting, nature and the outdoors… I struggled to sit in front of the TV, I always had to be making things,” she shares. With a great freedom given to this talent since she was young, spending time at her second home down the South Coast where she could roam, explore, and make an (artistic) mess, Taz muses “One thing that stands out down there is that it’s not as civilised but instead so raw, energetic and fun; I did a lot of painting here, we could make a lot more mess than back at home in Narra.”

Being the fourth generation to carry on this powerful artistic ability there is a lot of pressure on Taz’s shoulder, “It is both daunting and exciting to see where my style will go” she states. Sharing the studio space with her mother Nada Herman which was also previously used by her grandfather Ted Herman and great grandfather Sali Herman; a very well know Australian War Artist, “Living on Ruskin Rowe, he was known as the crazy old guy who kept peacocks and cats” laughs Taz. Passing away when she was born Taz never got to meet Sali but he still holds a special place in her heart and mind being the biggest inspiration of all, “He taught both my Mum and her Father to paint passing down his skills and knowledge to each generation… It’s funny because even though he isn’t present his influence on me is so strong,” she furthers. Hy-Brasil’s existence is the core of all inspiration as Taz conveys, “This property meaning Garden of Eden inspired them all immensely highlighted throughout their paintings. It is interesting to see that all those years later mum and I still use the same inspirations and it is an honour to paint where they derived their artworks from.”

In the final year of high school Taz was shortlisted into Art Express for her major work also being her favourite artwork to date, “This was the first artwork I dedicated more than the ‘It will do stage’ something my mum is trying to carve into my brain” she acknowledges. Delving further into her artistic path by undergoing a Bachelor of Fine Arts Taz reflects on her journey there, “COFA was difficult and confronting of what Art is now and what people associate with it… It’s all very much temporary which is great as we do have to find new ways to evolve art to keep itself alive and I think it’s really healthy for humanity to have ways to express themselves but people need to remember there is still room for traditional methods like painting.”

Working in the creative industry today requires support and in Taz’s case working at a café to fund her art, “On days off I work in the studio around three-four times a week, once I’m in there I don’t really leave” she admits… “You can’t touch your phone because there is paint everywhere making it like a sanctuary and you can’t just jump up and fix something quickly either, you’re in there for the whole day and night!” With a found desire for capturing figures, nature and still life, this free spirit is continuously learning and exploring new techniques “I feel like I always have something to learn with Life Drawing; the anatomy of a woman’s body fascinates me and Its not until you understand how the body works that you can properly make a figure sit right in a composition,” she adds “The texture really makes it for me as well being a big reason why I love oil paint.”  

With a dream to work in Western Australia due to its resemblance of the South Coast yet unknown territory, travelling isn’t unfamiliar to this beauty furthering her explorations later this year, “I’m heading to ‘The Pickers Hut’ a sculpture studio in Glaziers Bay, Tasmania with Matt Calvert in mid-September for two weeks” explains Taz. Scoring a residency, she’ll be venturing out alone to try her skill at sculpting amongst a beautiful, isolated surrounding as she extends, “I’ll be driving down to the bottom of Tasmania to an indulgent creative space, I’m really interested to see how I can be transportable with my artworks!” Lengthening her travels to a month of solitude Taz illuminates, “Being in your own head is a healthy thing to do sometimes, a chance to cleanse your thoughts and refresh where you’re at.”  

For the time being this paint brush wizard is entering the Archibald along with numerous other competitions including: NSW Parliament Plein Air Painting Prize, Mosman Art Prize and Paddington Art Prize. Also looking into studying an Art Therapy Course in Byron, Tasmin herself making subconscious decisions when painting has helped her get through her own ups and downs, she enlightens “Being a form of counselling that doesn’t involve over analysing or ‘fixing’ the problem; using art to heal, a healthy distraction where those with social disorders, trauma, stress or anyone that just needs to express, a path to follow or wind down can return to a childlike state and recover in their own way and time.”

And for now, you can find Taz’s works on her website, or why not visit the Hy-Brasil studio and check out the bold colours and textured brush strokes of her pieces, or perhaps head down to the Boathouse and grab a coffee –she makes a damn good one!