Women of Raie: Narjia Brownlie
Everyone meet Narjia Brownlie, the blonde bobbed artist with a paint brush always in hand. Narjia’s work is inspired by the feminine condition and the intricacies of the female experience, particularly the complex ways women connect, associate and dissociate with one another. In light of our Women of Raie series we chat to Narjia about all things femininity, paint and inspiration.
Your paintings celebrate female connection through the central idea of sisterhood. Being a female owned business, we are all here for it. How do you empower females in your business?
Essentially female empowerment and my business go hand in hand. From the very beginning my paintings have been created with the aim to empower women and gently remind them of their wonder, abstract beauty and merging strength. I’m unsure if I would even be where I am, doing what I’m doing if it wasn’t for an intrigue into or desire to empower women. One of my prints, ‘peach, gin, fizz’, was the first painting I did that I felt passionate enough about, that I could envision a meaningful future for it and for my career as an artist. Before the creation of this painting, I had painted commercially for a few years, mostly for hotels around Australia, so I fortunately had a wide variety of styles that I could employ should I ever want to paint full-time and commit to being a painter. However, I couldn’t find a style or focus that inspired me to make this change – it also didn’t help that I was wildly indecisive – but I painted ‘peach, gin, fizz’ at a time when I needed to be empowered, encouraged and inspired, not just concerning myself but also the women around me and the way we associated and dissociated with one another. I painted ‘peach, gin, fizz’, it filled me to the brim with hope and promise, those figures standing in magnificent solidarity empowered me and I’m most proud that this feeling of female empowerment has been one that I have been able to project creatively ever since.
Your paintings are full of life, body and colour. When painting the female form what are the key things to remember?
I’m really happy you think so, thank you! While the feminine form itself is ripe with possibilities and a glorious range of curvature, line and stance, I find what’s most important is reflecting not just a body but an exuding energy, a feeling to be projected and celebrated. While our bodies are grand and important, it’s the energy that we give off from within that I find most intriguing and magical. You know how different women have a really unique and identifiable spirit and personality to them? – Something that can’t be accurately described but leaves you feeling so encapsulated by afterwards? I’m always aiming to create a personality or spirit of sorts in my paintings to hopefully reflect exactly what somebody needs to be encapsulated by. Personally, to reflect on my own pieces, I find the bolder more striking compositions and palettes to be most fulfilling. However, I also frequently find myself emersed in the softer pieces, with their intricate lines and subdued tones. I think maybe I’m drawn toward the bolder pieces when I need something excitable or encouraging like ‘dancing queens’ – perhaps as I’m in the first year of having my own business I require almost constant feelings of emboldened encouragement (?). Similarly, when I find myself looking for confidence in the strength of softness I look toward pieces like ‘sisters are ferns’ or ‘softer in lilac’.
Where do you find your creative inspiration? Is it with a paintbrush in hand or out in nature?
While inspiration really does come about through many different avenues, the most inspiration for me is found in interactions with women. Most interactions are wonderful, which is always inspiring and even when the odd not-so-wonderful interactions brush past, I’d have to say I’m even more inspired. Something I wish I had realised when I was a little younger in the quiet aftermath of a dreaded cool-girl interaction is that when a less than lovely interaction occurs amongst women (Mean Girl is iconic for a reason) and you feel somewhat beaten down by it, it’s important to remember that it never feels good to make someone feel bad, unless you feel worse than bad yourself. I always try to remember that and instead of matching a negative manner with a negative manner, to lift it with a positive one. This all links into my intrigue of the feminine condition and a reclamation of sisterhood where empathy and kindness triumph over hostility and control.
What does your morning routine look like, to help get you in the #girlboss and creative mood?
I always start the day with a quick fifteen minutes of pilates/stretch and a cup of tea - teacup choice really sets the trajectory for the rest of my day.
I used to be an early morning walker, especially because it clears my mind for the day. But, swooping season has started, so I’ve just joined a gym for the first time ever and going for a run there once I’ve left the studio – which also acts in a way to clear my mind from the day that was. Getting out in nature is always preferable, but I’m a total scaredy cat with plovers and magpies.
I always take a while to get dressed because I find that if my outfit doesn’t reflect my mood for the day, I’m all out of sorts. Then I head into town and get started at my studio for the day (often with a stop off at The Baker’s Duck because the people, coffee and food are amazing).
Your paintings run from a royal blue to a peachy pink, do you follow trends in colour? Where do you turn to for colour inspiration?
I gave the colour trends a red hot go but found that you should really trust your inclinations when it comes to colour and that they really do have an effect on your mood and outlook. If a certain colour is trending, but it doesn’t do anything for you, don’t go for it - because what’s cooler than being current is being content and I think that contentment comes from being authentic and trusting in what you’re drawn towards.
I’m usually drawn to a warmer palette of peaches, pinks and burgundies but recently worked in a cool palette of blue and emerald shades. I set my sights on these cooler tones because a lot of people I spoke to asked if I had any blue pieces. This feedback coincided with a brief fascination with the tone and in particular, women who were drawn to those tones. It was really interesting to see how similar some ‘blue’ people were to one another when I really considered it. So I created a collection of blue original artworks, all of which I’m very proud of, but I found myself feeling all out of sorts near the end of the creation process and believe it was because I wasn’t aligned with the tones I was using and I needed to trust my instincts – big “think pink” mentality over here.
How do you implement sustainable practices in your business?
There are a few ways that I am working towards being as sustainable as possible as my business grows. I use noissue. for all of my packaging and stationary requirements, who offer sustainable and recycled solutions for business while offering low minimum order quantities, which means less unnecessary waste. The main benefit working within the art industry is that your customers purchasing behaviour is often very considered and thoughtful, because an artwork is something they will endeavour to keep and enjoy forever, as opposed to fast and spur of the moment purchases, which can sometimes lead to waste.
When choosing an outfit, how does your feminine creative process from painting shine through on the physical body?
I always believe in getting dressed properly and thoughtfully as it really sets me up well for the day. I’m also a fan of adornment in at least some way; right now I’m obsessed with my Holly Ryan jewellery pieces, they always make me feel unique and myself. So I’ll wear either my necklace, pearl drops or mini tube hoops. Accessories are always a gentle reminder of who you are and I think that with all of the distractions etc, reminders are needed these days.
Where do you live and how does this affect your creative processes?
I live ten minutes outside of Toowoomba and have my painting studio in the city. I love Toowoomba, the pace is quick when it needs to be but is also reliably relaxed and the place has a charming atmosphere. I left to study for almost five years in Brisbane, living there on and off. I had planned to travel overseas in the middle of last year and was living here at the time but covid set in just before I began organising my trip, so I figured I would stay in Toowoomba until I decided what to do instead. I think that being in a smaller city has been really beneficial to my creativity in the last year, particularly because it’s given me the opportunity to work from my own studio, which might not have been possible had I been in a bigger city. Also, Toowoomba’s claim to fame is “The Carnival of Flowers” and I like living somewhere that celebrates florals with that much enthusiasm.
What was one thing you learned during COVID?
Goodness, I learnt so many things during Covid – the timing of the first lockdown aligned exactly as I was in the process of working towards my website and first release of prints, so it was a very educational time for me. One of the biggest lessons I have learnt from Covid is the importance of your space and how you fill it. The various stints of lockdown have highlighted just how much we are affected by adornment, be it fashion, furniture, art, a beautiful vase of flowers, the list goes on. I think sometimes that adornment is seen as excess but if the last year has taught me anything it’s that very small and seemingly insignificant things can go a long way in elevated your mood.
Favourite Raie sunglasses and how would you style them?
While there are some stunning contenders, my favourite would have to be ‘Lakota Holiday’. The warmth of the rusty orange tortoise shell has everything I look for when it comes to an accessory. The funky colour with the classic tortoise shell feature ticks all the boxes, especially when paired with a sleek yet boldened cat shape. They add so much to every outfit I seem to pair them with, but my favourite is when they’re styled with some creamy champagne colour blocking and I love to indulge in the warm tones and add a rusty red lip. Ever since these sunglasses arrived, they have brought the most delightful amount of zest to my day - they also look incredibly cool no matter where I place them.
I was so inspired by the bold warmth of this style of Raie and the feeling of cool they provided, that I created a painting for them which I hope captures that groove and vibrancy.
Thanks so much for sharing Narjia x
Much love xx
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