At the heart of it

Rebecca TurnerCountryman
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Den L. Scheer hasn’t always wanted to be an artist. A career working with animals was her first choice.

However, over the past few years Den’s passion for art has increased and, after winning the 2008 Young Australian Artist of the Year and 2010 Young Australian painting and poet overall awards, she believes this is the career path she will take.

“I’ve always drawn and done various methods of art, ” Den said. “I can remember making sculptures out of river clay on our farm in Grass Patch, and if you go to the old cannery in Esperance, you can see a plate I made when I was a toddler hanging up on the wall outside.”

Den said while growing up in the country has allowed her to explore her artistic talents, it was a move from Northam High School to St Hilda’s for years 11 and 12 that enabled her to truly develop as an artist.

“Trying to do art at Northam wasn’t good. At the time I was there, I couldn’t do any art work and leave it at school, expecting it to be there afterwards, ” Den said.

Den said the painting she completed that won the 2008 Australian Young Artist of the Year award was done at home on the kitchen bench while she created a surrogate piece at school to pass the time.

“I couldn’t have stayed at Northam and done the art I have from my time at St Hilda’s, ” Den said. “At Northam, I couldn’t do photography as a TEE subject and I can’t imagine not having access to the facilities I experienced at St Hilda’s, ” Den said.

“The space and the help from the technical equipment teacher and art technician, and also being able to visit art galleries in lunch or free periods, definitely helped me to develop as an artist.”

Den said her work was influenced by her studies of surrealists and metaphysical and war poets, such as Wilfred Owen and John Donne.

She also takes inspiration from the work of Hellboy artist Mike Mignola and directors Guillermo del Toro and Tim Burton, as well as writers Andre Breton and Jules Laforgue.

Den also rattles off the names of illustrators such as the late Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell, along with writer Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, but denies this level of knowledge was uncommon among her classmates.

“It is a completely different environment at St Hilda’s. In Northam, you would be shunned, but it is encouraged at St Hilda’s, ” Den said.

“I have always been interested in the surrealists and their way of thinking, and the psychology and philosophy involved behind their different conceptual ways.

“My influence even goes back to philosophical views like Freudian ideas and how they influence surrealists, compounding to create an alternative way of thinking.”

While Den is convinced being an artist is the life for her, her parents have not been easy to persuade.

However, having already been contracted by Ford Street Publishing to illustrate a picture book written by Gary Crew, it is a start to dissuading ‘the myth of the poor artist’.

“Becoming a professional artist is gradual. If you put works in a gallery, you gradually build up a reputation, ” Den said.

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