When you knock on the front door of Denise Daffara’s home, you know you’re in the right place. Through the glass you look into a sunlit entrance dominated by a vibrant aqua staircase, which leads your eye upwards to one of Denise’s gorgeous paintings. Amidst the characteristic bold colours, a stylized feminine subject gazes down on you with one of those mesmerizing smiles…
After warmly welcoming me into her home, Denise leads me up the aqua staircase to her studio upstairs. She enters the space, and I just stand gapping at the door. The only way I can describe her studio - designed for her by her talented husband - is that it radiates an aura of creative energy. Colours abound (my pics don’t do credit here) amidst ordered piles of inspirational sketches, photos and paint samples, a selection of her signature stylized works adoring one of her walls. Everywhere you look there are beautiful things to take in and enjoy in the moment. As we sit down to chat, I am struck by how serene and grounded Denise seems to be. She has a lovely way about her that is relaxed and open, and instantly makes you feel like you are sharing a laugh with an old friend. This aside, you can also tell she is an artist who loves what she does. Her depictions of the female form, described as “ a fusion of motherhood, friendship and femininity in the 21st century” are instantly recognizable and enduringly upbeat (next time you are on the corner of Okinja and Aerodrome roads, check out the traffic signal box beautified by Denise a couple of years ago). When we got to talking about her style Denise mentioned she is now looking to add a little more depth to her subjects, expanding on the use of light and shade. This style evolution was evident in two unfinished works she is currently exploring, both of which had a distinctly ethereal presence.
Apart from her obvious talent, another passion of Denise’s is her drive to share her love of the creative process with others. Through her Creativitea and Art Journaling classes which she runs in her studio, she spreads the word of how enriching freedom of expression, through the various forms of painting, can be. The many glowing testimonials on her webpage are proof of her success.
Looking through a back catalogue of her work, Denise mentions how she used to paint her female forms from behind, which she believes was due to her lacking confidence in herself. It’s fitting then, that when she did find the courage to paint her subjects faces, that they all seem to possess that same serene demeanor that Denise quietly radiates. I doubt this is a deliberate move by Denise but to me, it’s a classic instance of the artist infusing a piece of herself in her works, and they are all the more unique and special for it.
What’s your Sunshine Coast story Denise? What brought you here and how long have you lived on the coast?
My Sunshine Coast Story? Originally from Wellington, I moved to Brisbane in 1988. The climate and the beach is what called me to the Sunshine Coast, and I’ve lived here since 1992.
What’s your design background, and what inspired you to start painting?
My design background... I got accepted into an Interior Design course back in about 1991, but couldn’t bare to leave my young daughter in childcare, so I pulled out. I was inspired to start painting by the life changing offer from a friend “if you ever want to learn to paint”...
With your artworks you have a very particular style with a decidedly feminine angle. How would you describe your design style and what inspires it?
I would describe my style as ‘modern contemporary figurative’ The many facets of the feminine figure and face are endlessly inspiring to me. I have been drawn to paint women from the very start, and that hasn’t changed, my style however, is undergoing some changes - thanks in part to an inspirational training course I’m currently taking. The course is based in California (see below) and I’m planning a trip there in July to meet the amazing Shiloh Sophia and her team.
Do you prefer working with a particular medium?
I enjoy using acrylic paint, and my newest love is fluid acrylics. Also, playing on some water colour paper and wooden boards rather than exclusively canvas has brought some new challenges and fun for me.
Can you tell us a bit about your Creativitea classes?
My Creativitea Classes were born out of my own desire to loosen up, and have some fun, I created a type of class that I would like to go to myself. They are relaxed, supportive and relatively free of structure, but I am there to assist in any way I can, accompanied by a pot of tea and usually cake.
Are there any designers/artisans/crafts people that you’re particularly loving at the moment? Any Blogs that are your particular favorites?
Oh Yes! I have fallen madly in love with several in the last year or so - so much so that I have invested time and money to spend time in their presence and do their workshops. Shiloh Sophia McLeod, Flora Bowley, Effy Wild and Tracy Verdugo all have inspiring websites/blogs and are some of my absolute ‘Shero’s’ right now - they’re living their passion and I am hugely inspired by all of them. Two of my other favourite blogs are Kind over Matter and Soul Insights.
What are the best things about being your own creative boss?
The best things about being my own creative boss? I am quite free to do what I want, and know that I'm responsible for my own happiness - so I take that ‘very seriously’, haha!
Do you have any future ventures/exhibitions planned that you’d like to share with us?
The course I am currently studying is a 6 month teacher training & certification program called The Color of Woman Method; it is blowing my mind with it’s fabulousness and depth and life changing possibility’s... It’s a method in Visionary Painting and Intentional Creativity, which will see me with a collection of paintings by the end of this year. My intention for that is to be able to teach it in classes, workshops and retreats, and wherever else it leads.
Fav Sunny Coast designer/artisan? - you know... I probably need to get out more but after giving that a few minutes thought, I would say my husband! He’s a fantastic architect and has taught me much about design & place making - I truly admire his work. Oh... and a favourite artist would be Kent Smith with his art deco flavour.
Fav Sunny Coast retail outlet/s? yikes... I don’t go shopping much these days.. I love unique clothes… so the markets at Eumundi... and op shops on occasion hold little finds.
Fav Sunny Coast cafe/restaurant/foodie paradise? Rose Room High Tea & Cafe at Noosaville has me at ‘hello’. I feel like I’ve stepped into a bygone era there, with the most gorgeous of china tea cups and chandeliers... and the joy of feeling like a lady. Little Miss Saine and the Velo Project are a delight with their quirky French feeling, and Silva Spoon in Cotton Tree is like a taste of Melbourne for me - it’s darker and a little more intimate, I love that too.
Fav Sunny Coast weekend routine? A walk along Pt Cartwright with our little dog Aura, breakfast out, or a homemade omelette which is Phillip’s specialty... maybe a movie at night... Thai takeaway... or nacho’s/taco’s... and I’ll often paint or sew if the mood takes me. Meeting a girlfriend for chai and a beach walk is always an option here on the coast too which I love.
Fave Sunny Coast icon/landmark? I’d say Pt Carwright lighthouse and Mooloolaba beach are two very favourites. Noosa Heads National Park is perfect, but I don’t get there nearly as often.
Fav Sunny Coast hangout? On the sand at Mooloolaba spit.
For upcoming exhibitions, gallery sales, online shop (some of Denise's creations you can now purchase as prints and cards) and information on upcoming Creativitea classes, check out Denise's website :)