In The Studio – Kaff-eine

Silo Art Trail Street Art Kaff-eine

Kaff-eine is an established Australian street and contemporary artist who has gained a strong following for her engaging illustrative freehand style, delicate linework, and quiet melancholic characters. She has painted public and private works in Australia, Germany, France, USA and the Philippines with a handful of successful solo and group exhibitions as well as having her hand in illustrating two children’s books.

In addition to her solo and independent projects, Kaff-eine recently co-founded ‘Cheeseagle‘, a creative collective who make art projects designed for exhibition and social impact which is making big moves nationally and internationally.  

Kaff has just spent the past two months in Silo Country (Aka – Rosebery) where she has been working on one of her largest canvases to date, adding a sixth silo to the Silo Art Trail. We managed to sneak in a few words with her while she was on site, to capture a glimpse into her latest project. Kaff has since completed the over-sized mural, and has been able to share some photos of the magic.

JUDDY – Hey Kaff-eine, how’s the progress with the silo coming along?

KAFF-EINE – Hey hi! The silo is getting there, I’ve had about 8 days painting now! It’s pretty windy out in Rosebery, so we’re playing cat-and-mouse with the wind on the lift. But luckily I’ve had Goodie and Lucy Lucy helping me, and they’re both totally fine with heights, so I’m borrowing their courage while I paint! I’m almost done painting the first character, which is a homage to the gentle generous Mallee horsemen who develop trust and relationships with their horses, and a reminder of the historic connection that Mallee folks have had with horses.

JUDDY – There have been months of behind the scenes work that has been worked on by you as well as many other members organising this project, how does it feel that it’s finally underway?

KAFF-EINE – It feels so super to be finally out here and actually painting! The locals are really excited, especially Maxine who runs the only business (a café/gallery) in Rosebery; the weather is getting warmer, and daylight saving just kicked in, so I get an extra hour of afternoon sunlight on the side I’m painting, which is neat. I’m so stoked to be part of this project, and I’m thankful to everyone who helped make it happen.

Silo Art Trail Street Art Kaff-eine

JUDDY – We’re stoked to have you on board for it Kaff! Speaking of Kaff, You have a very interesting name, may I ask where it comes from?

KAFF-EINE – Ah it started early on, just looking for a name that wasn’t gendered, wasn’t aggressive-sounding, and wasn’t anything real. Also, you know, coffee is my drug, so it made sense.

JUDDY – I was just about to ask you if caffeine was your drink of choice, but it looks like you beat me to it! Are you a night owl or early bird?

KAFF-EINE – Night owl, definitely. On a usual studio day, I’ll get up around 9 am, get into the studio around 11 am, piss about until 1 pm, then work through until anywhere between midnight and 3 am. It depends on context, though. Out here at the silo, I’m getting up early to paint before it gets windy, and obviously, I have to finish when it gets dark, so I’m getting used to earlier days.

JUDDY – You do your fair share of painting, do you prefer painting indoors or outdoors?

KAFF-EINE – I prefer all sorts of painting! I love having the controlled environment of the studio, or an indoor wall, where I can really concentrate on producing the image, and don’t have to consider the weather, location, or people wandering past. But I really love the challenge of working outdoors with whatever the conditions give me, and seeing what I can produce. My favourite thing of all is to paint outdoors in the country on a warm/hot, still, sunny day; nothing beats that!

JUDDY – Are there any particular genres or themes that influence your aesthetic or is this something that just comes to life in your mind?

KAFF-EINE – My aesthetic is influenced by light falling on shapes, casting shadows. Everything I see is light landing on things, casting shadows; so if my artwork can reflect that, I’m happy. Most of my ‘deer hunters’ are inspired by light and shadow. But in terms of genres, I’m drawn to social change and social justice. Some of the more recent pieces I’ve done were inspired by young rural people’s’ wishes for the future; young refugees’ feelings about their homelands and coming to Australia; and Filipino garbage scavengers’ desire for housing resources. For the silos, I’ve chosen themes that I wanted the public to think about…

Silo Art Trail Street Art Kaff-eine

JUDDY – You spent some time engaging with the community before commencing the project, how did this help shape your intentions and artwork?

KAFF-EINE – Yes I’ve been here, on and off, since June! I came up to Lascelles to get experience working the lift, and painting at heights (thanks so much Rone for being a legend and master trainer!). In that month, I met many folks from towns around Rosebery and the Mallee, travelled around and experienced the landscape, chatted to locals about their lives and what was important to them, and decided the themes I’d like to reflect on the silos. First, I wanted to celebrate the strong young women who grow up on Mallee farms; I’d met a few, and was super impressed by their pragmatism, practicality, grit, and love for the area. I think that they’re sometimes underrepresented when the public thinks of outback (Mallee) farmers, so I wanted to literally paint them, proud and strong, into the landscape. I also wanted to reflect the gentle bond between a good horseman and his horse. The Rosebery community impressed on me their town’s historic reliance on horses for everything including land-clearing, construction, driving families to work, riding to school, and hauling grain, so I was happy to sketch a modern depiction of that special relationship.  

JUDDY – What does it mean to you, knowing that you’re helping to redefine these small rural towns,  assisting with putting them back on the map?

KAFF-EINE – It’s such a special project; I can already see the impact! There are so many visitors to the area who are coming specifically for the Silo Art Trail; They’re out here, exploring the silos and the towns, buying local supplies, having fun exploring, and engaging with the residents. Also, it’s great to hear the locals excited about the project; I’ve heard many of them say how refreshing it is to talk about art, instead of just the weather or the crops! The Trail is bringing new ideas, people and experiences into these tiny remote towns, and both locals and travellers benefit from that. I love it so much out here, and I’m stoked that the Trail is encouraging more people to come and see how unique and stunning this whole area is. It’s so cool.

JUDDY – And how are the locals receiving their new piece of art?

KAFF-EINE – They’re being so generous about it! I’m getting some super comments about the subject matter, and my style. I’m stoked that I’ve managed to impress the horse-people! Can’t wait to paint the rest of the images, to see what reaction I get.

JUDDY – This has to be one of your largest projects to date? How do you manage to control your scale and maintain shape on such a large and rounded canvas?

KAFF-EINE – Haha it’s the largest in terms of actual physical scale, for sure! It’s so different to the international film/art/social justice projects I’ve facilitated over the past few years! In some ways it’s a relief to be painting in an area that’s clean, healthy and straightforward, in my own country, as a solo artist; but the scale and shape of the silos are a huge challenge for me, and I’m scared of heights, not gonna lie! It’s much scarier than working in notorious Asian dumpsite slums. Lucky for me I’m not painting the silo images in a realist style, so I can play a bit with colours and linework. I projected the initial images to make sure I got the most important parts of my initial sketches in the centre of the silo curve; so long as they aren’t distorted, I don’t mind about the edges at all.

Silo Art Trail Street Art Kaff-eine

JUDDY – How does it feel to be working so remotely, compared to working in an urban environment?

KAFF-EINE – Oh I love it! I love travelling and working in remote areas. Rosebery is a town of between 4-9 people! And I’m staying in a beautiful remote farmhouse, in the middle of a huge property. It’s so quiet, and so special to be here during late winter and early spring when everything is green, the native wildflowers are blooming, baby animals are bouncing around, and the temperature is just right for painting.  It’s one of the most beautiful projects I’ll ever have, guaranteed. One warm sunny evening the wind dropped, there was nobody else around, no traffic; Lucy put Beethoven on the speakers, and we stood 25 metres high, completely surrounded by big blue skies and green as far as the horizon; it was so magic! The only downsides are not having easy access to a café, or the vegetarian meals I’m used to in Thornbury. And the country roads are taking their toll on my little 26 year old Toyota, hah.  

JUDDY – I also hear goodie has been assisting you a lot with this project, she’s pretty handy, isn’t she!?

KAFF-EINE – OMG Goodie is a legend! We’ve never worked together before, and I can’t thank her enough for being the super chilled, easy going assistant/friend I really needed to do this! When I’m terrified up there, she assures me that the apocalypse isn’t coming; she puts up with my swearing and work hard, all with a cheery smile on her face. Goodie brings a book up the lift, and kicks back up there! The fact that she’s genuinely not scared makes me more chilled, which means I can paint faster and better. Goodie is also a super artist, and also really understands my process, which is great; I couldn’t ask for better support for this big project! Lucy came to help me when Goodie had to return to Melb’ for a week, and she was exactly the same, such a super support for me! I couldn’t have done the silo paintings without the courage, personality and skills of both Goodie and Lucy; I’m so thankful to them both!

JUDDY – I have also seen photo’s of Goodie, yourself and a Camel friend? Did you guys make some camel friends out in Silo Country as well?

KAFF-EINE – Haha yes! When it gets too windy to use the lift (which has happened nearly half the days we’ve been here so far) we go on road trips to cool places around the Mallee. Wally from the Lascelles Pub introduced Rone and I to the camels in June, and I loved them, they’re so friendly! So I returned there to say hi again. We’ve also made lizard friends, owl friends, sheep and goat friends, horse friends, and snake friends… although the snakes aren’t so friendly.

Silo Art Trail Street Art Kaff-eine

JUDDY – Haha it sounds amazing. Okay final question which I ask everyone; what would be your dream project to work on? Besides the Silo Art Trail haha.

KAFF-EINE – Ooh my dream project would be combining my artwork and filmmaking on a social justice project of my own design, with a super crew, in a warm beautiful country, with a big budget, and supportive people around us! Like my recent Happyland project, which was super-generously crowdfunded, but with a film budget! Although, apart from my fear of heights, the Silo Art Trail is pretty much the dream project, really! My design, gorgeous country, supportive people, it’s a dream.

JUDDY – Very well said indeed. Life is good. Thanks for chatting Kaff, it has been a pleasure!

For those interested, you can catch Kaff-eine through her Instagram to follow her latest artistic adventures.

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