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Bookie: a natural talent

Wendy Johnson

Bookie. It means so many things to 20-year-old Katie McAuliffe.

For starters, it’s the nickname she has been called since she was a wee child, especially by her big sister, because she always had her nose stuck in a book.

‘When I was little I used to read books all the time, and I would always ask family members to read books to me too,’ says Bookie. ‘I just loved how it would take me to another world.’

Another passion of Bookie’s is the animal kingdom and one senses, when talking to this somewhat shy, 20-year-old emerging artist, that she would be quite content and comfortable living on Noah’s Ark.

Her first painting of animals—the loveable, oh-so-cute, friendly type that is—was created on a wood pallet she found on the side the road in the suburb she then lived in.  She struggled but it wouldn’t fit in her car. Determined, Bookie drove to her sister’s place and back again in her sister’s car. Still no luck. Even more determined, Bookie drove back to her brother’s place and borrowed his trailer. Victory.

‘I really wanted the pallet because I thought the texture, tone and shape would be interesting to play with and I’ve always liked the idea of recycling,’ says Bookie. ‘This painting was of a group of animals playing instruments around a campfire in a forest of very tall trees.’

‘I adore animals and the way they can communicate ideas. I also adore how I can change them, mix them up and play with them but still have them identifiable,’ says Bookie. ‘They just pop into my head, but every so often I flip through a big illustrated animal book I’ve had since I was a child to get inspired.’

Bookie didn’t just have her nose stuck in a book when little. She was always drawing and painting.

‘I come from a creative family and believe it’s “inbuilt” in me to draw and paint,’ she says. ‘My grandparents were incredibly creative and I remember spending lots of time with my grandmother who was excellent at everything she put her mind too, including pottery, sketching and sewing.’

Bookie comes from a large family and has six siblings. Creative juices flow freely throughout the McAuliffe clan. Her older sister is a graphic designer, for example, and another sister is studying graphic design and illustration.

While Bookie took art classes at Brindabella College, she is mostly self-taught. She gives credit to the passionate, motivating and inspiring teachers who introduced her to history and various mediums to use in her art. Today Bookie is applying to the ANU School of Art, determined to study the more serious and technical side of the art world.

All of Bookie’s paintings are original and light and happy, with a warm story book feel to them. ‘It doesn’t work if I try to go melodramatic and deep,’ she says. ‘I’m a positive person and that’s reflected in my art. The animals and trees and background all have a soft feel. It’s why kids are attracted to them.’

Work on one of her animal pieces starts with applying several washings on the wood. Then Bookie applies layers of acrylic paint and ink to bring out the colour of the wood and enhance the textured base. Next the animals are introduced. The pieces aren’t framed because Bookie feels they look beautiful hung ‘just as is’.

Bookie continues to find it soul satisfying to work with wood. These days she often uses pallets given to her by boyandgirlco, a company owned by Carlo and Anita Krikowa, partners in life and in business. boyandgirlco has fast gained a reputation in Canberra and beyond for transforming the humble pallet into creative pieces of furniture and household items.

Bookie’s work was featured at boyandgirlco’s ‘anew’ exhibition, held last October at Nishi Gallery, New Acton. ‘We knew from the first piece of Bookie’s art we saw that we wanted to work with her,’ says Carlo. ‘Just like us, she loves the challenge of using recycled material, instead of a blank white background as her canvas. It’s easy to get lost in the emotion her pieces evoke and it’s rewarding watching her grow as an artist.’

boyandgirlco will feature Bookie’s art in the new retail space Carlo and Anita are setting up in The Hamlet in Braddon (due to open soon). Bookie’s beloved animals will be a home in the new space but so too will profiles of family members and friends the artist is creating with chalk and charcoal on canvases made up of torn pieces of newspaper.

You can reach bookie through boyandgirlco on 0426 142 848 or [email protected]

Wendy Johnson

Wendy Johnson graduated with a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, a few decades ago. She’s been living in Australia since 1995, having fallen in love with eucalypt trees and kangaroos. Wendy is passionate about Canberra and all the nation’s capital has to offer. She loves to write (about everything and anything) and owns her own pr and advertising business. More about the Author