The incredible, emotive art features in Ronnie and Georgia’s Block home hallway. “I sent my dream to the universe, and it listened and came true,” Lizzy tells The Block Shop.
Ronnie and Georgia's hall dripping with beautiful works from Lizzy Stageman.
Tell us a bit about yourself…
I was born and raised on Wiradjuri land in Dubbo NSW, I am a proud descendant of the Wiradjuri Ngiyampaa and Barkindji nations. I am a wife and mum of three very beautiful adult souls of whom many of my stories are inspired by or written for. I have brothers, one lives in London, I love visiting him there, I love travelling and have been fortunate to visit a few countries. My mum, beautiful sister and many of the extended family still live in regional NSW. We are currently renovating in Newcastle; I can walk to the water and the bush, so I'm pinching myself. If I'm not painting art, I'm painting walls lately. I have had my fair share of health issues, having survived a stroke in 2017, breast cancer in 2018 and a few heart problems all while working full time in government roles. I am completely self-taught and didn't really set out with any art genre in mind, I just know I had some skill. I grew up always loving art and was very fortunate to have a dear, and very artistic cousin live with us for a while. I learnt from watching and sharing with him how to carve emu eggs, how to leatherwork, draw animals, even sculpt horses out of mud.
How long have you been producing your art?
Although art and design have been part of my life only full time since 2020. I did start to concentrate more seriously on my art in 2018 while recovering from breast cancer. I had received a get-well gift of art supplies from my beautiful family which kicked off a long-time passion of mine to (one day) paint. I began finding my way, painting still life and they were very popular with my circle which led me to hold private exhibitions. When things happen for a reason, my part-time work finished up in March 2020 with Covid-19 which allowed me to be painting full-time.
My still life started telling stories, I was naming them after ancient gods and documenting the meaning and connections, then it grew. Expressing my life through art and exploring my culture called me loud and clear. I exhibited my first dot set ‘Finding my Place’, a set of three black and white pieces that has grown now and has led me to greater things and where I am today. I believe it is my (spiritual) journey. This gift is a vessel to celebrate my culture, by creating authentic but modern contemporary Aboriginal art through my lens.
Lizzy finding a space to create amongst their current home renovation in Newcastle NSW. "Although art and design have been part of my life only full time since 2020. I did start to concentrate more seriously on my art in 2018 while recovering from breast cancer."
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I draw my inspiration from life experiences itself and my surroundings. I can visualise a painting in just about anything. This could be a chance meeting with a stranger or the colours of the ocean as it stretches out to our lands. Most people would see blue seas and white waves, where I see a multitude of colours. I also draw inspiration from many sources including people and their stories, nature, wildlife, history, fashion, design and current trends - all sorts of things. Ultimately, I love inspiring myself, I have so many stories waiting. They’re my adaptations of the ancient symbols, that through my artistic lens tell their story my way how I visualise it, and I am honoured that I can.
It’s been inspirational connecting with my culture, it has allowed me to learn more about myself and heal old wounds that I have been carrying for many years. My art is now my way of healing, while I’m helping heal and inspire others. I even found my hereditary (from my UK born dad) hand trembles, completely disappear when I paint. There is a deeply personal, very proud, while somewhat private connection to my culture, so I love that my artwork genuinely touches people so emotionally and that the stories I write to describe each piece are so relatable. Picking up the paintbrush and creating modern works is very satisfying, I could have never imagined such colour and joy. Art found me when I needed to heal.
How would you describe your art?
It’s been described by other artists as considered, beautifully structured, crisp, uniquely distinctive, and well defined. I love that it’s distinctive. I say my art is my life on canvas, it is expressive and brings an emotional response. There’s been an instant attraction to each piece created so far from such a range of people. They’re visually appealing even before the story is read. I used monochrome in the first collection, The Finding My Place Series, as it represents my two cultural worlds but it’s also a considered, deliberate line. It’s sought after from a design perspective as it will ‘go’ just about anywhere. In this short time since 2020, I have also used colour successfully both pastel and a vibrant palette, it depends on the story. I use traditional Aboriginal dot art symbols through my own artistic lens to create my own overall designs. Telling my story in a unique way. My life journey led me to create art and as I learn more about my culture through this medium, I learn more about me, and where I fit. This journey is about me truly discovering my identity. I have strong ties to family, country, and traditions that I can share with the world and they’re loving it.
Have you ever taken the time to really see the rain falling in all its beauty? Imagine its journey from the clouds to the earth. Murrunga Yubaa ( Sweet rain ) print is available by Lizzy Stageman.
Your art features on The Block this year?
Oh my, I will start with OMG!!! Much disbelief and total shock. Life changing in so many ways. After a conversation with my son, whereby he asked me “What I thought was in store for me in the future?” I responded to him, that “My goal is one day feature on The Block!” That afternoon I sent an email to The Block Shop asking how I could sell my artwork through the online store, not thinking I would get a reply. Five days later I got a reply, saying that a contestant had seen my work and wanted to commission me to paint some artwork for Hallway week. After speaking to Sarah (owner of The Block Shop), quite nervously on the phone she advised that the contestants were Ronnie and Georgia. After I picked myself up off the floor with amazement that this was happening, Sarah went on to say that it was freaky timing that my email would come in, just as Georgia was searching for a particular style of Aboriginal artists work and she loved mine straight away. This was so exciting, because not only did she love my work, but I was also in love with her style when she and Ronnie appeared on The Block in 2017. I was so honoured at that moment, that someone like Georgia would love my work.
A week later I would talk to Georgia and discuss the brief, size, and her colour palette. Not knowing how much time I had, I started to create the artwork immediately, which was lucky as I got a message from Georgia to say that the artwork needed to be delivered by the following Saturday, ready for reveal on Sunday. The scramble would begin, two very detailed paintings completed in 5 massively long days and nights, blow-dry between coats and all hands-on deck. Even the neighbours brought food parcels. The frames were being finished (by my beautiful Builder son) as we backed the car out. My experienced truck driver, husband Duncan, had us on the road first to Sydney for scanning of the artwork (ready for 1st class prints) and straight back on the road to Melbourne, not 12 hours later the precious cargo was hand-delivered to Georgia. The response from Georgia is one I will never forget. There was lots of emotion that day from all of the team that saw my work. As I read my stories about the artwork there were more tears as I struggled to get through reading, in true BLOCK style Duncan and Ronnie screwed the hangers into the backs for hanging the next morning. This experience has proven that no matter how old you are, you never give up on your dreams. I sent my dream to the universe, and it listened and came true.
What does it mean for you to have your art featured on The Block and be a Block Shop artist?
I know this is cliche, but I have to say life is changing like you could never imagine. To be acknowledged for my artwork and to be able to share it on a national TV show like The Block 2021, is truly special. I want to share a part of my culture; I’m learning about it through my art and sharing it with the world. To be featured on the Block and be included in the Block Shop is awesome! It is the ultimate reward for never giving up on myself and my dreams and to spread the word through this amazing platform. I really hope to inspire others with this opportunity, put yourself out there send the email, ask the question, back yourself. I believe this opportunity is the beginning. I had already started The Journey collection and the Finding My Place series, this amazing journey I am on, proves there is a purpose, and that is to make a difference, I can’t be any more appreciative of everyone that supports me in it. I pinch myself that I have achieved what I have achieved in such a short time having only started painting in 2018. I am proud of where I have come from and grateful for the experience, this means so much to me and my family.
Lizzy hand-delivered the art to The Block. "The response from Georgia is one I will never forget, there was lots of emotion that day."
Favourite Block couple?
I have so many so to narrow it down so to choose only one is very hard. I am a Block fan and have never missed a season. As a couple, the stand out is Deb and Andy. I was also inspired by mother and daughter Miimi and Jiinda, creating that beautiful artwork for Deb and Andy’s house. I do love Ronnie and Georgia though!
Are there any particular artists that inspire you?
I am inspired by the amazing mother and daughter Miimi and Jiinda and Newcastle artist Lauren Freestone who was also featured on the Block in 2020. These women have inspired me to strive to be a part of the Block Shop family. We all have one common goal and that is to share our culture through art.
Where do you like to create your art?
I would love to say my sun lit studio, but unfortunately, I don’t have one of those. We are renovating an old home in Newcastle NSW. A very amazing builder, Mitch Stageman (our son) is on the job for us. So now, where possible I try to find a vacant spot in amongst it all where I can use his workbench. Otherwise preferably a place in the sunshine, the warmth of the sun brings me happiness and takes me into the zone where I get lost in my art. One day I hope to have a dedicated workspace as I like to be alone with my thoughts, natural light and room for big canvases.
'Galingabangbur' In this painting, you will see three large ∩shapes, these symbols in Aboriginal culture represent individuals. My journey is expressed in this artwork with those three symbols depicted with strong lines representing my three children standing proud, strong and united while the rounded edges depict their softness and caring souls.
Do you have a playlist/podcast you like to create to?
I usually like complete silence when I work but when I have artist block I put on Gurrumul and he puts me back on track. It’s a spiritual thing. I listen to the words in his songs and it’s almost like his music guides me in the right direction of the journey.
What does a typical day look like for you?
At the moment, it is usually complete chaos. I usually like to be organised but lately, I find I am not the most organised person. We are in the middle of renovating so it is manic at times. Since my art has taken off, it’s a baptism of fire in small business rules to learn about. Logos, websites, domain names, books and BAS, the boring bits...
I wake up thinking of creating my art and can’t wait to go into my happy place. If I had a typical day Id love it to be like before we started renovating, I would walk down to the water through the bush early, I really enjoy that. I like to capture the natural light and will paint all day long if I can. I would fill my overnight orders to make the mail, answer enquiries and put on a brew. I would have a production line of originals in a series coming to the fore. I achieved it even in the reno, so that can happen. Soon it will.
Lizzy pictured with her mum "this is my coming home and the reason I exist."
How do you fit your art around life?
I no longer do the 9 to 5, best gamble ever, I took the leap of faith to do this full time. I would say; don’t wait for a perfect time just do some of what you love every day. The family comes first but mum and dad need to be happy and interesting. Tips: Enjoy the life you have been given for as long as you can because you just don’t know when it will be taken away from you. I have fought my health battles and I am richer for going through that journey. Sometimes, you just must make it work. Love life, be in it, buy the dress, fluff your hair and rock every day. I love my family; besides my family my art keeps me thriving. Everything else can just wait.
Favourite holiday destination?
I would have to say Uluru. The spiritual connection to this special place was empowering. You almost feel the spirits surrounding you, it is an amazing feeling.
Hardest person to buy a gift for?
If I had to pick a person it would be my husband Duncan. I am usually all over gift shopping. Family and friends always comment that I chose the best gifts. I guess I take the time to find that little something special and never buy anything for the sake of it.
What would you buy yourself from The Block Shop?
I am in the middle of renovating, and I am obsessed with arches, so I would say the Arch Mirrored shaving cabinet.
Favourite house decorating trend?
I love layering different textures with my bedding. I love natural tones in linen and soft cotton and always beautiful cushions.
Oldest and/or daggiest thing you have in your house that should be thrown out, but you just can’t bring yourself to?
I have an old wooden chair that was given to me by my late father. It is very unstable and rickety, and probably should be put out for the roadside collection, but I can’t bear to part with it.
‘Finding My Place’ symbolises an Aboriginal woman that has finally found her place. "As a Modern Contemporary Aboriginal artist, I am proud of where I have come from, and where I am going," Lizzy tells The Block Shop.
Favourite room in the house?
The only room that is completely renovated is my bathroom, so I would have to say the bathroom!. It is my oasis amongst the rubble. I do enjoy cooking, so I cannot wait to have a new kitchen.
If you could renovate one room in your house which, would it be?
At the moment it would have to be the kitchen. I only have a camp kitchen at the present awaiting a new kitchen in the renovation.
Favourite artwork you own?
It is a print of the stunning artwork painted for Vogue called Hope by the amazing Aboriginal Artist Betty Muffler
Most treasured possession?
I have a small timber box that has my dad’s belongings in it. It was given to him when he was in the British Navy, and this is all he had left in the world when he passed.
“It just sings, doesn’t it," says Block judge Darren Palmer of Ronnie and Georgia's stunning gallery hallway.
A perfect Sunday afternoon would be...
Walking along the beach or creating my art in a nice sunlit space.