This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Exquisite Portraits And Still Life Paintings From Fiona O'Byrne

Studio Visit

It can sometimes feel like if you haven’t found success by your thirties (or thereabouts), that younger, brighter, fresher-faced contenders have somehow overlapped you. But for every wunderkind like Taylor Swift, there is a Vera Wang (aged 40 when she entered the fashion industry), Jon Hamm (waiting tables until 29), or Bram Stoker (wrote Dracula at 50!).

Fiona O’Byrne was 36 (honestly, still so young) before she took her first painting class, after establishing a career as a landscape architect. We chat with the artist about her incredible paintings, and pursuing art as a career.

16th May, 2019

Tonal painter Fiona O’Byrne at work. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Fiona with her stunning portraits and still life works. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Painting in process. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

A suite of tonal paintings. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Studio detail. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Inspiration board. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Still life, with still life! Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

‘Lucia, 12 years’ by Fiona O’Byrne. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Fiona finds inspiration in nature, books and galleries. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files.

Miriam McGarry
Thursday 16th May 2019

‘I needed a new outlet for my creativity.’ – Fiona O’Byrne.

Growing up in a country town, Fiona O’Byrne spent most of her childhood drawing horses and cartoons, while her friends played sport. When she moved to Melbourne, Fiona combined her creative skills with a love of environment, and trained as a landscape architect. As her professional career progressed, computers ‘rugby tackled’ the hand-drawn landscape plans out of the role, and Fiona explains ‘I needed a new outlet for my creativity.’

At 36, Fiona enrolled in her first painting class, and after a few years contacted artist and teacher Lee Machelak who has become both a mentor a friend. Fiona’s precise and characterful works are predominately painted from life, where she has the subject (still-life or a model) in front of her. Her process involves an initial application of dark tones to establish a resemblance to the person or object. Fiona explains ‘once I get a likeness to my subject, I switch into colour and the focus becomes more about edges and brushstroke quality.’

Fiona finds inspiration in the natural world (including drawing upon her landscape architecture expertise and painting plants), in books, galleries, and by looking to other artists such as Australian Glen Morgan, and international ‘painting giants’ Vilhemlm Hammershoi and Andrew Wyeth.

Working from a tiny weatherboard studio at the back of her garden, Fiona is currently working towards a group show in November at Ladder Art Space in Kew…. and convincing her supportive husband Steve, and kids Lucia (13) and Remi (10) to occasionally sit for a portrait!

Follow Fiona O’Byrne’s art on her Instagram @obyrnefiona.

This Week

Dream Job

Beatrice Preston Zly, Product Packaging Designer at Aēsop

The RMIT graduate shares how hard work, passion and preparation helped her land her dream job at the iconic Australian brand!

Stays

A Magically Restorative Waterfront Getaway In Tasmania

Once a dilapidated shack, Captains Rest is now one of the most in-demand boutique accommodations in Tassie!
Amelia Barnes

News

Blooming With Love In This Silent Auction

Join Cecilia Fox, Katie Marx and Georgie Boy in raising funds for beloved creative Shonel Bryant of Nomad Styling, who is embarking on treat...
Miriam McGarry

Shopping

Level Up Your Bathroom With Baina Organic Cotton Towels

These modern, organic cotton towels make us want to ditch every weird towel in our linen closets.
Miriam McGarry

Creative People

Get Your Goals In Check, With These Original Artworks By Beci Orpin x kikki.K

kikki K has teamed up with the legendary Melbourne artist to create three original artworks based on new year's goals. Here's how you can wi...

Sustainable Homes

A Dream Off-Grid Retreat

The Elemental House in High Camp by Ben Callery Architects is a cosy weekender, designed with sustainability in mind.
Lucy Feagins
  18 hours ago

Architecture

A Sculptural Home Inspired By The Hepburn Landscape

A distinctive Corten-clad house designed by Robert Nichol and Sons, just outside Hepburn, Victoria.
Amelia Barnes

News

Museum-Quality Art Pieces At An Affordable Price!

LUMAS Gallery’s Melbourne outpost makes limited art editions and photographic artworks more accessible for all.
Sponsored

Art

The Art Of Abstraction With Emma Currie

In the lead up to our Art&Artefact exhibition, we visit the studio of one incredibly talented emerging Melbourne painter.

Christmas Countdown

Bookish Gifts For Christmas With Thames & Hudson - And 30% Off!

Today, we’re perusing the bookshelves at Thames & Hudson… who are offering a staggering 30% off all of our Top Picks for TDF Readers!

Giveaway

Our Sustainable Summer Edit + Giveaway!

WIN our edit of summer essentials, made from organic, sustainable, biodegradable materials, recycled plastic, and even ocean waste! In partn...

News

The Ko's Christmas Market In Geelong

A one-stop Christmas shopping event in Geelong on December 13 and 14th, complete with fashion, jewellery, gardening, ceramics, food, music,
Sasha Aarons

Art

Saint Cloche Hosts Final Exhibition For 2019, ‘Paradiso’

The Paddington art gallery closes the year with their annual group show!
Amelia Barnes
  10 hours ago

Christmas Countdown

Local Wines, Craft Beers and Gift Packs At Blackhearts & Sparrows - With 10% Off!

We've perused the shelves of our favourite local wine supplier, to create our very own (discounted!) Xmas gift guide for you!

News

Share The Cheer With ‘Cake + Kindness’ Christmas Edition!

The wonderful Merchant Road Events, La Marzocco Home and Market Lane Coffee are coming together December 7 for a bake sale that supports wom...
Miriam McGarry

View Comments

Similar Stories

Art

An Enormous New Public Artwork From The Artist Who Paints With Fire Extinguishers

A massive new painting from celebrated Melbourne artist Ash Keating, created with no client, no funding and no limitations.

Art

‘Quietly’ Suspended Landscapes By Wendy McDonald

Exploring place and ecology with an artist/farmer, working from the Murray River floodplain.
Miriam McGarry

Studio Visit

Unforgettable New Landscapes From Sally Ross

The Melbourne-based artist takes us inside her new exhibition inspired by the Flemish Masters, opening in Melbourne tomorrow.
Elle Murrell

This Week

Christmas Countdown

Bookish Gifts For Christmas With Thames & Hudson - And 30% Off!

Today, we’re perusing the bookshelves at Thames & Hudson… who are offering a staggering 30% off all of our Top Picks for TDF Readers!

Stays

A Magically Restorative Waterfront Getaway In Tasmania

Once a dilapidated shack, Captains Rest is now one of the most in-demand boutique accommodations in Tassie!
Amelia Barnes

News

The Ko's Christmas Market In Geelong

A one-stop Christmas shopping event in Geelong on December 13 and 14th, complete with fashion, jewellery, gardening, ceramics, food, music,
Sasha Aarons

Creative People

Get Your Goals In Check, With These Original Artworks By Beci Orpin x kikki.K

kikki K has teamed up with the legendary Melbourne artist to create three original artworks based on new year's goals. Here's how you can wi...

Art

Saint Cloche Hosts Final Exhibition For 2019, ‘Paradiso’

The Paddington art gallery closes the year with their annual group show!
Amelia Barnes
  10 hours ago

Dream Job

Beatrice Preston Zly, Product Packaging Designer at Aēsop

The RMIT graduate shares how hard work, passion and preparation helped her land her dream job at the iconic Australian brand!

Shopping

Level Up Your Bathroom With Baina Organic Cotton Towels

These modern, organic cotton towels make us want to ditch every weird towel in our linen closets.
Miriam McGarry

Christmas Countdown

Local Wines, Craft Beers and Gift Packs At Blackhearts & Sparrows - With 10% Off!

We've perused the shelves of our favourite local wine supplier, to create our very own (discounted!) Xmas gift guide for you!

Giveaway

Our Sustainable Summer Edit + Giveaway!

WIN our edit of summer essentials, made from organic, sustainable, biodegradable materials, recycled plastic, and even ocean waste! In partn...

Art

The Art Of Abstraction With Emma Currie

In the lead up to our Art&Artefact exhibition, we visit the studio of one incredibly talented emerging Melbourne painter.

Sustainable Homes

A Dream Off-Grid Retreat

The Elemental House in High Camp by Ben Callery Architects is a cosy weekender, designed with sustainability in mind.
Lucy Feagins
  18 hours ago

News

Museum-Quality Art Pieces At An Affordable Price!

LUMAS Gallery’s Melbourne outpost makes limited art editions and photographic artworks more accessible for all.
Sponsored

News

Share The Cheer With ‘Cake + Kindness’ Christmas Edition!

The wonderful Merchant Road Events, La Marzocco Home and Market Lane Coffee are coming together December 7 for a bake sale that supports wom...
Miriam McGarry

News

Blooming With Love In This Silent Auction

Join Cecilia Fox, Katie Marx and Georgie Boy in raising funds for beloved creative Shonel Bryant of Nomad Styling, who is embarking on treat...
Miriam McGarry

Architecture

A Sculptural Home Inspired By The Hepburn Landscape

A distinctive Corten-clad house designed by Robert Nichol and Sons, just outside Hepburn, Victoria.
Amelia Barnes

Similar Stories

Art

An Enormous New Public Artwork From The Artist Who Paints With Fire Extinguishers

A massive new painting from Melbourne artist Ash Keating, created with no client, no funding and no limitations.

Art

‘Quietly’ Suspended Landscapes By Wendy McDonald

Exploring place and ecology with an artist/farmer, working from the Murray River floodplain.
Miriam McGarry

Studio Visit

Unforgettable New Landscapes From Sally Ross

The Melbourne-based artist takes us inside her new exhibition inspired by the Flemish Masters, opening in Melbourne tomorrow.
Elle Murrell