Libby Haines loved making art as a teenager and pursued visual arts in university. But by the time she was finished her degree, she had ‘no desire to be an artist anymore.’
‘I think I felt burnt out from producing and critiquing art constantly and I had no idea what I would want to create,’ Libby says. ‘It was pre-Instagram, and being a full-time artist truly seemed like an impossibility to me.’
She went on to study and work in fashion design and production, and later started her own jewellery brand called Lemon. Despite some successes, Libby says it was ‘really hard to make a profit’ – she ended up funding her passion with various side hustles before calling it quits six years in. Luckily, as one door closed another one opened, and she felt ready to explore art again after a 12-year hiatus.
‘It was the start of pandemic, and I was home with my two toddlers (both under two at the time) and suddenly painting was all I could think about.’ Libby started sharing her dreamy, still-life oil paintings directly inspired by her day-to-day life on Instagram in the lead up to her first solo show with a positive response – so she decided to test the waters by selling smaller works via the app.
‘At first it took a few days to sell one (which I was stoked with) and then from there it was happening within hours, then minutes, to the point where many people were commenting at the exact time I released it,’ Libby explains. It’s since become a competitive frenzy with her 41,200 followers vying in the comments to buy one of her two releases a week. Sometimes, she even gets frustrated and upset DMs from people afterwards who are devastated to miss out on a painting, which Libby admits is a flattering but bizarre position to be in.
‘After years of working so hard to keep my jewellery brand alive I could never have dreamed of this kind of demand for my work,’ she adds. She ‘impulsively’ creates these richly textured paintings from her home studio in just a few hours, often painting from memory alone, while her husband Sam builds the canvas frames from their living room.
But the Internet has fallen in love with Libby’s ability to capture familiar and ‘messy moments’ they recognise from their own lives. They’re often scenes from dinner parties (a theme Libby is now focusing on for her upcoming solo show of larger paintings!) with food, flowing wine glasses and intimate details of a lipstick stain, or tables cluttered with household objects and a stray kid’s toy.
It’s clear we have an affinity for seeing these shared scenes of joyful domestic bliss on social media (perhaps even more so after the challenges of the last few years), and Libby’s works seem to have arrived in the world at just the right time.