08 Jun 2022Mont Marte

Poppy Key (@poppykeyart) used to marvel at abstract art in galleries, now she creates her own. Poppy’s abstract works are full of bright and bold colours, squiggly shapes and drips of dreamy pastels.

We had a chat with this month’s feature artist, Poppy Key about making art, how it all started and what it means to create from the heart.

Poppy holding a large canvas with minimalist orange and pink abstract circles.

How would you describe yourself?

I would describe myself as “good weird.” I’m probably a bit much for some. I’m high energy, I act silly and I laugh a lot.  I live life to the fullest and am passionate about everything I do.

How did you get involved in art?

Art has always been my personal passion but I didn’t take my practice seriously until COVID hit in 2020. I set up a studio space in my kitchen and have painted every day since then.

Poppy's abstract pastel shapes on a canvas near a fireplace.

Your mother was an art teacher, how much has she impacted your art?

My mum and dad used to take me to the Tate Gallery in London most weekends. That’s when I fell in love with modern art. I wasn’t interested in Turner or the Old Masters but I spent hours ogling over Rothkos and Picassos.

You’re originally from the UK, how do you find painting in the Australian weather?

I love painting in the hot weather. Especially when I do my drip paintings, which take so long to dry. I’m impatient and I find it frustrating to have to wait overnight.

Poppy's work summer rain with silver and pastel drips.

Outside of art, what do you do most?

I’ve got two young boys so life is always busy. I’m a cook, a cleaner, a taxi, a therapist, a teacher, a soccer coach and the list goes on. However busy life gets, I always sneak some time in every day for my art. Sometimes I stay up late and do “night painting,” which I love.

Where does your mind drift to when you paint?

I listen to music and just go with the flow. My mind is empty, apart from concentrating on what I’m doing and thinking about the next colour or technique. Hours can fly by quite easily.

An empty easel stands in a studio with bright abstract canvases.

How do you set up your studio? 

I work between the easel and the table, depending on the technique. Eventually, I’d love to get one of those snazzy easels that can go horizontal as well as vertical. I try to mix my paints first and think about the composition. Then I put everything I need on to a small trolley next to me so I can grab things quickly.

What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on so far? 

I think when I was shortlisted for the Art to Art Unearthed Prize. They’re a very prestigious gallery in Melbourne and I didn’t think I had a hope in hell, with over 170 entries. I didn’t win, unfortunately, but my work did sell, so that was a bonus.

Poppy holding her artwork for the art to art Unearthed Art Prize 2021.

How do you tackle those days where you don’t feel like creating?

It’s rare for me to go a day without creating something. I always have new ideas in my head or new things I want to try. But if I’m just not feeling it, I grab some paper and just paint whatever, test colours and combinations. There’s always something to learn.

What are the best tips you’ve learned coming into the bizz?

I think the best tip I would share is to create from the heart. Don’t worry about whether your work is commercial or whether other people will like it. My best work has definitely come from taking risks and changing direction.

Artwork titled Fairy floss with pastel pink and aqua blue bright squiggles layered on top of one another.

  What’s a lifesaving technique or strategy that you’ve learnt?

Do it for yourself and do it for fun. If it’s not fun anymore, then stop and change direction, if it’s not right. I’ve painted some canvases over and over before I’ve got to something I like. Just keep going and something amazing happens eventually. Also, step back from your work often. And walking away and leaving it overnight or even for a few days can do wonders. I’m always working on at least two pieces at a time.

What are you most excited about for the future?

I’m just enjoying myself at the moment. I’ve achieved more in a year than I ever imagined. I really didn’t have a plan or intend to make money out of painting but it just happened. I’m excited to see what happens with my process and my styles. I just want to keep painting, it fills my heart with so much joy.


We hope Poppy Key’s art has inspired you to pick up a brush and splash some paint around. Show us what you create and share your projects with us! #montmarteart or tag @montmarteart on Instagram or Facebook. Or check out more of our featured artists.