Celebrating suburbia

By Andrea Louise Thomas  Photos Yanni

Mornington artist Belinda “Billy” Nye sees beauty in the everyday Australian suburban landscape that most people take for granted. Street signs and telephone poles, letterboxes and fences, houses and caravans are inspiration for her digital art, paintings and linocut prints. She translates the ordinary into bold lines and bright colours.

“Suburbia makes me feel nostalgic for childhood. I grew up in Frankston in a brick veneer house with a backyard. The backyard had everything – the BBQ, the swing set, a garden, somewhere to eat, somewhere to play. The backyard is disappearing from our lives. Kids are on technology and new developments don’t really have backyards. I am documenting suburbia as it fades away,” she says.

Billy loves the view from her Mornington backyard, particularly the birds. Many works in her suburban landscapes series include magpies, galahs, cockatoos or other familiar birds. “We are so lucky to have such incredible birds all around us. The birds are the kings and queens of suburbia,” she says.

There is a comfortable familiarity in her art to anyone who lives in Frankston or on the Mornington Peninsula. Local neighbourhoods, outlooks across Port Phillip Bay, the iconic red bluff at Half Moon Bay in Mornington, or views of and from Oliver’s Hill, are subjects in her work.

Her first painting, at seventeen, was a view of Oliver’s Hill. It still hangs in her parents’ house today. In fact, she grew up in a house on Oliver’s Hill with a panoramic view of the bay. “It’s awe-inspiring to me. I love the winding roads, the view and all the little houses on the hill,” she says. She has fond memories of careening down Oliver’s Hill on her bike to sketch views of Port Phillip Bay.

As a child, Billy was always drawing. She started out copying Archie and Veronica comics before creating original works that she drew on swap cards and sold to family members. She went from high school to Frankston’s Chisholm Institute to do a Diploma in Visual Arts where she got a solid practical foundation, but she got itchy feet and decided to travel.

She started her creative career working as a photographer in London. She was accepted into London University to study photography, but met her now husband, David, and decided to travel with him back to his native New York where she set up a photography business. They married and had two children.

They spent eight years in the Hamptons before moving to Mornington. Billy then finished that Diploma of Visual Arts at Chisholm.

Once they had settled in Mornington, Billy set up her painting and printmaking studio where she spends the majority of her time. Art wasn’t really a choice for her; it was a necessity. “Everything I look at is art. I didn’t decide to be an artist. I just love being an artist. I have always been an artist,” she says.

Billy works equally across three mediums: digital art, painting and printmaking.

She likes digital art because she can make it anywhere on her iPad. She uses it to plan for her next painting or print. She likes to break down the image, heighten or saturate the colour, exaggerate what she loves and take away what’s not necessary.

Alternately, she says, “Painting is meditation in action for me. It’s a peaceful place where I can just concentrate on the mark making. I’m a slow painter. Getting it to just the right place takes time. It’s a puzzle. I have to work really hard to get the right colours.”

With printmaking Billy says, “ I love the careful, well-planned out process of it. You have to do the work in reverse. When carving the plate, it’s almost like therapy. You get totally absorbed. I love the whole process, the striking boldness and simplicity of it.”

While her practical training at Chisholm was invaluable to her art practice, Billy wanted to delve deeper into art theory so she completed a double degree in Fine Art and Visual Culture (Curtin University). The works of many artists, but particularly David Hockney, Reg Mombassa and Howard Arkley inspired her. She feels aligned with their celebration of the built environment.

Sharing her passion and knowledge is important to Billy. She teaches a free linocut workshop in her Linocut Club at Oak Hill Gallery in Mornington on the first Saturday of the month from 1:30 to 3:30.

Visit the gallery to be inspired and have a go at creating something original.


Peninsula Essence – August 2021