Contemporary realism -
Elizabeth Barden, "Jaya-ism," 2019, oil on linen

Meet this week’s top Realism Today Ambassador, Elizabeth Barden.

Ambassadors get their paintings featured in the Realism Today newsletter and here at Simply sign up here for the Realism Today Today Ambassador program to invite your friends to join our free community, and your work could be shown next!

Realism Ambassador of the Week: Elizabeth Barden

Elizabeth Barden was born in 1965 and has lived and worked in Cairns for 30 years. Her first two solo exhibitions at the Cairns Gallery were figurative, and she became increasingly captivated to tell the stories of people by painting their portraits, thereby giving them a voice through public engagement with the works and the sharing of their lives and backgrounds. This ‘storytelling’ has become her focus.

She is represented in the Australian National Portrait Gallery with her portrait of indigenous performer Christine Anu ‘Waiting For Zipporah’, in the Cairns Regional Council collection, the Cairns Gallery, Emmanuel College at the University of Queensland, various private collections nationally and internationally; and has participated in group shows in Australia and internationally.

To date, highlights include being a six-time finalist in the Portia Geach Memorial Art Prize, twice a finalist in the Shirley Hannan Art Award, twice a finalist in the Lethbridge Art Prize, finalist in the Kennedy Art Prize, finalist in the Brisbane portrait Prize, finalist in the Lester Prize, and a finalist in the inaugural National Darling Portrait Prize.

On “Jaya-Ism” (above)

JAYA Ja-yah/ proper noun – derived from Sanskrit, meaning Victory.

ISM izm – noun- a distinctive practice system, or philosophy, typically a political idealogy or an artistic movement.

Jaya Suartika is an Adelaide-based artist. His skin is almost entirely covered in tattoos; only his face is devoid of ink. Jaya says initially he chose to get tattoos because of the anti-establishment side of it. He was in the punk scene and it was a kind of an ‘f-you’ to the norm. His attitude has changed now, and his inked skin has evolved into aesthetic recognition and personalised ornaments.

Contemporary realism -
Elizabeth Barden, “Mermaids Make Waves,” 2019, oil on linen, 16 x 18″

On “Mermaids Make Waves”

Amy Sheppard is a singer/songwriter of the Brisbane based band ‘Sheppard’. In 2019 Amy has used her social media platform to promote the #kissmyfatass social movement on Instagram. The campaign addresses the prevalence of filters, Photoshopping and ‘face-tuning’ being used to achieve a false sense of flawlessness, and the impact it has by creating a sense of an unobtainable beauty standard.

For this portrait, Amy chose to be represented make-up free, unadorned, and simply beautiful, bathed in natural light. Her gaze is direct and determined. Having suffered bullying at a young age, and insecurities over body image, this is a message Amy wholeheartedly believes in – that each one of us is unique and we should celebrate diversity, and change the way we perceive ‘flaws’.

With her trademark blue ‘mermaid’ hair, Amy says, “Mermaids make waves, not ripples.”

Contemporary realism -
Elizabeth Barden, “Kaleidoscope Queen,” 2019, oil on linen, 40 x 40 cm

On “Kaleidoscope Queen”

‘Kalos’ – beautiful ‘Eidos’-form

Ashley Longshore has become well known for her pop feminism culture, often celebrating women of celebrity and influence.

Based in New Orleans, she’s brash, colourful, and authentic. Her fun, wildly optimistic take on life and relentless hard work has seen her collaborate with Gucci, Diana Von Furstenburg, amongst others. Ashley was the first ever female to do a solo show in the famed NYC store Bergdorf Goodman, has been featured in Forbes magazine, and has recently been the featured artist at New York Fashion Week.

Learn more about Elizabeth Barden at

Remember that you can have YOUR work shown here! Visit to learn more.

Related > Browse portrait and figure workshops in the style of contemporary realism here.