Archive Mar. 2017

Today was drizzly and foggy, and what perfect weather to take a four hour 10k hike? Rugged up in our best weatherproofs we walked Mount Cook's Hooker Valley Track through scenery so out of this world that I coined the phrase ‘that’s some Lord of the Rings shit right there’ which was then repeated ad nauseam for the rest of the trip. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3293,3296,3294,3295"]   If you’re only in the Mount Cook area for a short time this is the one walk out of the numerous on offer that the locals say is a must-do and once you see the utterly gorgeous views you’ll understand why. Bright yellow tussock grass, surrounded by snow-capped mountains with the aquamarine Hooker River bubbling by, this was quite possibly the most stunning landscape I’ve ever seen.   [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3297,3299"]   [gallery columns="1" size="large" ids="3298,3310"]   The walk is flat and not difficult but I still found it a touch strenuous towards the end, likely from the 8kg of camera gear I was carting and the light rain that plagued us the entire way. I definitely recommend driving to the start of the track and walking from there rather than adding an extra hour to the journey by walking from the village as some of the guidebooks suggest and if you’re only here for a REALLY short time, at least walk the 15-20 mins to the first swing bridge for the immense view.   [caption id="attachment_3300" align="aligncenter" width="960"] The look-out over Hooker Valley[/caption]   Speaking of swing bridges, there are three along the track which you’ll either find fantastically fun or a crime against nature, depending on how you feel about heights and the sensation of the ground moving as you walk. If you need a rest there’s a small hut, approximately 2/3rds of the way in that acts as a rest stop and toilet break. For us it was a much needed reprieve from the constant rain and a chance to refuel with some snacks. [gallery size="large" ids="3301,3303,3302"]   About ten minutes after you’ve started clawing at strangers screaming ‘is it much longer?!’ you'll reach the farthest point of the walk, a spectacular glacial lake, featuring the remains of rapidly melting icebergs. The lake is flanked by Aoraki / Mount Cook, NZ’s tallest mountain, which was sadly in hiding while we were there but the view didn’t suffer for it.   Once you’ve drunk in the scenery the return journey follows the same path back and my tip for serious photographers is to use a wide angle lens on the way in and a zoom lens on the way out so you can capture the stunning vistas in their entirety and some close up details for interest. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3312,3306,3308,3311"]   Unfortunately we were so exhausted and wet by our return that we guzzled a pack of choccy biscuits and fell into bed without dinner and in my greatest regret of the trip I missed out on doing the walk to Tasman Lake, but I guess you have to save something for next time!

  • We wore (in spring): Snow boots (we loved our snow boots because they kept our feet dry but sneakers will do fine otherwise), rainproof pants and jackets, thermal underwear, gloves, scarf and beanie. The scarf turned out to be really handy for wiping water off my camera.
  • Take on the walk: Camera, sunscreen (for sunny days), rainproof gear (for wet days), snacks and at least one bottle of water (get from the village before you leave and expect to pay a fortune).

Click here for the rest of the New Zealand itinerary

When I received an invitation to a wedding in New Zealand I thought to myself, why not? New Zealand has never been high on my bucket list of destinations which I suspect is due to the “friendly” but actually somewhat damaging rivalry that Australians have with New Zealanders. Unfortunately this meant that I had NO IDEA that New Zealand is the world’s best kept secret and is actually the most stunning and friendly country on earth! Move it to the top of your destinations list STAT and for tips on where to go and what to do make sure to refer to this blog series. We arrived in Christchurch around the start of spring and after pursuing cherry blossoms in Japan earlier in the year I was delighted to discover that Christchurch was chock full of cherry blossoms in peak bloom and without all the pesky crowds that Japan draws. [caption id="attachment_3237" align="aligncenter" width="600"]A cherry blossom in Christchurch Botanic Gardens A cherry blossom in Christchurch Botanic Gardens[/caption]   In a strange juxtaposition Christchurch is still very much suffering the effects of the 2011 earthquake as evidenced by the multitude of beautiful ruins. But if you’re like me and are fascinated by abandoned buildings a slow drive around the city centre is like stumbling into a bittersweet dystopia. Christchurch contains so many utterly gorgeous heritage buildings, both intact and otherwise, that I was disappointed to have scheduled so little time here. Had I known I would have forgone that trip to the Re:START shipping container mall with its tourist fodder and ludicrous parking prices and spent my time strolling the streets admiring the buildings. (No photos to show because not enough time obvs.) NB. You'll hear a lot of people say they wish they'd spent LESS time in Christchurch but I think that's because there's just so much to see on the South Island, not that Christchurch is necessarily a crap place to be. [gallery columns="2" link="none" size="large" ids="3238,3239"]   When the Botanic Gardens take up roughly a third of the entire city centre you know it’ll be worth a visit and Christchurch’s gardens naturally did not disappoint. We spent an all too brief morning here after breakfasting at the gardens’ Ilex Café where the waffles are so damn good we came back for them again at the end of our trip and wandered among the gorgeous spring blooms where I had visions of Alice stumbling into Wonderland. In fact I’m planning an Alice inspired art series using pictures I snapped here.   [gallery size="large" link="file" columns="2" ids="3243,3244,3241,3242,3240,3245"]   That afternoon we pointed our hire car towards Mount Cook and at the first sighting of snow-capped mountains pulled over and took roughly 100 photos completely unaware of just how many snow-capped mountains our future held.   [caption id="attachment_3248" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Snow! Snow![/caption]   I recommend you make your first major stop on this drive at Lake Tekapo, 27km worth of brilliant blue glacial waters of which the main road passes only the very tip. This is where you’ll find the Church of the Good Shepherd, which has become almost a rite of passage for astrophotographers due to its location in a dark sky reserve (meaning there’s no artificial light pollution). Unfortunately what we found was bus-loads of tourist and a church far tinier than expected, but as I quickly learned from New Zealand, even when conditions are disappointing the views are still so mind-blowingly stunning that you come away feeling like you’ve experienced something magnificent regardless. If you’re all about star chasing be sure to spend a night here but from what I’ve heard it’ll be a far less solitary experience than you’re probably imagining. Also, summer is a recommended time to visit when the picturesque lupin flowers are in bloom. [caption id="attachment_3249" align="alignleft" width="960"]lake-tekapo-mountains Views of Lake Tekapo[/caption]                     [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3250,3251,3247,3252"]   Further on is NZ’s largest lake, Lake Pukaki and its Information Centre where we stopped for an ice cream with a side of views. [caption id="attachment_3253" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Lake Pukaki Lake Pukaki[/caption]   This lake then accompanies you almost all the way to Aoraki / Mount Cook. The road to Mount Cook is 40 minutes of pure bliss. With an icy blue lake on one side and snow covered mountains in every other direction it’s hard to know where to look but do keep an eye on the road in case freshly shorn sheep are wandering across because this is New Zealand after all!   [caption id="attachment_3261" align="aligncenter" width="960"]the-road Photo stop on the way to Mt Cook[/caption] [gallery columns="2" link="file" size="large" ids="3260,3256,3257,3258"]   We arrived at Mount Cook just on dusk to see the surrounding mountains quickly swallowed by fog (mountains? what mountains?) which dashed my plans for photographing the stars but meant I could get comfortably cosy in the South Island’s snow covered heart. Be aware that due to its remote vicinity Mount Cook’s food choices are expensive and mediocre at best so self-catering is highly recommended. [gallery columns="2" size="large" link="file" ids="3262,3254"]   [caption id="attachment_3259" align="alignright" width="300"]You can't be driving and doing this at the same time Skip driving for selfies with mountains[/caption] We stayed at: Azena Motel, Christchurch (terrible, suggest trying Merivale area instead) and Aoraki Mt Cook Alpine Lodge (good for budget and self-catering but most people stay at the more costly Hermitage). Recommended photo stops: Christchurch City Centre (many roads closed to public), Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Lake Tekapo and the Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Pukaki, and every roadside pullover on the way to Mount Cook (or get your non-photographer friend to drive and use a high shutter speed to freeze the moving scenery). We wore: In spring it was mainly foggy and overcast, cold, but not freezing. Suggest layers and a puffer jacket with hood. Distance: Between Christchurch and Mount Cook Village is approx. 4 hours, not including scenic stops. Please note, although Fox Glacier / Franz Josef is close to Mount Cook on a map, you can only get there by helicopter so you'll need to drive to the West Coast to access it. This confuses TripAdvisor so make sure you're staying in the right township.

Click here for the rest of the New Zealand itinerary

Whenever I travel overseas I always muse about how little history Australia has compared to the rest of the world but that’s because I live in suburbia and forget that driving just an hour or two inland is like travelling back in time. It makes me wonder how many tourists miss out on country town Australia by never leaving the beaten track. There are plenty of stunning coastal destinations within easy reach of Brisbane but when I need a fix of the country I head to the Southern Downs region; an area that contains the perfect mix of history and nature. From Brisbane, take the Cunningham Highway towards Warwick. Admittedly the drive is a little dull for the first hour but picks up around Aratula which is a great place to stop for some local produce and a bite to eat. Shortly after you’ll enter Main Range National Park as you drive up Cunningham’s Gap through the Great Dividing Range. There’s a number of hikes of various lengths around here, but as I always tend to visit in the warmer months I prefer to appreciate the mountainous scenery from my air-conditioned car. [caption id="attachment_3461" align="aligncenter" width="300"] View from Cunningham's Gap[/caption]   I tend to always visit the region during summer so I can photograph the sunflowers but with many outstanding outdoor locations the cooler months would be more pleasant for exploring. There’s a variety of ways to spend your time in the Southern Downs region so here’s a few of my favourites to pick and choose from. Click the map for exact locations.

Glengallan Homestead:

Once you reach the New England Highway take the turn-off towards Allora and then a quick right to visit Glengallan Homestead. Glengallan is a heritage listed and semi-restored house open to the public from Wednesdays to Sundays. Built in the 1800s, it later fell into disrepair and has since been revived with funding. I’ve seen a few old homesteads in my time but this one really tickled my fancy because the restoration is incomplete and I love anything abandoned and rundown. Don’t miss the mummified cat. A visit here will take roughly 30 minutes and costs $10. [gallery size="large" ids="3462,3463,3464"]  

Mary Poppins House:

If you have the time drive on to Allora where you can see the childhood home of P.L. Travers, the author of ‘Mary Poppins’. The house is found towards the end of the main street and can be visited by appointment only. We were incredibly lucky to be passing by just as the owner was out the front and she kindly agreed to allow us to look through. [gallery size="large" ids="3465,3466,3467"]  

Sunflowers:

My favourite reason for visiting the Southern Downs is sunflowers! If you visit during the summer months there’s a chance you’ll stumble across a sunflower field but I’d strongly suggest checking out my sunflower post for specific tips on where to find them.

Warwick:

It’s 20 minutes back to Warwick from Allora. Warwick certainly has that colonial country town feel we lack in the cities and no shortage of beautiful heritage buildings, but not a whole lot to do otherwise. We had dinner at Soban House which was a grossly understated gem and the best Japanese food I’ve ever had!

Queen Mary Falls:

If you’ve got a hankering for a waterfall 40 minutes east of Warwick near the lovely township of Killarney you’ll find the Falls Drive. There’s plenty to explore so refer to this map to plan your trip. We first visited Daggs Falls lookout which is just beside the road and then continued on to Queen Mary Falls. You can do a short walk here which overlooks the falls and then decide if you wish to walk on to the bottom of the falls (the on-site map makes this much more confusing than it actually is). I was devastated to discover that due to recent rainfall the longer track was closed so I’d suggest checking track conditions before you make the trip. [gallery size="large" ids="3469,3470,3471"]   If you continue on towards Boonah you’ll find Carrs Lookout with stunning views but be warned, if you decide to drive back to Brisbane from here you will find yourself on very steep, narrow and almost deserted road. There were a couple of times on this drive I thought I was going to die. The one perk is that you’ll drive through Main Range National Park where you’ll find yourself completely surrounded by the sound of bellbirds and cicadas. It’s truly magical but still not worth the stressful drive. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3472,3473"]

Stanthorpe:

If food and wine experiences are more your thing then a visit to Stanthorpe is a must. Only 45 minutes from Warwick you’ll start to discover an abundance of wineries and plenty of local stores full of farm fresh produce. The area is particularly famous for apples so you can’t go past Suttons Juice Factory for a slice of pie. And if you stay the night I recommend Stannum Lodge Motor Inn followed by Brinx Deli for an excellent breakfast.   [caption id="attachment_3474" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Mount Marley lookout, Stanthorpe[/caption]   Girraween National Park: Being a photographer I try and seek out unusual landscapes and Girraween National Park, 30 mins south of Stanthorpe, certainly ticks my boxes. Situated in the Granite Belt the landscape is primarily rock with huge boulders in impossible formations, walking tracks and waterholes. We visited in summer but apparently in the cooler months the place is alive with wildflowers. There’s also camping options if you’re that way inclined. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3475,3477"]   What’s your favourite thing to do in the Southern Downs?

Wandering through a field completely alone yet surrounded by flowers as tall as a man who whisper in the breeze to the sky above, ablaze with colour. Watching sunset from the middle of a sunflower field is one of the stranger, yet loveliest things I've done. The blooming of the sunflowers in the Southern Downs region is an event on every local photographer’s calendar as there are few things more picturesque than rows upon rows of the biggest, brightest flowers raising their faces to the sky. The places to spot them are around the areas of Warwick and Allora but they can be tough to find as they only bloom for a month of two throughout summer and only if conditions are prime. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3438,3439"]   Without doing the proper research you’ll probably find yourself like me on my first visit, driving along Warwick’s Sunflower Route expecting to be surrounded by fields of gold but finding only fields of green. My best advice is to check in regularly with Warwick QLD Visitor Information Centre’s Facebook page from December to March and once they announce the sunflowers are in bloom wait until people start posting their own photos to the page so you can hone in on specific locations. If you’re really keen there are a number of Brisbane Photography Facebook groups full of sunflower seekers who’ll be sure to offer advice. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3440,3441"]   The three best locations I’ve found (based on ease of entry and safe areas to pull over) are:

1. Freestone Road

My favourite drive from Brisbane to Warwick is via Cunningham’s Gap through the Great Dividing Range. As you get closer to Warwick, Freestone Road will be a turn off to your left. Travel along for awhile and once past Freestone (blink and you’ll miss it) there’s a well accessible field to your right with shoulder height, tightly spaced, sunflowers. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3443,3444"]  

2. Cunningham Highway junction between Warwick and Allora

The Cunningham Highway reaches a junction where you’ll need to choose between turning right to Allora or left to Warwick. Dead ahead you’ll find a couple of huge fields with 6 foot, well-spaced sunflowers. (They’re very close to Glengallan Homestead.) NB. When we headed up to Warwick it was heavily overcast and threatened to rain the entire day. About 30 minutes before sunset I looked out the hotel room window and noticed a touch of colour in the sky so I jumped in the car  and drove back to the sunflowers *just in case*. These images were the result. [gallery size="large" columns="2" ids="3447,3446"] [caption id="attachment_3445" align="aligncenter" width="960"] The mean sky gave me an F-[/caption]  

3. Emu Vale, between Yangan and Killarney

From Warwick drive towards Yangan/Killarney and around Emu Vale you’ll spot yellow faces in the distance. Take the left just beforehand for best access and here you’ll find perfectly sized and spaced sunflowers.   It’s always recommended to get the farmer’s permission before you go tromping about in the fields but in all honesty I found it difficult to know which properties to approach and just tried to be as respectful of the flowers as possible. I definitely recommend taking gumboots as the ground can get squelchy if there’s been rain about and be prepared for bees and flies aplenty. Being the height of summer also remember the hat and sunscreen; I came away burnt after only twenty minutes. [caption id="attachment_3431" align="aligncenter" width="171"] The gumboots I've had in my car for 5 years finally came in handy.[/caption]  

Tips for photographing the sunflowers

Use a high aperture (f/11 or above) and take overhead shots of the field to get the rows of sunflowers in focus. Use a low aperture (f5.6 or below) among the flowers themselves to blur those closest to camera and direct the eye to an interesting flower or person. Try and put something or someone into the scene for interest, preferably in colours that stand out from the flowers. Aim for a time when the sun is low so you can capture it shining through the flowers. Warwick is a good two hour drive from Brisbane and if you’re keen to photograph the sunflowers at sunrise or sunset you’ll need to spend a night in the region so check out this post featuring recommendations on other things to experience while you’re here! Have you been to see the sunflowers?

[caption id="attachment_3358" align="alignright" width="300"] 'There Was' by Charles Blackman[/caption] If I haven’t mentioned it before my favourite artist is Charles Blackman and, in particular, his Schoolgirls and Angels series. He manages to imbue his simple paintings with this lonely darkness that I just adore. And it’s a theme that all my favourite art pieces seem to have in common. Lonely darkness. Anyway, recently I learned how to make a photo of day look like night. It’s really simple. Basically you drop your exposure and blacks and add an overall blue tone, but for some reason I’d never been able to figure out how to do it, and not for lack of trying. Sometimes the simplest Photoshop tricks completely elude me. But now I finally have the tool I need to create my own lonely darkness.   [gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="3361,3360"]   ‘The Stars are Falling’ was initially inspired by an episode of 'Angel' I watched long ago that featured a storyline where the sky rained with fire. It got me thinking about the moment of peace the world would experience when everyone looked to the sky wondering what was going on, before everything erupted into chaos. With all that has gone on in 2016, political upheaval, the deaths of so many icons, as well as personal struggles such as losing my job, alienating friends, and reaching a plateau with my art, it’s impossible to ignore that everything is changing. All of which has manifested in this image, ‘The Stars are Falling’. I started the year with an image that symbolises rebirth, ‘Metamorphosis’ and I feel as if this new image metaphorically completes that “circle of life”. [caption id="attachment_2869" align="aligncenter" width="300"]bird, conceptual, art, phoenix, baptism, reinvention, photograph, fire, flames Metamorphosis[/caption]   The rooftop in the image is from the bakery of my favourite restaurant, ‘Harvest’, in Newrybar and was photographed during a road trip I took exactly a year ago. The ‘meteor’ is a stock photo sourced from Unsplash and is attributed to NASA. The girl is, of course, a self-portrait, photographed, as usual, in my backyard. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="3354,3357,3356,3355"]   Happy New Year and here's to 2017 and whatever it shall bring. :)

For me every new year is a chance for reinvention so with 2017 on the horizon I have been going through a period of deep self -reflection. 2015 was the year I became an artist and I built a portfolio of 40 pieces that I’m very proud of. 2016 was the year I spent most of my time on marketing that body of work and as a result I only created 12 pieces. It has been a year of highs and lows; a year where I started to make money and gain recognition for my work but also, somehow, had no time to create art. [gallery size="medium" link="none" ids="2841,2869,2933"]   I’ve learnt so much about the art world—mainly that art is consumed differently from its hey-day in the 80s and yet it’s still trying to operate on an antiquated gallery-focused model. I’ve learnt that the art world, particularly in Australia, is divided between traditional and subversive and my work doesn’t fit into either box. My exhibition at the Hub Gallery, Caboolture The Internet has given artists the opportunity for wider reach but it’s also flooded with competition so I’ve spent the majority of my year learning about arts marketing and implementing different strategies with limited success. I’ve seen so many fellow artists become marketers and educators – setting up online courses, mastering email marketing funnels, trying to make their work go viral – all in the hope that they’ll begin to make serious money from their art but in the process they lose the essence of what it is to make art. I don’t want this to happen to me. I signed up to be an artist, not a teacher, not a marketer. So I’ve decided to stop buying into all this arts marketing crap and getting caught in the nets of people trying to capitalise on artists and instead focus on the things that make my heart sing. The one useful thing I’ve learned is to picture exactly what I want my life and my business to look like and then work towards that goal every day. This may surprise you but my ultimate goal is to travel and either get paid to do it or live off a passive income. In fact this line has been in my bio since day 1: “My dream is to travel around Australia creating photographic art in rural and iconic locations.” While I have been taking baby steps towards this goal, mainly through my travel Instagram account (@hayleyrtravels), it’s unlikely anyone looking at my art would even know this about me. That’s why in 2017 I want to launch something new. My four passions are photography, travel, art and writing, in that order, and so I’m trying to create something that combines all four. I don’t know exactly what it will look like and the experimentation process has been really hard because it’s a whole new way of thinking and working, and I’m the kind of person who gets frustrated if I’m not good at something right away. It feels weird to be back at the drawing board but I know if I keep at it something will come together eventually. The things I am working towards are:

  • Travelling more
  • Writing a blog about each place I travel to
  • Creating a photo essay documenting my travels so I can pursue more landscape work
  • Making art pieces created out of photographs I’ve taken in those locations
The road to Mt Cook As I learnt from my 2015 Exposing Illusions project I am a better artist when I have a project. So this new project will involve art pieces inspired by travel. I intend to create much more simply, art that takes hours instead of weeks, because I long for the wilderness and need to stop spending so much time at a computer. I plan to sell prints and products made from my work using an online distributor at a price everyone can afford in the hope that these sales will fund future travel. I will also sell limited edition feature prints created by a professional printer at a higher, more collectible, price point. I will market this work to commercial, travel and stock agencies in the hope they see value in what I do. Naturally this all terrifies me. Deep down I’m convinced that I will only ever be mediocre no matter how hard I try. But I need to try regardless. For now I ask for your patience while I create this project and your assistance to help me fine-tune it. I’d like you to be my test audience and will ask for your honest feedback on various components. I’d love for you to be my champions, helping me get the word out about this project. I know that it will be a long journey to my end goal but I’m excited about all the things I will learn on the way. Come for a ride?

Lately I've spent a lot of time staring at mountains and experiencing that feeling--you know the one--that is a mix of awe and wonder, interconnectedness and insignificance. There is no word for this feeling in the English language, or maybe any language, but it feels a lot like joy, or at least a kind of enchantment. When the clouds clear or the fog rises revealing a rainbow or a snow capped mountain and there you are to experience this rare and beautiful moment as woven by the elements, well, perhaps it would be an injustice to try and contain it in a single word. [caption id="attachment_3210" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Staring at mountains, Hooker Valley, New Zealand Staring at mountains, Hooker Valley, New Zealand[/caption]   I travel to find these moments and I photograph to try and immortalise them, but much like words, there is no medium on earth that can accurately convey the experience. This is what my image 'Enchanted' came to be about but as usual it did not start out that way, and as usual it ended as an image of a character interacting with nature, as the majority of my photos do. A lot of photographers who create the kind of art that I do have a very simple formula which is: a) a basic setting that isn't important to the story b) a moody sky c) a character d) something interesting happening to the character e) an overall colour tone, desaturation and overlaying of a texture My work has been getting too complicated and time consuming of late and arguably has suffered for it (or at least, I have) so I wanted to simplify things by creating an image using this formula. Without any plan I threw on a wig and a dress and posed for the camera, dancing, swishing, jumping and it was fun and freeing but probably not recommended because it's difficult to come up with a concept after the fact. I chose the final pose because it was the most pleasing to the eye, but it was a challenge to work with because she's observing, not interacting and that made it hard to put her in a story. Pose for Enchantment   The mountains were photographed from a train in Scotland and have been on my mind as a potential scene for forever and a day. Because she's observing I had to give her something interesting to observe and I liked how the mountains complemented the colour scheme of her hair and skin. The clouds are from the original mountain scene but combined from a number of different shots. It was at this point seeing the scene become the story that I ditched the formula and yet again indulged my subconscious desire to run off into nature. Mountain in Scotland She is standing on a stormwater drain mainly as a way of making her the correct perspective, but also, don't you find you like to climb things to get a better view of pretty scenes? Drain for Enchantment I added the rainbow because I wanted to create one of those rare and beautiful moments I talked about earlier. An epic mountain is one thing but an epic mountain with a rainbow is exactly the kind of scene that makes you experience that exquisite feeling there is no word for, but feels a lot like joy. Rainbow for Enchantment   FOOTNOTE: Two days after writing this post we had a stormy afternoon and with it came the closest, brightest double rainbow I've ever seen. As the neighbours came outside to view it it was a lovely to see so many people enchanted by the moment. [caption id="attachment_3208" align="aligncenter" width="595"]Detail of image - using the oil paint filter to resemble a painting Detail of image - final touches with the oil paint filter to make the image resemble a painting[/caption]

Last spring I created the image, 'Dance of the Jacarandas' to celebrate the month when my city turns purple, so after a trip to Japan earlier this year it seemed appropriate to make a companion cherry blossom themed piece for release this spring. I'm thinking of turning this into a regular series and am toying with poincianas, wattle or bougainvillea next, so if you know of any good spots ...   [caption id="attachment_3165" align="aligncenter" width="960"]A cherry blossom sighting in Japan (my mother can't be trusted with my camera). A cherry blossom sighting in Japan (my mother can't be trusted with my camera).[/caption]   It's embarrassing to admit, but back in my university / goth years, on the 1st of Spring I would dress up as the spring fairy, buying fresh flowers and weaving them into a wreath, and if I felt brave enough (because clearly playing dress ups was not already brazen enough) I would give out floral gifts to strangers (there is photographic evidence of this but it's such a terrible shame that I can't currently find it). If this series is any indication I guess I still like to play dress ups and celebrate spring. To my surprise cherry blossom trees are actually quite tough to photograph. For one, they are totally inundated with people. They bloom for approximately 11 days once a year so if you blink you'll miss 'em, which of course means everyone wants to experience them in person. We were on a regular commuter bus in Kyoto and as we drove past a cherry blossom tree, EVERYONE took out their phone cameras and started snapping away. Some companies even pay an employee to sit in a park all day during hanami (cherry blossom viewing) reserving the best picnic spot for when they all finish work. The Japanese also have this astounding ability that, while it may seem as if there's no one nearby, as soon as you point your camera at something at least one person will appear and stand in your way for as long as it takes for you to give up and move on. It's uncanny.   [caption id="attachment_3163" align="aligncenter" width="960"]cherry blossom Keage Incline, Kyoto: I got totally lost at Nanzen-ji temple looking for a waterfall and found this instead.[/caption]   Secondly, Japan has become quite polluted. On my previous two visits this wasn't the case so I'm sad to say it is now. I love photographing overcast scenes because colours become deep and saturated, even sunny days bring blue skies and lots of contrast, but pollution? It does no favours for anyone.   [caption id="attachment_3164" align="aligncenter" width="960"]cherry blossom Philosopher's Walk, Kyoto, and the most boring type of sky.[/caption]   Lastly, cherry blossoms come in a stunning array of colours and varieties but the majority of them are this wishy washy pale pink colour that just blends right in with the polluted sky and looks kind of mucky.   [caption id="attachment_3166" align="aligncenter" width="960"]cherry blossom Pale flowers, Philosopher's Walk, Kyoto[/caption]   The two trees used in my final image were both photographed at Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo on the first day of our trip, right before cherry blossom season had actually begun. They have thicker flowers and are a rarer rich, pink colour which is quite lovely. If anyone knows what type of sakura these are, I beg you to tell me so I can buy one. The other elements that make up the final photo are included below. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="3168,3167"]   [gallery size="large" ids="3171,3172,3170,3169,3173"]   I had the photo all ready to go but my Mum pointed out that the hedges didn't have any fallen flowers on them. It's these kinds of details that really make a composite believable and is why getting a second opinion is so important. (And also why I then had to spend an extra day on the image.) As with 'Dance of the Jacarandas' I created a brush out of a cherry blossom to paint some falling blooms into the scene and then added some more petal shaped brush strokes. Falling cherry blossoms are quite lovely and to experience them is like being caught in a soft, warm snowstorm. I have a video of what it's like featuring my mother being delightful but I can't figure out how to post it with Wordpress so check out my Facebook  instead. [caption id="attachment_3187" align="aligncenter" width="150"]cherry blossom brush Sakura Photoshop brush[/caption]   And then of course, there's me, photographed as usual in my backyard using an op shop parasol and an eBay dress. I really liked this pose but there were some problems with it so I photographed it again a few days later, only to decide that I preferred the original pose afterall.   Cherry blossom self-portrait   You can see more of my travel photography (I'm not up to Japan yet but I'll get there eventually) at my travel Instagram account @hayleyrtravels where I post a photo daily. Sayonara! jacaranda, sakura, cherry blossom, fine art, prints, photography, conceptual, series

I got into creating art because I love it. I live for it. Because nothing else has ever made me happier. And so I rode the wave and followed the dream, conveniently forgetting all the things I’d heard about surviving as an artist. I took courses, consumed videos, and read everything I could about the art I yearned to create – all from people who conveyed how easy it is to make a living from their craft, when in reality they make their living from teaching their craft. Nobody ever said how hard it is or how expensive, disheartening and lonely it can be. Nobody said that despite all this, once it’s in your bones it’s impossible to stop creating. So I’ve put together a list of twelve things you should know before turning your art hobby into a career.

Twelve things no one tells you about being an artist:

  1. We live in frugal times and for most people an art purchase is an excess, not a necessity. These days people prefer to adorn their walls with cheap, wholesale art produced by Ikea or Kmart rather than art that means something to them. For you this means that until you find a market for your work you can add ‘starving artist’ to your resume. It’s certainly not impossible to make a living out of art but, for most artists, finding an audience to invest in their work is astonishingly tough.
  1. To find a market for your art you need as many eyes on your work as possible but to get exposure you need to spend money. It costs money to enter competitions. It costs money to have a website. It costs money to run an online store. It costs money to have an exhibition. You might be lucky enough to get into a free community gallery but otherwise you’re paying venue rental fees, printing and framing costs, promotion costs, catering costs, packing and courier costs, possible airfares so you can be there in person to market your work, and you may not make a single sale. But you need these experiences on your resume because without being a published and exhibited artist no one will take you seriously.
  1. You will need to spend AT LEAST 50% of your time on marketing. Learning and mastering your craft is not enough if you then want people to see it. You’ll be spending your time setting up your shop, writing blog posts, crafting newsletters, building your social media following, networking, creating YouTube videos, writing grant applications, pitching to magazines, entering competitions and organising exhibitions. And then, in one of life’s great ironies, you’ll notice that some of your favourite artists barely do any marketing at all and still have great success.
  1. When printing your work it will NEVER look how it did on your screen or on your painting. Firstly, colour is such an impossible beast to tame for reasons that are far too technical to explain and secondly if you work on a computer screen it has a luminance that paper doesn’t. The first time I printed my work it came out VERY dark and I now have to work differently to compensate. This is why you want to work with a trained fine art printer who can help you fix it and not a cheap photo lab. It’s also why you need to ask or pay for a test print before ordering a full run of prints.
  1. Being an artist means being vulnerable and exposed. It is really hard to put your creative expression and months of work on display in the vain hope that it might get a few likes as people scroll past it on social media. Yet to make sales you need to continually spruik your work which is a struggle if you’re self-conscious about it and worried that posting too often will lose fans.
  1. People will buy your art only once they’ve formed a connection with it. Sometimes it’s enough just to like a piece, but often they will want to know more about the artwork and the artist. They want to know who you are, why you create, why you use the techniques you do, what story the piece is telling. This is difficult if you create on instinct. You will also be expected to be confident, positive, passionate, likeable and grateful. It’s tough when you’re putting on your bravest face and producing your best work and it’s still not enough to convert fans into buyers.
  1. Pricing. Ugh. People will tell you your work is too expensive. People will tell you your work is too cheap. Your pricing structure will never please everyone. You just have to accept that not everyone is your target market and brave their complaints. The prices the majority of people are prepared to pay wouldn’t even cover my bills, let alone my time.
  1. You need to choose a fine art career or a wholesale career because you cannot, apparently, have both. If you want to be respected as an artist it is very much frowned upon to be printing your products on mugs and cushions because it devalues the collectability of your art. But if you want to make money by selling smaller, cheaper, products at a higher volume, wholesale is the way to go. So do you prefer markets or galleries?
  1. Be aware that galleries charge a commission to sell your work which can be anywhere up to 70%. It is so disheartening to know that they will probably make more from your work than you do, but it’s a catch 22 because without their space, contacts and marketing you may not have sold the work at all. Just make sure the gallery you are working with is actually earning their commission. On the other hand, if you prefer to sell prints yourself online you will find that oftentimes people pay more to frame your work than they paid to purchase it, and that’s when you realise that everyone else makes more money out of your art than you do.
  1. You are a small fish in a gigantic pond and you’ll constantly compare your work to others. There will always be someone better than you. There will always be someone whose art is less accomplished but who wins all the competitions or makes all the sales. This is dangerous territory and you have to remember that you are all following your own path and creating in the only way you know how. You don’t know what demons anyone else is battling and what may look successful to you may be a failure to them. Comparison is only healthy if it makes you work harder to be better. It’s only healthy when you’re comparing your work now to how it was a year ago.
  1. Most artists don’t make money from selling art alone. They will have second jobs. They will teach their craft to others. They will write books. They will own galleries. They will benefit from other artists by producing magazines, or competitions, or running artist support websites. They will run courses on marketing for artists or sell artist supplies. They will live off artist grants or crowdfunding campaigns. They will have sponsors who pay them to use and promote their products. Diversifying your offering is key.
  1. With all of this in mind it is SO EASY to start doubting yourself based on how many competitions you don’t win, how many sales you don’t make, how successful every other artists seems. But you have to remember always, always, that you got into this because creating is your lifeblood and not because you wanted to be a successful artist. The most successful artists are the ones that persevere even when no one’s buying their work, who know their value is not defined by how many likes they receive or how many trolls leave hurtful comments. Because they love creating art and cannot live without it and know that everything else is just a bonus.
  * To learn how the image was created, see here.

There are some honeyeaters that flit about my house feeding on nectar. A few years ago one of them got trapped inside the house and after it eventually tired I scooped it up in my hands and set it free. After that I began to imagine a story where the little bird came back each day offering gifts. [caption id="attachment_3110" align="aligncenter" width="200"]Of course I grabbed my camera first. I, of course, grabbed my camera first.[/caption]   About a year later it happened again. Again it tired and again I set it free. But shortly after I heard some twittering at the front door. I went to look and found a family of honeyeaters flying about, tweeting like crazy and one flew right up to my face before flitting away. It probably meant nothing but I will forever believe that the family were trying to thank me for saving the trapped bird. Not so long after, a magpie started hanging around the house. It seemed to have something stuck inside its mouth so it let me hand feed it, and sometimes I would throw food in the air and it would fly up to catch it. When I sat outside on the patio it would sit on the back of the chair opposite me. This continued for a week or so before it (hopefully) flew off to his next destination. [caption id="attachment_3112" align="aligncenter" width="178"]Image courtesy of my father Image courtesy of my father[/caption]   I mention these stories because, clearly, I am Dr Doolittle. (I am! And I won't hear otherwise!) This image, 'The Woods Welcome', is the second in the two part 'Wildflower' series, and follows on from 'Where She Wanders'. That sure is a lot of W's. [gallery columns="2" size="medium" link="none" ids="3086,3115"]   In my first post about the series I mentioned how it was inspired by the urge to 'get back to nature' that many of us have. But it was also inspired by the nurturing instinct that humans have towards animals and our desire to humanise wild things. I'd always intended on incorporating animals into my work but I first wanted to make sure my compositing skills were up to scratch and, let me tell you, cutting out animal fur is definitely a challenge (but still not hard as my damn curly hair). I'm currently working with this method which is the best way I've found to cut out hair/fur, although it's unfortunately still not foolproof. The image is primarily composed of photos from Japan. The deer was photographed at beautiful Miyajima, the rabbits at Ōkunoshima (an island full of rabbits!!!), the background bamboo scene at Tenryuji Temple gardens in Arashiyama and the flowers at Kyoto Botanical Gardens. I photographed myself in my yard and the bird at Notre Dame in France. [gallery size="medium" link="none" ids="3108,3114,3107,3116,3109,3111,3119,3113"]   Like 'Where She Wanders', ‘The Woods Welcome’ is a limited edition print of 20. The cost of $200 (Australian dollars which converts to approx $150USD and 110 GBP) includes free shipping worldwide and a 5% donation to the RSPCA. It measures 10.9 x 25 inches excluding border and is printed on fine art archival paper. Prints are individually signed and accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. Purchase here.

11
Mar

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Day 3 : Aoraki/Mount Cook, Hooker Valley

Today was drizzly and foggy, and what perfect weather to take a four hour 10k hike? Rugged up in our best weatherproofs we walked Mount Cook’s Hooker Valley Track through scenery so out of this world that I coined the phrase ‘that’s some Lord of the Rings shit right there’ which was then repeated ad […]

25
Feb

2 Weeks in New Zealand’s South Island. Days 1-2: Christchurch to Aoraki / Mount Cook

When I received an invitation to a wedding in New Zealand I thought to myself, why not? New Zealand has never been high on my bucket list of destinations which I suspect is due to the “friendly” but actually somewhat damaging rivalry that Australians have with New Zealanders. Unfortunately this meant that I had NO […]

11
Feb

A weekend in the Southern Downs

Whenever I travel overseas I always muse about how little history Australia has compared to the rest of the world but that’s because I live in suburbia and forget that driving just an hour or two inland is like travelling back in time. It makes me wonder how many tourists miss out on country town […]

4
Feb

A visit to the Southern Downs summer sunflowers

Wandering through a field completely alone yet surrounded by flowers as tall as a man who whisper in the breeze to the sky above, ablaze with colour. Watching sunset from the middle of a sunflower field is one of the stranger, yet loveliest things I’ve done. The blooming of the sunflowers in the Southern Downs […]

31
Dec

The making of ‘The Stars are Falling’

If I haven’t mentioned it before my favourite artist is Charles Blackman and, in particular, his Schoolgirls and Angels series. He manages to imbue his simple paintings with this lonely darkness that I just adore. And it’s a theme that all my favourite art pieces seem to have in common. Lonely darkness. Anyway, recently I […]

4
Dec

Flying dreams

For me every new year is a chance for reinvention so with 2017 on the horizon I have been going through a period of deep self -reflection. 2015 was the year I became an artist and I built a portfolio of 40 pieces that I’m very proud of. 2016 was the year I spent most […]

23
Oct

The making of ‘Enchanted’

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time staring at mountains and experiencing that feeling–you know the one–that is a mix of awe and wonder, interconnectedness and insignificance. There is no word for this feeling in the English language, or maybe any language, but it feels a lot like joy, or at least a kind of enchantment. When […]

11
Sep

Cherry Blossom (sakura) season

Last spring I created the image, ‘Dance of the Jacarandas’ to celebrate the month when my city turns purple, so after a trip to Japan earlier this year it seemed appropriate to make a companion cherry blossom themed piece for release this spring. I’m thinking of turning this into a regular series and am toying with poincianas, wattle or bougainvillea […]

14
Aug

Twelve things no one tells you about being an artist

I got into creating art because I love it. I live for it. Because nothing else has ever made me happier. And so I rode the wave and followed the dream, conveniently forgetting all the things I’d heard about surviving as an artist. I took courses, consumed videos, and read everything I could about the […]

31
Jul

The making of ‘The Woods Welcome’

There are some honeyeaters that flit about my house feeding on nectar. A few years ago one of them got trapped inside the house and after it eventually tired I scooped it up in my hands and set it free. After that I began to imagine a story where the little bird came back each day offering […]