Category 'Art'

I've mentioned in previous posts my desire to run away into the woods and how spending a few days at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in Lamington National Park momentarily fulfilled that urge, but I've only really glossed over the actual experience. A luxury lodge was not quite the cabin in the woods I’d been dreaming of but it was a step closer than suburbia. My friends seem to have the mistaken impression that I’m far from the outdoor type anyway so this option seemed like a good compromise. The prospect of being a woman wandering alone through the woods with expensive camera gear was admittedly quite daunting. But besides creepy crawlies and the weird creature I found mauled by the roadside there seemed little to fear. Each day I hiked 15km+ carrying my tripod, camera gear, and a backpack full of costume dresses and food. When I found a picturesque spot I would change into a dress, set up my camera, and climb into the scene. Afterwards while I packed everything away someone always walked by and I can only imagine what they would have thought had they arrived a moment earlier.   The drive to O’Reilly’s is a challenging, often one lane, winding mountain road made even more difficult because it had been raining non-stop for the past week. The slow and steady drive meant I arrived later than expected and so the first afternoon I did the short Booyong walk, including the Tree Top Walk over the forest via suspension bridges. When I returned to my room there were rosellas sitting on my balcony who barged into my room looking for food. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="4602,4603"]   The second day I walked part of the Border track with a short detour along the Albert River Circuit to admire the 3000 year old Antarctic Beech Trees. I was on the hunt for fairy tale spots and these trees certainly delivered. I then rejoined the Border Track having to detour from the path into the overgrown forest for a few minutes to avoid a massive fallen tree and walked as far as the NSW border before returning the same way. It’s amazing how easy it is to clear your mind in the bush when your focus is entirely on what’s directly in front of you. [caption id="attachment_4604" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Fairies?[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_4608" align="alignright" width="200"] The rock climb to Elebana Falls[/caption] The third day I again started on the Border Track but left after 3km to do the 11km Box Forest Circuit. Heading clockwise I walked along muddy paths down to the trail of waterfalls, rolling my ankle on the way which made things tricky for awhile. Most of the waterfalls I had completely to myself so I stayed for a long, peaceful time at Nugurun Falls and after a couple of creek crossings found the incredibly powerful Box Log Falls which felt oddly menacing so I was fearful to stay long. I headed back via Elebana Falls which is one of the more popular waterfalls in the area and involves a serious rock climb to reach the picture postcard spot. There I found a 70 year old man who’d been waiting since 7am for the right light. He said the soft, overcast light became perfect just as I arrived and I was amused to see the sun came out again just as I was leaving. Thanks nature!   [caption id="attachment_4609" align="aligncenter" width="960"] The view after the climb![/caption] [caption id="attachment_4610" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Elebana Falls[/caption] [caption id="attachment_4607" align="aligncenter" width="960"] Box Log Falls[/caption]   The uphill walk back was slightly laborious so I took a short rest in my room and then went to visit my feathered friends at the designated bird feeding spot (in an attempt to stop them doing home visits). [gallery size="large" ids="4612,4611,4613"]   On the last day I did the peaceful Wishing Tree walk, which is only accessible to O’Reilly’s guests, down to Glow Worm Gully and Moran’s Creek. [gallery size="large" columns="1" ids="4614,4615,4616"]   Afterwards I drove to the Moran’s Falls walk entrance which is 1km away or you can take a path directly from O’Reilly’s. Either way the walk ends at the main lookout before looping back on itself. There’s a spot near Moran’s Falls which continually shows up on Instagram but after having trouble finding it I asked an O’Reilly’s tour guide for advice and he blatantly lied to me and told me it was a 6km walk away. Luckily someone on Instagram came to my rescue and told me it was only 10m away over a fence. Obviously, fence jumping is not advisable, but sitting at the top of an 80m waterfall with incredible valley views was certainly worth it! [gallery size="large" columns="1" ids="4618,4617,4619"]   As I drove down the spirally hill away from the forest back to suburbia fatigue began to set in and I struggled to stay awake on the highway, so while I felt energised from my time in the forest, all the exercise wore me out completely.  

COMPARISON - O'Reilly's vs Binna Burra

Lamington National Park contains two lodges, one on either side of the mountain and having previously stayed at Binna Burra Lodge on the opposite side I thought it might be useful to outline the differences between the two accommodation options, O'Reilly's and Binna Burra. When researching this trip I could find little about this topic and I’m sure others will find it helpful.

DRIVE

The drive to Binna Burra is far less stressful than the winding roads to O’Reilly’s and it’s slightly closer to Brisbane.

ACCOMMODATION

Both lodges offer a range of accommodation choices varying from camping to basic to ‘wedding party’. I stayed in the base room at each place and found that Binna Burra’s rooms were more rustic and slightly closer to a log cabin feel, while O’Reilly’s offers hotel room comfort. I get a strong impression that Binna Burra caters more to serious hikers while O’Reilly’s draws couples and the retired middle class. The price difference between the two reflects this. In truth Binna Burra could probably do with a refurb while O’Reilly’s has recently updated. [gallery size="large" ids="4620,4621,4622"]

FOOD

Understandably food is limited only to what the accommodation provides and so both are pricey being your sole option. O’Reilly’s offers a bar for casual dining and a dining room for a fine dining experience although the same meals are available in both. I felt like a fish out of water among the overdressed couples in the dining room and eating in the bar felt like, well, eating in a bar. I wasn’t terribly impressed with either option. There’s also a breakfast buffet (which I didn't try) and free morning and afternoon tea. A separate café and grocery store provides for in between meals. I took my own food for breakfast, lunch and snacks which is highly advisable. Binna Burra offers an excellent buffet for breakfast and dinner in a cosy dining room where you generally share a long table with fellow guests who are often alone and clearly there for hiking rather than a lazy getaway. I preferred their food and down to earth approach. You can purchase a meal package when you check in. We took our own lunches, and morning and afternoon tea were free. There is a teahouse for in between meals. The bar at O’Reilly’s and the dining hall at Binna Burra both offer spectacular views.

ACTIVITIES & AMENITIES

O’Reilly’s is a clear winner here offering bird and wildlife shows, Segway tours, a flying fox, glow worm experience and daily tours. The birds in the area are really tame and will happily climb all over you and fly into your room for the promise of a feed. It’s these experiences which has the place swarming with tourist buses during the day. Binna Burra’s activities are more adventure focused with abseiling, archery and orienteering but we found these only ran sporadically. I like that Binna Burra offers more relaxed activities such as journaling and yoga and enjoyed their range of free nightly get-togethers, talks and tours which are sadly lacking at O’Reilly’s. Both offer a day spa and O’Reilly’s has a couple of lovely pools.

WALKS

There are plenty of walks of different lengths offered at both. Personally I preferred the variety of the walks at Binna Burra but if it’s waterfalls you’re after O’Reilly’s is the favoured destination. Since O’Reilly’s caters more to tourists and families it’s pretty rare to bump into anyone on hikes over 5km although this makes the shorter tracks busy. The walks at both are similarly well maintained.

OVERALL

You won't be disappointed by either option and it really just depends what kind of getaway you’re after. I would happily return to both but preferably Binna Burra for hiking and O’Reilly’s for a day trip or family holiday. If you're really keen you can stay at both by hiking the 22km+ track which links them.  

About 'If Trees Could Talk'

When I found these gnarly, moss covered Antarctic Beech trees along the Albert River Circuit I knew immediately they had the fairy tale look I was after. The trees in this area are believed to be thousands of years old and I imagined all the stories they might tell if trees could talk. How incredible to be so resilient and how lucky we are to still have them! I was also struck by the idea that without human interference the things that move the slowest tend to live the longest. The pose was shot on location so it's not a composite although the image is a panorama made up of four shots edited together to get the full scope of the trees. In editing I tried to add a touch of magic - fireflies, fairies, butterflies - but I abandoned all these ideas because I really just wanted this image to be about the simple bond between the girl and the tree, as if it were telling her its secrets. o'reilly's, lamington national park, antarctic beech tree, fine art, conceptual photography, moss, tree

A little over four years ago I was standing in the kitchen and noticed how lovely the light was hitting my mother's desk so naturally I had to climb under it and take some self-portraits. It was only the second time I'd ever taken artistic self portraits and I was pleased that there were some really beautiful poses among them. I love the glowing skin, the pop of the pink and my face hidden in darkness. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="4395,4397,4396,4394"]   However those photos, along with many, many others have sat on my hard drive all this time, unseen by anyone but me. A couple of times I've tried to make something of them but the ideas never really took off. [gallery size="large" ids="4399,4400,4398"]   I actually really like that third image but I could never quite work out why an angel would be trapped in a jar. If my stories don't make sense I will abandon them. It's frustrating because I've seen plenty of beautiful images from other photographers that have no story or make no sense, but I personally need my images to be believable, despite their strangeness. Recently I thought I'd have one more go at it and by giving the image a more renaissance toning it began to go in a direction I was happy with. My mother loves angels so I've grown up surrounded by them. She even pins an angel brooch to her outfit every single day. Only natural then that one would eventually creep into my work. For me, the story here is about an angel who feels overburdened by modern society. No one is truly good or truly bad and I feel like those lines blur even more as time marches on. If we take the seven deadly sins - pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth - I know that I, personally, commit at least one of these sins daily (mainly gluttony thanks to chocolate) but fundamentally I believe I'm a good person despite this. I'm not religious at all but I'm well acquainted with the bible and if there IS a heaven and hell, how difficult would it be to unravel the complexity of a human mind and proclaim it either good or bad? Particularly when the decision results in an eternity of either reward or torture. So yes, I feel like this angel is trying to hide herself away from the overwhelming burden of her position, hence the name 'A Burden Too Big To Bear'. The ground was photographed at Mt Cook in New Zealand. I chose it because of the golden tone of the grass. Her wings are from a swan in London's Kensington Park. The sky is a mixture of several layers. [gallery size="large" ids="4401,4402,4403"] The end result! fine art, photography, photograph, angel, halo, night, shield, field  

For some time now I've been feeling the call of the wild, a desire to run off into the woods and shack up in a log cabin away from society. As urbanisation consumes the natural world and disillusionment with consumerism and 'stuff' grows I've noticed that more and more people are sharing this desire. I've been reading about people with similar interests, starting with Barbara Newhall Follett's, 'A House Without Windows', a novel about a girl who leaves her family to live in the forest. The book was published in 1927 when Barbara was just 12 years old. At 35 she walked out of her home and was never seen again. Currently I'm reading 'The Nature Fix: Why nature makes us happier, healthier and more creative' highlighting the studies of leading scientists into nature's effects on health, crime and productivity. It's fascinating stuff and I hope to explore it further in a forest based series I plan to work on next year. Lacking the funds and the means to find a forest home of my own I decided to book into O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat in Lamington National Park. Here I spent four days alone wandering by waterfalls and through ancient forests in an effort to soothe my soul and unload some of life's burdens. Forest bathing, or Shinrin-yoku as it is called in Japan where the term was coined, truly is magical and I long for a time when I have a little forest of my own. I hope the intent of the image is obvious in that, by spending time in nature, it causes us to bloom ourselves. This image was photographed in two spots. The pose was taken from me draped over an Antarctic Beech tree estimated to be thousands of years old.   antarctic beech, tree, lamington national park, o'reilly's, photography, moss, green, forest, rainforest   The location was photographed near one of the waterfalls along the Box Forest Circuit.     A really cool little feature of this image is that if you look closely between the two centre rocks and behind the middle one you'll see streaks of white and blue. This is the Lamington Spiny Crayfish which only lives in this part of the world. [gallery columns="2" size="large" ids="4366,4365"]   I've released the image to coincide with Earth Day, the focus of which for 2018 is reducing plastic pollution and being mindful about your consumption of single-use plastics such as plastic bottles, cling wrap, food containers, cups and straws. We have lost so much of the natural world but as governments start to realise the healing benefits of green spaces we can all do our part to preserve what remains.   forest bathing, shinrin yoku, forest, rainforest, woods, plant, grow, earth day, o'reilly's, lamington national park, waterfall, river, ecotherapy, nature therapy, nature, healing  

When I was 16 I overheard someone in an elevator say ‘why waste the emotion’.  At the time I was riddled with teenage angst and thought this was the most profound thing I’d ever heard. I adopted it as my mantra, my security net against the world, and slowly taught myself to repress the messy and unnecessary emotions that come from not only being human but also an empath. After two decades of practice I’ve become a fairly unemotional person. I am an INTJ anyway, the type of introvert who prefers reason to feelings (hence why I like to categorise myself), and I’ve learnt to avoid situations that require emotional expenditure. I refuse to watch sad or scary movies, I have little to no desire for a relationship let alone children, and I keep my friends at an arm’s length. I do these things unconsciously and I’m certainly not proud of them but I’ve had to make peace with the way I am. Naturally as a black hearted ice queen I’ve built up a fairly impenetrable fortress with bricks made of cynicism and distrust. So you can imagine my surprise when I found someone had snuck through my defences. This series is about a heart that starts to feel again and the tidal surge of emotion that comes after decades of repression. It’s also, in part, about the need for an artist to bleed to create meaningful art. I want the images to portray something beautiful, about broken and hardened hearts that begin to heal and awaken; about that delightful moment when something or someone touches your heart profoundly. These are the messages I will send these images out into the world with. The reality though is much darker. The reason the security of my fortress failed is because it was not equipped for the small percentage of people who operate differently from the rest of us. This is how I became briefly entangled with my first and last narcissist; that particular breed of toxic human who feeds on the emotions of others. When you’re cautious about guarding your feelings there is no worse person you could invite into your life than these masters of manipulation. But empaths and narcissists are drawn to each other because they both have high emotional intelligence, it’s just that one uses this skill to heal while the other uses it to destroy. Thankfully I quickly realised what I was dealing with and was able to escape with only slight emotional bruising. That story might inspire my next series. I read a lovely quote on a blog that said ‘narcissists can be like angels in disguise. They are catalysts of change in people’s lives: they stir up all the old wounds, scars and shadow elements in a person and force growth.’ This sums up perfectly what this work is actually trying to convey. [gallery size="medium" link="file" ids="4312,4314,4313,4315,4318,4317,4319,4316,4320"] [caption id="attachment_4311" align="aligncenter" width="300"]love, heart, digital manipulation, coming to life, fine art, composite, color, dark, photography, photograph, valentine, romantic, steel, guarded, protected, metal When I realised it was all lies[/caption]  

How I created ‘All the times my heart awoke’

Prior to my realisation I had started storyboarding ideas around the concept of someone who is reluctant to give their heart away. I found that many of the ideas revolved around physical representations of a heart coming to life from a state of stasis and so I decided to explore this theme by applying different creative treatments to one heart image to try and tell the same story in as many ways as possible. I thought about photographing a real heart but naturally this came with its own set of icky complications and so I decided to use a stock image from Pixelsquid. Pixelsquid is brilliant because their images are 3D renders which can be rotated 360 degrees. This allowed me to use the same heart image from a range of angles to add variety to the series. [caption id="attachment_4321" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Human heart from Pixelsquid[/caption]   I wanted this series to be a Photoshop project instead of photography one and so I didn’t shoot a single image for this series, using only stock I’ve purchased or photographs I’ve shot before. With much experimentation and the help of YouTube tutorials I applied different effects to give each heart a unique look. At the moment my focus is on creating work that, while still dear to my ‘heart’, is faster to make, cheaper to produce and more affordable to buy. After much soul searching I’ve decided to spend 2018 focusing less on pursuing a fine art career and more on creating collectible art pieces for my Society6 and Redbubble stores and so this series is in that ‘vein’. [gallery size="medium" ids="4324,4325,4323"]   I created the first nine images with the intention of portraying something romantic and uplifting. After much deliberation I then created the tenth image that puts a whole new spin on the series. Since it was partially inspired by real life events the last image was necessary in sticking to the truth. While it’s difficult to talk about the exact circumstances that inspired it, the beauty of art is that it allows you to abstractly express the things you’re uncomfortable saying with words. It’s the best kind of therapy. I loved the challenge of telling a story in this way and recommend the exercise of using one object to tell a story for other creators who are feeling stuck or looking to hone their skills. What does this series stir up for you?

[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. :)

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.

Recently the opportunity to do a newborn photo shoot literally fell into my lap - when my neighbour handed me this doll and suggested I use it in a photo. Made by Reborn Baby Central, it's delightfully creepy so how could I resist? From Reborn Baby Central   It sat in my room for a few days mocking me with its lifelikeness and I had to continually check that it hadn't opened its eyes while my back was turned. But eventually I grew fond of the damn thing and so I decided to photograph it as if it were a newborn (or in this case, reborn) baby. I enjoy the work that newborn photographers do but I sadly lack whatever maternal hormones are required for baby-rearing and so being able to do a baby shoot without unintentionally hurting it, upsetting it, or getting pooped on was immensely appealing. People that are parents, I salute you. I did a little research into newborn photography techniques and learnt that with the right props, a shallow depth of field and some basic compositing skills it's not such a tricky thing to do. Although I'm sure the actual difficulty lies in trying to keep a real life child asleep or amused. There are a number of Photoshop tricks newborn photographers employ, like reducing skin redness, selective blurring and skin softening and I thought it was hilarious that this doll is so lifelike that it has red skin patches, wrinkles and discolouration that I needed to retouch just like a real child. I've also discovered how to use Photoshop's mixer brush to retouch skin which is my new favourite thing. [caption id="attachment_3077" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Actual background and before skin retouching Actual background and before skin retouching[/caption]   Naturally, being a vampire baby I then had to do some fancy Photoshop work to give the images a dark twist. I have tried to do this tastefully as someone pointed out that people may take offence. I genuinely hope this isn't the case and that these images can be enjoyed for the lighthearted fun they are. Let me know your favourite!   [gallery columns="1" size="large" link="file" ids="3063,3071,3067,3066,3073,3064,3070,3072,3065,3068,3069"]  

22
Jul

If Trees Could Talk – a visit to Lamington National Park

I’ve mentioned in previous posts my desire to run away into the woods and how spending a few days at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat in Lamington National Park momentarily fulfilled that urge, but I’ve only really glossed over the actual experience. A luxury lodge was not quite the cabin in the woods I’d been dreaming of but […]

7
May

A Burden Too Big To Bear

A little over four years ago I was standing in the kitchen and noticed how lovely the light was hitting my mother’s desk so naturally I had to climb under it and take some self-portraits. It was only the second time I’d ever taken artistic self portraits and I was pleased that there were some […]

22
Apr

Forest bathing

For some time now I’ve been feeling the call of the wild, a desire to run off into the woods and shack up in a log cabin away from society. As urbanisation consumes the natural world and disillusionment with consumerism and ‘stuff’ grows I’ve noticed that more and more people are sharing this desire. I’ve […]

7
Jan

New series: All the times my heart awoke

When I was 16 I overheard someone in an elevator say ‘why waste the emotion’.  At the time I was riddled with teenage angst and thought this was the most profound thing I’d ever heard. I adopted it as my mantra, my security net against the world, and slowly taught myself to repress the messy […]

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 […]

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 […]

13
Jul

A newborn photo shoot with a difference

Recently the opportunity to do a newborn photo shoot literally fell into my lap – when my neighbour handed me this doll and suggested I use it in a photo. Made by Reborn Baby Central, it’s delightfully creepy so how could I resist?   It sat in my room for a few days mocking me […]