Friday, 13 March 2015

Exhibition Opening Night Wrap-Up!

The 52-Week Illustration Challenge Exhibition has been as surreal as it has been beautiful. Nicky and I were fortunate to be able to travel to Perth for the Opening on Monday 9 March--and it became a long weekend of creative happy.

We arrived on the morning of Friday 6th and went straight to Brookfield Place to meet with Emma Tearne, the Perth Marketing Manager, WA. Emma surprised us with a visit to the Linton and Kay Art Gallery--where Linton, Gary, Miranda and their team had taken each exhibition piece and carefully aligned it with the perfect frame.

Nicky and I were stunned at how beautiful the works looked. It was a real Moment! We couldn't get over the colour and detail that is so missed when digitally-viewed. And another thing that struck us was the size. So many pieces were so much smaller or so much larger than we had imagined. This phenomenon continued on when other people saw the art in person, too.

It was also overwhelming to finally see artworks we had fallen in love with and had known and loved since well into the start of 2014. So very special.

Dragging ourselves away from the gallery (it's stunning--you simply must go), Emma took us to a beautiful Japanese restaurant where we chatted about the journey so far, and ... the Opening Night.

That afternoon, I interviewed with the lovely Clarissa Phillips from The West Australian. We talked about the Challenge journey and its culmination in the Exhibition. You can see the clip below.

Thank you to Stephanie Patniotis from P Squared for organising.

Saturday morning, Nicky and I dropped into the Brookfield Place foyer space to witness the bump-in. You can see how happy we were (below) and how beautiful things were looking!

Nicky, left, and me

It was so exciting to see the pieces 'fit' together so beautifully--as though it had been planned this way. Hung chronologically, four of the boards were placed against the windows and four of them against the internal wall, half way down this impressive space.

Linton + Kay Art Gallery peeps were doing the install, and what an amazing job they did. I really want some of those wire hangers for my house!

The rest of the day, we were busy at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (WA) Pro Development Day, where I was running an afternoon workshop. I ran a workshop on Sunday, too, then Sunday afternoon, it was time to meet up with some of our admin members, who had travelled far and wide to be part of this amazing event.
L-R: Natalie Daniel, Trish Ward, Heidi Cooper, me, Sally Fawcett, Nicky Johnston, Sophie Pittaway, Penny Fisher

with missing Admin members, L-R: L-R: Trish Ward, Natalie Daniel, Jess Racklyeft, Heidi Cooper, me, Leonie Cheetham, Sally Fawcett, Nicky Johnston, Sophie Pittaway, Kim Bergstrom, Penny Fisher, Odette Teerink
And a very special homage to Lisa-Marie Kerr (Nicky and I are holding her at centre). LM was on her way! but was unable to come to Perth at the last minute. Trying to make light of a crushing situation!

But not to worry, because this lovely bloke sidled up unbeknownst to us, to become part of the Admin team ...

Needless to say, we had a great night. There was much laughter and many bubbles and even some tears ... plus absolutely beautiful pressies for Nicky and ! (thank you, girls!).

On Monday, Nicky and I arrived at the space early and met with Emma Tearne. We wandered around and snapped a few more shots while the light was good. These shots should give you an idea of how fabulous (and huge!) the space is. It's located in the main corporate building at Brookfield Place, and the space is open Monday to Friday, during business hours.

After a briefing, we met other admin and Challenge members at a nearby bar (more bubbles!) before returning to the space at 6.30pm for the opening.

Around 80 people filtered in, including kids--enjoying the amazing food and drinks on offer. Guests were just blown away by the artwork; it was a joy to see them immersed and enjoying each and every piece.

It was also thrilling to meet so many Challenge members, including several who were actually showing.

Nicky Johnston with Tanya Coller from Tickle the Imagination magazine, and member Debbie Gilmour

illustrious Challenge member Milla and me--with her beautiful card! everyone knew who Milla was!

Penny Fisher, Nicky Johnston and local author/illustrator Wendy Binks with a gentleman

Soon it was time for the formalities, led by Emma Tearne, who spoke of the amazing work Arts Brookfield do to support artists.

Then it was time for me to speak, which was much more emotional than I thought it would be!

Nicky spoke shortly after me, and you can see here that I've just spotted the book in front of her on the podium.

Nicky and the Admin team had organised the creation and printing of a hard cover book (featuring my artwork on the covers) of over 50 Member testimonials and images. That's it--I lost it!

A little bit teary-eyed from then on!

Nicky Johnston, me, Sophie Pittaway

We are working in making this book available to members who would like a copy, so stay tuned for that. It's very special.

with Miranda from Linton + Kay Gallery and her daughter Ella

Sally Fawcett, Heidi Cooper, Natalie Daniel, me, Sophie Pittaway, Penny Fisher, Nicky Johnston, Patricia Ward--this one--what were we doing!? In the midst of being multi-papped!

with photographer John - legend!

Heidi Cooper, Sophie Pittaway, me, Penny Fisher, Nicky Johnston

Patricia Ward, Sophie Pittaway, me

with Patricia Ward's amazing little boy, pointing out detail on Melissa Tan's BUTTERFLY picture

me, Natalie Daniel. Ian McLean, Penny Fisher

me with amazing friend and magazine talent Tanya Collier

Penny Fisher and Nicky Johnston

After the mingling and oggling art and meeting wonderful people, some of us headed upstairs to the rooftop Bob's Bar for more drinks and chatter.

L-R: Ian McLean, Nicky Johnston, Vair Buchanan, Sally Fawcett, Sophie Pittaway, Me, Heidi Cooper, (part of) Wendy Binks, ?, Kate Bouman, ?, Bettina Dodson, Patricia Ward

We do hope to have some images from John, the official photographer, sometime soon--we'll put these in the Opening Night album on the Facebook page. Just click on PHOTOS at the top of the wall and you'll see the album there.

What a surreal and beautiful evening, celebrating the artworks of such talented 'everyday' people. For those of you who couldn't make it, I've pasted my speech (though minus the ad-libbing) at the bottom of this post. I think it says it all--and how blessed I've been to see this humble little Challenge turn into something so 'beyond'.

Nicky and I have felt privileged to organise this exhibition, thanks to the fabulous people at Arts Brookfield. We hovered over each and every piece as though they were our babies, and we were the mother hens. We have deep affection for these artworks, and I think our picture, below, shows how utterly thrilled we are to not only showcase these works, but bring kudos and attention to ALL our Challenge members.

Curating this exhibition was both immensely challenging and overwhelmingly rewarding. Thank you to everyone for your support and love. We are floating at the tippety-top of Cloud 9 right now, and none of this would have happened without, well ... you.


PS: HUGE thanks to Nicky's gorgeous cousin Alyson for playing unofficial photographer! and to Ian McLean for taking so many great shots and helping us with artwork shots.

To see all the finalist artworks , click here!

Tania's Exhibition Opening Night Speech

When I speak or present on creativity, I often talk about the 8-Year-Old factor. How doing what you once loved as an 8-year-old can change your life and career trajectory. I strongly believe this, and nowhere has it been more clearly evidenced than with the 52-Week Illustration Challenge.

As an 8-year old, I loved to draw. Like most 8-year-olds! But what I also loved to do was meld the artwork with story. With visual adventure. It was, quite simply, what brought me the greatest joy.

And now—x-amount of decades later—that very same concept continues to bring me the greatest joy, as an author and now illustrator, of children’s books.

It feels really, really strange to call myself an Illustrator. For decades, when my connection to illustration was lost through the tragedy of everyday life demands and circumstance, and the crushing defeat of a lack of self-belief, calling myself an illustrator was a surreal dream that lived in another dimension.

Courage is what it takes to connect with the path that brings you happiness and life pleasure. The courage to not only believe in yourself but to believe you deserve it. To believe you CAN have it, and should, quite frankly, spend inordinate waking hours in its pursuit. When you finally realise the need to your life with the creativity and gusto that’s so very much part of the 8-year-old existence, you may find yourself, as I did, absolutely desperate to reconnect.

For me, this desperation for reconnection meant illustration.

I’m an illustration OBSESSIVE. I have an unholy collection of beautiful picture books from all over the world, and they make my heart pound like shoes. They ARE my shoes. I walk in them. I journey in them. They carry me and I plan to spend the rest of my life creating and revelling in them.

In December 2013, I found myself at an internal crossroads. My career as a children’s author was going well but something was missing. So I set myself the challenge of reconnecting with my long lost love of illustrating, coming up with a weekly prompt that I would complete each week. I had initially intended for this to run from my blog, with maybe a handful of industry friends joining in. When one of them suggested a facebook group, I set one up and the membership flood began almost immediately. We now sit just under 3500 members.

The 52WIC has become more than a challenge. It’s become a community. Not only have members connected with new friends and colleagues, they have forged working relationships, signed contracts, even left office jobs to pursue their graphic design dreams or fall headlong into the deep end of publishing. Members have also found deeply personal meaning and joy and even healing in the artwork on show every day. From those struggling with cancer or depression, to those who are lonely or lost, relationships have been healed, past pain has been eased, new opportunities have been forged, and people have found their calling and direction in life once again. They have returned to their path.

I am one of those people.

And now, Challenge members are exhibiting their work in a public forum. It’s all quite surreal. But the overriding element—for me and so many others—has been that realignment with lost passion. With stepping back into our heart and operating from our very spiritual centre. THAT is what life is about, and I’m both humbled and overwhelmed that this small seed of an idea has provided this to anyone, let alone the wee 8yo girl inside me.

People often thank me for starting the Challenge but it would be nothing without its members. It would also be nothing without the heart, soul and sheer talent of my admin members, headed by my dear friend, author/illustrator Nicky Johnston, who was on board to help me from the very start of 2014 and has been a priceless sounding board and support for me. Nicky is now running the 2015 Challenge on my behalf as I work on all that I have learned from 2014.

I also want to thank my admin members Natalie Daniel. Leonie Cheetham, Penny Fisher, Odette Teerink, Heidi Cooper, Lisa-Marie Kerr, Sophie Pittaway, Patricia Ward, Jess Racklyeft, Sally Fawcett, and newbie Kim Bergstrom for their love, support, friendship, kookiness! warm souls and amazing talent. You have become such an inspiration for me—and you’ve also become friends.

Huge thanks to Emma Tearne and the team from Arts Brookfield for asking us to exhibit in this beautiful space. Thanks also to the incredible Linton + Kay art gallery for the impeccable framing—to Linton, Gary, Miranda and the team who bumped in on Saturday. What a life moment for so many Challenge members. We are so grateful and so excited to be showing.

Here tonight you will see artwork from regular people with an 8-year-old Picasso lodged firmly inside them. There are mums, dads, teachers, librarians, graphic designers, teens, retirees and kids. There are people from all walks of life showing over the next 2 weeks, from all over Australia and from abroad, including New Zealand, Singapore and The Netherlands.

It’s not often ‘everyday’ people have the chance to have their artistic voice heard and I feel truly humbled to have curated, alongside, Nicky, these beautiful pieces for your viewing pleasure—pieces as beautiful and as meaningful as works found in any gallery in any city in the world.

I hope you enjoy this glorious celebration of creativity. I am so proud of this Challenge and all it represents, and so honoured and privileged to showcase the beautiful works of so many.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So, behold!



  1. The challenge along with the exhibition has all been such a fabulous incentive to keep illustrating which brings joy to so many - well done to you all!

  2. This is so inspiring. Congratulations Tania - and everyone else involved. Just beautiful x

  3. A Big Congratulations... Tania and Team!!! Superb!!!


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