Monday, 12 September 2016

challenge success story: Joanne Stead

I love being able to share Challenge Success Stories, thank you Joanne Stead for sharing your amazing journey and success with us all....

x Nicky

Challenge Member: Joanne Stead

When I joined the 52-week Illustration Challenge in October 2014 I had no idea it was about to turn my life around. 

I have been lucky enough to secure two solo-exhibitions just 18-months after joining the Challenge
Here I was: a single mum with three kids, two exes and a public service job - 2014 had been a tumultuous year for me with a myriad of personal dramas, health issues and work changes, and I was feeling burnt out!  I knew I needed something for me, and a link to the 52-week illustration Challenge popped up on one of Chantelle Ellem’s FatMumSlim blogs.  I think that link literally called my name, loudly! I put a shout out on my Facebook page asking for my arty friends to join me and jumped right in.

My first contribution was a pencil drawing for Week 46: Circus and I was absolutely overwhelmed with all of the positive feedback, encouragement and warm welcomes I received. I was instantly addicted.  The Challenge gave me permission to fiddle around with mediums and try new things.  Over the coming weeks I submitted in digital, pastel, collage, fluoro party hairspray and ink (I didn’t have any spraypaint!) and coloured pencil.  The constant stream of amazing, inspired and inspiring creativity, as well as the love in the group spurred me on, excited for every next theme. 

My first ever post - Week 46: Circus (2014)

In early 2015, after admiring Jason Philp’s Challenge posts for many weeks, I confessed in a comment that I had never heard of his medium – scraperboard – but I was totally in love with it.  He sent me to a blog on scraperboard that he had done for the Challenge, and I ordered some supplies.

My first ever scraperboard submission for Week 5: Kitchen (2015)
Scraperboard became my ‘thing’ between February and September last year and I created about 30 works in response to Challenge themes, sometimes two in a week.  I absolutely fell in love with the medium and I still can’t believe some of the images that I managed to create only a few months after returning to art, all thanks to the Challenge.

Scraperboard was my absolute turning point.  I so loved the medium and I loved the images that I was churning out, and was getting great feedback - so in April 2015 I started a Facebook artist page for myself.  A month later, still full of no idea, with a portfolio of original scraperboards tucked into a big padded envelope I made appointments with the Tamworth Regional Gallery and Weswal, a little private gallery, to show them what I had.  I went in hoping to get some great local advice on what professional development was available and how I could move to the next level and was utterly gobsmacked when they both loved what I was already producing.  Weswal wanted to take framed images on consignment and the Regional Gallery starting talking about providing some gallery space in the community gallery, and booked me in to run a class as part of their July school holiday program.

Week 21: Stripes (2015)

At about that same time I joined in with a group of Tamworth-based artists who were volunteering to create a community art concept as part of a local playground project.  Little did I know, that we would all get along so well that we would stick together after the project was finished!  The Tamworth Regional Art Collective (TRAC) was borne, and nine months later we are now creating our third paid public art installation together.

Some of the TRAC members and our children with a mosaic installation we finished in March 2016

2016 has really been my year - I have been lucky enough to secure two solo-exhibitions, something I never would have thought possible only a few ago.  Both exhibitions were opportunities that arose and I chose to say “yes” to despite being under-prepared.  The first was at a local café who had just created a gallery space and they were looking for artists who were ready to exhibit.  By this time I had upgraded from my big Australia Post envelope to an actual portfolio but I still took my unframed originals in, in the hope of scoring a solo show.  They asked for an opening date, and I chose my upcoming birthday (the big four oh!) and then with just three weeks to put the whole thing together, create a retail aspect, frame and hang, the rush was on! 

Having a show on my birthday was really the best present anyone could ask for.  A dream come true.  I couldn’t believe my luck, it was such a wonderful feeling to be putting my creations out there.  A mixture of bravado and vulnerability, pride and nerves.  But I did it.

Opening night of my Tamworth exhibition "Scraperboard and other amusements"
Then in June this year another opportunity arose for a large-scale solo exhibition in Brisbane.  They needed at least 50 pieces and the only opening in their schedule was 22 August to 30 September.  It was such a good opportunity I certainly didn’t want to turn it down, and so I said “yes” again.  And then I panicked…  To get enough pieces done in time I would have to be creating one finished, saleable piece every two to three days!  Well with inspiration from the Challenge themes and encouragement from my beautiful arty friends I did it.  I really don’t know how.  I was going to bed forcing inspiration to come, willing great ideas for an engaging image, and then jumping up out of bed to start as soon as it did. 

Behind all this I have been working with a business coach since May this year - Rachel Marsden from The Great Creative Life - and her business and marketing advice and knowledge has been indispensable.  In the lead up to my Brisbane show she guided me expertly through all of the things I would never have thought of, to hone in on my ideal target audience and boost the profile of the show.  After selling two original pieces at my café show in Tamworth in February, sales of originals at the Brisbane show are currently at 15 with still three weeks to go, and I am tripping over myself in amazement.

At my Brisbane exhibition "Choosing to Fly" with other 52-Week Challenge members and friends Vanessa Pritchard, Heidi Cooper and Bronny Boniface (my son wanted my attention!)
I am so grateful to the Challenge team and members for putting me on this path.  I feel like all I had to do was join the group and then, as a group, you have all invested so much in me.  Every member, every like and comment, every piece of advice and link to other opportunities, and best of all, the many friendships that have developed.  It is such an encouraging group to be a part of, and I truly believe there nothing else like it.  

I am so grateful for this new exciting life I have, to be connecting to my inner gifts and to have made the space in my life for constant creativity.  I would encourage everyone to embrace their talents, and to say “yes” to every opportunity that comes your way: - Life is for living after all, and I absolutely know that I will never look back.


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