Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Kirsty's Picks — Week 34: DEEP

I have fallen in love deeply, laughed deeply, sighed deeply and thought deeply this week, thanks to your beautiful and varied DEEP works of art. But did you find yourself holding your breath when you studied the underwater scenes, too? I'm sure I'm not the only one in this creative community who connects with art so deeply that it causes a physical reaction! :-)

Thanks for ALL your wonderful contributions. Here are just a few that resonated with me personally...

Leonie Cheetham

Andrew Grant

Colin Rowe

Deborah Drake Norris

Emma Kaufmann

Jessica Compton

Jutta Berend

Katharine Harper

Katrina Cobb

Leonie A. Rs

Lisa Jones

Louann Brown

Lynda Bell-Mann

Melissa Johns

Penelope Pratley

Peter Hinton

Shaney Hyde

Ashleigh O'Lynn

Monday, 28 August 2017

Meet Joanne Stead — Challenge Admin

Joanne Stead

Describe your family:

I have two daughters, 11 and 9, and a son who is 4.  We are all a bit crafty and the kids love joining in on all of my little projects.  Sometimes they use a bit too much of my art supplies for my liking!


Skipping, Week 26 2016: Shoes

Describe your work:

I have a background in psychology and journalism and have worked in a variety of project management and community development roles over the years.  Sixteen years after moving to Tamworth, my role with the NSW Government was restructured and I was made redundant in December 2014, which freed me up financially to try a few new things. 

I registered a business as a community development consultant and on that side of things I trade mostly on my writing skills these days.  I help community services organisations with their planning, reporting requirements, grants and proposals, newsletters and other things.  I don’t know if that sounds like I’m talking myself up too much – in reality I am a bit of a sucker for a good community project and so I am pretty poor at the making money side of business. 

Back in 2014, my looming redundancy was also my chance to assess where I was headed and start investing in myself again, and I joined the Illustration Challenge in October that year.  

At that time, I really couldn’t have ever dreamed where it would take me.  Last year in February I had my very first solo exhibition in a local café and then very quickly moved on to a major solo exhibition opportunity in Brisbane in September.  I still can’t believe that I got that one together on time.  I said yes to the offer despite only having 3 months to put together a collection of 50 artworks which I paired with 40 pieces of poetry for the exhibition.  It was an amazing time for me.  

This year I have started the year with four joint exhibitions, and next week I’m heading to Sydney to paint a mural on the Bondi Beach Sea Wall, before doing another solo exhibition at St Leonards in a little artist-run gallery in November.

That Dream Where I'm Underwater, Week 29 2016: Collage 

What is your career goal?

I know I am meant to have defined my goal very specifically by now, but I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.  I am torn between wanting to work in meaningful social change projects and make a real difference in the world, and wanting to hide away and feed my creative side 24/7.  Some weeks I dream of a month of no kids and a studio with an endless supply of art materials, but I’d probably get lonely.  I’d love to make more of my overall income out of my art, but no matter how much I learn about selling, marketing and business skills, they are still one of those things I think you have to be born with — and I wasn’t.

The Littlest Gardener, Week 7 2016: Kindergarden

Describe your art background

I did art all through high school and really wanted to pursue it at art college, but I was persuaded to go to university and get a “proper” qualification.  I had another chance at it ten years later in 2002 when I was offered a job training in interactive digital design with an educational software company, but I ended up choosing another local job with no commute.  Everything offers opportunities, and some of those that I did take I wouldn’t ever want to give back, but it would be nice to be able to have done it all, rather than having to make choices.   

I have loved the opportunity that the redundancy has given me to take some time off and get back to art.  I have rediscovered a passion that had been overtaken by being a provider and being a mum for a lot of years and it was so much like meeting an old friend again.

Various themes: Week 52 2015: World; Week 1 2016: Fancy Dress; Week 3 2016: Theme Park

What do you love about the Challenge? What have you learned?

The Challenge has given me so many opportunities.  It is really hard to believe what one Facebook group has given me, that a Facebook community could have so much power. Not just for me, but for so many others as well. From my first post I felt welcomed, embraced and celebrated as an artist and I was hooked straight away.   

The support hasn’t let up, and the personal relationships I have developed continue to nurture my creative side. The Challenge has inspired me to explore new mediums and the networks of artists and support provided are genuinely priceless. Jason Philp’s work introduced me to scraperboard and then Peter Hinton and then Jolanda Jarman set me on the path of trying linocut.  

These days I’ve moved on to acrylics on canvas, something I had very little confidence with just this time last year.  I set out to improve my ability with acrylics to get into portrait work last year, and ended up having a mini-exhibition of portraits at a local café in January this year, and then won a first and second at our local show in April with some portraits too! 

Without the Challenge I would never have developed as large a body of work, or set up my own art page, or managed to find constant inspiration, or had the courage to approach local galleries which have all opened up exciting opportunities for me.

The Ideas Man: Gary Dadd, Week 40, 2016: Blue

What is your favourite illustration you have done for the challenge so far?

Bathroom Slippers, Week 17 2015: Fluffy

What advice would you give to artists just starting out in the Challenge?

Not only did the Challenge set me off on a path of regularly creating again, but I have connected with people with whom I have made the most amazing friendships. We encourage each other and allay each other's doubts. We inspire. Together we are an arty/writerly brains trust. We do art swaps, we support and cross-promote each other's pages, go to each other's exhibition openings, organise get-togethers and put in for joint exhibition opportunities! Individually we might carry that massive burden of self-doubt, that artist-anxiety and insecurity. But together we are fabulous. There is power and joy in connecting.

I love the Challenge Map that we have been able to make a start on creating this last week, definitely look yourselves up and see who is in your local network. 

Now that you have joined this amazing art network, make sure you harness the power of it. Build relationships, connect and encourage. Be everything that you need others to be, to empower you in your art journey.

Banksia Serrata, Week 16 2017, Experiment

Where can people buy your work?

Prints of my scraperboards are available through Art Lovers Australia here, and also through my website.

Follow Joanne online:

Facebook page:

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Matt's Picks - Week 33: SADNESS

52 Week Illustration Challenge

Week 33: Sadness

As well as working as a cartoonist/illustrator, I run a private counselling practice in Melbourne’s Eastern suburbs. I deal with the roller coaster of human emotions every day.

We don’t like feeling sad, but the reality is that sadness is a normal (and necessary) part of being human. We don’t have to fix it. We learn to sit with it, because sometimes it is the right emotion to feel.

To select this weeks images, I simply covered the names of each artist so the images could speak for themselves. The ones I chose were those that connected with me because they reflected a sadness in my own journey.

Thank you to everybody who took part this week and shared a little of their own sadness.

Matt Glover

Colin Rowe

Goldie Chelmsford

Jutta Berend

Katrina Cobb

Kirsty Collett

Yevgeniya Tanasiychuk

Prue Pittock

Marjory Gardner

Lynda Bell-Mann

Leonie Cheetham

Andrew Grant

Monday, 21 August 2017

Meet Tania McCartney — Challenge Founder

Tania McCartney, image: Martin Ollman for HerCanberra

Tell us what sort of a child you were. Did art play a big part in your growing up?

I lived in my head as a child. I was talkative, endlessly inspired, bossy and inventive. Everything could be made into something, and often was. And everything could be beautiful, too.

There were endless hours decorating and redecorating my room, converting the carport roof into a living room, digging a wishing well in the backyard and editing a local newsletter. I’d also draft plans for exquisite mansions on metre-wide sheets of graph paper, write plays and direct them, pen adventure stories and picture books, illustrating and stapling them together.

I loved to draw, write, dance, sing, bake, make, create secret clubs and even design the stationery for them. So yes, you could say art (or the Arts) was a big part of growing up!

Looking ahead to adulthood, I wanted to be an author, graphic designer, illustrator, actress and designer—simultaneously—and I’ve filled almost all of those roles, though it’s taken many decades to finally arrive at a place where I’m doing this full time. It’s a heavenly place to be. I think my 10-year-old self would be pretty happy to know my hard work has paid off.

from work-in-progress, HarperCollins

Why do you make art now?

Quite simply—because it brings me joy. It feels like I’ve returned to my core self when I create. Like I’ve come home. I also do it for work. Doing something you love, something that makes you intensely happy and brings deep reward… to be able to do it for ‘work’? It’s phenomenal.

Australia Illustrated was a direct result of the Challenge, EK Books, 2016

Have you formally trained as an artist or illustrator? Describe your art background/journey.

I’ve had no formal instruction since year 10 at high school. Everything I’ve done has been self-taught—until I started the 52-Week Illustration Challenge. As soon as the Challenge took off, I tripped and fell head over heels in love with painting and drawing again. I hadn’t illustrated for 25 years—and had seriously believed I could no longer draw. What a revelation to see my skills blossom so fast—like getting back on a bicycle.

During the first year of the Challenge, I began taking digital illustration courses on I had lots of digital graphic design experience but I wanted to do ‘more’. I also learned exponentially from other Challenge members, and, frankly, by just making art. My first illustrated book, Australia Illustrated, was a direct result of the skills once the Challenge began.

This year I started doing more specific online courses in linework on, specifically with author/illustrator Nina Rycroft, and other talented people. I hope to do some advanced watercolour courses and maybe even some one-on-one classes on advanced techniques and printing in the next year or two.

from work-in-progress, National Library of Australia

Do you have a favourite medium or subject matter?

I adore, adore, adore watercolour. It’s by far my true love, but I’m also loving the incredible possibility of digital illustration. Printing techniques are a great love, too and I’ve recently discovered ink (gasp!). I’d like to work with gouache more—it’s delicious.

Multimedia is insanely good fun. I take photographs of textures everywhere I go, and I paint and print backgrounds that I scan and use in my digital art. I’m keen to bring more typography into my creations, as well as snippets from old magazines, books and catalogues.

I’m a bit obsessed with typography, too.

from Australia Illustrated

Describe your artistic process, from ‘no idea’ to ‘finished artwork’. 

Like most creators, I tend to channel things. They just come through me; from where I do not know. Ideas pop up randomly or are usually inspired by kids, art, nature or memories. If I’m both writing and illustrating, there is no ‘rule’—the illos could come first or the text first (though more commonly the latter).

As for creating the actual piece, I don’t do drafts. I just don’t. I can’t. It would ruin my mojo. Thankfully, the publishers I’ve worked with so far are cool with that. So, what I do is I draw lightly on watercolour paper and then just colour it in.

For digital, I just start drawing. I don’t plan things and I don’t plot. I just start and the rest falls into place. I can see what I want to do in my head, but sometimes things veer in an unexpected direction and I just go with it. Sometimes I have no idea what I’ll do, yet it miraculously unfolds. It's like an enigma wrapped in a surprise wrapped in happy. I love this process so much, but I have to be honest—sometimes I start a piece in a mild state of angst because I don’t know what I’m doing until it emerges!

from Australia Illustrated

How do you fit your creative work in with a busy family life? Do you have a routine?

I used to think I had a routine, but I don’t really. All I know is that I work hard, to the detriment of my social life, housework, down time and once-slim physique—and I’m not easily derailed or distracted. I seem to work fast and I’m very driven, so I do manage to get a lot done in a given day. Then I’m free at night for my husband and teens, and the dreaded housework and having to wash one’s hair (groan).

Where is your favourite place to create and illustrate?

In my studio. It’s at the front of the house, faces north and is drenched in light. It’s my happy place. I’ll soon be investing in a laptop for the first time in many years, so I plan to create in cafes like I did pre-kids!

image: Martin Ollman for HerCanberra

What impact has the Challenge had on your creative journey?

The impact has been everything. I mean—total. Without it, I would never, ever have brought illustration back into my life. The Challenge is wholly responsible for my reconnection, and for bringing back something I’ve missed so deeply.

Oh—and I would never have gone pro with illustration, either. I’m working on my fourth illustrated book this year, and just this morning, a high-profile publisher emailed and asked me to send in some illustrations. It’s like I’m asleep and dreaming.

Tania's first Challenge illustration in 2014, Week 1: EGGS

Do you have illustrators or artists who give you inspiration?

So many! Too many to list, but just off the top of my head—Miroslav Sasek, Anna Walker, Gus Gordon, David Roberts, Emily Gravett, Kyle Hughes-Odgers, Barbara Dziadosz, Lane Smith, Gennine Zlatkis, Oana Befort, Carson Ellis, Isabelle Arsenault, Jon Klassen, Peter Brown, Marc Martin. And Nicky Johnston and Kirsty Collett and our own Challenge admin girls, too! They are brilliant artists.

What are you currently working on and what will we see next from you?

I’ve just finished my first full scale illustrated wall map. It’s called Australia: Illustrated Map and will be out with Hardie Grant Travel this December. I had the time of my life creating this, and even designed the tube packaging and dump bin—what a learning experience!

Australia: Illustrated Map, Hardie Grant Travel, out December 2017

I’m nearing the end of a large book project with Jackie French for the National Library of Australia—all digital illustration. That’s out late 2018 or early 2019. And in a few weeks, I’m starting an unusual biographic-style picture book on a famous Australian for HarperCollins. This has been a big dream, and a long time coming.

Early in the new year I’m commencing a graphic design style book for the National Library and I’m continuing work on two junior fiction books/series, which I’ll also illustrate.

My first greeting cards (with Nuovo Group) are out soon and I hope to do some more for them, when I can find time! I'm having a card giveaway until 3 September (only posting to Australian addresses), you can click the image below to enter.

Do you have a dream creative project you'd love to be able to do?

I’ve had two dream projects come true this year—a map, and a Christmas book called Merry Everything!, illustrated by Jess Racklyeft, out this October with Windy Hollow Books.

I’ve long dreamt of a book with illustrations comprised of typography but so many of these books have come out these past few years, it’s set me back a little. I do think it will happen, though, when I can clear my plate!

And I dream of doing an alphabet book and one about balloons. Not sure why but I just love balloons.

Tell us something that we don’t know about you. 

I poke my tongue out when I draw and paint. I have green eyes. I’ve moved house over 70 times and have lived in four different countries. I speak intermediate French and beginner Mandarin. I used to be an astrologer. I can wolf-whistle like a builder (no fingers!). I have a massive (I mean, HUGE) picture book collection. When I go into a bookstore and approach the picture book section, I become so overwhelmed, I have to kneel down on the floor. Doesn’t everyone do that?

Let's connect!

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Thursday, 17 August 2017

Nicky's picks - week 32: SECRET

What a pleasure it has been to immerse myself in this week's theme SECRET. I have enjoyed trawling through the wall to select a few that resonated with me for a variety of reasons. I loved the cleverness, I loved the colour, I loved the tones, some artwork I don't even know why I loved it!!

Once again thank you to everyone for embracing this theme to make it your own!

Nicky x
Penelope Pratley

Ashleigh O'Lyn

Brigit Hoogenberk

Cecilia Timm

Colin Rowe

Courtney McDaniel

Judy Watson

Jutta Berend

Katja Landowski-Mertes

Kerrie Robertson

Leonie Cheetham

Lisa Jones

Margaret Schons

Peter Hinton

Shani Nottingham