Sharing Art with the Community

I was recently privileged to be able to enter the Frankston home and studio of artist Sara Catena. I walked through to her studio in wonderment. If ever there was a house that portrayed its owner it’s this one, with many of the walls and spaces adorned with Sara’s own work, as murals, canvases hanging on the walls or the furniture she’s salvaged and made her own.

Sara's studio

Sara's studio

Sara is participating in this year’s Immerse exhibition program, creating a mural at Coonara Community House. Titled “Radiant Threads”, it visually ties together the history of the area, and reflects all that goes on at Coonara. Sara did her research on the local area, and found many threads of stories and histories of the location, but she says: “There was not one clear idea, there were little threads of information”.

Sara working on the mural at Coonara

Sara working on the mural at Coonara

Coonara is located between two small waterways, and in Indigenous history it was a place where the local Indigenous community would take their sick to be healed in the waters at particular times of the year. To represent this, Sara has placed water on either side of a circle of eight dancing people, all from a range of different backgrounds, creating a community circle. One of these dancing figures is Mary Selman, whose home was the stone building the community house now inhabits.
“Every time I’ve been there, there are so many interesting threads of things going on… it feels very alive.” said Sara, and her mural absolutely reflects that. An extension of the work is a series of 8 Lovebirds accompanying the eight figures, which are being lovingly embellished by community members and will be placed on and around the mural area.

Where previously applicants for Immerse have been asked to select their preferred venue for exhibiting from a list of locations, this year applicants were asked to explain in 150 words the kind of work they wanted to create, and the Immerse curators would find the perfect space for them. Sara said her work is about getting people to connect to the beautiful place of joy deep inside them: “Give me a place with high traffic, that’s maybe a flat space, a grey area, and I will energise it.” And from that she was given a wall at Coonara to bring to life.

Her bold, bright paintings are full of life, meaning and narrative, and the more you look at them, the more you see and learn both about Sara and about yourself. She uses a variety of mediums including canvas, paint, textiles and beads, as well as a range of symbology, primarily the lovebird as a representation of spirit;  we are more than just physical beings and we have the ability to transcend the ordinary. These birds accompany the figures in her paintings. Wings also play a prominent part, which Sara says started with “a desire not to be tied to the physical, to be more aware, and not to be caught up in the physical stuff” and that life is “about the heart, the love and the joy of staying connected to that aspect of ourselves”.

For Sara, it is important to be able to connect to feelings of joy and love regardless of everything else happening in the world: “Finding that core of peace, deep place of joy, regardless. I call it deep radical joy”. Working through the grief of losing her husband two and a half years ago really emphasised this, and made her grow as a person and as an artist, and this can be seen in her work as it spreads past the edge of the canvas, creating a sense of freedom and discovery.

Poetry also plays an important role in Sara’s work, acting as a starting point, particularly for the large pieces. She sits, and lets the poetry come through her in a lyrical, rhyming way, with the imagery coming from there. Often you can see fragments of these poems in her paintings, adding another wonderful element and layer of meaning to the work.

"Shiny shrine of the apple crate Madonna" by Sara Catena

"Shiny shrine of the apple crate Madonna" by Sara Catena

Cheekily, I questioned if she had a favourite artwork of hers, and was told it was the 'Shiny shrine of the apple crate Madonna'. This piece is one of the first that you see when you enter Sara’s home, and was inspired by a Rumi quote - “Shine like the whole universe is yours”. The crate itself was found discarded on the side of the road, and Sara couldn’t help but reclaim it, finding something intriguing about painting into odd, dead spaces. The 'Shiny shrine of the apple crate Madonna' “has all the different elements of what I love about my art and how I love to work” she says.

Finally, I asked Sara what influence she hoped her work would have on future generations. The word she used instead was legacy, and had been thinking about what the gift was that she was leaving for others, which has lead her towards community art, “I love art that’s in the streets, that’s out in the world, that everyone has access to”. She wants to inspire people to connect with that place inside themselves, and believes art in public places will help do that. Sara also says that she can do that not just through the art, but through conversations with people, and by being her true and authentic self she can leave an impression on the world. Sara is currently mentoring another artist, and says she gets just as much from it as the other artist, and enjoys planting the seeds that give her mentee that spark of inspiration. Facilitating growth within others is rewarding for Sara, and she hopes that people will be inspired by seeing her push the boundaries within her work, and encourage them to think differently and authentically.

It was such an honour to be allowed into Sara’s home and studio, and to get an insight into how she creates her beautiful paintings. I highly recommend having a look at her website to see more of her work. And, of course, make sure you visit Coonara to see the finished mural and accompanying lovebirds created by members of the Coonara community and myself!

Sara's completed mural. Image courtesy the artist

Sara's completed mural. Image courtesy the artist

Child engaging with Sara's mural. Image courtesy the artist

Child engaging with Sara's mural. Image courtesy the artist

Creating Work For You vs Creating Work For Clients

There's not a lot we like doing more as creative people than working on our own projects. If we could only work on what interests and inspires us we would be the happiest people on earth.
Unfortunately, that's not how it works. We have to have money coming in from somewhere, which is where having clients or commissions come in.

It can be hard to figure out the balance between these things, and some people only do one or the other. If you only make things for yourself there's a chance that you'll have no income without another job, but if you only make work for clients or commissions then you can lose your passion and drive.
Sometimes it's not a matter of choice, and we are actually more suited to one than the other. I for example, am not really very good at working to other people's ideas. Although often it's more that what they're asking of me doesn't suit my usual style creative style, so it feels forced. Once it starts to feel that way it's harder to make the work feel genuine, and I always find that the outcome is never as good as when I'm making something for myself.
Other creatives respond really well to having a set of parameters, and they enjoy making other peoples dreams come to life.


So how do we balance the two?

To be able to balance them, you need to figure out how you prefer to work. It's not about always having to stick to one thing or the other. Being better suited to working with clients doesn't mean that you can't have self driven projects. And just because you predominantly work your own way, doesn't mean you aren't able to work with clients. And preferencing one over the other doesn't mean you'll make more or less money than anyone else, because you can do amazing work for yourself and people will buy it, and you can make work intended for clients but not get any.
By aiming to have a mix of the two, you can keep some money coming in, as well as keeping your creativity satisfied. Things will naturally sway form one to the other every so often. As it heads towards Christmas and people need to buy presents you may get a lot more commissions, or as it heads to tax time more clients. In between there may be more time to make what you want.

Most importantly, whatever reason you're making the work, enjoy the creative process!

Having Work/Creative Business/Life Balance

We seem to spend most of our lives trying to achieve a work/life balance. But what happens when you have your work, your life, and your own business? And is balance something that is actually achievable?

I'm not going to try and give you a magic formula that makes everything fit nicely into place. Honestly, I'm not really sure that balance is an achievable thing. Not in any sort of permanent way anyway. Both life and business are so changeable and prone to disruption that you are constantly kept on your toes.

It is, however, possible to make it easier to manage by keeping a few things in mind.



Understand your priorities

Your priorities depend very much on your particular situation. If you have a young family you may need to make guaranteed paid work a highish priority, whereas if you're a student you might have to consider making your studies one of your main focuses. If you have a commission waiting to be done that you know will open the right doors for where you want to get to, that should definitely be a priority if it's going to get you there. If family and friends are something you value above everything else then you know that you need to always plan that into your week. If writing one poem a day is what you need to get you though, then you make sure that happens.


Know your limitations

You need to know both your mental, physical and external restraints on your ability to manage all aspects of your life. If you already have a full or part time job that has regular hours, that would be considered a time limitation. Or there may be something that limits the amount of time you spend sitting down.


And the most important of all-

Take it easy on yourself

We're all human, and we're all far from perfect. You are your biggest critic. And if you let yourself burn out you are unable to do anything. Without you, there is no business and work and life can't run smoothly (or as close to smooth as they get).

The Value of Learning

You probably read the headline and thought "I'm not going to read another post from someone telling me to go to uni and study". That's not what this is about. This post is about learning.

The value of learning.jpg

While similar, learning and studying are not the same. Learning is about so much more than sitting down and reading books and writing papers on the topic. Learning is about gaining skills and actually being about to put the knowledge to use. To get a better understanding of each word, Google's definition of learning is "knowledge acquired through study, experience, or being taught", whereas study is "the devotion of time and attention to gaining knowledge of an academic subject, especially by means of books", which is what we associate with going to university.

By these definitions, learning sounds much more appealing than study, and that's probably because it is. Generally speaking, what we study tends to be enforced by other parties, meaning that we're not always interested in the content being taught and therefore won't engage or take in as much information. When we're learning, it's often self-driven and more likely to be a topic or area we have an interest in. When this is the case we will engage more actively with the content.


There are many benefits to undertaking learning. Some are easy to gain and see, others are less tangible, but all are useful:

Up to date knowledge of a particular area of expertise

When we undertake self-driven learning, we are usually taking in the most up to date information in a particular area of knowledge. This is beneficial because it puts you ahead of much of your competition. It gives you the potential to discover an untapped market and customer base or to try a new material or technique to improve your existing processes.

Inform practice

Learning provides an opportunity to inform your creative practice. You'll find new sources of inspiration, and gain knowledge that will give context to your work.

Increasing skills

Learning allows to you experiment with new things, and improve your technique. It also gains you new skills that you can utilise to your advantage.

Meet new people

Depending on where you undertake your learning, you may have the chance to meet new people who are interested in the same things as you. These people can become valuable resources for collaboration, their networks and the other knowledge they possess. They can also make great friends.


There are a range of spaces where learning can be undertaken. Really, everywhere you go is a learning opportunity, but here are a few suggestions to get you started:

- Classes and workshops
- Video tutorials
- Collaborations
- Reference books
- Attending events

Understanding the Difference Between Social Media Networks

I apologise in advance for the length of this blog post. I attempted to keep it short, but there is a lot to know about the most widely used social media networks.

Most of us show our work across a variety of different social media networks. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Linkedin, Tumblr, Pintrest, Twitter, YouTube, Google+... The list of possible networks is endless and growing.

But did you know that each one has different audiences and types of language that gets used, and each best times to post? By using a network in the wrong way, you could actually be damaging your brand rather than helping it grow.

Let's look at a few of the most common networks people in the creative industries use.



If your network is anything like mine, the vast majority of people you know will be on Facebook. But is it really worth it for your creative business? Sharing all your work only to your friends may be good for keeping them in the loop about what you do (and potentially getting your posts hidden because you post too often), but it's not going to help you reach new audiences.

Which is where having a Facebook page comes in.

To me it feels like Facebook is constantly changing their algorithms to make life hard for small businesses. I realise that's not the aim, but sometimes it feels that way. Who sees your page posts is based on-

- How recently the post was published

- The number of likes, comments and shares the post has

- How often the user has interacted with your page previously (the more they've interacted, the more likely they will see future posts)

- How often the user interacts with the same post type (ie photo, link or text)

Unfortunately, this still means that pages have to pay to reach their entire following or to extend their reach to new customers/fans. For maximum effectiveness, always consider the demographic you want the post to be shown to. You can pay as little as $5, and target the most relevant demographics for your business.

Posts that are only text receive less engagement, as we are naturally inclined towards images. Even when you have an image, the more text you include with it, the less engagement the post will have. Facebook is great for sharing links to articles and blog posts, and Facebook native videos also get high engagement. I think a lot of us now have it programmed into us to use hashtags in all our posts across the networks, but on Facebook, using hashtags is bad for your engagement levels. they're not considered necessary in posts, and engagement levels drop with the use of them.

An important feature Facebook has that you need to use is scheduling. By scheduling posts ahead of time, you will spend less time getting distracted by your newsfeed everyday, and be able to spend more time making and designing things. Facebook also provides insights about your posts and audience to help you understand them and what is the best strategy for your business. Alternatively, you can also use Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule posts, if you're wanting to manage multiple networks from the one spot.


Instagram is probably the most widely used network by people in the creative industries. And for good reason, as it's all about the image.

As Instagram is owned by Facebook, it's not surprising that they have similar algorithms in place so that you see posts that you're more likely to care about based on engagement, people's previous interactions with you and the currency of your post. it's also in Instagram's algorithm that 4 hours after you make a post your followers won't be able to see it in their feeds. While that is kinda sucky, Instagram's capabilities for businesses have definitely upped their game. In the last few months, they've added insights so you can see which of your posts get the most engagement and info about your audience. if you connect to a Facebook account you can add in contact information about your business and promote your posts to encourage calls or visits to your website at a small cost. Last week they released the ability to share multiple images and videos in the one post.

Hashtags are important on Instagram, but you need a minimum of 11 for it to have a positive effect on engagement levels. It's important to only use hashtags that are relevant, otherwise, you'll start to lose the trust of followers. You will also need to do a little bit of research into what hashtags will be good for you and your creative endeavours.

Instagram doesn't allow you to schedule posts, but you can still schedule reminders in Buffer or Hootsuite. You can write out all your content, and the content will be copied to your clipboard ready to be pasted in. Having the reminder makes it a lot easier to get the post out there.


Twitter tends to be seen as a network for people in tech or business. But it can be great for creatives too, as it breaks up the type of content generally found on the network, making you stand out. It's also a really easy way to get in contact with big brands and businesses.

Generally speaking, the content on Twitter tends to be links to articles, websites and videos. Sources of information. Which for creative people is great, because you can link to exhibitions, workshops, blog post, whatever it is that you do. I recommend including image/s, you can have up to four. The type of image you will be sharing will be different from what the network would usually see, so it will catch people's eye more easily. Like with Facebook posts, Tweets with images get better engagement.

Hashtags are important in your Tweets. They make it easy to search for particular topics and are a simple way for people at events to connect online and see what everyone else is doing. For example, in America at the moment is the Game Developers Conference (GDC). Attendees can use the hashtag #gdc17 to respond to content presented and share their experience, and for all those unable to go it means that they can follow along with what's going on. Any more than two hashtags though will damage your engagement levels, as Twitter will consider it to be spam and allow less people to see the Tweet.

Twitter has a "while you were away" feature where it shows you tweets made by those you follow since the last time you were online. This is great because if your followers have this enabled they will miss less of what you do.

Finally, while you can't schedule Tweets directly from Twitter, you can use apps like Buffer of Hootsuite to plan your Tweets, and they will post it directly to Twitter at whatever time you specify.

Other Social Networks That Can be Valuable

- LinkedIn is often seen only as a network of business professionals, but really it's great for telling people about your skills. You can include a lot more information on your profile than you can on a CV, so you can really showcase the wide variety of skills you have. Many employers will search places like LinkedIn when they're receiving job applications to see what other skills you many have, and I always look up prospective employers to see if my values align with both the company and individuals.

- Youtube for all your process videos, tutorials etc. Keep the length of your videos in mind, as it will affect how long people stay engaged for. Generally speaking, the shorter the video the better. If you have a lot of content to go through, consider breaking it up into smaller videos and making a playlist.

- Pinterest is great for filing ideas for new work, but you can post your own work too, potentially getting some traffic coming back to your website. If your boards are public, people can follow them, meaning that you may become influential in your area of expertise.


For all networks

- Try to make all your posts similar in style. Whether that be that all your work is photographed in the same place, or whether you follow a plan for the type of post each day. Just try to keep it relatively consistent. I try to have particular posts on certain days. Monday- work in progress, Tuesday- products, Wednesday- finished artworks, Thursday/Friday- blog post.

- All networks have spam accounts. If you receive comments you believe to be spam, there will be an option to report the user.

- Images in posts are always going to get the best engagement


For all these networks you can read as many articles and statistics as you like about the best times to post and what kind of content works the best, but in the end it comes down to knowing your audience and what they respond to, and it will be different for you than it is for me, or for your friend or you biggest competitor. Do your own research and tests until you find what works best on each of your chosen networks.

On Starting a Business as a Young Person

Being young at the current time comes with it's benefits. There are more opportunities for young people to be respected and valued than ever before and we're (slowly) heading towards a more inclusive society where all are accepted.

But there are downfalls too. We're considered lazy, the job market is incredibly competitive, housing is over priced and if you don't have a degree you often won't even be considered even though they often don't add all that much value to your skill set.

So what if you're a young person wanting to start a business?

When I first told people I was setting myself up as a business, they thought I was making a silly decision. I was only 20 at the time, and unfortunately, careers in the creative industries are often looked down upon at the best of times. But why should my age stop me from owning a business? So like all young people I was stubborn and forged on.

Starting and running a business as a young person is in many ways exactly the same as it is at any other age (from what older friends tell me). But when people know your age there are always assumptions and prejudices in place, even if they are unintentional.

But despite our lack of experience both in the workforce and at life being young in business is actually a huge advantage. We have a drive to make something of ourselves. We have no fear of failure because we only have everything to gain. We grew up surrounded by technology so we use it like it's an extension of ourselves. We are generally unknown in our industries, so therefore can get away with disrupting the norm without any competitors noticing our arrival until it's too late. We are the ones who will be living the future, and we are the ones willing to put in the hard yards to create something we want to live with and participate in. Our lack of knowledge, experience and credibility are no longer weaknesses, but strengths.

Our biggest challenge as young people in business, any kind of business, is the self sabotage and the feeling of being an imposter. The feeling of being overwhelmed with tasks, the thought that you are alone in what you do. It's easy to forget that there are others making the same endeavour that we actually all have amazing networks around us, we just have to ask. Don't ever feel as though you can't ask anyone for advice or assistance with your business, or that you can't just talk about what you're working on. Talk to family, friends, teachers, business owners, me.


I imagine as we get older it will be harder to recognise what will be important in the future, as we get further away from living that future, but that doesn't mean we have to lose sight of our desire to make interesting objects, create things that start conversations, or design opportunities for others to better themselves.

I want you to aim high even when the walls seem to high to climb. I want you to always push the boundaries even when the walls are made of solid stone. I want you to never stop dreaming even when people want to wake you up.

Yes, running a business is hard, but it is also the best thing I have ever done in my life. And now I own a second business, a gallery space which launching in May. I don't know how well it will go, but I am willing to give it all that I have, as I can't imagine doing anything else.



A couple of useful resources I recommend you check out

Creating the Oppurtunuties you Want to Have

While there is a multitude of opportunities around for creatives, a lot of the time we only take them up because we feel that they are "good for exposure" or because it's the only thing out there at the time, and is most likely far from perfect when it comes to our needs.
Realistically no opportunity is ever perfect, but if you create your own opportunities, they are much more likely to be closer to what you need to progress your practice.
Something that merely provides exposure should never be considered a good opportunity. Exposure is something you can easily get for yourself, without relying on someone else to provide it. But what kind of opportunities do you really want to be getting? And how can you do it for little or no cost, because we all know that most early career creatives have little money to help push them forward.

Below are 3 examples of events you could try running that should not only be reasonably low-cost but, will also give you the opportunity to learn a range of new skills.

Have an exhibition

Hold one in your house. One night only, invite all your friends. Galleries come and go all the time, and pop-up anythings are always a hit, so why not make your house into one?
Applying for group shows are also a great way to lower the cost, and it takes the pressure off when it comes to filling a space.


Have a market stall

Markets can be tricky to get into. Many are getting very selective about the kind of work that they allow. But you could hire a scout hall or something similar and get a whole lot of friends together for a reasonably low cost per person. Not only is it inside but you may not have to get permits from your local council for land usage or roadside trading (speak to your local council officers to be sure). You will need to think about how you get people to the market, though as it could be a disappointing day if no one turns up to buy anything.

Collaborative work between myself, and sculptural mosaic artist,  Jessie Yvette Journoud-Ryan .

Collaborative work between myself, and sculptural mosaic artist, Jessie Yvette Journoud-Ryan.

Collaborate with someone you admire

As nerve-racking as it is, all you need to do is email them. However, you can't just be all "OMG I think you're amazing and I'd love to work with you but I don't know what we should do". I would recommend doing some research, have they collaborated with other artists before, do you work with similar themes, have they publicly shared that they're working on a big project already etc. Having some idea of what you may want to work with them on would be beneficial when you contact them.


For projects you decide to run yourself that may involve the public, there are a few things you may still need to do to protect yourself from legal action if something goes wrong, the major one being making sure you get Public Liability Insurance. Public Liability Insurance will protect you if someone injures themselves at your event and wants to sue you. Something that was once a simple low-cost event to being one that costs you thousands of dollars is not going to help any struggling creative progress their career.

While I've only given you three suggestions of opportunities you can create for yourself, you can actually do anything you set your mind to! Feel free to contact me if there's an opportunity you want to create for yourself, but are not quite sure how to go about it and I'll see if I can help you out.

Unexpected Sources of Inspiration

I think as creative people we get carried away looking to those that are doing things similar to us for inspiration. Whether it's a particular style of painting or the colours you use for your handmade jewellery. For example, I'm primarily a painter, so when I'm doing research for new work I have a tendency to look at work by other painters.
In reality, there are a tonne of things that are around us all the time which provide unexpected sources of inspiration.

unexpected sources of inspiration.jpg

Currently, I'm working on a body of work where pattern appears as holes on a figure. Check out this Facebook post to see what I mean. Inspiration for working in this style actually came from swiss cheese. Yes, you read that correctly. Swiss cheese. While the swiss I was eating at the time wasn't actually all that holey, the thought of there being lots of holes and being able to see right through triggered the idea in my mind. Later on, I looked to artists such as James Jean and Jaume Monserrat as sources of artistic inspiration.

Other sources I've previously used as inspiration are projections on a whole range of buildings and objects, fashion, floor tiles, video games and ornate gardens.


A couple of tricks you can try to inspire new work

- Just observing what is around you can be a surprising source of inspiration if you don't usually spend much time doing such a thing. When you go to the shopping centre or supermarket, or net time you go for a walk around your garden or local park, just take note of some of the interactions, colours, patterns, shapes, movements around you. You are bound to see something triggers a part of your imagination.

- Instead of trawling the internet or Pinterest for sources of inspiration try working collage into your process. Collage is a really great tool for allowing you to just play around, and there are a number of ways to go about it. Collecting images of things that are all the same colour or shape, but don't go looking specifically for them. Play with different pattern arrangements, or stick them down randomly as you find them and see what happens over time as they layer up. Another option is to start with really scrappy bits of paper, this way there are no pre-conceived ideas about what your creation should look like. Anything goes when you use random scraps.


Where do you get your inspiration from?

Tips For Revisiting Your Goals

I'm not really one for New Year's resolutions. But I am one for using the holiday season as a time to rest and look over what I'd hoped to achieve since the last period of rest, and what I hope to achieve before the next. When it comes to goals, they can easily get put to one side or forgotten about.

While revisiting your goals, ask yourself -

Goal setting

Did you complete your goal within the time you allocated?

If goals aren't being completed within an allocated time frame, they tend not to be completed at all, as there is no urgency to them.

In the middle of the year, I gave myself the goal of posting one blog post per week. This a pretty loose time-based goal, but there are still a lot of elements to consider such as writing, proofing, creating an image and scheduling. If any one of these tasks didn't happen on time then the post couldn't go out. I had no schedule for how long in advance I wanted each step to be complete. This meant that as I got busier, the whole process was being done in only a couple of days, giving me little time for quality checks on my writing.


Is the goal still important or necessary to your practice/business? Has the focus changed?

If the direction of your creative business has changed in some way, maybe that particular goal isn't something you should be putting so much focus on.

I used my break to think about this in relation to my posts. I wasn't sure if they were providing the right kind of value to my readers. Thinking about my aims of supporting other creatives and providing them with the knowledge they may be missing to successfully run their creative practice, continuing with the blog posts is actually extremely important.


Do you actually care about the goal, or is it just something that you think you should do?

Sometimes we set goals for things that we think we should achieve. This could be something like, "Draw for 30 minutes every day". As a creative, you might feel that this is something you should be doing, but it might not be something that you particularly enjoy or something that contributes in a meaningful way to your business and creative practice.


What could you have done differently to have kept the goal on track?

Sometimes there's nothing you can do to stop yourself from dropping the ball, and that's ok. That's what happened with my blog posts (see "Being OK With Dropping the Ball"). But other times you know that you should be working towards your goal but don't. Things such as social media, video games and coffee catch ups can easily distract you. See my post "5 Things I do to Avoid Skipping to the Fun Stuff" for staying on task. Other times it's just bad management that leads to incomplete goals. Often it takes an incomplete goal to realise that you need to change something in the way that you work to make things run more smoothly.


What can you do to ensure you keep working towards your goal?

Offering yourself rewards for hitting milestones within your goal can work really well. This could be buying that book you wanted, playing a game for an hour or whatever else will keep you motivated to keep working towards your goal.

If you work from home, treat the area that you work in like you are actually going to work. What would the boss say if they saw you on Facebook at work? (unless you're a social media manager, then go right ahead)

To get my writing done, I put my phone on the opposite side of the room, or in a completely different room so I can't be tempted to look at it. I also disconnect myself from the internet to keep myself from distraction.


My Current Goals

  1. Better plan out what I'm going to make blog posts about. I don't what to plan it too carefully as too much structure will stop me from being able to react to situations, and make me feel boxed in. But if I have a list of broad subject areas with possible blog posts within that, I'll have something that I can easily pull material from.
  2. Set aside writing time regardless of other tasks. The only way my writing will get better is to do more of it. I'm working to understand how I work best and what the best time of day is to write.
  3. Website resource page. I would really like to create a resource page on my website with document templates and resource websites that creatives can visit to find information.

Top 4 Books I Read in 2016

For my creative practice and business, reading is hugely important. It provides a source of inspiration, knowledge and escape. While there have been other books I've read this year, these are the top 4 that I recommend. Surprisingly, three of them are biographies.


Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull

One of the founders of Pixar, Ed Catmull provides us with an insight into the difficulties and highlights of creating one of the best animation studios in the world. This book is a biography of the company, Catmull himself, and also a fantastic resource for anyone working in a creative business who deals with people.


Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

This is the only biography that you'll currently find about the founder of SpaceX and Tesla. Known for his desire to take humanity to Mars and for making big statements about project timelines and product release dates, Musk is an incredibly intelligent man who is not afraid to take risks. A great read for anyone interested in how businesses start out, or the future of the human race both on Earth and elsewhere in space.


While not a large book, this biography about Lewis Carroll offers a great insight into not only the slightly eccentric personality of the writer but also offers a look at what life was like in Victorian England and how if differs from the way we view things today. There are many myths and stories surrounding Carroll, and Woolf does a fantastic job dispelling some of these and encouraging the reader to gather all the facts first before jumping to any conclusions.


Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong

Coming out of The School of Life, this book encourages us to look at how art can educate us, enrich our lives and provide us with knowledge and understanding about things which we may not have experience in or understanding of. It suggests new ways in which art should be displayed and the type of art we should look at to help us through various situations. While some of it can be tricky to get your head around, the book really gets you thinking about art differently.


I'd love to know what great books you read in 2016. Maybe you're favourite will make this year's list.

Please note that all links to the books listed here are affiliate links with Book Depository. This means that I get a small commission from any purchase you make after clicking the link.

Being OK With Dropping the Ball

If you're a regular reader of my blog you will have realised that there hasn't been a post for a few weeks. Or rather, a couple of months. This is because there's a lot going on when you're running a creative business. Aside from making, there's all the business things to be done and of course social media and marketing. And then there's everything else in life. Family and friends, other jobs, sometimes study.

As with all things in life, sometimes one aspect suddenly requires more attention than usual. This has happened to me recently, where all work on my business got left behind as I focussed on the last few weeks of my University Degree and accompanying Graduate Exhibition. Then there were a few other things that came up that needed attention first, and writing blog posts got pushed further and further down the to-do list. This caused me some concern, as I felt that I was letting down my readers and followers by not being consistent with my posts.

I quickly came to realise that while maintaining routine and posting regularly is important, it is also important to recognise when the workload becomes too much and it is necessary to let something go for a little while. And after there has been a heavy workload for a while, it is then important to have some downtime. That little bit of downtime once things quietened down quickly merged with Christmas and the New Year, further extending the hiatus.

The break between posts has been a lot longer than I ever intended it to be, but it has given me a chance to regroup, plan my content, and better schedule my time to make sure that I write, regardless of what else is going on. With this year being my first year out of study, I'm excited to create routines that don't revolve around a study schedule and to be able to put more energy into the creative projects I have planned for this year.

9 Things I've Learnt the Hard Way About Running a Creative Business

There's this sensationalised idea of the creative that spends time in solitude making amazing things all the time and doing nothing else. But that is far from the truth. There is so much more to it all than just making interesting art or objects.There are a whole lot of tasks required for running a creative business that no one associates with the creative process. 

creative business, learning

Near the end of my first year of TAFE I made the decision to take my art seriously and get an ABN. To be perfectly honest, I don't really know how I knew I needed an ABN to run a business. A friend within the course had had an ABN for years working as a contractor in the film industry. While we did have a professional development class, I don't recall ever being told we should get an ABN or learn how to run a business. All I can think is that between hearing my friend's stories and the small amount of professional development we did do, I felt that to be taken seriously within the industry, I needed to run a business properly.
Along the way there have been many things that have challenged me, and required me to put in many hours of research to understand.


1. All the websites that provide information about running a business use language that can be difficult to understand and are often full of jargon
While websites such as are a great resource for businesses, they don't always use language that is easily understood. You may need to be prepared to do some extra research into what various terms mean as you go.


2. Information for businesses in the creative industries is even more difficult to find than general business information
Looking for information specific to the creative industries? Well I've done some of the work for you and listed a couple here, and I'm working on creating a resource page with some of the best Australian creative business sites I know.
- Creative Plus Business: Based in New South Wales, Monica Davidson has put together an incredible website with free resources, online courses and links to various services you may need.
- NAVA: The National Association for the Visual Arts has guides and fact sheets about a whole range of things from networking to copyright. Just sign up for a free account to access.
- Create & Thrive: Jess Van Den has a great podcast, guides and courses to help turn your creative hobby into a business
- Elle Roberts: Business coach, workshop facilitator, runs The Artful Business Conference

3. There is a lot more administration work to do than you expect
Sending emails, writing invoices, keeping accounts up to date, creating marketing material, writing design agreements...  The list of administrative work that is required can seem endless. The trick is to schedule in time to do this so it doesn't take up large chunks of making time.

4. Everything tax related is difficult
Tax is easy when you're employed by someone else, there usually isn't anything to difficult to input. Doing a tax return as a business though, means understanding a lot more about depreciation, what can and can't be claimed, and learning about the capital gains tax. I've been doing my own tax returns for the last few years (I've written about it in a previous blog post which you can check out HERE), but I highly recommend finding an accountant to help you out with the in's and out's of the process.

5. Rebranding your business will happen
When I first started out I seriously thought that I would never change my business name or branding. It seemed so right at the time. I chose to use a name other than my own for my business because I wanted to be able to keep myself, and my art/business persona's separate. I've since changed my business name to my actual name, as I realised that I had too many different branches to my creative practice that didn't really fit under the previous branding. Everything works cohesively together now, and I only have to deal with one name and style.

6. You will work all the time, at all hours
While technically you do get to choose your own hours and work as few or as many as you like, you will find that when you are passionate about what you do you will end up working all the time.

7. It's easy to get distracted by more interesting tasks
Remember those admin tasks I mentioned before? A lot of the time, they will be the last thing that you want to do. It doesn't take much to get distracted looking at Pinterest for inspiration, or spending hours fiddling with your arrangement of stock for your next market.

8. Understanding who I am as a creative person, and how I want my practice to be seen by others
You are your business, and everything you do both for the business and personally reflects on your brand. Understanding how you want to be perceived by others, and how you actually are perceived, can help you run and market your business in the most effective way.

9. There is always more to learn
Occasionally you'll get to a point where you think you understand everything you need to know, but then you'll have an idea that is a little bit out there and you'll have no clue about how to go about it, so you start researching and learning. Eventually you'll more or less know all that you need for that project. And then, you'll have another idea that you have no clue how to go about creating, so you'll research. And this will just keep on happening. Forever.


After all this is done, making the work is easy.

Make Friends, Not Networks

I heard a talk a couple of months ago by artist Kitiya Palaskas at the Craft and Design as a Career seminar presented by Craft. She spoke about how she dislikes the idea of networking because all you do is ask what what the other person does and then exchange business cards which you throw out when you get home. She spoke about how she goes to events with the intention of making friends instead.

Since then I've spent a fair bit of time thinking about networking- what it is, why we do it, and how can it be done differently. I know back in July I wrote a post about why networking is important, and I still believe that the points made there are true. So perhaps it's not that the outcomes of such conversations that are the problem, but our mindsets about having to interact that are.

So how can we go about changing this? I know many creative people don't particularly like the thought of having to go out and meet new people, but how would that experience change if you went out with the mindset of "I'm going to make a new friend today"?

In theory, it sounds great to go out and make new friends, but it's a lot harder than I expected to actually go out and do it. I've tried it at a couple of events recently, and discovered that as much as I told myself that I was there to make a friend, I just felt like I was attempting to trick myself into believing it.

Everyone attends these events with the mindset of networking. And this mindset causes us to act in particular ways. We ask what a person does, why they're attending whatever the event is, maybe what projects they're working on. In general though, it all feels very scripted, and we hope to find someone who can provide us with a particular service, product or work. We all have an expectation of what we'll get out of a networking event.

So before we can make new friends, we all need to start thinking about what do we do when we are making a new friend? We ask about their interests, go off on odd tangents, make a conversation out of it, and aren't expecting to get anything in particular out of the interaction. Through this, we are more likely to find people that we can connect with and that we value for more than what they do for work.


I'm really interested to hear your thoughts on this, and if you think we should work on changing our mindsets towards making friends.

Asking for Critique

Those that have been to art school know that group critiques and getting feedback can make or break the direction you were planning to take your work in. Once you've left that setting though, or if you're self-taught and never got to experience such a thing, it can be easy to lose drive and direction without critical feedback.

Katherine Reynolds, critique, artist, tutor, curator

Normally, when we think of criticism, we think only of all the negative things that can be said, and when you look it up in the dictionary "fault-finding" is one of the first definitions. A critique, however, doesn't need to be negative. A critique is "a detailed analysis and assessment of something" (thanks Google).

Getting at least one person to provide criticism or feedback on your work can be a great benefit. When you're working on something you can end up stuck in your own head. You know exactly what the work is about because you've been there for the entire process. But does the final product actually portray what you intended it to? Does it evoke the feeling that you want the viewer to feel? Does the viewer respond how you expect them to? Engage how you would like? An outside opinion will quickly help solve this for you, as they can provide you with their first thoughts and impressions about what the work is trying to do or say.

What do you do if the feedback isn't anything like what you expected, and they read something completely different in your work from what it is that you're trying to say? It can be tough to take, but shouldn't be taken too personally, and you should try not to let it dishearten you.

Take a step back and look at the processes that got your work to this point, thinking about what your aims were at the beginning. Are those aims still the same now you've finished? Did your thinking or working process change along the way? If the aims you have for the work are the same at the end as they were at the beginning, but something changed during the process of making, then there may be a difference in how you think about your work, and how others read it. Different materials or processes often have different readings associated with them (ie moving from canvas to wall, paper to plastic, drawing with pencil to drawing digitally). Figuring out what the different processes do to the reading of your work is part of the experimentation that comes with making things, and the feedback from others will help you understand the processes you use. Over time and many discussions later, you get better at understanding what you need to do for your work to be read (or not read) in particular ways.

But getting to this point doesn't mean that you should stop asking for feedback. As creative people, we get used to working in isolation, and it can be easy to get stuck on things. Other people are great at making suggestions about things you could look up as research, bringing up possible materials and methods to try, and just being excellent supports for your creative journey.

If you're needing feedback on a work, please feel free to get in touch with me as I'd be happy to help!

Why You Should Consider Collaborating

Above is my friend  Jessie Yvette Journoud-Ryan  cutting out images for the collaborative collage we were working on. Check her out on  Facebook  and  Instagram

Above is my friend Jessie Yvette Journoud-Ryan cutting out images for the collaborative collage we were working on. Check her out on Facebook and Instagram

Many of us have memories of terrible group projects that were forced upon us at school or university, and in many cases, this has ruined our perception of what it means to work collaboratively. When in reality, working alongside others on a project or idea can be incredibly rewarding and beneficial for your practice. Collaboration with someone else or with a group doesn't have to be forever, and it doesn't mean that you have to abandon your individual practice.


Benefits of collaboration

- Other people have skills and strengths that you don't
We can't be good at everything, so went you embark on a new project it's handy when the person/people you are working with know about something different. For example, I'm not very good at graphic design or branding, but I have a friend who is, and I'm good at management and admin tasks, so we work well together on projects that require those skills.

- Wider networks to market your project to
The more people involved, the easier it is to promote what you're doing. My friend Jessie and I (pictured above) have had a couple of collaborative exhibitions together, and we both are able to bring in a different audience to see our work.

- Teaches you skills that you can take back to your individual creative practice
This links back to the first benefit I mentioned. You can learn an incredible amount when you're working with someone, and they are all skills that you are then able to take back to your individual practice. This could be something such as learning a different way of preparing a surface to paint on, to picking up tips about social media from observing how they do it.


Tips for collaborating

- Work with a different material or medium from what anyone you usually would, or work with a range of different materials and mediums
If you and your collaborator/s normally work with very different mediums, this can be a good chance to branch our and try something that is different for both of you. As I'm normally a painter, you would think that it would be difficult for me to collaborate with my friend who is a mosaic artist. But we navigated this by working with collage, something that was really simple but turned out to be really effective.

- Have a common interest
Don't just ask anyone of they want to collaborate with you. You need to have a good idea of what the other person/people are interested in and if it aligns with what you do/think/feel etc. If you all have very different interests it can be very difficult to make something come together cohesively and without too much friction between all parties.

- Research
I know many creative people do research for their individual practices, so why should a collaboration be any different? If there are already ideas and concepts you know you'll be working with, then start looking them up

It's About the People You Surround Yourself With

I don't know about you, but I feel that of late I've been seeing a lot of social media posts and motivational quotes about surrounding yourself with people who inspire you and are where you want to be in the future, you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with, etc. I've always believed this, but recently it's become more apparent to me just how true this is.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've found myself surrounded by a new group of incredible young creative people. We've come together through mutual friends and contacts for a project taking place next year, and it is by far the most exciting and refreshing group that I have been around in a long time. While we all have very different mediums and styles with which we work, there are common thoughts about supporting other young and emerging creatives, and having strong beliefs in our desire to have a career within the creative industries.

I already had a pretty amazing group of people that I go to for advice and help, who unknowingly act as mentors. These people are much more experienced in the creative industries and are a fantastic guiding force behind all that I do. But it is so inspiring to be around people in the same demographic as myself, who feel the same way about supporting and showcasing emerging practices, and it really validates the ideas that I have and the goals that I'm working towards.

The other thing that excites me, is that the more I speak to this group the more ideas I see them having, as they get inspired to think bigger and more adventurously.

It all just makes me want to push harder to get where I want to be, working with young and/or emerging creatives to add skills and resources to their practices that help them get by in such a difficult industry.

Tips for Talking and Writing About Your Own Work

When we are asked to write or talk about our work in a professional context we often find ourselves stuck. How do you speak about something that is often a feeling or is perfectly depicted in your head but is difficult to express in words? Yet you find you can talk about someone else's work just fine.

I recommend treating your work like it's someone else's to aid the ease with which you write and speak about your work.


Another idea is to get other people to talk about your work as they understand it.

Talk to a good friend who already knows a bit about your work in a casual setting
This will help you relax about having to describe what you do, and having them already know a little bit about your work will also help you relax because you won't feel so much pressure to talk about it.

Get them to write or tell you about your own work as they understand it
Having someone else's perspective of your work written down or recorded will make it easier to go back to over time. All it takes is a couple of sentences.

Repeat this a few times with different people
Multiple views will help you figure out how your work is broadly understood. Everyone will understand it a little bit differently, and will all use different language to describe it.

Use these comments to inform your own writing or speaking about your work
Compare the different opinions and ways in which people have spoken and written about your work and decide on the ways in which you think best describes your work.

And finally, do a lot of writing!
The more writing you do, the easier it will get over time.

The other thing you need to remember is that the language you use when speaking is different than what you write with, regardless of the context for in which they're for, so keep this in mind when you ask people to help you out, and when you plan your writing and notes for speaking.

What Can Sometimes be Missing From Art School (in my opinion)

Don't get me wrong, I've had a blast at art school. I've learnt new skills, grown as a creative person and met a bunch of incredibly creative amazing people, both staff and students. But sometimes it's hard to avoid the feeling that there is something missing, and admittedly it took me a while to figure it out.

What's missing I came to realise - missing in my opinion anyway - was the real life art world experience. I feel that we are being babied a little bit, despite the sometimes difficult to take criticisms of our work, there is nothing to prepare us for what life is really like on the outside where we might not even have someone to make that critique. And sometimes you can see that they really want to help us see what it's like out there, by taking us on excursions to studios, and encouraging us to write proposals for works we want to create.

But that is generally where it stops.

Within my bachelor degree, there is nothing to prepare us for what it is actually like to run a creative business, because in reality, that's what most artists and creative people are doing. Nothing to tell you how to complete a tax return for a business, how to write an invoice, how to set a budget for a project... the list goes on.

While I understand that we need to make the most of the help we have access to know, wouldn't it also be beneficial to tell us how to create supportive networks around us when we leave the institution? Especially as many artists can't afford to have any other studio than the one that exists in their bedroom or on their kitchen table. How do they stop the feeling of isolation that can creep in?

What happens to the creative that unknowingly infringes on someone's copyright if they didn't know where to look for the information that could have prevented it in the first place? And where do they go now that they're in trouble?

It's great to hear about the exhibitions our lecturers and tutors have participated in, but wouldn't it also be great to hear more about the failures it took them to be where they are, so that we understand that sometimes things have to to go wrong, or swerve away from the original plan for us to really learn how best to move through the creative industries?

As I said at the start, I have actually enjoyed my time at art school, but I really do think that it is important to teach people entering the wider creative industries the skills they need to help them to at least do what they love and survive, if not make a living.

3 Ways to Support Creatives if You Can't Buy Their Work

Anyone who has ever tried to sell their creative wares or knows someone who has, has an understanding of how difficult it can be to sell your creations. And it doesn't matter what you make, whether it's paintings, prints, sculpture or drawings.

In my experience, it's often only other creative types that are really willing to show their support. This isn't from a lack of appreciation on the part of the general population, just a lack of understanding that there are more ways to support the creative community than just buying the artwork that sums up their entire career.

Here are a things you can do to support creative people, or that you can suggest to your following for how they can support you.


1. Buy cards or prints

A lot of artists get prints or greeting cards made of some of their works specifically so that people have a cheaper way of supporting them. What if the artist doesn't have anything with your favourite artwork on it though? Ask them if they intend to! The artist may just think that no one is interested in that particular work, but if they know, they can organise something.


2. Share social media posts or forward emails

There aren't many artists that aren't on at least one form of social media, and many also have email lists. Something as simple as sharing a post for your friends to see, or forwarding an email to someone who may be interested can make a huge difference when the right person sees it.


3. Lend assistance in another way

Are you a social media wizz? Do you have skills in cabinet making? You may just be the person that the artist needs to help them with their social media strategy or to build a plinth, or whatever else it is that they might currently need. Something as simple as taking an hour or two to help them set up for an exhibition can make the world of difference to a stressed artist.


How are you going to help your next favourite creative?

Completing my Tax Return + 4 Top Tax Tips

It's that time of year where we all have to fill out the paperwork for the tax man. No one particularly likes doing their tax return, but if you're a small creative business doing your own tax return you feel like you're in a very special type of hell, especially if book keeping and numbers aren't your thing at the best of times.

Untitled design (4).jpg

I've done my own business tax for the last few years, and while I understand it a little bit better each year, it's still one of the most difficult parts of my business to manage. Every year I tell myself that I will find myself a good accountant to do it all for me as it can be mentally draining and very time consuming. Then part of me feels that it would be beneficial to have a better understanding about how tax works for small business and I end up doing it myself.

The part of the tax return that deals with income from employers is easy, all the numbers are pretty much all  gathered and inserted for you, and all you have to do is double check and then add in any extra work expenses and donations. But when in comes to the part about your business, you need to know all the numbers and have done most of the equations.

This year is the first year that you've been able to the return without having to download e-tax, the ATO's software for lodging tax returns that involve businesses and various investments. While they've definitely streamlined some things, and simplified others, there is still so much that it feels you're expected to just know. There is a help panel down the side if you're unsure about anything, but I felt that there was still information missing from the help. While I have a reasonable idea about the terminology related to tax, the help section still felt rather filled with jargon, and I spent more time than I would have liked further researching to areas that could have been made simpler, or at least simpler to understand.

They've built in more calculators to help you with things like deprecation and whether or not your eligible for various benefits, but knowing what numbers you need to input into their calculators and their purpose are a little bit vague.

When it comes to deprecation, assets and small business concessions, my level of knowledge starts to wane. In the past I've often skipped over this area, as there is a lot of terminology I struggle to wrap my mind around, and many things seem to me like the same thing repeated with different names. But this year, using the new calculators I worked out depreciation on the laptop I bought, and now the depreciation on it will automatically be calculated every year for me. I even manually work out the depreciation on the various tools and equipment I use in my practice.

While I think I completed it all correctly, part of me still doubts a little bit. But I have no doubts about the fact that the ATO will let me know if something is wrong.


My top tips

1. Keep track throughout the year of all expenses, including business specific travel, education, materials, memberships and anything else relevant to your creative practice and business.

2. Use a spreadsheet or accounting software to track your expenses and money coming in, and fill it in REGULARLY so that you don't have to do it all at once at tax time.

3. Make note of specific purchases that you'll be able to claim depreciation on.

4. Get an accountant that specialises in small business, and if possible has a little bit of knowledge about the creative industries. Tax is one of things that small businesses should outsource to someone who knows more.


This post details my own experience of completing a tax return for my business, and the information given here is in no way indicative of the experience you may have. Some information has intentionally been kept vague, as everyone has different requirements to complete to best suit their business, and I aim to give information and advice that is relevant to a range of creative people.

For further advice on tax contact a registered accountant, or head to for information relevant to the creative industries, or for general tax information.