Tell us about your journey to becoming a professional creative (i.e. what was your background? Did you train in something different? How did you end up here?).
I have drawn and painted since I can remember but I am a relative late comer to becoming a professional creative.
In my final years of high school I spent hours in the art room, any opportunity I could get, pulling together my art portfolio to apply to art schools. In Scotland at the time (year 200) you could make application to two art schools nominating your first and second preference. Back then I wanted to incorporate jewelry design into my degree and this was offered by Glasgow School of Art, Edinburgh College of Art and Duncan of Jordanstone College in Dundee. The two infamous schools then being Glasgow and Edinburgh, but there was a quirk in that their rivalry (or perhaps snobbery) to each other meant you were not allowed to apply to both at the same time. So I chose Glasgow School of Art and Duncan of Jordanstone.
I desperately wanted a place at Glasgow School of Art being inspired as a child by the works of the famous Charles Rennie Mackintosh who designed the building the art school was housed in (sadly this was destroyed in a fire a few years ago – I cried over this). It is however incredibly hard to get into and my work at the time was just not advanced enough in ability and I was not offered a place. I did receive an offer from Dundee, but as a stubborn teenager that was not where I wanted to be.
So I took a massive sea change and opted to study Geography at the University of Glasgow instead, my next favourite subject. This degree largely focused on cultural and social geography, which I also immensely enjoyed. I graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Science in 2004 and went off into the world. Initially I continued to work a casual job in a bar whilst trying to find work related to my degree to no avail. I ended up opening a Bar and Restaurant with a business partner and helped run this for a number of years.
During this time, I decided to undertake a one-year Masters in Town Planning at the University of Glasgow. It was an intense year juggling this and running a business! From this, I launched into a career in planning and took a step back from the business becoming more of a silent partner.
My first job as a planner was in an architecture firm in Glasgow called Keppie Design. The practice was founded in 1854 so had a long history of iconic design in Scotland and throughout the world. As a planner I was actually working creatively with the architects and urban designers so I was using a lot of my creative side in this job. In 1897, Charles Rennie Mackintosh was working for this practice when he designed the Glasgow School of Art, so ironically there was another link to my childhood fascination with his work.
I was with this practice for 18 months when the recession of 2009 hit the UK and many were made redundant. Being a graduate at the time, unfortunately, we were the first rung to go along with the retirees. Initially this was a blow, but I soon found my next career with Scottish Power Renewables, a leading developer of renewable energy systems in the UK and Europe. I worked as a project manager overseeing the development of multi-million dollar onshore windfarm projects from feasibility, environmental study, landowner negotiation, public consultation, through the planning consent process and into construction. This was a challenging but enjoyable job with an amazing team of people many I knew from uni. Over the 6 years in this job I learnt a considerable amount of knowledge and skills in a variety of different areas, and I still consider this my most valuable job for setting up the business side of my mind.
From here, I started looking for a new challenge and perhaps a break from the corporate world for a time. After having travelled to Australia on holiday I was inspired to take this challenge abroad. So in 2014 I applied for my visa. The application took 9 months to process and in that time I decided to up-skill myself again to give me another option for work and possible change of career for a while when I moved to Oz. I qualified as a Personal Trainer whilst still working as a Project Manager, and started teaching some gym classes in Glasgow to gain experience ahead of my move.
My visa approval came through at the end of 2014 which granted me permanent residency and I was ready to make the move. I arrived in Australia in February 2015, where I was initially located in Melbourne where I have friends who have lived there for a long time, so the transition was a bit easier. I worked for a short time for a state government agency as a project manager overseeing development of precincts in the docklands area. The job was fine but I quickly realised my head wasn’t in it. I had been to Margaret River before and like many had fallen in love with the place. I knew a few people here so I decided to give it a crack and see what work I could pick up.
I lucked out pretty quickly and got a job in the Body Club gym as a personal trainer. Shortly after, I applied for a job as a Procurement Officer in the AMRShire and started there at the end of 2015. This was a new role at the Shire with the aim to set up and implement a more cohesive procurement and tendering system. From there a role in planning opened up at the Shire and I moved into this where I worked from 2017 to 2020. Whilst working at the Shire I continued to work part time as a personal trainer and along with the Body Club did a stint at F45 Margaret River when it first opened.
In between all of this I dabbled on and off with my artwork, largely drawing and painting in my spare time and as a hobby, never really having enough time to dedicate to it. The Margaret River region is an amazingly creative place to live. I think being surrounded by so many creative people and organisations started to inspire my creative side more and in the last 2 years I was at the Shire I started to paint more.
During this time I suffered from a slipped disc in my lower back which was a horrendous and debilitating experience. I suffered with this for 9 months and along with the stress of my job, I felt like I mentally just needed a change. Creativity has and always was my go to, a sort of meditation and I just found myself more and more drawn to it.
For at least a year I deliberated over leaving a career I had done for so long to pursue my art. It was a risky and big decision to make especially when you have the security of income over now calling myself an artist and trying to sell my work to the general public. I am definitely a bit of an introvert at heart, so taking this leap and having the confidence to get my work out there was a massive step for me.
So with encouragement from supportive friends and family I took the leap of faith. I did a stint at Mocean Fitness as a trainer for 7 months whilst I transitioned into selling my artwork.
And what a leap it has been so far. I had no idea of the number of avenues that would open up, it was a huge decision but I am so pleased I did it. I left the Shire in June 2020 and by the September I was part of the collective at the Margaret River Artisan Store selling my original paintings, prints and a range of kids wear and other products with my designs. It is a wonderful team of humans, which I continue to be a part. I also sell my products at markets throughout WA; I have also done artwork commissions for other local product ranges.
I also became a part of The Hive Margaret River Art Collective and Secretary on the board of Creative Corner in late 2021.
My transition into a creative career has certainly become a reality and I love it. I look back at my career to date and I wouldn’t change it. I am grateful that I have experience in a variety of areas because ultimately that has stood me in good stead to get me to where I am now.
How has your creative practice changed over time?
Painting is a ying/yang process for me. I have always been very methodical, detailed and particular in the way I work. Yet at the same time my paintings can evolve into something completely different to what I had planned– which I actually love.
I am realist to an extent but like to bring a twist of the imagined into my paintings. To be honest, even if I start off with the intension of realism they tend to evolve into something I didn’t expect to paint anyway. It is quite a fluid process for me.
I’m a bit of a perfectionist and definitely need to be in the right frame of mind to feel creative. I often come and go from pieces I am working on over a period of weeks – stepping back looking at them and often thinking/deliberating the next brush stroke. This habit hasn’t changed much and don’t think it will.
My style even when I was younger is somewhat illustrative in nature. I would say I have gone through phases of using different materials and subject matters more than my inherent style/creative practice changing. I have gone from use of watercolour, to acrylics, to line drawing in inks, back to acrylics and then back to watercolour.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced working in a creative sector?
Generally, in the short space of time I have been working as a creative I can’t say I have come up against any big challenges in the sector itself. I have had an immense amount of support and encouragement. My main challenge is being my own worst critic!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
I’ve been given so many gems of good advice but the one that sticks out is from my grandad who was an editor of a local newspaper on a small island off the coast of Scotland. “Have many strings to your bow”.
The idea of having many skills, interests, goals and always learning something new – so you can go between different options and alternatives.
I guess this is what I have done so far in life, as well as my creative practice and I would agree that it is true – I have always landed on my feet because of it.
What would your dream project look like, if you had unlimited money and time?
I would love to write and illustrate my own children’s book. I have always been fascinated with this idea and would love at some point to give it a go.
Name three creatives that inspire you, and why.
Goodness there is so many. The ones that stick out are:
My love and intrigue of painting started early on through my fascination with Charles Rennie Mackintosh a Scottish architect, designer, water colorist and artist. His artist approach had much in common with European Symbolism and was influential on European design movements such as Art Nouveau. His work is simple in design yet so intricate and enthralling – just something that always draws me in.
Everyone has that one amazing teacher in life. Mine was my art teacher at school, Mrs. Sharp. An amazing woman with endless patience and knowledge – even today I still use techniques she taught me. The art room was a welcoming and inspiring place all down to her hard work and dedication to students. I actually recently was in touch with her over social media and was delighted she remembered me. Turns out that her son lives in Perth. She visits from Scotland each year and she has been to Margaret River a couple of times. Definitely, a small world and I hope to catch up with her when she can next get here – see what other gems of knowledge she can give me.
And the third is the everyday creatives in the Margaret River region. We are surrounded by so many, with different talents and contributions to the community.