What a year! Soooooo much has happened along my art journey this year so I thought I would give a little bit of a recap. Here's hoping that 2018 will be just as successful.
The Year of the Koi
Midway through 2016 I formed a very valuable relationship with a gallery in Ponsonby called Endemic World. The founding owner Elliot Alexander opened up the gallery & art print studio in 2007 and I am incredibly lucky he believed enough in my artworks and me as an artist to sell my pieces in-store. We quickly realised my koi fish pieces were a hot commodity. So, naturally I kept the gallery stocked up with Koi paintings on wooden rounds. I couldn't believe it! People were actually buying my art and I was starting to see returns on my time doing something that I've loved to do ever since I could remember! I even made my biggest sale to date (at that time) of NZ$2500! At this point I was still working full-time as a Corporate Travel Agent for Air New Zealand but my brain starting ticking and thinking that maybe becoming a full-time artist was actually a possibility?
It was in April this year (2017) that I made a somewhat leap of faith and asked if there was any possibility I could cut my hours down to 3 days a week at my 9-5 job so I could focus more on making art. To much of my surprise they agreed and said yes! Although I was nervous, I just had to believe that as long as my time was put in to painting then I would see returns - and sure enough I did. It was the best decision I ever made. Although I felt guilty at first about waking up and doing what I loved ALL DAY I knew it was what I had to do.
Trial and Error
Although my artworks were selling via Endemic World I still had to supplement the down times in between to pay the bills. I sold woodblock letters via Social Media and greeting cards with my art printed on them. To be honest, everything has been trial and error. I have loved when people get excited about new pieces I paint and sad when ones I love other people don't like as much. But that's life right? The most success I've found is when I've done something that feels right from the gut. If I've loved doing it then that's all that matters. Sometimes you just wait until the next wave to catch it (or in my case, try to catch it..) Most of the time I just get ideas about what might be cool that I'd like to see and just do it. If I've learnt anything the MOST important thing is taking massive action as much as possible. And if not massive action then small but consistent action.
Geisha Beauty and Meeting my Dad
A lot of people who have known me for a long time will know that I never knew my biological father growing up. My mother and him split up when I was too little to remember although she kept a lot of photos of him which I held on to all these years never knowing if he was even alive! Along with these photos my Mum also had Japanese trinkets and ornaments from Japan which my father had given her. One of the particular objects which I always found beautiful were her Japanese dolls with their porcelain white skin and perfect make-up. I loved the intricate patterns on their kimonos. This struck my curiosity to find out more and in turn I started finding images of Japanese Geisha. It was something about their mysterious yet elegant poses that drew me in. Naturally, I decided I would do a painting of one back in 2010. One painting of a Geisha led to another and before I knew it that's all I wanted to paint! Never quite perfecting the last and always looking to make the next better. My mind started to wonder whether my curiosity had something to do with understanding the Japanese side to me and maybe even finding my Dad? After all, the mind works in mysterious ways. In 2011, just before the big Tsunami hit Japan I made contact with my Dad! It was quite emotional but also healing as I started to feel "whole" like a part of me was missing. His english was a bit rusty but we still managed to talk and understand each other, it was amazing! Luckily he wasn't directly impacted by the big Tsunami of 2011. Last year I met my Dad for the first time in about 30 years and it couldn't have been any better! We went back again this year in May and also got to see more of Japan and draw more inspiration from this culture I never truly knew.
Along with my koi fish, these "Geisha Beauties" as I call them were also very popular. 2017 saw my biggest art sale to date of NZ$2800 for my painting "Hana". Although I am happy to be earning an income doing what I love, I do miss these paintings and get a little sad knowing I may not ever see them again.
When opportunities knock, open the door!
As my practice started to evolve more and more, opportunities I never even considered were happening. One of the memorable moments of the year was seeing my "Samurai - Unleash the Dragon" painting on the TV show 'The Block'. I knew the contestants of the show quite frequently shopped for their art at Endemic but never did I think my painting would be front line and centre.
Another cool opportunity I was lucky enough to be involved with was being featured on the cover of a magazine called "Geometry" A very talented editor Di Starrenburg approached me via my website and asked if I could do a commission piece of my "Koi Duo" painting for her. Following that she asked whether she could use some of my images in her magazine and feature my painting "Kei" on the cover to which I said of course! The cherry on top was being paid for my images!
Although these opportunities were great exposure for me and my art I think the highlight of the year would definitely be having my art chosen by Endemic World to be in Paul McCartney's green room whilst he was in Auckland. To have that kind of association is priceless and an opportunity I never thought my art would reach.
The Gift of Giving
As well as having all these opportunities, I am very proud to say that my art was able to give to charities close to home. Although I was not financially able to give the same amount of money my art raised I was incredibly honored to be able to give to such worthy causes. One way that I am able to give to local communities is to be involved in School fundraisers such as the Waitakere College and Birkenhead Primary School exhibitions. The money raised goes towards children who may not otherwise be able to afford experiences that are easily available to others. I was also lucky enough that I could meet up with Michel Tuffery at the Waitakere College exhibition as he was the one who taught me how to carve woodblock prints which then in turn lead me to my fused painting style. He was blown away by what I had created which was again priceless for me and my confidence as to what I could achieve. I thought I would also include the email I sent to the Principal of Waitakere College as I was highly impressed with the running of the event on the night.
"I would just like to pass on my gratitude to the person (whoever that is on the board) who recommended having me included to show in this exhibition. But most of all the reason I am emailing this morning is to pass on my compliments to the very lovely and polite students of Waitakere College that helped with the event. I was very very impressed to every single student that helped me through my journey on the night from the students that guided me to my car park then the student that guided me to the auditorium offering an umbrella in case my hair got wet :) and also to the student that warmly greeted me at the door with the list of art items. It truely made the night for me and I would love if you could please pass this message on to the students involved. Well done and keep up the great work! Your parents and teachers should be very proud for raising such well mannered, responsible young people."
Another charity I was involved with was the Asylum Seekers Support Trust Art Trail. This was an interesting exhibition where each artist was given a frame to do whatever kind of painting they thought represented seeking freedom meant to them. Viewers then downloaded an APP which had a map of each frame around Auckland CBD to which you could walk and find each piece of art. Here is the piece I submitted with 100% proceeds going towards the cause and was lucky for the organisers to have it sell.
A cause closer to home which I was happy to help raise money for was for a friend of mine Tracey Lambrechs who needed funds raised to get to the Common Wealth games in 2018 for weight lifting which I am very proud to say she has achieved!! She won a bronze medal in the 2014 Commonwealth Games and a sliver at the 2015 Pacific Games. Here's hoping she wins Gold at the Gold Coast 2018 CW Games! Funds raised not only went towards her physical training but also towards the amazing work she has to do on her mental strength and the incredible team helping her get to her goals. Here is a photo of me with one of her coaches who bought my "NZ" prints.
A more heart pulling charity which I was incredibly honored to help raise money for was for a little girl called Ka'iulani Forbes. I was watching a story on 'The Hui' about a 2 year old who is battling a rare form of cancer called Neuroblastoma had been misdiagnosed by doctors after a whopping 50 visits!! This meant she could potentially have missed out on getting treatment overseas as the deadline was quickly approaching and over a $350, 000 needed to be raised to get there and one Child Cancer specialist quoting a potential $2m required for the entire cost of treatments. After hearing this I rushed to the studio and started painting not really sure how I would raise money for them. I started posting on Facebook and soon realised Ka'iulani's parents knew my sister. My brother-in-law had already been doing all he could to raise funds so it became a charity close to our hearts. Not long after the Forbes family advertised they were going to hold a gala evening and so I got in touch with the organiser and had my painting up for silent auction. Overall they managed to raise $100,000 raised for the entire event which was enough to get them a good chunk of assistance for Ka'iulani. My painting "Heart Koi" raised $750.00 for the family which is far more than I have ever given any charity in my life. Ka'iulani is still undergoing treatment but have seen she has enjoyed Christmas with her family outside of the constant medical treatments. It was humbling to have been able to give to such a lovely and deserving family.
Overall I managed to raise $2457.00 for all these charities this year! I have always wanted to give in meaningful ways and I think my heart grew a little bigger knowing something I love to do is also helping others.
That's it!! 2017 is nearly over. Thanks for following my art journey for the year and I hope next year is as successful as this one was - I know it will be pritty hard to beat. Have a safe holiday!
Lots of love,