This week I shared Part 2 of my About Me story on Instagram; a few pictures of our move to Australia, and then my creative journey from high school onwards, to finally undertaking a career change from accountant to artist. I had a few questions that were messaged through to me relating to what I shared, so thought I’d do the same thing as last week and answer them all here in one blog post.
Q: So do you now live in Africa or Australia?
A: I have lived in Australia ever since moving here as a 12 year old with my family back in 2001. Our trip back to Zimbabwe in 2012 was my first time returning to Africa but was purely for a holiday and to visit family (Aunts, Uncles, cousins etc … we have no extended family in Perth). I also returned to Zim in late 2015 as my Aunty was very sick at the time – it was a bit of an emotional trip and I haven’t been back since.
Q: Why do you work with coloured pencils? What do you love the most about them?
A: Several people have asked me this same question and the answer on a practical level is simply that they are the media I’m most comfortable and most skilled at using. I had mostly been working with paint a few years ago but was getting really tired of the set up and pack down involved and the messy nature of painting. I had always seen pencils as a means to an end; as in, you use them to do a planning drawing in preparation for a painting, rather than using them for the final work itself. When I grew tired of painting, I just thought “what the heck, I love pencils and why can’t they be used to create fine art?!” I’m so glad I made the change in medium as the pencils are perfectly suited to my lifestyle as a mum and artist – I now work around my baby, and being able to pick up and put down my materials quickly and easily without set up and pack down time, has been really wonderful. The range of colours and the layering you can achieve with the pencils I use is quite incredible and I love blending and building up the pigment as I work.
On a more theoretical level, coloured pencils are something that almost everyone draws with at some point in their childhood. There’s comforting familiarity about them and for many people they evoke memories of a simpler time in their lives. In my drawing workshops, I’ve had a few adults comment on how the smell of the pencils even transported them back to their first drawing attempts as children. I’m interested in re-tracing some of my childhood memories in future works, so this medium is perfect for that, I think.
Q: How did you come to realise that you were no longer happy in the accounting job?
A: To give a bit of background to my time in accounting; I worked in the same corporate firm for 3 years after graduating and I tried 3 different areas of accounting during that time; audit, management accounting, and superannuation accounts. Management accounting was by far the role I enjoyed the most but unfortunately it was a maternity cover position so I wasn’t able to stay in that role long term. I think what it really came down to for me was that in the other 2 accounting positions, I would go home so tired and mentally drained from the job and the office politics, that I no longer had time or energy for creativity (something that’s as vital to me as breathing air).
I had always wanted the accounting job to just be a job; something I could do during my working hours and then maintain my art in the evenings and on weekends. But the reality is that in the firm I worked at, post-graduation study and career advancement was expected, and it wasn’t the environment to coast along in a day job whilst you maintained your passion outside of working hours.
Looking back, it may have been a better move for me to have worked in accounts at a small business after graduating university (ie; as a day job alongside my art rather than a long-term corporate career). I actually quite enjoyed management accounting in the sense that I’m a very logical and organised person so the stereotypical ‘ditzy artist’ has never been something I’ve aspired to or understood. In no way do I regret my time in corporate though – I graduated high school with marks high enough that I could have studied medicine or law or whatever I really wanted. I don’t think I would have been OK with the difficulties that come with being an artist, if I hadn’t first settled in my mind that a more traditional ‘desk job’ wasn’t for me. Those years in accounting taught me that my creativity is essential to me living a happy and rewarding life, and I simply couldn’t work two jobs (corporate and creative) alongside each other with excellence, so ultimately one of them had to go.
Last year I wrote a more in-depth blog post on my career change, if you’re interested in more of the reasoning behind the transition.
Q: What kept you motivated during your transition and kept that scared inner voice muted?
A: Gosh I wish the scared inner voice was muted! It still often sounds pretty loud to me even now, but back then I realised I just had to ‘do it afraid’ and try as much as possible to feel what I was feeling but then not let those feelings dictate what I was going to do with my life going forward. In all honesty, I was incredibly anxious on an almost constant basis during at least the first year after I made the career change (and still sometimes now – the artist path is not easy!). I am so grateful for my husband being so supportive and for one friend in particular who was an absolute lifeline to me during that transition. So really it was my support network of a few safe people who kept me encouraged when I constantly felt terrified. I also had the help and wisdom of someone who was professionally qualified to coach me through the huge changes that were happening in my life at the time.
Besides that, the work itself keeps me motivated because it’s the work that I love and that I made the career change for. The lifestyle of working for yourself is also great as a mum, in terms of flexibility and working around your kids.
Q: Now that you work as an artist, do you regret not completing a fine art degree?
A: Back when I looked into studying fine art, there was only one place that I really wanted to do so: the National Art School in Sydney. The art degrees available in Perth never appealed to me and since I wasn’t too keen on moving to Sydney, I never applied to NAS. After my gap year painting those huge murals, being interviewed and then accepted into WAAPA was just the best feeling, and as it turned out, WAAPA couldn’t have been a better place for me to study a creative course at that time in my life. It was a community of unique, vibrant, loud, expressive, incredibly talented people and it gave me confidence in my own creative abilities. In short, I absolutely don’t regret not studying fine art here in Perth but as to studying it elsewhere, who knows what the future holds? If we ever make a move over east to Sydney or even overseas, it might yet still be in the cards for me one day.