I was lucky enough to get an interview with Van recently to ask some questions about her life as an artist. The result … an inspiring story about her journey and a picture of the surprisingly prosperous and booming art scene in the Sunshine Coast. She also explains the idea behind the ‘Art For My Rent’ initiative.
Q1. Do you think your childhood of moving around to different countries has shaped you as an artist?
My childhood has affected who I am as a person, and who I am as a person is directly related to what kind of art I make. It has to feel true to your voice, like you’re expressing your innermost truth. Anything else feels a bit forced, even fraudulent at times. Our childhood, being the single most formative time of our lives, shapes our experience as people and our work as artists in an immeasurable way. The fact that I moved around as a child a lot, no doubt makes me more restless than your average person. This restlessness is part of what keeps me in a permanent state of dissatisfaction with my current situation, no matter how happy I am and this very much includes my work. I’m always looking for the next best thing. What will I find next? What adventure can I get up to with this new medium? It also allows me to passionately work as if time is running out, because I don’t know how long it will be until my curious mind moves on to the next best thing.
Q2. Did you always know you were going to become a professional artist?
Absolutely. There was no doubt at 1, 11, or 21 what I was going to do. From 21-31 I got sidetracked by men and a book’s worth of adventures and didn’t make much work other than the occasional doodle on the back of a phone book. I’m really glad that I allowed myself to be thrown into a time when I just collected amazing adventures & stories. I believe the fact that I had this time off from making art makes me a better artist because it gave me something to make art about. Mental space is important. But after 10 years I felt that I wasn’t living my true path anymore. As soon as I started making art again, everything started to make sense and my sense of identity finally came together. It’s what I do, and it’s who I am.
Q3. What’s the art scene in the Sunshine Coast like?
It took me a while to find an arts scene on the Sunshine Coast, which is strange because there are so many artists tucked away in every corner of the hinterland and beaches. There is an established and booming community of ‘makers’ that sell in the local markets catering to tourists. There is also a large number of commercial galleries that cater to this same art market. Apart from this scene there is a rapidly growing community of artists making more serious art and banding together to build a scene in order to support each other and establish a presence. The local emerging and mid-career artists need extra support have put together networking meetings and creative events such as ‘Pecha Kucha’ that bring these artists together on a regular basis. There are a couple of hip new rental spaces available, and that’s helping out with establishing a scene. What’s missing is a cultural centre. We have two Regional Art Galleries in Caloundra and Noosa as well as a university gallery, but they’re small. It would be nice to have a cultural centre that evoked the importance of art in the local area. Especially since the Sunshine Coast is one of the fastest growing areas in Australia.
Q4. Tell us a bit about ‘Art For My Rent’
About five months ago I was working as an art director in an advertising agency. I was feeling like I needed to devote more time to my work, but I couldn’t leave the safety net of a regular income. After all, I have a son to support. One day I couldn’t do it any longer, so I went home early and tried to figure out how to pay my next rent with my art. I wrote a blog post on my website trying to sell a painting for the exact cost of my rent and it sold instantly. A friend suggested that I turn the idea into a whole blog, so I bought artformyrent.com and had the whole site set up in two days. The whole premise of the site is to sell one painting per week for the cost of my rent, which is $360. At first I had plenty of paintings in my storage room to sell, but eventually I ran out and now I can make new art. I had no idea if it would work, but after only one Facebook post of the project I got a call from Channel 7 to do a feature story, and shortly after was approached by Frankie Magazine for another feature. Since I started the blog I have managed to sell on a regular basis, have been published in countless online blogs and magazines and have been very lucky to get some lovely letters from people wanting to do something similar and showing support. The project goes on for a whole year until next May 29 (my birthday).