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Bonnie Gray: How to Kickstart Your Career as an Artist

All images courtesy of Bonnie Gray

Affectionately referred to as a ‘scientist of colour’, Central Coast-based artist Bonnie Gray  is an art lover’s dream. Abstract, unique and effortlessly playful, her poetic, feminine style is a collection of words, poems, songs and stories, hidden behind a palette of 90s tropical summers, pink flamingos and layers upon layers of abstract shapes and textures.

Photo Credit - Kyal and Kara

Her beautiful pieces are expressive, emotive and wonderfully uplifting – many of which come in her signature shade of dusty pink – telling stories of love, fond memories and friendship. 

Kicking off her art career on Instagram, Bonnie is fast becoming a household name on the art scene. We were lucky enough to sit down with her to get her advice on starting a personal art collection, choosing the right art for your home and to share her tips on making it big in the art world.

Describe your art in three words

Dusty pink, joy, hope.

What inspired you to become an artist?

I never studied art, it’s always been an easy expression, because all forms of learning and comprehension baffled me growing up. At school, an undetected case of dyslexia stopped me from truly understanding what the teacher was writing and sharing. Drawing was a safe place for my thoughts to unravel and finally understand and comprehend what the teacher was teaching.

I went to an intellectual school that starved me creatively for years, but I found little islands of creativity in my bedroom, like song writing and drawing, as a mental breather. 

Photo Credit - Greenhouse Interiors

At what point did you decide this was going to be your full-time career?

When I moved from Sydney to the Central Coast I felt encouraged to stop working in ‘comfortable’ jobs. I didn’t know what I was going to do next, but I had great confidence and support in my next chapter.

Jumping out was quite a vulnerable space. For the first three months I saw nothing come to pass. That was hard! I saw no momentum in anything. 

I pretty much got to the end of myself with no work. At the end of the third month, every plan and every boring job I applied for didn't work out. And so, I cried. This is true. I really cried those snotty, by yourself "woe is me" kind of cries! While crying at my desk, I found myself processing – not with words, but with art.

This space came alive for me like a light in a dark tunnel. In that very moment, and for the first time I could see direction, purpose and a space for me that I never had explored before.

Art! Such an obvious thing to others but for me it took me three months of trying, failing and crying before all the dusty ideas blew away, and the gold of what I really wanted to do stood out.

With the help of my big sister Tess who is a cyber queen, I started an Instagram account just for my art. 

"Instagram has become my gallery."

How did you break into the industry?

I really felt so backed by my faith – my religion is a massive part of why I do what I do. I can really be myself and authentic in my work.

But equally, it’s been an arduous journey. I’ve worked hard to get where I am and become the artist I am today. As I mentioned before, my sister helped set up my Instagram account, which was the starting point for my fully-fledged art career. This quickly flourished into my personal gallery and it all started from there.

Today, Julia Green at Greenhouse Interiors manages my work, Kyal and Kara (The Block) constantly use my art, both in their renovation projects and via social media. Social media has been key for me and getting my work seen. Most of my new clients actually find me on Instagram. 

What advice would you give to young, aspiring artists?

 “Get as creative as you can with the little that you have”

Don’t allow money to drive your creativity. Find your message – explore, play, explore play, explore, play – is what I really recommend. Find time within your week, even if it’s only 30 mins, you’re taking a step forward and learning about yourself and where you want your creativity to head. That way you’ll determine what you don’t like and why.

Ask yourself these questions: “Why didn’t that work?”. You need to be so true to you, or you will lose yourself to the judgment and performance of the world.

"Creativity is a gift. Nurture it and watch the most authentic, creative, passionate version of you grow."

You are beautiful. Find your quirks. Own it. Play, experiment, invite others and explore.

But most importantly, have fun. Creativity is a childlike wonder. Stay in this place, and if you find yourself losing that, go dancing, skinny dip! Eat some ice cream, travel to a new town you’ve never been to and turn your jolly phone off. Play… play until the day you die!

Do you have a favorite piece in your collection?

I love the piece I created for a lady in Newcastle – their canvas was a massive piece, and where I developed a new found love for dusty pinks. The whole experience was such a delight. 

She told me her whole love story about how her and her partner met and had their little girl, and I just felt I was able to express the words and ideas so easily onto canvas. I also hand delivered it to her, which was so special. I loved that moment. 

Bonnie Gray
Bonnie Gray
How do you commission a piece of Bonnie Gray art?

The process is easy, email or send me an Instagram message.

The process starts with finding the colour palette that tickles your heart and eyes. You can simply send me a screen shot on your phone, and I can work to whatever measurement is required.

The next part is my favourite, as I get to ask these questions:

Tell me your love story. The sentimental memories, dates you want to remember, food, street names, songs that mean a lot to you, the names and story behind your little babes or grown children, what inspires you? What is your story?

Creating a personalised piece is quite a beautiful process. 

Are there other pieces in your collection?

I have a range of prints and a section of tees also available to buy on my website

What are the golden rules of styling art in the home?

  1. White walls. I swear by them. It allows the colours on the canvas or print to really stand out.

  2. Pillows that match the colours in the canvas is always a win, and looks great.

  3. Natural furnishings always work well with art. Leave a larger space to introduce new colours and textures that won’t date.

What’s your advice on starting an art collection?

Go to galleries, exhibitions, Pinterest, and really find out what your heart and eyes are attracted to: colour palette, shapes, stories, messages etc. Every artist evolves in style and palette, and if you find your common go-to example, i.e. colours, shapes, abstract, realism etc. you’ll know this is what you’re drawn to.

It’s also important to research the message you want to express in your home. Everything carries a message, so what kind of visual message do you want to be reminded of every day? What feelings do you want to highlight? Not just for yourself, but for the people, friends and family that come into your home.