‘Making her heart happy’ – The Shani way
Right.. if there is anyone out there who is the king or queen of procrastination, sit down, take a moment, sneak a read.. you need a little bit of Shani Nottingham in your life!
Artist, Shani says she has always created, whether painting or drawing, for as long as she can remember.. it’s been her ‘fave’ thing. “Some of my earliest memories are of drawing in notepads, colouring in, making things with my Mum and Dad. Throughout primary and high school, I won prizes and awards for art, and it became an important part of my identity. Then after school, I went on to do a Bachelor of Arts Visual Arts at Newcastle Uni, majoring in Photography and minor in plant and wildlife illustration. After this, I travelled overseas for a few years, with my then fiancé (now hubby). We ended up back in Australia, and we found ourselves in Central West NSW.”
“After having our three kids (while studying) I began teaching too. But through all of this, I was always drawing, always painting, and doing the occasional exhibitions.”
Five years ago, Shani started ‘Rare Pear Studio’, knowing she had to get back to art in more of a professional way. “I wanted to model to my kids that you CAN lead a creative life, that you can follow your passion with hard work and dedication and see where it takes you.”
“My inspiration varies depending on what is going on in my life in general, and what I need in my creative life, my creative life is a twister and is constantly evolving. My garden always inspires me, even if not to paint or draw it as such, it fills my cup and is my place of calm. I also love travelling and being in new places always makes your senses heightened, more alert. I take A LOT of photos, so this is always inspiring. I do get a lot of inspiration from online platforms, but I really do not spend too much time on there, I found I began to get overwhelmed with all the brilliance on there, and question myself, it’s too easy to feel like you are not enough, begin comparing, and get intimidated, that’s time better spent creating!”
“I have a lot of things/projects on the go, and these feed off each other. I’ve often struggled to describe my work, because I can do many things. I can do colourful, whimsical and playful, but I can also do subtle, soft neutral coloured work. I specialise in watercolour, but I also do lots of black ink linework. Recently I have been painting large canvases, big bold abstracts, and these are making my heart really happy, after tight, small illustrations, lashing out and being bold is really freeing.”
“It’s funny, every time I get bogged down and a bit bleurgh, wondering why I do all of this, something lovely seems to happen, a new contact, a letter from someone, a new commission, an invitation to set up a workshop at a new venue, a collaboration with someone, a shop asks to stock my art or cards… Like the universe is saying KEEP GOING GIRL, and that inspires me to keep going, to keep working hard, to keep creating.”
“New opportunities make it all worthwhile. I also get lovely feedback from people who have been to my workshops, or bought some art, or been sent one of my cards, or even just people who have found me on social media and left a kind, positive comment. Being told your work has made someone happy is always inspiring and keeps your mojo ticking over. Knowing your work is in people’s homes, is really very rewarding, and humbling too.
Talking career highlights, Shani recalled Micador using her artworks for packaging on their new ink paints as a biggin’, “This was a huge thrill, I’m still chuffed, seeing your art on a product is a new buzz for me. But my biggest highlight would have to be when I won a big National online award in 2015. Kidspot had their Voices of 2015 competition for online creatives. From 7000 nominations, they whittled it down to 300 people. From this pool, the judges narrowed the finalists to a further 100, in total, in three categories. I ended up one of three finalists in my category, and went to Luna Park for a glam awards night, I frocked up with some friends who came to support me, and my hubby of course. And I won my category! When they read my name, I could not believe it! I walked around for about a week afterwards feeling like I was in a happy stupor! I still have the trophy proudly displayed and cannot quite believe I won it. It was really intense, but I learnt a lot from it, and really pushed my comfort zone, that’s always a good thing, and it led to some cool job opportunities too.”
At the moment, one of Shani’s biggest ongoing projects is called, ‘The Breadtag Project’, which was just this month featured in a Canadian magazine. “Breadtags/ breadclips/ breadies are those little bits of plastic we see around our bread, and some fruit and vegetables. They are small single use plastics, that get tossed away, and end up in landfill, or in waterways. They are just not good in our environment. A few years ago, I began collecting them, and made images from them, just playing. I began researching them and found out all sorts of information about these mundane little things.”
“This grew into a desire to raise awareness about single use plastics, but also to be positive, creative, and empower people to talk about environmental issues, to get on board simply, to feel like they can do something good. So, people from all over the world send me their bread tags. I will be using them for an art installation that draws attention to plastic pollution, but also be creative, hopefully aesthetically pleasing, as well as stimulating. The most exciting part for me is the DOOMSDAY collection of bread tags, where I am trying to get the world’s largest, most comprehensive collection of bread tags.”
“I am searching for as many countries and as many colours, styles, shapes etc as I can get. Crazy, but true! So far, I have 13 countries in the collection, but I need MANY more. At the conclusion of the project, the bulk of the tags will go to a wheelchair charity, raising funds for those in need of wheelchairs.”
Along with the everyday busyness of life, Shani’s other projects include; completing a sketchbook for the American, Brooklyn based The Sketchbook Project, prepping for two exhibitions [one in September, one for later in the year], setting up and teaching workshops around the Central West, from Narromine to Sydney, designing a mural for a local school, along with private commissions.
“My art journey is still ongoing and always evolving. I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up! I keep waiting to say “OKAY! THIS IS IT! I HAVE IT ALL FIGURED OUT!” It has not happened yet.”