Sally has been painting and drawing all her life. It is and has always been her preferred language. Having grown up on a sheep and wheat farm in central NSW of Australia, Sally was isolated as a child but strongly connected to nature. Primary school was tough for Sally, as she was debilitating shy and art became her voice, allowing the expression of emotions in silence.
Travel became Sally’s passion on completing school, seeing her travel extensively for many years, meeting and working with artists from a variety of cultures. This gave her the inspiration and confidence to pursue art as a career. Sally returned to Australia and embarked on further studies, with a deep commitment to pursue her dream.
Sally’s first major solo exhibition was in 1998 at the Bondi Pavillion. This proved to be a very successful debut, launching her career as a serious artist. Sally has since exhibited all over the world, including New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong and other major cities. With numerous Major Australian and International Art Prizes to her name, Sally’s work can now be found in private collections all over the world.
Describe yourself in 3 words: Creative, driven, passionate
What is your life motto? Do what makes you happy and do it with drive, enthusiasm and an open mind.
When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful? I had my first solo exhibition in 1998 at the Bondi Pavillion; it was successful as in I sold most of the work. There was a great amount of positive feedback and interest in my work, which was generated from the exhibition; I didn’t make a huge amount of money as the works were relatively inexpensive – but it seemed like a lot at the time. I considered myself a success and have done ever since. To me success comes from doing what you love to do, working to your own beat, never stagnating and always moving forward.
How many hours did you dedicate to pursuing your dream? I would imagine I’ve worked too many hours to count…But because I love what I do it has never really felt like work. I wouldn’t know how to stop if I tried. The hours I spend in my studio are the hours I enjoy the most. The hours spent in my office or on the road are the aspects that turn it into a job.
Describe how difficult the business really is? The business side of being an artist is definitely the most challenging aspect. There’s no hard and fast set of rules. I’ve never had a real mentor or formal training in painting, although I did get a degree in design and visual communications. People in the industry show more respect once you’ve done the hard yards, have some awards under your belt and stand the test of time. I feel that only now after 15 years of commitment and consistency am I earning the respect which in turn earns you money.
What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson? There’s no one mistake that stands out but I constantly make mistakes and realize that they are the very thing that helps you grow, learn and fine tune your medium and business.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date? Just keep going. Don’t stop believing or giving it 100%. When times are tough be strong, because there is always light at the end of the tunnel. The hard times only make the good times brighter. Be consistent and brave.
In your mind, is formal training essential? I lack formal training in painting, but I have a degree in design and visual communications. I believe this helps set me apart as I have formed my own style without the direct influence of formal training. Therefore I don’t believe it’s essential, however my training in design and visual communications has been very valuable in other parts of life practice, in particular marketing. Training in any field teaches us something about business management and how to research.
Do you think having a mentor is important? How would you go about getting one for this industry? Having a mentor is certainly a massive help to your career. It would be a great help to have someone to give advice on mediums, how to run a great studio, and offer business advice. A mentor is an amazing support and education in one. If you wanted to find a mentor then I would imagine that you would seek out artists that you admire, with style that you find appealing and write to them. A letter of introduction outlining your proposition and what you would like to gain out of the mentorship also indicating your level of experience and showing examples of your work.
What are some steps emerging talent can take to start/further their career? I would suggest to any artist starting out to study and get some part-time work in something that isn’t overly taxing! I did lots of retail work starting out, it was work I didn’t have to take home with me but gave me money to establish my studio and build my following, pay for transport, shipping and other expenses.
I would also build a great web-site, create contacts, work hard and be on time!
What kept you going when you weren’t at your best? Painting always kept me going when I wasn’t at my best. It’s the thing that grounds me, reminds me of who I am and where I’m heading.
Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time? I believe we make our luck. It’s about putting yourself in the right place at the right time, having a positive attitude and staying true
Check out her website for her amazing works – www.sallywestart.com