Hello and welcome to this month’s Creative Corner blog post. Have you been enjoying this series so far? I certainly have. It’s so motivating to sit down and chat with such inspired and inspiring creative minds every once in a while.
This month I spoke with Shannon MacDonald, a good friend of mine who runs her own Sydney-based paint and sip style business: Brushes & Booze.
We discussed her love for art and creativity, her strategies for dealing the fear of going out on your own and running a business and of course, her best advice for budding small business owners and painters. Grab a coffee or tea, have a seat, and join the conversation.
Everyone, meet Shannon…
Shannon, let’s start at the very beginning. When did you discover your love for all things art, especially painting?
I’ve always loved anything creative. I’ve been drawing and painting ever since I could remember. My passion for painting started at the beginning of 2019 when my friend, Shae (who owns her own small business creating and selling art. @mandalamoonart – check her out), told me about the Fishers Ghost Art Award (at Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney). I painted Audrey Hepburn as my entry, and since then, I became obsessed with painting.
Amazing! I’ve added an image of the Audrey painting above so people have a visual for your work. This pic doesn’t do it justice though – I can confirm that it’s even more stunning in real life. Moving on, how does painting make you feel and why do you enjoy it so much?
Relaxed and proud. When I decide to paint something or start a commission, I have no idea if I can do it. But when I sit down to paint, it’s like meditation for me. I paint for hours at a time, then when I step back and see what I’ve done, I’m shocked. I’m self-taught so all the techniques I use have been learnt along the way, so I’m proud when I see what I’ve taught myself to do.
That’s something I know I (and probably a lot of readers) can relate to. Now, tell us a little about your business: Brushes & Booze.
Brushes & Booze is a Sydney-based mobile painting class. I run public classes at pubs and cafes, private classes for families and friends, and corporate classes for team building exercises. I got into teaching painting classes because I love creating art so much, and I wanted to be able to ignite that passion or spark in others who may find painting daunting. I get that when you look at a finished artwork, you may not know how to get from start to finish. My job is to break down the artwork for you, and teach you techniques that can be applied to any artwork. I love my job. My classes are a bit of fun and they’re filled with people who want to let out their creativity with friends and family over a glass of wine.
Thanks for the overview! Having done one of your classes myself, I managed to create a somewhat decent painting, making you a seriously great teacher because my artistic ability is little to none. What are you most scared of by taking a leap and running your own business full-time? How do you plan on overcoming those fears?
My main fear is not earning enough money to support my family, which is a common fear for small business owners. I can’t help but think that even if I try my hardest, I still may fail because you never know what could happen (COVID is a perfect example). It’s my dream to run Brushes & Booze full-time, so I plan to overcome these fears by expanding my business and running a variety of different classes for different ages and experience levels. So stay tuned!
What is your favourite subject/style to paint? Why?
My favourite style for my personal paintings and commissions would be realistic portraits and landscapes with oils – almost renaissance style. I love the heavy shadows and super blended finish. As for my Brushes & Booze classes, I love teaching landscapes. They look the hardest, but I personally think they’re the easiest. It’s all about breaking down each element into simple steps.
Yeah, come to think of it, the breaking down of layers and elements made it a lot easier and less daunting during the class I participated in. Where can we look forward to seeing your classes hosted in future?
If you live in the South-West Sydney region, you’re in luck. I have classes coming up at The Shop at Picnic Point and East Hills Hotel this month. I’m also working on expanding and doing classes all around Sydney, so follow my Facebook and Instagram to get notified about upcoming events.
Perfect! I’ll be linking your various social platforms and contact details down the bottom of this blog so readers can easily access them. If you could give teenage Shannon one piece of advice in regards to her future career, what would it be?
Don’t give up on your dream of becoming an artist. Ever since I was little, I wanted to be an artist, then as I grew up I realised very few artists earn enough money to make a living so I stopped chasing that dream. I wish I knew that if you have a passion, don’t give up. You can make it work, just be creative with your approach and believe in yourself.
For other creatives out there hoping to turn their love of art into a career, what are the 3 most helpful things you’d like them to know?
The world wants to see your art and talent! I know what it’s like starting out and thinking “my art isn’t good enough”, “no one will buy it”. We are our harshest critics because we care so much, and sharing art that is so personal to us is a vulnerable thing to do. My biggest piece of advice is take the leap. Start a business for your art because you, your talent and your art is valued. It’s scary, I know, but there are so many people out there who will love what you do, you just haven’t discovered them all yet.
My second piece of advice is when you launch your business, go to where your customers are. It’s great to post regularly on social media, but you can reach more people by covering more ground. Post on a variety of social media accounts (Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest etc), join Facebook Groups for artists, sell your art on multiple websites (Etsy, Bluethumb, Redbubble), run market stalls, enter exhibitions, offer to display your art in cafes, there’s lots of places to look!
My third piece of advice is don’t be discouraged if sales are down. Sales naturally fluctuate sometimes, or your approach just needs a little mixing up. This could involve optimising your listings or creating different types of content for social media like videos/reels. It could also be an opportunity to branch out and launch something a little different to spark interest, like your art on stickers or mugs. Who knows. It is tricky sometimes trying to work out what to do next, but research and testing does help. I listen to a lot of podcasts for ideas and to stay up to date, like HerBusiness and The Copyblogger Podcast, and there a lot of great blog article out there too. Just keep up the hard work, continue to create art and believe in yourself!
Such great advice! Thanks so much Shannon.
If you’re in Sydney or surrounding areas and are looking to book a Brushes & Booze class for an upcoming birthday, corporate team building event or want to see when and where the next public class is being held, check out the links below…
☕ Coffee is good. Sponsor Shannon’s next cup here: www.ko-fi.com/iscribecreative
If you have any questions at all for Shannon that weren’t answered in this article, pop them in the comments and I’ll follow up with her for you 🙂
Creative Corner will be back at the beginning of next month so follow the blog to stay in the loop!