Summer on the Sunshine Coast correctly suggests “warmth” and on my one and only visit to the area it certainly lived up to its name! It was actually a massive relief when my sister and I arrived at the home of artist; Carley Cornelissen (after an hour with zero air conditioning in the car!) and descended into her cool basement studio space.
I had spotted Carley’s bright multi-media work at Byron Bay’s Retrospect Galleries and immediately googled her. It wasn’t long before a visit was arranged and I had the chance to share this friendly artist’s story.
Carley grew up in Traralgon, Victoria on a 5 acre block with her family. As mentioned by many a successful artist; she sites an inspiring and encouraging high school art teacher as helping her grow her passion for exploring her own creativity.
At 18 she broke out of her home town and moved to Melbourne with a group of friends. Like so many young people, she was eyeing her future with success in mind which led her away from art and toward graphic design which she felt had a “clearer career path”. She lasted a total of two weeks at University….graphic design certainly wasn’t for her!
Melbourne however, certainly was. Chapel Street offered an exciting, inspiring and buzzy contrast to her country upbringing and she enthusiastically soaked it up!
She spent a year sussing out her next step, leading her to enroll in a visual arts course at TAFE. While she was still somewhat tentative and gun shy following her misfire at Uni, it became rapidly apparent that she had found the right path for herself. She loved it!
Following the visual arts course she then decided to head back to Uni again, this time to undertake a much more appropriate Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in painting at RMIT.
Carley took at job at a hardware store while studying, thoroughly enjoying the course… however “life” was proving quite a lot of fun too! After 2 years the finish line and final year was in her sights. She had upped her work hours to fund a mid year overseas adventure and as a result she was missing quite a lot of school. You can imagine the shock to the system when just weeks shy of flying she failed the 1st semester of her final year!
Taking stock, Carley decided to pack up her life in Melbourne and head away for a year, putting her studies on hold. At a fork in the road when many a person would struggle to return, she did just that and at 23 re-enrolled with a new motivation and focus for what she was trying to achieve. Interestingly enough, some of her tutors admitted to failing her as they knew she could do so much better! They felt she could have continued and passed, leaving Uni behind and perhaps not moving forward from there – but they had higher hopes for her talent and future.
She took this and ran…straight into acrylics, transfers and the development of the style which stopped me in my tracks!
In 2007 Carley moved to the Sunshine Coast where her parents had relocated from Victoria to a great spot in the hinterland. For the first time she relished being away from the distractions of Melbourne and felt inspired by her new rural home.
It was also the beginning of her 7 year relationship with art supply store; Eckersley’s. Working on a daily basis and dealing one-on-one with artists visiting the store she learnt SO much about products, techniques and art in general. So excited about the whole new world opening up to her, she bounced around, experimenting and straying between styles.
Despite the exposure to her local creative community and her growing portfolio of personal work, Carley struggled to see the steps that would take her work from being purchased via word of mouth to connecting to a larger, receptive audience.
In 2011, her sister Christa stepped in, determined to see her obvious talent grow. She was a organising wiz and took over Carley’s dreaded paperwork, social media and promotion, leaving her to do what she did best – simply create. (Yes…I hear you…we could ALL do with someone like this on our side!) Despite Christa living in Canberra, they created a system to sync their activity, share info and plan. An in depth and easily update-able Google Doc tracked the progress, availability and sale of Carley’s painting. This streamlined organisation was new to her and really set her free!
Carley began to take her paintings to weekend markets in the area before working with a local gallery to start generating more sales. She had been told about Retrospect Galleries in Byron Bay and felt that their style and angle suited her. Contact was made then suddenly – action stations! She received a call then immediately jumped in her car loaded with paintings and headed to Byron Bay. The Retrospect team critiqued her work – which Carley said was amazing, positive and enlightening! The gallery then took 2 pieces with them to a fair in Stockholm, both of which sold on the first day! The order was in for more ASAP and thus Carley got some serious wheels on her career as an artist.
In April 2013 they highlighted her as “Artist of the Month” in their Byron Bay gallery – her work selling as soon as it was hung, 10 in total. The resulting boost in her confidence was invaluable as is Restrospects on going support.
Spending a huge amount of time working from her basement studio in the home she shares with husband Ben and Thomas the cat, Carley also still works at Eckersley’s – valuing the one on one time with her contemporaries and break from her studio time.
At the moment she is flat tack producing work to go with Retrospect Galleries to affordable art fairs in Europe and Asia later in year. She is also a well deserving finalist in the Sunshine Coast Art Prize and Noosa Art Prize, both of which will be decided be in late August.
Carley’s story rang many bells for me. The misguided attempts to head for the corporate world, the difficulty to connect with a like minded audience and the horror of dealing with finances (!) These are all recycled issues struggled through by some of the most successful creatives I have met but I think Carley’s story-to-date is proof that they shouldn’t be used as excuses for not achieving goals and ploughing forward.
Any inquiries about the work that Carley has available or possible commissions can be directed to Retrospect Galleries (contact details on site)All photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home
WHAT I LEARNT FROM CARLEY:
Confidence and direction don’t always flood miraculously into our bodies.
It can take time, perseverance and often, the support of those people who have got your back.
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