“The fact that, out of the thousands of paintings in the world, a person might select something of mine to hang in their home still blows my mind!”
'HERA Women' is our journal series dedicated to celebrating women who are living life in their HERA jeans. Created to uplift, inspire and celebrate the lives and achievements of all women in their wonderful variety.
This month, we're getting to know Geelong local, Charlotte Guest . She might be known around town as Artist of the captivating and vibrant florals, or maybe she’s your favourite bookseller to give you your next best read recommendations. Either way, she’s a true creative spirit, whether it’s how she uses her brush on the canvas or how she tangles together words on paper. She’s the kind of person who sees life in all its beautiful details - the details we might often let us pass by, unnoticed. I mean, you’ve got to be able to stop, observe, and wait, to be an avid birdwatcher, right. She talks of the birds that frequent her backyard, “they all have such distinct personalities that I’d love to learn how to capture” - she reflects whilst dreaming up future works of art.
Over here at HERA, we’ve gotten to know this infectiously enthusiastic girl more. From what drives her creative process, to what plans she has for this coming year...
She begins, talking about her art…
I discovered painting while trying to complete my PhD in Creative Writing (which is still ongoing, God help Artistme), and after posting a few early paintings on my Instagram I was encouraged by friends and followers to keep going and put pieces up for sale. That was about eighteen months ago, and I’ve since set up a dedicated home studio, exhibited in local group shows, and sold plenty of works!
What other things do you call yourself?
I’m actually more a bookseller and a writer than a painter - at least that’s what it says on my tax return! I work a couple of days a week at The Book Bird in Geelong West, and then I’ve been occupied with my creative writing studies for the past three years, and before that I worked with books on the publishing and marketing side of things. I do some freelance writing as well.
What inspires your art?
I can’t go past a good bunch of flowers. To me, flowers are almost an infinite source of inspiration and imagination. They can symbolise so much, as the rich history of floriography will tell you! I am trying to explore different styles within this subject matter, such as 70s textile design and different colour palettes, but flowers have certainly dominated my output thus far. I have also done a few abstract works based on the song of the butcherbird, which was a really interesting process, trying to translate sound into visual marks, and I’ve also dabbled in landscapes. I feel I am still in the discovery stage of my art practice: finding out what excites me and what I’m good at, so I’m continually trying to push myself with each new painting.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love connecting with other people through my work. It’s such a thrill and an honour when someone chooses one of my paintings for themselves or someone else. The fact that, out of the thousands of paintings in the world, a person might select something of mine to hang in their home still blows my mind! I’ve had paintings commissioned as birthday and wedding presents as well, which is incredibly special, and I hope to do more of these.
It’s not just about connecting with buyers through my art, either. It’s also about the other local creatives that I have gotten to know through group shows, online, and through Ben, my fiance’s art services business. Investing more time in building a robust community around my art and Ben’s small business is something we’d like to focus on in the near future.
What have been some of your favourite subject matters in the past? Why?
The most consistent theme in my work is certainly flowers and floral arrangements, but I’m keen to start experimenting with other subjects either in a representational or abstract way. I’d love to begin incorporating the local birdlife into my paintings as Ben and I are keen birdwatchers, and I think this would be a perfect way to combine two of my passions. Even in our backyard (which is hardly a backyard, more just a riot of bushes and trees) we have butcherbirds, magpies, currawongs, peewees, wattlebirds, lorikeets and crimson rosellas! They all have such distinct personalities that I’d love to learn how to capture, and maybe even experiment with my materials while doing so, such as watercolour, pencil, and oils, as opposed to sticking with my much-loved (but safe) acrylics. Stay tuned!
What were some of your highlights of 2021? And biggest challenges?
The highlight of 2021 was getting engaged to my partner Ben. We were holidaying down in Lorne when he asked me to marry him. It was the most perfect moment in a very hard year and something that brings us so much joy through an already rocky start to 2022. 2021 was also when I established my painting practice and began selling enough work to consider doing art part-time. It’s still something I struggle to believe, but I think that will come in time.
I mean, the biggest challenge was perhaps everyone’s biggest challenge: facing COVID, in all its different guises and all the different ways it can hinder your life. I’ve hardly seen my family, who live in WA, and Ben hasn’t seen his family at all, who are in California. I have no idea when we will be able to get back to either of our homes, which causes us both a lot of sadness and anxiety. Outside of COVID, my PhD has been an unerring source of frustration. The bulk of the project is a novel, and for a long time I felt I’d lost the energy to be creative in this way. Every sentence felt stale, every plot point tired. But I am slogging away because the only alternative is to drop out and I’m too far along for that!
What are some of your plans or goals for 2022?
Finish. The. PhD.
If that is the ONLY thing I do this year, that will be enough. I can hardly imagine a time where I don’t have it weighing me down, and a part of me worries I might simply float away when it’s all over, like a helium balloon, never to be seen again! But, no, I imagine it will be joyful, and once I no longer have to do it I’ll be glad I’ve done it. I just need to get there…
I’d love to slot in some more commissions and maybe get a small show together… not sure where or how, but the idea really appeals.
I’d also like us both to see our families, and plan our wedding, and hope against hope that it all goes ahead as intended. Organising catering for a big group of people when case numbers have reached over 50,000 a day in Victoria is a peculiar thing, but our wedding isn’t until March 2023 so you’ve got to think… it’ll be fine… right?
Until then, you can find me hauled up in my studio, listening to folk music, wearing my favourite HERA jeans (with a protective apron over them, of course!).
Charlotte wears her Freya jeans. Shop her jeans here.