Shani Nottingham is a collector. Of what you may ask, EVERYTHING! Her beautiful home in the small Central West town of Cowra is jam packed with beautiful things she's collected for a long time, mostly from op-shops. Everywhere you look there are colourful, vibrant knick knacks and artworks. Colourful crochet blankets decorate the couches, vintage vases cover every horizontal surface and Shani's cheerful paintings are dotted throughout the house. It's not hard to be inspired in this amazing family home.
Shani is the sole operator behind the dynamic brand and blog Rare Pear Studio. Through the website she sells her art, which is in her own words "affordable, beautiful, fun and desirable art that inspires a happy heart". I caught up with Shani in her lively family home to see how the work for the exhibition was coming along................
Tell us about your background. I am Newcastle born and bred, my parents were both teachers, and their passion was (and is) travel. As a child I was given the chance to experience different cultures, beautiful extraordinary places, was taken to national parks, galleries, museums, was surrounded by art on the walls of our family home and always encouraged to be creative. I was super lucky that paints, brushes, crayons, paper, pencils, cameras, etc. were always at hand. Myself and my siblings have all gone on to be creative people -my sister is a very successful filmmaker, and my brother is an amazing writer, and singer who also creates and makes all sorts of things… and I do not think this is coincidence.
How did you get into painting? I seem to do well at art at school and get praise for my efforts, which fueled my motivation. I did art for my HSC, and went on to do a Visual Art degree at Newcastle University, major in Photography, minor in plant and wildlife illustration. It was then that I really discovered watercolour and ink.
How did you make the leap to full time artist? After completing my degree, I did the typical thing of working for awhile (all sorts of weird and wonderful jobs) before heading off overseas with my then fiance (now hubby) to live for a few years. When we got back to Oz, we moved out to the Central West, married, began our family, and I began a second degree, bachelor of Education by distance education. Art and creating were still there, but travel, breeding, studying, home making and then teaching etc. meant that it was not a priority. Then about 4 years ago I experienced a major personal trauma that meant I needed to take stock of my life. I was forced to stop and really think and re-asses the direction my life was going, and whether I could be happy and feel content if I did not realign my focus. Even though it was a really awful time for everyone in our family, it was my opportunity to make some big decisions. With both intense fear and joy, I realised that if I did not try, I would never know if art would and could sustain me. I would never be happy because I would always wonder.
Since then I have begun rare pear studio, my art business… I do large and small art/design commissions, write for online publications, have exhibitions, teach creative workshops, style photo shoots, do photo shoots myself, do typography ( hand lettering wedding/party invitations and place cards etc), sellart/ gift tags/cards and prints through bricks and mortar shops as well as ones online and on my own bigcartel shop. Basically just living as creatively as I can!
Where do you find Inspiration? I find inspiration all around me. My garden, nature, foraging, from travel, books old and new, magazines, social media…the list is endless. In fact it is the editing down of ideas that I find tricky.
What draws you to watercolour and ink? What do you love about these mediums? I love the intensity and spontaneity of these mediums. And yet… they can also be soft and subtle and delicate. They are so adaptive! I love playing with them, and can lose myself in hyper focus for hours just painting. I love watching the colours bloom, and bleed, merge and blend and dry. I am not a technical painter, much more intrinsic, but I read and study and watch others, and I am amazed at how much I am still learning all the time. Both these mediums are unpredictable and keep you on your toes. I love the reaction I see when participants at my workshops experience good watercolour for the first time- seeing their joy is amazingly lovely to experience and be part of.
Describe your aesthetic. My aesthetic is truly still developing…I am NEVER… or very rarely, am happy with it! I am the walking cliché of a creative, who goes through all the 6 steps of working…
1. THIS WILL BE AWESOME 2.THIS IS TRICKY 3. THIS IS SHIT 4. I AM SHIT 5. IT MIGHT BE OKAY (then with time and reflection…) 6. THIS MIGHT BE AWESOME!
I never really know whether it is a good thing or a bad thing that I do have a very varied style, as in maybe no style! I switch wildly at times. With painting I will go from more realistic, simplified, naturalistic, to wildly abstract just washes of colour, and everything in between. It means I am not a master of any one style or aesthetic, and I am working my way through that. Then added to that, I also collage, still love and do lots of photography, draw, do a lot of basic line work ( I have recently completed several designs for different colouring in books and have another new project on the horizon), and dabble in pastels, gouache and acrylic from time to time, use canvas and old books, and do styling stuff too. Other people tell me that it is colour and whimsy that binds it all together…but I do neutrals too! My aesthetic is a total work in progress, an evolution! I do love hearing how people describe my work, as this gives me insight into it myself.