The Lala List: Bonnie Gray
Bonnie Gray is an artist based on the Central Coast, Australia. Affectionately known as a colour scientist, Bonnie’s work is like no other. If there was a visual representation of a pure lust for life, this would be it.
Every artwork has a unique touch. Words, poems, songs and stories are hidden amongst 90s tropical colours and layers of abstract shapes and textures. Inspired by every person’s individual story, Bonnie weaves sentiment, sunlight and a touch of “you” to each brushstroke. Every artwork is inspired by birthday parties, streamers, oceans, skies and 90s tee shirts. If you don’t know her name yet, you surely won’t forget it once you’ve seen her work.
Having a signature “Bonnie Gray” means you have a ray of sunshine within your space. It’s like cotton candy on your walls. Without inhibition, Bonnie expresses that which is wonderfully unique yet at the same time, evokes but one feeling within the viewer: pure, boundless joy.
Bonnie is a dear friend of mine and we recently caught up to chat all things creativity, business and dreams. Here's a snippet of our conversation.
Tell us about what you do. Why did you start?
BG: I work from my studio at home in Terrigal. I have an ongoing random weekly schedule in which I create and experiment with colours for clients, friends, stores, boutiques, photoshoots but most importantly, I create to stay sane. It's my personal outlet. I paint, write, and design on canvas, paper, and fashion and design garments.
I never studied art, it has always been an easy expression because all forms of learning and comprehension baffled me growing up. At school, an undetected case of Dyslexia stopped me from truly understanding what the teacher was writing and teaching.
When I moved from Sydney to the Central Coast I felt encouraged to stop working in jobs just because I felt comfortable in them. I leapt out not knowing exactly what I was to do next but I had great confidence and support in the next season. Jumping out was quite a vulnerable space hey…For the first 3 months I saw nothing come to pass. That was hard! I saw no momentum in anything. I pretty much got to the end of my self with no work. At the end of the third month, every plan and every boring job idea I could think of didn't work out. The safe, grown up thing to do didn't work.
I cried. This is true, I really cried those snotty by yourself "woe is me" kind of cries haha! While crying at my desk, I found myself processing not with words but with art. This space came alive for me like a light in a dark tunnel. In that very moment, and for the first time I could see direction, purpose and a space for me that I never had explored before. Art! Such an obvious thing to others but for me it took me three months of trying, failing, crying and then after being stretched in the waiting all the dusty ideas blew away and the gold of what I really wanted to do stood out. With the help of my big sister (Tess Guinery) who is a cyber queen, I started an Instagram account just for my art. It would become my gallery.
How long have you been running your own business?
BG: I can't believe it but its been three and a half years. Time is flying
What’s your main vision as an artist?
BG: My main vision as an artist is to express hope and joy through colours and words. I see art as a place that connects people, builds new friendships and opportunities for collaborations. It's a place for good memories and boundless creativity.
What’s your favourite all time colour to paint with?
BG: Wow that is so hard to say...I love dark green but watermelon red is up there for me too. It truly is hard to pick
Running a creative operation can be a little crazy. Can you give us an outline of what your daily routine is?
BG: When I have an art day, I love to start with a morning sunrise walk. Being around nature; something more beautiful than a magazine, Instagram feed or Pinterest board is the spark of all imagination. Good breakfast and then the music. Music is the encourager for the paint brush. It slides, glides and tap dances ha! Billie holiday is my lady and any kind of jazz music that has no lyrics gets me going. I try to be organised and go through emails the night before so I can go straight into the studio without interruption. The plan is usually decided the night before so I can go for it all day.
Do you have a strategy with your social media? If so, what is it?
BG: I do. It's simple. Express what you are authentically journeying.
The only way for me personally is to be away from the 'gram (Instagram) and write loads to figure out what I really want to share & what I am currently learning. I am such a colourist and the way you edit your photos has to be consistent or it looks like a confused child wearing winter clothes in summer haha! I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to visual expression. If the image sparkles when I see it, then I know this needs to be shared.
I do have some images to that are just for me and not for the world to see which is important. I don't run by times or when to post, I just post when the imagery and words come to heart.
What's next for Bonnie Gray?
BG: Travelling! I want to travel Europe next year and be inspired by this stunning world and all it's colours. I want to create a new range of artworks and BEIGE poetry t-shirts. I have another Bigger Picture Project coming this year, this will be number four. The BPP is a collaboration of creatives on the Central Coast to fundraise together for the local shelter. Also! Workshops and a Gallery night would be a dream this year.
If you could say one thing to someone starting a creative business what would it be?
BG: Don't over think it, dream as big as you can and write it on your wall so you see it every day (even on the back of your toilet door!)
Be as creative as you can with the little that you have. Don't allow money to be the momentum of your creativity. Create and play...Playing encourages new dreams to be filled with hope and while you play, you unknowingly say goodbye to doubt and insecurity and say hello to enjoying this beautiful process of growth, wisdom and adventure.
Surround yourself with positive people that understand what your doing and allow you to cry and be real about your highs and lows.
Get an accountant, and keep researching new apps to make life easier. (Side note: VSCO is what I use for photo editing)
Know your why, know your message that's threaded through what you do, stay authentic with your customers and love your followers.Don't get caught up with how many followers you have… if your passionate and stay in your lane and keep growing in your skill and talent you will find yourself meeting beautiful people along the way and clients you never thought could be possible. Love your people, if you notice yourself shifting from that go back to your why.