Recently EASE Business Services had the pleasure of attending the first art exhibition by talented Bunbury artist Chantelle Bates. Whilst soaking in the artistic atmosphere, our Senior Business Advisor had the opportunity to conduct a brief interview with the artist herself:
Drew Streitberg (“DS”): How long have you been painting?
Chantelle Bates (“CB”): As far as I remember, going back to the age of 4, I’ve always been drawing or painting. I always recall having a love of simply creating.
DS: I recall from our earlier conversations, you mentioned a high-school teacher who both inspired you and pushed you to continue with your art? Can you tell me a bit about that?
CB: Mr Mark Norval. What a legend!! He was the kind of art teacher you wish for. Mark was always holistic in his approach to art, a “creative arts” teacher if you will. We never picked up a book to stud, it was always “let paint this” or “today we’ll be carving Boab nuts”. It was so much fun and he was so quirky and inspiring. He always encouraged me to continue with my art and was my inspiration as an aspiring artist.
He was, and still is, an individual I look up to in the wider art community. Mark helped ignite the passion in my soul that I have for painting and creating.
DS: I can see a natural, native theme to a lot of your artwork. Where do you draw your inspiration from? I believe you’d mentioned the Kimberley’s? The Boab trees there are quite impressive.
CB: Nearly all my current artwork is inspired by the Kimberley, which is a region in far north Western Australia.
I moved to Broome when I was 9 years old, then up to Derby where I stayed until the age of about 24? The landscapes there are truly amazing. There is a contrast in the colours and textures that just blows my mind.
The Kimberley is the home of the Boab Tree. The only other place in the world you will find them naturally is Africa. They have a unique structure and so much character. I’m fairly certain there are two slightly different species? Boab, being the native Kimberley tree and the Baobab being the African species. They are amongst the oldest species in existence in Australia.
DS: You have also used mixed media in your artwork (i.e. materials/patterns/feathers) where did the idea for that come from?
CB: I used the material originally because I loved the colours present in one particular piece of batik fabric that I had. I don’t really know where the ideas come from. I think I just see things and think “that would look cool as a (waves hands)…something or other” (laughing) I love to create, it’s not just about painting.
DS: Stylistically there are a number of different variances in styles. Do you purposely shift style? How difficult is it to maintain inspiration when you are creating? Do you come and go or do you force yourself to continue? What is your overall approach to art?
CB: My style changes quite a lot. The main reason for that I suppose would be because I’ll start painting or creating a particular piece and then I’ll be inspired to create more in the same vein.
When I do a sequence or series of pieces, the more I do, slight changes occur and then I have a little artistic lighting bolt and think “oh I’ll throw this funky little idea in”. If I love the outcome then the whole process will start again with a different style all together.
Maintaining inspiration is easy for me when I’m not working on commissioned pieces because I have the freedom to paint however I feel without worrying about what my buyer wants in the painting.
When I am constructing commissioned pieces I often feel like I have to paint a certain way and it limits my creativity. That’s just how I feel. Otherwise I would very literally smear paints all over a canvas with my hands and see what cool colours and patterns appear and then I work from there.
I often come back and forth between pieces. I’ll start something and whilst it’s drying I’ll get inspired to start something else. I’ve always got at least 4-5 paintings in progress each with very different styles (laughs). My mind is always planning things, coming up with ideas and I need to get them started straight away. It’s a drive deep within.
My approach to art? How I approach what I’m painting? I guess I’m just winging it. I paint how I feel at that moment in time. I just let things happen naturally.
DS: Ok, Let’s shift the conversation to the business side of art for a moment.
These days it is difficult to balance art and commerciality. Given this is your first venture into commercialising your art how have you valued it?
CB: (Pondering) That’s a tough one!
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s not unusual for me to have about 5 paintings in progress. Amongst that are always those that I am enjoying as an artist, my own artistic endeavors and just doing it for the love of art. I find this style of painting takes a lot less time because I’m naturally just feeling my way through it and allowing it to unfold. Essentially it’s finished when I think I’ve done enough.
On the flipside, when it comes to what I think will be a great seller, that’s when I usually get really frustrated. The paintings will take a lot longer to create because I feel an internal pressure to add particular elements. You spend a lot more time over-analysing and criticizing your own work.
It’s a conundrum and often so strange because I’ll create a painting and I think “Well I like it, it’s ok but I’m not overly fussed about it” but when I post a picture of the painting it gets a huge amount of attention where I wasn’t expecting it to. It’s strange how art appeals to different people.
Then to price them I just think, what would I pay for it?
DS: Has it been difficult to find ways to monetise your art apart from selling the actual pieces themselves?
CB: I’m very lucky to work full-time at present in another industry, in a “real job” which pays for pretty much all my supplies at the moment.
Recently I’ve created Tote Bags which are just a little way of advertising myself I guess. They’re definitely not huge money spinners. It’s more to attract the public to my artwork, hopefully ask about the print on the bag and then google me.
The original paintings still remain my primary business income. To make prints I need to get extremely good quality photos taken or scans done. Those images then need to be printed on high quality paper or canvas. At present its an expensive process.
In reality I’d say I’m just breaking even at the moment which is definitely better than a lot of other artists so I am grateful for that!
Going forward I’d really love to illustrate children’s books in addition to painting. That would generate more interest in my work and hopefully become an ongoing source of income via royalties to fund my next little project.
One day I’d like to one day teach some small classes as well. With the advent of streaming you can take these online now without the need for a classroom or massive studio space.
All these little projects help with funding my materials (laughs). There is always so much to do but I’m thankful for it.
DS: What are your future plans regarding art? Website? Prints? Tote bags? Cards? E-Commerce via E-bay, Website, Facebook? Is the sky the limit?
CB: I’m currently in the process of trying to set up a website and hopefully have some prints made to allow people all over the world to buy originals and prints from.
Tote bags are always a winner. They’re an inexpensive way of buying someone’s art work and have an everyday practical use…winning!! (laughs).
I have a Facebook and Instagram page (“Chantelle Bates Artwork”) now which both hold all my artwork on, current and previous. I try and post regularly to keep everyone interested.
DS: I know several people have requested commissions of their beloved pets. How do you price these? Has it been difficult for you to balance charging people for your work against the amount of effort you put into it.
CB: The pet portraits are the best! I love doing them for clients. I have set prices for those as I currently only do them at one size. I have quite a few dogs, as you know (Note: Chantelle is also a licensed breeder of beautiful and highly entertaining British Bulldogs via “The Rebel Yell Bulldogs”) and I absolutely adore them! What I charge for the sylised portraits is based upon what I feel I would be happy to pay if it were someone else were painting my pets.
Pricing up your own work is always so difficult to do. There are a few things that I take into account when pricing: cost of materials, time and of course my personal attachment to the piece. I always ask consider what I would be willing to pay for a piece.
Sometimes a painting may only take me 3-6 hours to do versus 3-6 months. It then becomes tricky to price because I ultimately battle with the time spent versus outcome.
Its often a struggle but I must stop myself thinking “oh but it only took me 30 minutes to paint, I should only charge $25.00 for it”. It’s my art, it’s my passion and to produce a painting in a fast amount of time doesn’t make it any less valuable than one that took longer.
DS: Given we recently had the Royal Perth Show it is important that stop for a moment to mention you actually have an incredible piece in the exhibition! Can you tell me how this came about? What was the selection criteria and what does it mean to you as an artist having a piece on display there?
CB: The Art Prize at the Royal Show is a big deal for all artists involved and it absolutely was for me. A friend of mine tagged me in the announcement on Facebook so I’d be aware of who won the various categories.
People from all over WA enter their work into the show but not everyone makes it through though, so to be able to have my work on display at their exhibition was very overwhelming achievement. I was so honoured.
This year the theme had to be of a landscape. I chose my painting “A Place I Called Home”. It was an aerial view of the coast of Broome. This painting had a huge sentimental attachment for me. It was the nostalgic feeling, the relief of being home, when you flew into Broome to begin the trek up to Derby.
It didn’t matter how many times I’d come and go over the years, flying over the aqua blue ocean and getting ready to land on the driest, red, Pindan dirt was always the welcome home you’d get looking out of the window in the plane. It is simply stunning.
I inevitably sold this painting at the show because of it being on display to a greater audience. I was so happy that someone else saw in this what I did and bought it to have on display in their home forever.
DS: So far I know we haven’t begun tracking the costs behind the art in Xero but at some point in the near future it is probably a good idea, especially as the business expands.
Do you feel that tracking costs, your time and having the ability to categorise those costs against projects as well as track varying income streams (i.e. prints, tote bags, commissions, art pieces) would be useful?
CB: Absolutely! I’m all over it now! As a small business, I find using Xero so simple and so convenient. I love being able to take photos of my receipts and uploading straight into my program.
I think the layout of Xero is easy to maneuver. Everything makes sense. It’s great to see how much I spend versus the sale proceeds of various items. Maybe not that great seeing how much I spend (laughs)
It’s especially useful with regards to invoicing. The tote bags, prints etc, some me people want to buy them in bulk to resell at their markers and shops. Xero makes it easy to manage.
DS: Chantelle, It has been a pleasure as always and I know between the two of us we could sit here all day chatting about art. I’d like to thank you for your time today and on behalf of Ease Business Services, wish you all the success for the future.
“Chantelle Bates Artwork” can be found on: