Work Experience 19: Art Gallery Assistant
Changing jobs each week is always so exciting, and my 18th and 19th work experience environments couldn’t have been further apart. One week I was watching animal surgeries and the next I was watching an artist at work. Horse poo to paint. Living animals to painted ones. Work boots to ballet flats. You get the drift! It was a bit like the time I went from working at the camel farm to the real estate office.
It was certainly a breath of fresh air (literally) walking into award-winning artist Jacqueline Hill’s Art at Heart Gallery and Studio for work experience. Jacqueline paints artworks in a variety of styles using oil, watercolour, acrylic, charcoal, pastel or pencil, and the walls and floors of her gallery were jam-packed full of it. What a delight! As well as selling her art, Jacqui also regularly runs learn to paint classes from her studio, which are very popular.
What did I do?
Not only was the work environment at Art at Heart Gallery different from my previous work experience job, it was a change of pace for me. As it was approaching Christmas, Jacqui was busy painting a number of commissions in her studio behind the gallery. I helped Jacqui’s personal assistant Christine in the gallery with a number of tasks that needed doing, such as putting up flags outside Jacqui’s property to show it was open, folding bubble wrap so it could be reused for packaging, taking price stickers off some of the framed art, covering unframed paintings with plastic so they could be displayed in the gallery without being damaged, laminating advertising posters and rearranging some of the art to be displayed.
Doing these tasks was helpful, as it meant that Christine could spend her time doing all of her administrative work such as processing sales, invoicing and managing the art cataloguing. It was good to have the opportunity to look over Christine’s shoulder while she was busily at work, and see what her job involved. I have to admit, sometimes I get a bit overwhelmed by the different computer systems I’ve seen in operation in businesses, and think there’s no way I could ever do all of that. But then I remind myself, everything can be learnt (perhaps just not in one day)!
I really enjoyed chatting to Jacqui and watching while she was at work in her studio. She had an amazing and inspirational career change story of her own, and told me that she had once aspired to be an astronaut. I thought she was joking at first and may have laughed out loud a little (woops sorry Jacqui!), but she has an honours degree in Computer Science and worked as a consultant in her first career. Jacqui started doing craft projects and painting on weekends as a way to unwind and use the creative part of her brain, and eventually decided to throw herself into her art business full-time.
While I was there, Jacqui was working on a commissioned piece for the exterior of a café in Brisbane. The style of mural is called Trompe-l’oeil which in French means ‘deceive the eye’. This is a style of painting that is so realistic it almost looks like you could step into it, touch the flowers and open doors and windows. It reminded me very much of some of the buildings I’d seen in Italy, where flower boxes are painted under windows, and lines are painted on rendered walls to give the illusion of brickwork. So clever! Jacqui was at the very early stages of this painting, and being the enthusiastic work experience ‘kid’ I am, even let me paint some yellow on the door (I joked that my signature should be included under hers on the final product). The following photos show varying stages of Jacqui’s mural, including the finished product.
To see another of Jacqui’s Trompe-l’oeil murals, which was commissioned for a home in Brisbane, check out this amazing time-lapse clip.
When my time with Jacqui came to an end, she offered for me to pick any painting I liked (up to a certain value) as thanks for my help. I don’t usually accept payment at any of my work experience jobs as I really appreciate the opportunity to be there, but in this case I couldn’t say no. I love the piece I chose, titled ‘Wren’. Thanks very much again Jacqui.
What did I learn?
It was great to see an art business such as Jacqui’s in operation, and to learn just how much work is required behind the scenes to run it on top of producing the art itself. Jacqui said it’s quite unusual for an artist to run a gallery and art business in the way she does.