Bec Aitken is a member of The Drawing Book Studio’s artist management team, working alongside Matt Jackson to manage a total of 13 artists each (more about that number below).
The studio recently held an exhibition, Perspective on Success, which took the online gallery of artists’ work to the walls of a physical gallery… but with a bit of a difference.
We caught up with her to find out the concept for the exhibition, how it was received, as well as what we can expect next from the illustrators and team.
Hi Bec, you previously completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts – what path did you take to now be working on the ‘business’ side of art?
After five years studying painting and drawing, I felt like I had lost whatever it was I felt desperate to express. My years of study seemed more about fitting into a mold and defining what kind of artist I would be. The constant focus on the finished product weighed me down. My ambition changed from trying to become an exhibiting artist to simply creating for myself. I became less focused on the end result, instead preferring to lose myself in the process of creating.
I began working at Ray Hughes Gallery in Surry Hills where I learnt to convey the artist’s stories and processes. I saw some amazing things and met incredible people during my time there but soon enough my liver and nerves needed a break from the Sydney art scene. I then went traveling through South East Asia, Europe and then South America. This time away put me in touch with my wants and needs. Upon returning I saw Matt Jackson’s advert for an artist manager and when I met with him he talked about caring for the artist’s rights and embracing the individual. I wanted to learn more and thankfully he gave me that opportunity.
Can you briefly tell us a bit about your role at The Drawing Book Studios – what does your job entail and how many illustrators do you manage?
I manage 13 artists that are all so gifted in completely different ways. It is very exciting and such a pleasure to be apart of the process and see first hand what they can create. Keeping the total number at 13 means I can be in contact regularly and know what is important to each of them distinctively. Knowing each of the artists is crucial. If a client asks for someone with loose line work and is exceptional at illustrating the human form in natural motion; Murray McKenzie comes to mind right away. Murray is out regularly drawing people in their environment and observing their movements. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each artist is valuable, when the artists is happy and comfortable then they will produce something that reflects that, something genuine. That is the core of my job at The Drawing Book, making sure the artists are given the freedom and opportunity to produce amazing work.
Please tell us about Drawing Book Studio’s recent exhibition, Perspective on Success. How did it come about?
The drawing book recently hosted an exhibition at LoFi on the 28 September. The theme Success was given to the each of the artists, the objective was to express their individual perspective on the subject. There were only two ways to attain one of the prints. A person can either offer the highest dollar value for the work or they can write a personal story that explains how they connect to any particular artist’s Perspective on Success. The artist then decides, based on the connection, who the first print should belong to. The second print will go to the highest dollar value offered on the artwork. The concept came about one day in the studio after Matt had spent time in a toy shop with his nephew Angus. Matt told Angus to pick a toy, empowered by the choice his nephew slowed down and weighed up one toy from another until he found the perfect toy for him. Matt put the notion of perspectives to Mike Watt and myself and we discussed how we could encourage the reaction his Nephew had. To draw on why you are connecting with an artwork, to write it down and offer it back to the artist definitely urges the viewer to slow down.
What were some of the difficulties involved in transforming an online gallery to a real-life exhibition?
Because Perspective on Success was not a traditional exhibition, ensuring people understood the value of their personal connection was very important. What we wanted most was to encourage people not to critique the work, but to explain the connection and realise the link with the artist. What artists express within their works are constantly shaped by their life experiences and are on show for the public; for the public to write down their personal connection it encourages empathy with the artist. Too often the bravery required by an artist to wear their heart on their sleeve is taken for granted. Priority whilst curating the show was to ensure the individuality was celebrated. To make sure the expression was hero, the works were all printed at A2 and the frames were kept very basic. Keeping the solo theme ‘Success’ helped to highlight the differences in perspective of the individual artists.
How was the exhibition concept received by the public?
We had an overwhelmingly positive response to the exhibition. This was something new and fresh and everyone was excited to get involved. At most openings the norm is to head straight to the bar then do a lap of the room, check out the room sheet and out the door. At Perspectives on Success people kept looking, like Matt’s nephew in the toy store, they took the choice seriously. People lapped the room over and over. It was a thrill to watch. The connection boxes were brimming with connections as individual as the works on the walls. Success was a Success.
Do you have plans for any future exhibitions similar to this? If yes, is there anything that you would do differently?
Yes definitely, Perspective will be something that we build on. I would love to find a way of introducing other artistic forms like dance or music.