I grew up in Poland, always with a brush in hand. I displayed early talent when as a 7-year old I was able to realistically sketch a pair of hiking shoes.
I remember drawing on the floor with my then-best friend at the age of probably 8.
My parents supported my interest in art and sent me to a whole bunch of different classes and courses, bought me books, and invested in art materials.
One memory that I remember was when I brought my second ever oil painting to my art teacher in primary school with a nicely painted still life in violet, and she looked at it... and said. It would look better in a frame. I was 8. It made such an impact on me that only a few years ago I was able to really change the meaning I gave to that event.
I continued painting and making. At the age of 10, my family and I moved to a different city. It broke all my childhood friendships so I had to start rebuilding them again.
I make friends easily, I'm not attached. I learned to be ok on my own when a group of friends rejected me when I wrote a boy's name in my notebook. The boy that the leader girl liked too. I was excluded from hanging out for probably 6 months. That, for a long time, made me the friend who waits for others to reach out to hang out for all those rejected requests.
Eventually, they started talking to me again and we continue to be close friends to this day. This event has had a big impact on my future friendships though.
I'm not sure how it impacted my art. I have no recollection of it. I certainly didn't draw dark stuff, I never did, nor do I remember stopping. Even though I know that I prefer to paint when I'm happy. When I'm sad I don't tend to paint and often when I do, it's impatient and crap.
In high school, I attended a 3-year afterschool art school. I used to take a 40 min bus ride to get there and back, often in absolutely freezing cold. -10 -15 wasn't uncommon. But I loved the classes. We did still nature sketching, oil painting, concept drawing, clay sculpture, and painting on metal.
I was one of the few who finished the whole curriculum and the hours and hours of sketching draped fabrics, still-lifes and human figures on 70x100cm paper gave me the observational skills and eye-hand coordination that serves as a basis of my artistic skills. It's not just talent. It's practice practice practice. It was back then when I raked up most of my 10.000 hours.
Having one year left before my SATs, I started wondering where to go to uni. Naturally, I considered art school but the practicalities and bad rep of such degrees, as well as my math skills, meant that I was encouraged to check out architecture as a potential path. I visited the faculty and quite liked the architectural drawings, maquettes, and prospects of the degree so I signed up for a drawing test preparatory course.
One year more of traveling in the freezing bus, this time in the other direction, to attend specialised architectural sketching and perspective courses, I learned how to draw buildings, from nature and imagination. I draw upon those perspective skills even when I paint loose abstract landscapes.
Architecture school was interesting. A new city, living with mates and not family, a whiff of independence and a lot of homework and work. This was definitely a faculty where you couldn't just study at the end to pass. It was intense but manageable.
During the second year was probably when I started feeling like 'I don't think architecture is right for me '. I enjoyed it but... I didn't really feel it. It was stimulating, but not really my thing. But I've signed up for 5 years of it. So I stayed. I didn't want to 'lose the time and start again' wow was I short-sighted!
Luckily I was able to go to Spain for Erasmus for a year to break it up a bit. I did a 3d modeling class and a painting class, Spanish classes and traveled around quite a bit. Those were the times where sometimes you could still get $1 flight tickets!
I graduated, decided that I'm making it all up, that I need to learn public speaking, and moved to Berlin for 2 years. Found a job in a small studio and enjoyed working on 3d model and furniture projects.
Then got married and moved to Australia.
Moving to Melbourne Australia
In this new country, with no connections, limited job experience, and a lot of competition in the industry, finding a job wasn't easy. My language skills were good but architecture has standards and rules that differ from country to country.
I started by drafting for friends of acquaintances, then for a small studio. It was something but far from ideal and I wasn't learning that much. At least it made me get my ABN and effectively start my own sole trader business. That gave me flexibility (but also uncertainty and each gig was a bit of a struggle to get. And not that fun to do. After a year of that, I finally decided I don't want to do architecture. The industry was too crowded, the opportunities infrequent and the pay, contrary to common belief is actually not that great. Not to mention I just wasn't feeling it. And architecture is a passion career where the ones that do the best really feel it.
It wasn't me so at the end of 2013 I quit. For good.
I then had to figure out what next. What transferable skills do I possess and what's an industry that is growing, in demand.
For a long time, I observed my husband who, I knew, was playing with his first computer at the age of 6 and is now an entrepreneurial software developer. I watched him spend hours and hours in front of the computer, building prototypes and apps, and having a ball. It wasn’t work for him. It was his passion. And I wanted to feel the same.
I started googling and exploring,
A new career but not yet art
After 2 months I stumbled upon a service design jam. It's like a weekend-long hackathon for design thinking and I loved it! I thought the approach is much more aligned with my values (collaboration vs starchitect) and it requires joining the dots which I was good at thanks to my education or maybe natural predisposition or both.
I started learning more about it online and through connections made at that event eventually got an opportunity at a big4 consultancy. Quite a change from the almost mom-and-pop businesses I used to work at.
Deloitte Digital gave me the opportunity to test my consulting skills out in the world.
That's where I learned most of my service design skills, surrounded by a big team of designers, technologists, and management consultants. The projects were big, funded, the works intense and challenging. The clients were big and after a while a bit boring.
I did my best and learned a lot. I lacked a bit of polish and my blunt, curious questions didn't always go well with management. I asked ' too many questions' to sustain the illusion of consultants knowing everything and having it under control. I didn't quite fit and I went on a secondment to an internal innovation team where I would have less client interaction. External clients that is, and the internal clients from other departments were no less demanding and maybe even more. Expecting we build what they want. That of course wasn't what my team was supposed to be about. That created a lot of tension and stress on all sides. A real exercise of negotiation and corporate politics. With lots of cortisol and not much power to change things, I did what I believed was the best decision.
My second 'I'm out of here' move
We were on a trip around the world at the time and my 2-year contract was due for renewal. A formality over email, really. But I thought that's a perfect opportunity to remove myself from the situation and just not go back to work after landing back in Melbourne.
It was a bit of an escape move, yes. But I didn't really have that much to lose. It was clean, immediate, and rather simple. I told my manager I'm out.
It got a bit messy when I went back for a 3-month contract just after, with a promotion, and a 40% raise to work on another project with the one director I'm actually still friends with.
I told her I'm not really that keen and that I'm going to be looking for other opportunities, but I finally agreed. Easiest job interview ever!
After 2.5 months a guy I met at an event a few years beforehand reached out and asked if I wanted to grab a coffee. I'm always up for coffees especially with people working in companies I wouldn't mind working in.
It turned out to be a head-hunting coffee and soon I was off to Adelaide for a workshop on my first day at Arup.
The first year was great, challenging but with a cool team and a switched-on and innovative leader. The View from the top floors of the Orica building was unbeatable!
When a year later he left, that's when things began to complicate themselves.
The year was long and painful, struggles, stress, and internal restructures ensued. A lot of unfavorable circumstances overlapped, leaders couldn't align on priorities, and in the middle of it I was trying to promote a discipline that was actually still new to the wider team and so misunderstood and underused.
Long story short after hoping and waiting that things will finally get better, my cortisol was chronically high, things weren't getting better, and close to another end of the year I reached my breaking point.
Was I really doing it to myself again? Was this what my life was about?
I've had enough and this time really enough. I picked up painting again that year and I think.
Why I paint
Because this is who I am, this is what I loved doing, because when I don't do it something's missing,
I value honesty, kindness, and following your gut. We need to listen to ourselves more. We need to listen to our calling. I know many people struggle and even if they find it, they are afraid to pursue that part. I was there too.
For a long time, I didn't see what was staring me in the face. When I decided to not do architecture anymore, I was 'looking for my thing'. I stumbled upon UX and service design, and I like it, much more aligned. But it wasn't when I decided and committed to art, it was when it all clicked together! It made such a big difference. It's like it all became clear and easy. And that's how it's supposed to be.
Some people say that life is or is supposed to be a struggle. I disagree. It often is a struggle but that's not the same. That's not as it should be.
Life should be enjoyed! After all, we have but just one here on this earth. (I'm simplifying. That's a whole other conversation there)
When I found my path I understood the cliches! Not working a day in life, etc. It actually feels like that!
I'm grateful for having been able to have created a life where I can do art. Art that I love and others love. I'm still at the beginning of this journey. I Feel like I'm just getting started! I'm excited about what's to come! I have so many ideas and projects in my head. There are so many paintings to be painted! They won't paint themselves!