Creative Spotlight | Sheila Tan
Published on 14 February 2023
Tell us a bit about who you are and what kind of creative work you make
I’m a painter based in Sydney, grew up here and now I’m based in West Ryde. I create paintings on canvas and wall murals. I would describe my style as expressive realism because I love to add vibrant splashes or bold brushstrokes once I’m done with executing the rules. My favourite subject is portraiture.
Right now, I’m focused on painting bigger walls until I scale up to multi-stories. Go big or go home! I would love to create more public art for others to enjoy. I’ll eventually expand to more interactive art forms - like light installations to enhance my murals.
Whereabouts do you look for creative ideas? Who or what inspires you?
Bright, vibrant colours, views, flowers and nature. Other artists inspire me, so I attend art exhibits, galleries, look at street art, follow them on Instagram and work with them!
How does your personal history, culture or experience inform your creative work?
I saw a documentary about Norman Rockwell when I was little and didn’t know who he was. That sparked my interest in art and portraiture! His paintings left such a strong impression that I was able to recognise them again many years later.
What has been the highlight of your creative career so far?
Assisting street artist, Matt Adnate on his mural in Clovelly. I’ve been inspired by him for many years and I couldn’t believe it when he offered the opportunity to work with him.
What’s your favourite part of working as an artist / creative?
Working with other artists is the best! We have fun and we inspire each other. The arts is very word-of-mouth and a lot of projects and collabs happen in the Instagram DMs. Everyone is so collaborative and supportive, it’s wonderful!
What’s the most challenging part of working as an artist / creative?
Overcoming the ongoing lies and misconceptions about being an artist. People can be disrespectful, i.e. try to get your work for free or cheap. Creating healthy boundaries and separating art from my personal life is hard. I say keep loved ones in your heart where they belong, but out of your business.
Do you have any rituals or routines that help you to be more creative?
Yes, maintaining an art practice is the only way to become better. Being disciplined and committed to my craft isn’t always easy because it means showing up to paint even when I don’t feel like it. I do basic things to look after myself - I go to bed early, instead of staying up late to watch Netflix or socialise. I also routinely network and attend events where I don’t know anyone because opportunity resides outside the comfort zone!
Do you have any top tips for emerging artists and creatives just starting out?
The number one thing is to commit to being a better artist each day, keep creating. If you want people to buy your work or hire you, it has to be good! Secondly, stop listening to what most people say about being an artist and shift your reality. Connect with the industry - meet working artists, attend their shows, connect with agencies, follow/DM them all on Instagram and meet potential clients. Thirdly, self-promote. Tell everyone you’re an artist and have a public portfolio on Instagram! When I started, I showed my work to colleagues and they started asking for custom portraits. Clients are everywhere - business owners, tech companies, schools, the sky’s the limit! The market is real - so you will find yours. Lastly, stop seeking validation from others. The only type you need is market validation!
Where can we find out more about your work and get in touch?