Spotlight | Anna Bartlett, Shiny Happy Art
online paint-alongs, group workshops and a whole lot of fun
This week we visited Anna Bartlett at her bright, colourful art studio.
As both a fantastically talented artist and a passionate, supportive teacher, Anna’s superpower is making art simple. Through her business, rightly called Shiny Happy Art, Anna shares her love of painting through Paint Along sessions (both in person and online), art events, and pop-ups. Her Paint Along of the Month Club attracts people from all over the world, and she somehow also has time to create original works and raise a family.
We chatted to Anna about word-of-mouth business, ideal weekends and the best places to sketch.
Name: Anna Bartlett
Occupation: Artist, Teacher & Author
Known For: colourful artworks that radiate pure happiness
Local since: 1984-1990, and then again from 2003
First things first: why Toowoomba?
We moved to Toowoomba when I was in Year 9. I have three younger siblings and when we left Cairns, Dad wasn’t sure whether we were moving to Canberra or Toowoomba. So we spent 8 weeks at Brunswick Heads while he decided, and Toowoomba it was!
I moved to Brisbane after uni, moved to Warwick in 1993, and travelled to the US and England in 1994 before returning to Brisbane. We moved up here again in 2003 so I could work with my father for a while. We thought we’d stay a year or two, but I’m still here!
What do you do, and what is Shiny Happy Art?
Primarily I’m an artist. It’s taken some years to feel comfortable with that title, but I’m totally ok with it now. My business is called ‘Shiny Happy Art’ and that’s exactly how I paint.
Over the last ten years my work has evolved from making hand-painted handbags and screen-printed hankies to hosting regular Paint Alongs and workshops in my own studios, art holidays locally and on Norfolk Island, and now online workshops. My superpower is ‘making art simple’.
I love teaching via videos online because I can show so much more of what’s happening with the brush on the canvas than I often can in real life. And people can paint with me at any time of the day or night. Members of my ‘Paint Along of the Month Club’ come from all over the world – the USA, Hong Kong, UK, Canada and South Africa, as well as plenty of Australians.
I also travel to teach and draw, and am heading to Miles and Montville in March, Perth in May and New Zealand in October. Last year I visited California and met some great people, so I’m flying back there in 2020.
What have you learned about running a business in Toowoomba? What are the unique opportunities, benefits and challenges?
The word of mouth in Toowoomba is awesome. If you do something well, it gets around quickly (but it works the opposite way too!). I love that everything is so close in Toowoomba, and there are experts in almost every field close by.
My challenge is that my market is still quite small here, so I really needed to also go online to run an art business that can support my family.
What does an average day look like for you?
No day is the same and that is how I like it. I also do my best to have as few ‘appointments’ as possible because inspiration can strike at any time and I need to be ready! I get up and take the kids to school most days, then I’ll either be coming home to prep and film my online courses, meeting somewhere in town to run a Wednesday Wonder Workshop, or heading to my studio on the New England Highway to paint. Then it’s picking up kids and doing after school stuff, and I’ll work on the computer after dinner. I’m a nightowl and that’s when I get my best ideas.
What does your ideal Toowoomba weekend look like?
My ideal weekend would be spent painting, either in my studio or in the park. But I love to go to my parent’s house for a coffee because it’s great to catch up with the family. I do my best to make it to the PCYC Markets on a Sunday morning, mainly to buy flowers to fill the house for the week – and I try to paint them before they die. It’s great to have the opportunity to see friends, but there’s often a lot of running around after children. In recent years I have run Paint Alongs three weekends out of four so I’m loving having a bit more time to do family stuff these days.
Only a Toowoomba local would know…
That my highway studio used to be the Gunadoo Strawberry Farm. And that Downlands has an actual farm on campus. I went to Downlands and driving up to the school, through the trees, always feels special.
FAVOURITE WEEKEND SPOT TO:
PERK UP: I love going to events at the Empire Theatre. We are so lucky to have it and friends from Brisbane often come up the mountain to go to things at the Empire with me.
RELAX: Sketching in Queens Park, or outside the library.
EAT: The chips are great at Cobb & Co and we love the service at Phatburgers!
INDULGE: Encores or The Bavarian
SHOP: Magnolia Home & Gift in town and Jaybelle at Highfields
CATCH UP: Coffee Club at Northpoint is a really easy place to meet people.
BE INSPIRED: Queens Park. Every time I go I find something new to sketch.