doing what we love…

My partner and I started working for ourselves a few years ago now and it has been incredibly rewarding. A lot of it just happened organically, opportunities arose and we learnt never to say no.

Yes it’s hard work and yes that saying of ‘do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’ kinda doesn’t apply most of the time. Of course we love our work but a lot of it is admin and who loves that?! Just let us create please! Plus you end up working every day because it fuels your soul (plus we’re addicted to work and if the jobs are there you just keep going!)

Pete’s business is Our Frames and Printing and mine is Graphic Design, Artist and Muralist. We worked our butts off and have finally managed to pack everything up and move interstate (from Victoria to Queensland) to continue working in the same field but now we’re also loving the lifestyle.

We’ll be sharing our new venture, from the move, our beach shack, our businesses and of the beautiful place we now call home: Cooee Bay.

If you’d like to follow along on our journey then please follow our new instagram @in.cooee for some fun stories, pretty pictures, tips and more!

Working out pricing is sometimes more difficult then creating the artwork itself, but once you work out the best formula that suits you then it’s a breeze!

The best thing to do first is visit the galleries around your area, find artists that you may know are at a similar level to you (similar reputation, credentials and experience). Make sure you locate a few that are priced at a reasonable rate and take note of the price and size.


You can work out an hourly rate that you want to pay yourself but if your artwork takes about the same amount of time per square inch then use a formula for the size instead.

To get the square inches of a painting, multiply the width of the work by the length. Next, multiply this number by a dollar amount that makes sense for your reputation and credentials. Add the cost of your materials and add it to the square inch dollar amount. If you’re paying a commission add that to the material cost instead of the artwork. Then round it up to a clean amount.
For a 12 x 12 inch (30.5 x 30.5cm) painting:
Price per square inch: 12 x 12 = 144 sqr inches, 144 sqr inches x $1.5 = $216.
Add materials (eg $10) and the galleries commission on materials (+ 30% $13) = $23.
$216 + $23 = $239.
Round up to $240.
NB: this is using a $1.5 sqr inch formula. Use a higher amount according to your reputation and experience.
The most common practice is to price per square inch. But if you have a large variety of sizes (very small and very large) then you may need to use linear inch formula instead.
For a 12 x 12 inch (30.5 x 30.5cm) painting:
Using linear inches: 12 + 12 = 24 linear inches, 24 linear inches × $10 = $240. 
Your linear formula should include an average priced frame, average used materials and an average commission used in the galleries you are looking at being part of.
NB: this is using a $10 amount which includes an average priced frame and materials and an average 30% commission. You can use a higher amount according to your reputation and experience.

Here is an example of why linear inches works best if you do a large variety of sizes. When you use per square inch the formula ends up pricing your larger pieces a little to high!
Using per square inch formula: 12 x 12 inch = $216 but a 48 x 48 inch = $3456.
Plus you still need to add commission and materials.
Using linear inches: 12 x 12 inch = $240 but a 48 x 48 inch = $960

Pricing your work consistently allows you to build credibility and establish an excellent reputation among buyers and collectors. Buyers like understanding how art is priced. It will also keep you in your gallery’s good books. You’ve had fun in the studio but now it’s time to put your business hat on!
If you’d like to chat more about this then please pop in to The Space – Gallery + Workshops and say hi. We’re here to help you get some of these red dots we all love.

When owners Brad and Elana of Cafe Botticelli approached me to paint a mural on the wall inside their cafe I was tickled pink! Having designed their coffee cup illustration 3 years ago I knew that this mural was going to be fun to do and I couldn’t wait to create something special once again for this very lovely family.

Cafe Botticelli’s brief was to have a mural celebrating over 30 years in business and to be painted in a playful/fun/humorous style with colours to suite their eclectic cafe.

My solution was to show some of Geelong’s historic events over the past 30 odd years illustrated in a storyboard fashion. Being such a family friendly cafe (have you seen Jabi’s Garden out the back?!) I decided to make it cartoon style.

When you visit Cafe Botticelli here is the Timeline cheat sheet so you know what each illustration is depicting:

1987 – National Wool Museum opens
1990 – Cafe Botticelli opens on Pako
1990 – First commercial FM Radio station K-Rock begins FM broadcasting
1991 – HM Prison Geelong officially closes
1993 – Eastern Beach Restoration
1998 – 21/6/98 The Botts first kiss
2001 – Geelong population is 184,332
2002 – May 23, Skilled Stadium hosts a visit from the Dalai Lama
2003 – Former mayor Frank De Stefano senteced to 10 years imprisonment on fraud charges involving A$8.3 million
2006 – Geelong population is 210,000 becoming the 12th largest city in Australia
2007 – Geelong Football Club wins premiership by record margin of 119 points
2009 – Geelong Football Club wins premiership
2010 – Geelong Ring Road construction Complete
2011 – Geelong Football Club wins premiership
2013 – Cafe Botticelli moves to Minerva Road
2016 – Geelong population is 253,269
2021 – Frank Costa RIP (1938 – 2021)

Pop into this family cafe for breaky, lunch or coffee and check out the mural while you’re there!

Cafe Botticelli
Open daily 7am-3:30pm
Jabi’s Garden 8:30am-3pm
7 Minerva Rd, Herne Hill
Phone: (03) 5229 8292

Many of you may already know this by now but I’m only just finding a bit of time now to share my wonderful news with you all. Crazy busy times but it’s all been worth while because guess what?


Yep! ‘The Space’ is located right in the heart of an amazing art precinct within a historic woollen mill. It’s a lovely light filled space with gorgeous old timber floors and has a really creative vibe. This is not just a regular gallery. I hold a large variety of workshops every week and have Guest Artists every month exhibit their work on one of the walls. There’s a lovely selection of gifts all hand made from local artisans, from jewellery and macrame wall hangings to sculptures. You can chat to me all about your framing needs too. We specialise in Tassie Oak and I can show you our large variety of staining options.

Gallery + Workshops
Guest Artists + Gift Shop
LOCATION: 17d Rutland Street, Newtown, Geelong, Victoria (free parking off Riversdale Road)
OPEN: Wednesday – Saturday, 10am – 4pm
WORKSHOPS: Book your workshop now through my Events page, or click on this Eventbrite link:HTTPS://THESPACEWORKSHOPS.EVENTBRITE.COM.AU
Be inspired. Learn a new skill. Group booking welcome.

If you are interested in being one of my Guest Artists then please contact us for more information.

I am super proud of this amazing space and can’t wait for you to come and visit!


In these crazy covid times, we face so many restrictions, particularly if we are in lockdown. But what if, instead of lamenting the things we can’t do, we focus on the things we can do?

When you do the things, not only is it incredibly satisfying, but it can also lead to wonderful opportunities. Let me give you a great example of what I am talking about.

It started a few years ago when I decided to take the time to complete an application form to become a GC Collectives member. I had put this task off so many times. When I became a member, it really got the ball rolling. It led to me being part of the Geelong Illustrators team. Geelong + Surf Coast Living then wrote an article about Geelong Illustrators. My illustration was chosen to be on the cover of Geelong + Surf Coast Living magazine, and I featured in the article.

Fast forward to two years later: Geelong + Surf Coast Living publishers, Provincial Media, a fully-independent publishing and graphic design company, contacted me to ask if I’d like to be their Advertising Production Manager. Don’t mind if I do! What an honour. I went from being ‘in’ one of their magazines to being ‘IN’ their magazines! Today I’ll be finalising the building of advertisements for our clients, as we are leading into the final stages of bringing this quality regional lifestyle magazine’s Spring edition out to the public.

What have you been putting off lately? Do you have things that you think aren’t important enough to allocate time for? If you’re like me, with a long To Do List, then perhaps it’s time to start from the bottom of that list today. Because it just might lead you to that perfect opportunity you’ve been waiting for.

So, go on. Do the things.

It’s always been a dream (or should I say goal?!) of mine to have a gallery/shop. Well, four months ago, we were fortunate enough to be accepted as part of the Renew Geelong initiative, making this dream come true! When I say ‘we’, I am speaking about a dear friend of mine, the super talented Nic Everist Shortly after opening, the dreaded Covid 19 had us close our doors for a while, but we kept busy offering free local delivery (which we still offer) and we kept painting our hearts out.

Now we’re back open again, but with a difference. We have graduated from the programme and now rent the space out from the owners of the building (the Big Girl Pants are now on!), we have new signage, loads of new artwork and workshops happening. A real success story and we’re tickled pink!

When you visit the Pop Up Gallery you will find original art, limited edition prints, gifts, framing, and workshops. You’ll often see us painting in the window, so feel free to come in and have a chat. We’re happy to answer any questions you might have.

The workshops are held regularly and have been very popular. Workshops have included Resin Art for Beginners, Painting on Ply and Painting with Gouache with more to come. Check out my Events page for upcoming workshops.
Info and tickets:

Printing and framing options are also available. My partner Peter, from, offers this service to you, making us a one stop shop!

Pop Up Gallery:
171-173 Moorabool Street, Geelong Victoria 3220

Opening Times:
Thursday and Friday: 10am – 4pm
Saturday: 10am -2pm
Or by appointment.

Free delivery available to locals for items $40 and over.

Follow us on Instagram for all the latest news:

Scroll down to find the Newsletter Sign Up form so you can be one of the first to receive news of our future workshops, exhibitions and special offers.

Thank you to everyone who has supported our journey so far, virtual hugs to you all!

Hope to see you soon (:


First of all, how are you all coping during these weird days of self-isolation against COVID-19? If you are working from home now, are you starting to get used to it as the new ‘norm’? It’s all a bit weird, isn’t it? There’s so much information out there about what to do and what not to do. But as a freelance worker I’m used to working from home, so it’s not much different from ‘normal’ for me.

At the beginning of isolation I felt like everyone else was getting a little taste of what my daily life is. But many of you are being forced to work from home in less-than-ideal set-ups, and still need to work the regular 9 to 5 (or similar) because you are an employee, and that is when you are required to work. So I understand if you’re not able to relate to some of what I’m about to share, but it may still help a little bit, especially if you are not used to working from home.

When I first started working for myself, I researched on how to be productive and stay motivated, I didn’t want to fall into any bad habits. But everything I read sounded too hard, too rigid, and just not me. So I ignored it all and found my own way.

I asked myself: ‘What time of the day do I do my best work?’ And then I set a regular work schedule around that time.

Simple, but very effective, especially if you have the flexibility to set your own schedule.

I am not a morning person. I find myself very motivated from around 10am, and then again late at night, creativity can hit again.

This is a typical day for me:
30 minutes’ work on social media before I get out of bed. I could schedule my posts but I like laying in bed for a while anyway. I shower and dress as soon as I get up. Do I get dressed up for working at home? No, don’t be ridiculous. I used to wear a corporate uniform to work every day, so I welcome the freedom of wearing whatever I want to.

My mind still has that habit of not being able to think creatively until I’ve hung the washing out, or completed some sort of domestic duty, so I get that out of the way first. I then sit on the couch with a cup of tea and my laptop. I like to complete a bit of administration work during this time, then I start my official work day at 10am.

I stop for a late cooked brekky, sometimes that might not be until 1pm if I’ve lost track of time (this happens more often than not!), and allow myself some down time. My partner, Pete, comes home from his full time job early afternoons and I like to sit with him for a chat, before he starts printing and framing. Sometimes I will work with him on this, but if I’m not needed then I’m back to my own work. I’m lucky Pete loves cooking, and so does my daughter (who is currently in iso with us), and they’re SO good at it too! I usually don’t stop working until tea is ready, and then it’s couch time. Bit of TV or Netflix follows. FYI: It’s currently 8pm and I’m sitting here on the couch with them while writing this blog, enjoying a glass of red, while they’re both watching Master Chef.

I do some of my best work late at night. The laptop always stays by my side on the couch so I can pick it up when inspiration hits. Or I might do a bit of painting in my studio when I know there won’t be any interruptions. Before I go to bed, which could be as late as 1am, I work out what I need to do the next day. I add it to my ‘to do’ list (just in my phone at this stage, no special productivity software for me just yet!). Then I work out what order it needs to be done in, with priority jobs at the top of the list. I map out my day so trips in my van are reduced to a minimum. I am not obsessed with my ‘to do’ list, but I make sure I check it throughout the day so I don’t miss anything. If I don’t get through the list, that’s OK too.

As you can see, I break a lot of ‘rules’. I don’t use our office to do my work, I use the couch. I don’t get up early, I don’t go to bed early. I don’t wear office work attire to do my graphic design work. I eat when I feel like it, or have the time to. I don’t set a day aside to clean the house. I don’t use any software to help me. I don’t allocate days off, I just take time out when I feel like it.

However, I am incredibly self motivated. I love my job. There’s always room for improvement, things I could do better, but I don’t beat myself up about it. I just concentrate on these three things:

  • Stay focused – I have my goals. I praise myself on what I’ve achieved at the end of the day.
  • Stay healthy – I eat healthy foods and go for walks outside.
  • Stay social – I like to keep in touch with my friends.

I kept seeing on social media how you should not expect to be as productive during these times, and how it’s OK to spend a day doing absolutely nothing. So I started to fall in to this mindset, and slacked off a little. But then I started to fall behind with my jobs and I didn’t feel comfortable with that.

Just get through this the best way you can.

I’m handing over the reins today to Martina, my amazing work placement student for the week, to write my blog.
Here’s what she had to say:

Hello! My name is Martina. 

I’m a student at The Gordon institute of TAFE in Geelong, studying Advanced Diploma of Graphic Design.

As part of my course, I needed to do work placement, in which I wanted to work with a freelancer based in Geelong so that I could get the authentic experience of what it’s like working as your own boss in the field of design!

I was incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to do my work placement with Mandy Dollery, who did the same course as me a few years ago. A number of my teachers, who previously were her teachers, speak highly of her! How could I not approach her and ask if I could learn from her so she could guide me in my career in being a graphic designer?

I’m very fortunate in the sense that I’m aware of where I want to go on my future endeavours with a career in design. While I was with Mandy, it really became true to me that if you love what you’re doing you’ll never have to work a day in your life. As I was following her around Geelong gathering clients and working in the Geelong illustrators gallery, it was never hard work because both of us had a passion for what we were doing. 

I mentioned to her numerous times that my time with her didn’t feel as if it was work placement, but instead I felt more that I was hanging out with a friend. I didn’t want to leave at the end of each day because I was retaining so much knowledge and having so much fun – time flew by very quickly during this adventure. 

I want to take this opportunity to thank Mandy, because she has given me such great knowledge that I haven’t been able to attain in class – the hands on experience has taught me more than I could ever imagine. My passion for design has increased incredibly, and I will not forget the excitement I felt each day by her side – sitting at her desk and laughing as we create new ideas. 

I have a dream to one day be doing just what Mandy is doing: having a successful business, going to markets and selling work to clients that I have created with love and passion. 

Each day was different with her and that is what I want for myself – an adventure in my every day life, using my creativity to make other people happy, and being proud of the work that I produce. 

From an aspiring graphic designer,


I would like to encourage you to give painting on timber a go.

I am currently part of a successful exhibition with Geelong Illustrators called ‘We Were Board’, where the members could create their masterpiece using any medium and subject, on 30 x 30 cm timber boards. For some members it was the first time to paint on timber, so there were so many questions and failed experiments along the way!

My favourite timber to paint on is plywood. I love the grain of wood that goes through the timber, and sometimes it influences me on what to paint. It can look like a sandy beach, where the tideline is, so I might paint the shoreline, leaving the exposed timber for the sand. Or it may take on the appearance of a timber wall. You could even tape the sides so it gives the appearance of it being framed. Use painters tape to cover the area you want to leave free of paint, and when you’ve finished painting and the paint has dried, peel the tape off slowly to reveal the raw timber. Aahh, I love that part.

Plywood can be found as off-cuts at a building site, at a recycled timber warehouse, or even the tip! Otherwise you can easily purchase it at your local hardware store. If you don’t have access to a circular saw then you could ask someone to cut it for you, but make sure they use a fine-tooth wood blade, and have them cut it from the back side to avoid splintering. The edges will then have a clean cut finish. Hardware stores have a small charge for basic cutting. If you’re in Geelong then just ask us. My partner, Peter Spano of @our.boxframes, makes all of mine. Here comes another shameless plug…go to my contact form for a free quote.

I like to give the timber a very light sand with fine grade sandpaper. If I’m only painting on part of the area then I draw the outline first, and then fill the area with Gesso, leaving the rest of the timber raw. Gesso is a primer, and is similar to white acrylic paint, but thinner. You can make your own Gesso by mixing 1/4 cup of talcum powder, 1 tablespoon of white paint, 1 tablespoon of PVA and a bit of water until you get the consistency right. The Gesso prevents the paint from soaking into the timber, and also prevents bleeding on the edges. Give the Gesso a light sand after it’s dried, and then another coat and sand if needed. Wipe the remnants off afterwards. Now you have a nice smooth area to paint on.

If I want the timber to show through the paint, then I don’t use Gesso at all.

I mainly use acrylic paint, but other mediums work on timber as well. Gouache and watercolour work well, however remember it will be very transparent without the Gesso underneath. Posca pens, or any ink pen, will bleed too. A great idea is to use an off-cut piece of timber to test your preferred mediums.

Mixed media is fun to do on timber. Use PVA (wood glue) for your adhesive. For gluing paper or fabric I find Mod Podge works best. If you don’t have Mod Podge then just make your own by mixing water with wood glue (50/50 ratio). Add a bit of gloss or varnish to make it shiny if you like. Trust me, it’s what I use and it works just as well! Apply the glue to both sides of the paper/material, so it gives a protective coat over the top too. Do not use sticky tape. Not even double sided sticky tape. Just don’t.

The most asked question is ‘do I need to varnish it?’ If you have raw timber showing and you want it to stay raw, then you don’t have to coat it with anything. The timber will discolour after a while, the pale raw colour will turn a slightly darker shade and won’t be protected from the elements (or dirty/greasy hands). If you don’t want it to discolour slowly with age, then you can paint a clear varnish over the whole painting. It will give it a slightly different shade. If you’ve used ink pens or art pens like Posca’s, then spray the varnish on, otherwise you may end up smudging the ink. Read the label to see what suits your medium. My preference is to actually paint a gel topcoat (semi-gloss) over the painted area only, and then leave the timber raw.

Plywood comes in different thicknesses, so take care when choosing the correct size screws to attach your hook or wire. For this exhibition, with 30 x 30cm timber, we used sawtooth picture hooks screwed straight on to the back. If you have a large piece of plywood then you may need to brace the back of it to avoid warping, and then attach wire. Now you’re ready to hang your masterpiece!

If you post your masterpiece on social media then make sure you tag me, I’d love to see how you went!

‘We Were Board’ is currently on at Geelong Illustrators Studio Gallery, 105 Moorabool Street, Geelong CBD. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10-5. Finishes on September 12th. (Yes, I know, it’s another shameless plug. Shush.)

Keep an eye out soon for my next blog where I’ll be sharing my tips on how to paint on timber.

Meanwhile, have a look in Geelong Illustrators Studio Gallery during August to catch our exhibition called ‘We Were Board’, an exhibition of 30 x 30 cm timber boards, where the members could create their masterpiece using any medium and subject. For some it was the first time to paint on timber so there was so many questions and failed experiments along the way! However, it’s turned out to be our most successful exhibition yet.

Click on this link for more info (and one of my entries!):

Geelong Illustrators Studio Gallery:
105 Moorabool Street, Market Square, Geelong, Victoria.
Tuesday to Saturday, 10am – 5pm.