Carmen Hui has always been passionate about art. From her days growing up as a self-described “nerdy art kid”, to the drawings she shared on social media for fun while working full-time as a brand designer, art has always been a source of enjoyment in her life.
She just never expected it would become her main source of income – until now. The Marrickville woman launched Carmen Hui Art and Illustration three years ago after that social media exposure opened up a number of valuable opportunities to showcase her work. While she admits being a full-time artist isn’t always easy, she knows she is incredibly lucky to be able to turn her passion into a profession.
“I have been drawing ever since I can remember. Growing up, I would spend hours drawing random objects and animals while making up stories about each character,” she said.
“When I'm not drawing, I would go through books and magazines and study other people's drawings. I would try and replicate what they've done to gain an understanding of how it was drawn.
“You could say I was a nerdy art kid. I started Carmen Hui Art & Illustration about three years ago. It was just a hobby at first, then I started to share my work on Instagram and was lucky enough to be given a few amazing opportunities to showcase my art. The first few lucky streaks gave me the confidence to put more focus on my art and slowly turned it into a full-time business that it is today.
“Being a full-time artist is not easy, but I’m glad I’ve found my way to this point in my life. The biggest challenge is definitely the need to wear many hats. You can’t just wake up and draw all day; on top of being an artist, you have to be the marketing guru, the business manager, the accountant and the logistics manager.
“Not one day is ever the same, and you need to be able to morph yourself into different roles throughout the day, but I love that I’m finally doing something that I love and am passionate about. I have always known I wanted to be an artist, but I didn’t know how to get there.”
There is no such thing as a typical day for Carmen, who aims to create a “world of whimsy” through her series of art .00prints, original art, greeting cards, homewares and stationery, which she sells through various retail outlets and online, as well as at the Olive Tree Market.
While she has dabbled in most styles of art, her favoured medium is pencil on paper, with her art inspired by animals and botanicals.
“I love the humble pencil. It is so accessible, and I can create a myriad of textures and styles with just a tiny piece of lead,” Carmen said.
“I have dabbled in other mediums throughout the years but have always gone back to the comfort of pencils. It is a medium that I truly feel is an extension of myself.
“I am constantly inspired by nature. I love reading about the meaning of each flower and all the quirks and abilities of each animal. Nothing in nature is ever the same, and I love the challenge of depicting their ‘core’ on a piece of paper.”
Of course, capturing the spirit of her subjects is no easy task, with each drawing taking anywhere from seven hours to several weeks to complete. Understandably with so much time and love invested into each project it is almost impossible for Carmen to pick a favourite.
“On average a drawing takes at least seven hours and more, depending on the complexity of the subject. They are truly works of love,” she said.
“To give you an idea, a pet portrait would usually take around 15 hours to produce, and a bouquet of flowers could take weeks to complete.
“It’s so hard to say (which has been my favourite work). Whatever I’m working on usually turns out to be my favourite at the time, probably because I’m putting so much focus on it.”
You can check out Carmen’s work for yourself at this month’s Olive Tree Market, which will be held at Newcastle Civic Park from 9am to 3pm on Saturday, June 2 and again on July 7 and August 4.