2018 in Review
Almost at the end of 2018 — can you believe it? — and I’ve spent a little time this month looking back on projects from this year, and planning for the shiny new year that’s just around the corner. In 2018 I chose a ‘word’ for my year, rather than a resolution. I’ve struggled terribly with imposter syndrome in the past couple of years, so I’ve been actively working on resolving that. My word for 2018 was ‘Confidence’; almost every project I took on this year was scary and unknown to start with, and it took the self-belief and self-confidence to just dive in and go for it to get me through to the other side.
January started off with a reading of Hello, Melbourne! at the NGV, the most beautiful space to be in, and a ‘pinch me’ moment for sure. Reading to a crowd of 5 year olds in such a historic building was a really special experience. I also created a capsule collection with the NGV to sit alongside Hello, Melbourne!, which was another great experience in itself!
I was approached in January by the excellent Museum of Brisbane to create the artwork for an upcoming exhibition, Bristopia, they were planning for the middle of the year. It was a phenomenally short time frame, but I tried the ‘confidence’ method of saying yes and figuring out the logistics later — and somehow pulled it off! ;) Working with the MoB was a delight from start to finish, and getting to create such a huge exhibition for them was a real career highlight for me. Seeing my work go from static illustrations to moving animations, and then eventually to a BILLBOARD was amazing.
We nipped off overseas in February to New York and Palm Springs, and spent a little extra time driving the Californian coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Having the opportunity to be back in Palm Springs for Modernism Week meant we got to see some of our friends in California, and see more amazing architecture than we could have thought possible.
March through to May was spent working on my 2018 book release, Hello, Australia!, a big, colourful project that was a delight to create. There is countless hours of love and work and research that goes into the books, and to have completed 3 in under 3 years is something I’ll always be so proud of. I was fearful that the 3rd in the series wouldn’t be as successful as it was changing the formula from the ‘city’ theme to going to a wider country focus, but it’s been the fastest selling title of the bunch — clocking up 5000 copies sold in just 3 weeks from publication. As a non-celebrity and still relatively unknown in the book industry, this is a major achievement and one that I’m so proud of. If you’ve ever bought a copy of any of my books, thank you! I owe you, big time!
McKean Studio turned 4 in July, and we hit 3 years in our HQ studio space, and I spent several months concepting, designing and creating a whole new collection to coincide with the release of Hello, Australia!. This was the first time I’d worked on such a big collection based project, with so many different pieces in the one theme. It was a huge undertaking and massive investment, but like all things where it’s high risk, the rewards were just as great. Developing a complete accessories collection in ‘Land of the Rainbow Gold’ was a really different way of working for me, and a great challenge. Moving into wholesale for some of the items meant getting to collaborate with some beautiful galleries and retail spaces around Australia; the National Gallery of Victoria, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Melbourne Museum and the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art to name a few.
In June we took a short break to Japan, visiting Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. There’s something so ridiculously inspiring about Japan, every visit has coincided with a brain wave or a new creative spark. We also finally made it across the ditch, visiting New Zealand in September for a magical week driving the North Island. I was so blown away by the colours and sights of New Zealand, and came back home so inspired to work with colours that don’t normally feature in my design palette.
The release of Hello, Australia! in October saw the beautiful AGNSW hosting a book launch for me in celebration, another experience that I feel supremely fortunate to have had. Reading to kids (and a lot of my friends!) from my new book, amongst world class artwork in a venue I’ve adored forever, was a completely surreal moment, and such a highlight of the year for me.
A whirlwind solo trip to London in November was a great shake-up for me personally, thinking more about the direction I want to be heading in 2019 and beyond, and where things are going for McKean Studio too. Actively putting myself outside of my comfort zone and asking for more of what I want (instead of just crossing my fingers that it will come to me) meant I was able to worm my way into meeting with some good connections for where I’m looking towards in the coming years.
Back home in November and I teamed up with The Big Design Market to create their kids play area for the 2018 market events in Sydney and Melbourne. A fun, colourful brief (anytime I’m allowed to use pink is alright by me!) that included cute bugs, birds and beetles was a delight to create. Seeing kids interacting with my artwork and making their own masterpieces was a true delight.
Another big thing of 2018 came up completely by surprise, when I was offered a teaching position at my alma mater, the University of Technology Sydney. A position I took to ‘just try something new for a few months’ left me completely blindsided by the passion and adoration I apparently have for teaching design students. It’s been so great to engage with the next generation of designers, and play a tiny role in shaping their direction and career paths.
I’m so grateful for so many incredible opportunities that came my way, and projects I was able to work on in 2018. Things have changed quite a bit in Mckean Studio with Joshua taking an outside position in February that he is finding so much fulfilment in, and my work shifting to being a little more illustrative/project based. There are more changes to come in 2019 — ones that I’ve been striding confidently ;) towards, trusting that it all works out for the best! — and I’m looking forward to integrating them into our business and how it shapes what we’re doing next.
As always, I couldn’t do any of the work I do without your support; every purchase of one of our products lets me do what I love to do every single day. Thank you for supporting our tiny business through 2018. I’m ending the year more confident than ever, and excited for what’s on the horizon on the new year.