Studio Visit

Sandra Eterovic

With qualifications in art history, art and design, Melbourne artist and illustrator Sandra Eterovic‘s incredible talent has led her from drawing cartoon characters for boxer shorts (!), to working as a freelance illustrator and artist, making custom illustrations for a host of editorial clients, and staging exhibitions of original artworks under her own name. Sandra’s quirky sense of humour is evident in most of her prolific creative output, and she likes to think of her artwork as ‘occasionally wry’, because she loves the word ‘wry’!

Lucy Feagins

Melbourne artist and illustrator Sandra Eterovic in her Collingwood studio.  Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Handpainted artworks and sculptures by Melbourne artist Sandra Eterovic.  Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

The Collingwood studio of Sandra Eterovic.  Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Handpainted table tennis racquets for Sandra’s upcoming show at Hut 13.  Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Details from the Collingwood studio of Sandra Eterovic.  Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Details from the Collingwood studio of Sandra Eterovic.  Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

hand painted soft sculpture by Sandra Eterovic. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Lucy Feagins
17th of October 2014

I honestly can’t remember how I stumbled across the work of Melbourne illustrator / artist Sandra Eterovic.  It was many years ago now… I think it was actually her quirky hand painted mirrors which first caught my eye in around 2010, and I’ve been a huge fan of her cheerful, slightly mad hand painted pieces ever since.  We invited Sandra to participate in the very first TDF Open House in 2011 (which seems like eons ago now!), and have kept a close eye on her work all this time. There’s just something quite special about her.

Sandra is a prodigiously talented illustrator and painter.  I think she can basically paint anything.  She worked for many years in the fashion industry, designing prints and textiles and developing products for children, but she now work as a freelance illustrator and artist, making custom illustrations for a host of editorial clients, and staging exhibitions of various works under her own name.  She also sells some of her creations online in her Etsy store.

I LOVE Sandra’s work.  Whilst accomplished, there is a childlike naiveté about her painting style, and above all else, each piece seems to perfectly reflect Sandra’s unique sense of humour!  In Sandra’s imagined world, a host of quirky protagonists play leading roles – a girl with a hamburger or sausage for a body, a hybrid creature sitting somewhere between a dinosaur and a pineapple (!), a mouldy piece of bread or a freestanding volcano, mid-eruption.  Its all quite MAD, in the best possible way.

This weekend, Sandra’s solo show entitled ‘Still Waiting to be Blown Away’ opens at Hut 13 in Richmond.  The show will incorporate a great variety of original paintings and hand painted sculptures at refreshingly affordable prices. Well worth checking out if you’re in the area!  You’ll also spot Sandra’s work at TDF Open House once again this year!

Still Waiting To Be Blown Away by Sandra Eterovic
Open from this Saturday 18th October until 12th November 2014
Hut 13
79 Swan St
Richmond, VIC

Tell us a little about your background – what path led you to becoming an artist, and to creating the style of work you are currently making?

Although I was consistently occupied by drawing and craft as a child, I was wildly indecisive about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I went from wanting to be a doctor in my first years at school, to a fashion designer in the last, and I think I was ashamed of that. In year 12 I visited RMIT and found every creative department exciting. I found it impossible to choose just one course, so I opted out and majored in Fine Arts (Art History) at The University of Melbourne instead. By fourth year I was mostly writing essays that were thinly veiled criticisms of the discipline, so art historian withered as a career option as well.

After that, a two-year multidisciplinary art and design course at TAFE felt like heaven. A major in illustration led to a full-time job in the fashion industry (yes, after all!), drawing cartoon characters for boxer shorts. A decade later I was designing prints and textiles for children’s brand Seed. It was while doing trend research on the internet that I discovered the burgeoning online world of artists, illustrators and crafters, particularly blogging pioneers like Camilla Engman who proved that it was actually possible to be successful in many creative disciplines. That, and a small course with the wonderful Jane Cocks at Latrobe College, helped me to pluck up the courage to start making and showing my own work in galleries and online. Family and friends, particularly Anna Parry (nee Nilsson) were hugely supportive as well.

How would you describe your work?

I believe that the style of my work has been unconsciously influenced by the books I read as a child, and a couple of long stays in Europe visiting extended family. My grandmother’s kitchen, our cousins’ unfamiliar books, and strange packaging in the supermarket have all made their way into my aesthetic. My work is colourful, relatively accessible, a little retro, sometimes pretty, but hopefully also funny and a bit dark.

I would like to think that my work is occasionally wry, as I love the word ‘wry’. But never fabulous! I hate the word ‘fabulous’, probably because it makes me think of the fashion industry.

What can we expect to see in your new exhibition ‘Still Waiting To Be Blown Away’ at Hut 13 later this month? What has inspired this body of work?

I have made a variety of work for this show, from a series of relatively small paintings on table tennis bats, to a very large sort-of-portrait of my lounge room. There will also be a few medium sized works and a large and rather experimental piece which is somewhere between a painting and a sculpture. The thing that all of the works have in common is that they are painted by me on wood using acrylic.

My ongoing interest is in what we choose to reveal about ourselves as opposed to what we hide, and the way that we present ourselves both in terms of our appearance and our possessions. When I was about seven my Mum explained to me the concept of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ and I have been deeply fascinated by it ever since.

I am also interested in gender roles and relationships as a subject, from the most intimate to the basic ways in which anyone who happens to be alive right now relates to anyone else who happens to be alive right now. Human beings are a bottomless pit of fascination.

Can you give us a little insight into your process?  Is each work pre-planned or created very intuitively? Do you work on multiple pieces at one time?

I have been avidly keeping notebooks since a friend’s husband thoughtfully gave me one 18 years ago. I am now up to my 29th! In them I paste magazine and newspaper clippings, print outs of internet finds, drawn or written observations, doodles and ideas for various things that I might make (from a large wooden contraption to a knitted scarf). Sometimes ideas pop up fully formed, other times they are half-baked and need to percolate (maybe for a week, maybe for a few years).

Most of the time if I find that it’s better to let an idea sit for a while before making it real. In that regard, most of my work is pre-planned. The spontaneity will be in the colours I choose, or the amount of detail I add or subtract. I do work on multiple pieces at once, mostly due to having to wait for sections to dry. I can work relatively quickly once I get going.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

There is no such thing as a typical day (which is probably a typical answer to that question!). If I am to work in the studio, I will answer emails from home first, make my lunch, do any research required for reference and then print that out to take with me (other times I just do a Google Image Search at the studio and peer into my iPhone).

On a good day, there will be a retail or Etsy order to wrap and take to the post office on the way. When I get to the studio I try to work as diligently as possible. Other days I work from home. This is where most of the production work happens: sewing and stuffing dolls and cushions, or packaging A4 and A3 prints. Occasionally I do sketches for illustration jobs in the kitchen, usually when the weather is too cold to face the studio.

Can you list for us 5 resources across any media that you turn to regularly for creative inspiration?

My regularly visited favourites include: Flickr, which has fallen out of favour lately, but I’m still in love with my Flickr Favourites and Pinterest. I like to catch up on and It’s Nice That, a British art and design magazine-style site which always has something fun, clever and unexpected to explore. A perennial favourite is The World of Interiors magazine and Frieze magazine which I generally borrow from the CAE library.

Which other local artists, designers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?

Noel McKenna – Noel’s work is incredibly charming, poignant and funny. I don’t think that anyone captures the absurdity of everyday life in this country as well as he does.

Jon Campbell – From a tram to tea towels to billowing flags to enamel paintings to neons, Jon Campbell is a legend. YEAH! And I reckon he might be a really lovely person too, though I haven’t met him.

Rob McHaffie – I am a fan of SO MANY local artists of McHaffie’s generation, but I have been consistently drawn to his beautiful, precise and slightly nutty work, and have been a longtime fan of his generous and funny blog.

Kirsten Perry – Kirsten’s work is funny, clever and rather brave. I always look forward to seeing what she has up her sleeve.

Alice Oehr –I love the charming aesthetic of Alice’s work, which is absolutely a reflection of her personality.

I have spring gardening fever at the moment, and have become a devotee of The Planthunter thanks to The Design Files. My idol garden is Ian McMaugh’s little Sydney jungle. I have a long way to go!

What is your proudest career achievement to date?

The slow but steady build up of interest in my work has been incredibly buoying. Sometimes I feel a little like I am growing up in public, which isn’t easy for a shy person. The ongoing support from Craft (formerly known as Craft Victoria), a body for which I have always had a huge amount of respect, means so much to me.

What would be your dream project?

I have many dream projects. One is to illustrate a great book cover that I will spot on the shelf at Readings and feel really proud of. Another is to exhibit my work more regularly and make a living from it. Yet another is to license some of my illustration work so that it could be manufactured ethically into really appealing products. Partly so that I don’t have to do my own production work anymore!

What are you looking forward to?

I am having an exhibition of work at Boom Gallery in November 2015. I am really looking forward to planning what I will make for that. However that seems forever away as I have a lot of work to get through right now and can feel Christmas 2014 breathing down my neck already.


Your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood and why?

I am a very proud Melbournian and love all of its inner city neighbourhoods, especially walking around residential streets and peering into people’s front gardens and windows. However, weirdly, when I am visiting family in Europe I miss Lygon Street. More specifically, I miss evenings spent shopping for books at Readings, crossing the road to see a film at The Nova, and then strolling around the corner for a pizza at D.O.C.

Where and what was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

Last night I had dinner at my parents’ house. Dad cooked a great barbecue, which we ate while drinking his homemade wine. Mum took care of the veggies (including greens from the garden) and we had crepes with her homemade raspberry jam afterwards.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

On Saturdays I get up early and go for a swim at the Richmond pool. Then I shop for fruit and veg at the Gleadell Street Market, and ride my bike up to Three Bags Full to meet friends for breakfast. Actually, that’s a complete lie! I do get up early, but I sip my coffee with one eye (and ear) on Rage and another looking into the back garden, then go outside in my pyjamas to potter about if the weather is decent. If it’s cold or raining, I might do some sewing or turn the evil computer on and idly add to my Pinterest pins or hunt for vintage clothes on Etsy. Before I know it, it’s lunch time. An awful habit that I need to break!

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

It’s probably not a secret to readers of The Design Files, but I am consistently surprised by the number of people I meet who do not know of the existence of the wonderful Waverley Antiques. Hidden in an industrial zone, it’s an enormous treasure trove that requires at least an entire day to explore properly, a pocketful of cash, and a large van. I haven’t been there in ages, and am really looking forward to my next visit.

Handpainted table tennis racquets for Sandra’s upcoming show at Hut 13.  Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

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