ARTIST: Rebecca Jane Knowles in her studio.
ARTIST: Rebecca Jane Knowles in her studio. Katrina Corcoran

Bay artist's work becoming symbolic of life on the Coast

THE essence of a sunny day in our seaside city is being captured on canvas by Rebecca Jane Knowles in her funky artworks.

Rebecca Jane, as she is known, and her partner, Matt Shirvington, are the faces behind the "functional art" of Art by Rebecca Jane that is quickly becoming symbolic of life in Hervey Bay.

The artworks are bright and bold, with a certain picture-book quality, and colours likened to the work of famous Australian artist Ken Done.

Many of the images are carnival-like, with stylised animals and Rebecca's signature puffy white clouds and breaching whales. When you look at them you can't help but feel happy, and realise this talented artist has captured something very special about the region.

 

Rebecca Jane Knowles with her funky art tent at the Urangan Pier Markets.
LEFT: Rebecca with her funky art tent at the Urangan Pier Markets. RIGHT: Designer Matt Shirvington at work. Katrina Corcoran

And the region has inspired the Victorian-born artist, too.

"Moving to Hervey Bay has done wonders for my art," Rebecca said.

It's happy and fun, and the fine weather and fantastic scenery of Hervey Bay inspires me to paint every day.

Five years ago Rebecca made the sea-change and climate-change, joining her mother, who had moved up 10 years ago, and her sister who arrived around the same time as Rebecca.

She'd been working in retail in Warrnambool and dabbling in art on the side.

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Like many artists, Rebecca didn't see how she could carve out a career from her hobby.

"I grew up loving art and I'd always loved drawing," she said. "When I left school I went and got a regular job.

"I began painting with acrylics, occasionally selling my work through word of mouth. I did some windows for businesses, but it was always still a hobby."

The transition from hobby to career came when she met her partner, Matt, at a Christmas party in Hervey Bay. He'd also moved to the Fraser Coast to escape the cold at Cooma, in New South Wales.

Matt loved her art and convinced her to turn it into a business creating functional art - usable items with images of art such as place mats, coasters, stubby and wine coolers, greeting cards, post cards and more.

 

Matt Shirvington working on Rebecca Jane Knowles' art.
Matt Shirvington working on Rebecca Jane Knowles' art. Katrina Corcoran

Because it often takes 50 to 60 hours to do a painting, it's difficult to sell originals for their value.

Matt said at the beginning of her venture as a full-time artist, Rebecca experienced the artists' common problem of not being able to get the sales to survive.

"So I printed them on cotton rag, which lasts for up to 100 years, and put them into bright and funky frames," he said.

"We did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions, and pretty much winged it using trial and error."

The result has been extraordinary.

Rebecca's art is available in 20 outlets in locations including Noosa, Montville and Port Fairy in Victoria.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think my art would sell like tea or coffee," Rebecca said.

"It still blows me away to see my art around me - I can't believe I've painted it."

 

Locals can see Rebecca and Matt each Saturday at their regular stall at the Urangan Pier Park Markets, which has adopted one of her designs for its branding.

"We have regular customers who come back to buy for themselves or family and friends," Matt said.

"And we always try to be there so they can meet the artist because it's a very personal experience."

They also have a regular gig at Gladstone called Feast on East, a market held whenever cruise ships come into the port.

Last year the Fraser Coast Regional Council commissioned Rebecca to paint a mural at the Hervey Bay Aquatic Centre, and she was engaged to design the souvenir shirts for competitors in the Hervey Bay 100 triathlon last year.

Rebecca is expanding her subject areas to include places like Montville and the Sunshine and Gold Coasts, encapsulating the essence of those places in paint.

Her ultimate hope is that one day all of Queensland will consider her art its own.