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Abstract Journeys – painter Sally Willbanks in the Spotlight

By in Interviews


See more of Sally’s work at

Being an artist

Please give us a few words of introduction about yourself

I am an Australian artist who primarily paints abstracts.


When did you decide to pursue art as a career?

I have always known that I would be an artist. I never considered that I would ever be anything else.

What training did you have?

I have always drawn and painted, for as long as I can remember. I studied Art and Art History for A-Levels, and then I moved on to study at the Rhode Island School of Design, graduating with a BFA in 1996.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

Opening and successfully running a co-op gallery with some other local artists.

General Questions

What’s your favourite quote?

This is a hard one – there are many.

Perhaps: ‘Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.’ – Scott Adams

Who is your favourite artist?

I don’t have a favourite, I have many. To name a few, Aida Tomescu, Cy Twombly, Picasso, Van Gogh, Joan Mitchell.

What are you aiming for?

I am aiming to be able to support my family with my artwork, as it would be the perfect merging of my two passions, my family and painting.


How will you get there?

I will get there by being persistent, treating my painting as a business, and above all, by painting without blinders on.

Is anything holding you back?

Perhaps being a mother. It is always a struggle for women to balance motherhood and work. Children never take a back seat, even when you want them to!

You and art

What feelings or reactions do you hope to arouse in people who view your work? Are you ever surprised by reactions that you get?

I have no preconceived ideas when I start a painting – it is all about the journey of the painting. I hope that in viewing my artwork, viewers discover their own personal journey within my own.


From start to finish, how long does it take for you to create your work?

On a good day, it can take as little as four hours. When I am struggling, it can be an ongoing process that can take days.

What music do you like to listen to when you work?

That totally depends on my mood. I often listen to Radiohead, sometimes Alicia Keys (when I need something to sing to), or when I’m feeling full of energy, it’s always the Gypsy Kings.

What are you working on next? Any future plans or projects in the pipeline that we should look out for?

I am working on a series of more muted abstracts for an upcoming show at a local gallery. I am incorporating more drawing into my abstracts, developing a kind of ‘sign’ language. Well, I think that is the direction I am taking, but as it is all about the process, directions seem to always change along the way.

Being inspired by art

Who (living or dead) inspires you? and why?

Picasso inspires me for so many reasons: his brilliance, his arrogance, his innovation, his draftsmanship and his proliferation, but mostly for his ability to take all of his artistic knowledge and skill accrued over the years and transform these learnings into bold, almost childlike paintings.

What feelings, subjects or concepts inspire you as an artist?

Abstracts inspire me, moving beyond the representational to delve into the emotions behind an experience. Colour inspires me, how colours relate to each other, and what they can express.

What is your favourite work that you’ve produced so far and why?

My favourite piece is my last painting that I have just finished. It is called ‘Sign Language’, and it is my favourite not because it is the best painting that I have made (it is not), but because it is the most ‘me’ painting. It was painted in a quiet mood, and it is a good reflection of my innermost feelings at the time.


an artist’s advice

For those thinking about turning a passion for art into a career, could you give any advice?

Don’t strive for perfection, as you’ll never reach it. Keep producing no matter what, even when you feel that your work is terrible. That is the good critic in you telling yourself that your work is not as good as it should be (and can get), but it shows that you still know your likes and dislikes, and will give you a path to follow.

Any tips on how to get your work seen and get the commissions coming in?

Get your work into as many different marketing venues as you can, be it online or storefront. Make connections with people, as people like to buy from people that they know, and that they like (so always be nice!).

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