Olivia Rogers may just be the hardest working person I know, full stop. Over the past year, what started as doodling with sharpie markers has turned into the wonderful, vibrant and crazy successful Mexican inspired brand that is Olivia Rogers Art. Olivia is the kind of person who is so busy, and full of ambition and motivation that you feel guilty just thinking about how you’ve spent the whole day pigging out in your pyjamas watching Keeping up with the Kardashian reruns. But you can’t even hate her for that, because apart from being a full time artist, speech pathology student, and all around superwoman, she manages to be charming, compassionate and just generally lovely!
Writer Amy Clark sat down with Olivia over a big cup of coffee (which I think she’s earned, don’t you?) to chat about how it all started, and what is to come.
Have you always been interested in Art? How did you get started?
Art for me has always been a hobby. I’ve been drawing since I was five years old, or even younger; Mum said I would sit in my room and draw for hours! However it’s only really been in the last year that it’s all taken off. In August of last year, my mum’s friend, who is an artist, suggested I put on an exhibition with SALA (South Australian Living Artist Festival). I already had 20 or so pieces lying around, so we framed them up and put them on show at Market Import (a Mexican inspired home wares store on King William Road). I ended up selling more than half of them! I didn’t think anyone would buy them, because they’re just drawings, but from there people who had seen my work started asking for commissioned pieces. I have a list of about 12 that I need to do at the moment!
How did you come to develop your signature style, which is focused on Mexican culture?
It sort of just happened! We do a lot of anatomy and work with the human body in Speech Pathology, so I find it cool how Mexican culture can take something that is so morbid and, sometimes gross, such as death, and turn it into something pretty and fun. My style is quite girly, and I love using bright, bold colours. People seem to love it, so I’ll keep doing it!
What does a typical day in the life of Olivia Rogers look like?
It varies. I do have my uni days, and my art days, and I try to keep my weekends social, but it is hard when there is so much to get done. My art is completely full time, but so is uni. With contact hours and placement, it can be very overwhelming, but it’s also really cool. I love the fact that I can make money from my hobby, but it’s not just a hobby now; it’s my life. I was working in retail part time up until September last year, but decided to quit after the exhibition due to the amount of requests I was receiving for commissioned pieces. At the time, I thought it was a bit risky to quit because I thought my success could be due to the exhibition, and that it might die off, but it hasn’t ever really slowed down. I do a lot of multi tasking, everything has to be going at once or I won’t get it all done. Friends will come over and we’ll catch up while I’m painting, and I have to study at the gym! And I’m always up late painting; I don’t get much sleep!
You’ve collaborated with some great South Australian brands, and creatives. Tell us a bit about that!
I’ve collaborated with Little Miss Mexico; I designed and painted artwork for the space. That came about through Instagram and Facebook. Stuart Duckworth, a part owner of Little Miss Mexico, saw my drawings on Instagram and approached me to help decorate the bar. A really cool thing about that collaboration was that they ended up being open to the public while I was painting the walls, which was such good exposure. It was fun to do something really big, with life size skeletons! Then they used me to do the signage for the Croquet Club too, which was a massive job. It involved 72 hours of work over 5 days. I’ve done collaborated with local jewellery line Cinquante The Label, and I’ve designed wine labels for Koerner Wine, who is looking at stocking in both Melbourne and Sydney. How awesome to be able to buy your own wine?!
How important has social media been in helping to develop your brand and business?
Social media has been amazing for me! I’ve always been on Facebook, so it wasn’t that unnatural for me to start posting purely for my art. I’m so lucky that Instagram is popular, because half of the opportunities I’ve come across have been because of the exposure that the platform gives me. A girl in Mexico even got a tattoo based on my designs she saw online! I also like to use social media to raise awareness for causes and organisations that are important to me. Recently I designed a poster for a competition run by Sight for All to raise awareness for preventive blindness and vision loss. I try and be conscious of things that I can do to help, and it’s great to see such a good response from people.
What are your favourite mediums to use?
In the beginning, all my drawings were done in texta – mainly sharpies. It’s so easy, and you can do it anywhere. Now I’ve moved onto painting. I find painting is more cost effective, and I can also mix my own colours and change the tones. I’m very particular when it comes to buying colours; I’m so bad! I spend ages doing a million test patches!
Surely it can’t all be easy, any challenges or setbacks?
I’ve been very lucky, I haven’t really experienced many set backs. Probably the biggest challenge would be juggling my art with my uni workload, and having enough time to fit it all in. For some projects, particularly really big pieces, I could spend up to 12 hours a day painting. But I could do it all day everyday! I’ve even strained my wrist from overdoing it, which has forced me to take a few months off; it’s really frustrating. And the list of things to do doesn’t just go away; it keeps building up more and more.
You’re currently studying Speech Pathology, how does that fit in with your goals as an artist?
I want to combine the two, because studying Speech Pathology is quite important to me, and something that I’m really passionate about. Ultimately, I would love to illustrate and publish books for speech pathologists to use in therapy. There are a lot of resources out there, but many of them aren’t that clear or colourful. For my current placement, I’ve been creating all my own resources, and the kids get so excited and respond really well to them.
Do you have any advice for anyone starting their own business?
I never intended for my art to become a career path, but I feel like if I had’ve, then maybe things might not have fallen into place they way that they did. There’s been a lot of luck, but being passionate keeps me motivated to do the hard work. It’s all a big learning experience. You’re going to make mistakes, but I’d rather risk it, and get it wrong, than say no and wonder what could’ve happened. And the biggest thing for me is that you have to enjoy what you’re doing. The quote ‘do what you love’ is so true, and it really sums it up for me.
Where would you like to see yourself, and Olivia Rogers Art in five years?
At the moment I go on a day by day, week to week basis. I try not to look too far ahead, because I hate making plans and then letting myself down, so it’s better to take it as it comes! But as for what’s next? There is a big to do list. I would like to set up a website so I can easily post interstate and internationally, and maybe look at doing stuff like beach towels, t-shirts or quilts and home wares. But there is no rush. Right now, I’m saving to go overseas, and then after I finish my degree, I might take a year off to focus on my art, but who knows!