Luisa Manea, Artist article written by
for Humans of Cairns
If there was just one thing I could achieve in my career, it would be to help young people appreciate art.
So many people think art is inaccessible or unaffordable, but I would love to introduce them to a world where they see that art is unique and an expression of creativity.
Many people think nothing of spending $500 on an item of clothing that they will wear just a few times, but would never invest the same money on a piece of art that they will love and appreciate forever.
Art does not need to be expensive to be valuable – it just has to be something they love – that’s all that matters.
I have this idea of something I would love to do to help young people engage with art. I would like to create an art installation of a semi-nude woman – nothing rude! – where people contribute their own ideas of things to add to her.
Maybe it could be an item of clothing or a tattoo, or a flower… they would actually be involved in the creation of a piece of art through an interactive process. We live in such a mass-produced society – an activity like this would really help people see art as a personal and creative endeavor.
I have started doing commissioned pieces for mum's capturing their children in artwork… the small personal illustrations reflect many different aspects of the child’s personality, such as their favourite colour or food, or how they like to dress, or their hobbies. The children will then grow up with that artwork, and it will be part of their life.
I grew up in Geraldton in Western Australia, after my family emigrated from Italy. We ran a garden centre and a petrol station; it was very much a business environment. But I was always creative – I started sewing my own clothes on my mother’s press-pedal machine when I was six, and ended up going to Perth to study art and textiles.
I did well at college and won quite a few awards, and it really changed my life. I was this little country girl who was suddenly doing things like meeting movie stars at the Hong Kong Fashion Week, and this led to me becoming a high-end wedding designer.
I loved designing wedding dresses and helping women feel amazing and express their personalities whatever their size and shape. But then my son was born with PKU (Phenylketonuria – a rare genetic disorder), and I discovered I could not adequately care for both my real baby and my other baby – the fashion business.
One baby had to go, and while it was sad, the only choice was to let go of the art. My son is 13 now however, and I am now in a position to take up art again. It’s a bit scary and a bit stressful, but I think if you are a creative person, you have no choice but to be creative. It will just always come out somehow. For me, painting is like meditating because it calms my soul. It’s an itch that’s got to be scratched.
Cairns became home two years ago, when we moved here to get the best possible medical treatment for our son. I’m lucky that as an artist, I can work with clients anywhere thanks to the Internet. I just love it here in Cairns – it is incredibly beautiful; almost like a different planet! I just love being surrounded by so much beauty and lushness – the flora and the fauna and the colours are all just so amazing.
My studio is in my home, although my art has a habit of spreading right across the house. Luckily, my husband and son are tolerant of the mess, and as long as their tea is on the table when they are hungry, then they are happy. I feel as though I have a real sanctuary here in Cairns. I can breathe here. Each time I come home and see the crepe myrtle around my house, it feels like Christmas to me.
I do lots of different things that are artistic, such as restoring or upholstering furniture, but I have gone back to my roots in doing fashion sketching. I love fashion, because it’s fun and frivolous and should not take itself too seriously. Living in Cairns means I can’t really do the bridal designs anymore because you need to be in one of the capital cities for that.
So my art now focuses on fashion illustrations that experiment with different techniques and media – and are inspired by the colour and beauty of Cairns. The art models the nature that is all around me.
Some people don’t believe that fashion illustrations are art, but I firmly believe they are. And my clients love them, possibly because I manage to reflect the beauty of my personal space into the art, with flowers or birds often in the sketches. This is nothing new at all – high-end clothing or jewelry designers have often used flora or fauna in their designs.
I am nervous and excited about an exhibition of my art that will be held at Pier Shopping Centre in Cairns on January 14 and 15. I was fortunate to receive a small grant through the Regional Arts Development Fund and the Youth Entrepreneurs Project, so this will give people the chance to see what I do. I really hope they like it and maybe start to see art in a different way. It is not something to ever be scared of!
Learn More About the Exhibition
Here are three lessons that I’ve learned and that have helped me.
Enjoy the little things in life. I am thankful that I get to paint every day, that my son has access to modern medical advancements, and that I live in a place that is so green, clean and wonderful. I am even thankful that I can argue with my family every now and then – it clears the air for peace and harmony, and lets you express yourself. No-one is perfect!
Have a passion. There is nothing better than using your imagination to transform something in your life. For me, it is rewarding to pick a flower I grew, or eat vegetables from my own garden, but it can also be finding a treasure at the tip and turning it into something beautiful, or turning material into a dress. Find what is uniquely you.
Appreciate your health and happiness. I have seen a lot of illness and body issues throughout my career, but I think you have to count your blessings. I have a big crooked nose, and yes, I could get it fixed, but I remind myself that my nose helps me breathe well, and it suits my face. My nose reminds me not to take myself too seriously, and that a face with a bit of ying and yang is good.