MAKING a living as an artist is tough and Wendy Binks’ peers are amazed she’s turned her muse into a successful day job.
“But my business friends say I’m useless,” she laughs.
A paint-splattered dining table in the kitchen of her South Fremantle home is covered with dozens of tubes of paints and stacks of brushes.
The living room is strewn with cushions and t-shirts bearing her trademark artwork, including a couple of cute quokkas and a not-so-scary shark.
An adjacent room is stacked high with boxes of books, including her Where’s Stripey, which won a premier’s award in 2006.
Sales of 10,000 make a book a bestseller these days, and Binks’ story of a lost baby emu has sold 140,000.
Painting was her first love, but Curtin University and the WA Institute of Technology reckoned her style was too conservative for their fine arts degree, “so I chose pottery because it was the only thing that suited me.”
Potting earned Binks a good living, but it took its toll physically.
And when her assistant pot thrower broke both hands and a elbow, it drove home the need to diversify.
She started with greeting cards featuring colourful and quirky native animals, and before you could say emu, she was selling a range of merchandise at the Fremantle Markets, where she’s been for 20 years.
Two years ago, Binks’ art was used on a series of Maxwell Williams mugs sold around the world. She also does author talks and recently returned from remote communities in the north west, where sessions ended with a drawing-using-shapes lesson.
“Apparently they were drawing Stripey for weeks,” Binks says.
Speaking to 3000 kids over a five-day period was no walk in the park: “It was hard work; you are performing all day, but it reminded me why I do children’s books.”
Binks has written and illustrated three Stripey books, Ten Clumsy Emus and Hush Little Possum, with the classic Australian lullaby read by Australian actor Deborah Mailman (Wolf Creek, Cleverman).
And if that wasn’t enough, she’s currently teaming up with Amazon US to create reusable shopping bags bearing her quirky creations.
by JENNY D’ANGER