‘My mother could draw – she won a scholarship to go to art school in England. Her mother pulled her out and made her go and do a job that she really hated somewhere. It’s terrible.
‘My father really should have been an academic but, through all sorts of things – poverty and a long story – ended up not being able to do that but going into various types of business. He eventually ended up doing what he wanted. He was a writer historian and wrote the Pictorial History of Newtown. That’s my dad, Alan Sharpe. He was a historian but a creative and imaginative person. He wasn’t a visual artist, but I feel that I got my art thing from him.
‘Even though they had gone bankrupt at one stage and had very little money, they were still anxious to do everything they could to help me do what I wanted in life.
‘I haven’t done anything else but art all of my life. I was the only person in my school who didn’t do maths or science for the HSC because I knew that I wasn’t going to be interested in either of them. I went straight from school to art school.
‘To earn a living, I was an artist model and taught part-time. I’ve never had a full-time job except now with painting which is fabulous, but I always just accepted poverty back then.
‘Creativity and the arts are something you’ll have all your life and it’s never wasted. It is enrichment that is forever.
‘Life is chance. You do make your own luck but only to an extent. If you’re out there doing stuff it’s far more likely to happen. It is chance – that’s chaos theory. That’s scary but it’s also good.
‘You have to put yourself out there or nothing will happen. You can’t guarantee if you do all these things that this will happen; it may not, but you’ve got to give it a go.
‘One of my favourite quotes is from Picasso: “Inspiration exists but it has to find us working.”’
‘My diagnosis at 27 changed my life dramatically. I connect all these things back to what I bundle up as “below-par”. I’d do weights and not bulk up. I couldn’t run as fast as other people. Knowing you are somehow physically different to others, made me feel really inferior and insecure.
‘I looked for various ways socially to compensate for that. It led me toward a lot of really negative lifestyle choices as far as being reckless. Getting diagnosed was a huge relief – it turned all that around.
‘I have a degenerative neuro-muscular condition called Inclusion Body Myositis which means my muscle cells don’t regenerate. Effectively I’ve got a slow, degenerative, muscle-wasting disease. It started off in my legs and it progressed to my arms. It’s slowly going through every set of muscles throughout my body.
‘I’ve had to face so many physical and emotional challenges. It’s made me a lot tougher and a lot stronger as a person. It’s made me a much nicer person than I used to be in my 20s. I’m nowhere near as selfish; I have a different perspective on life. I know what’s important and what’s not. I think I do. It just put me on a different path.
‘Before I was diagnosed, I was working in hospitality. I’ve always done really physical kind of work but I really physically started to struggle with all of that. Then I decided that I wanted to study and did an Advanced Diploma of Fine Art at TAFE followed by a Bachelor of Fine Art at the University of NSW.
‘I was fortunate enough at the start of 2016 to be awarded a grant through Accessible Arts which is designed to support me as an emerging artist in a sustainable arts practice. It’s helped me buy art supplies and an electric easel. It’s helped me build a website and employ a videographer to do a short 3.5 minute documentary about me and my practice. It all culminates in a solo exhibition where I produce 20 paintings. It’s designed to sell some work and generate some income so that I can then be funded to have a sustainable art practice for another year and have another show.’
‘When I started out, I was just a really enthusiastic person that saw they needed help wrangling zombies. Seven years later I’m the head zombie of it all. I’m a bit of a horror buff so I love the gore but I also love the fact that it does raise money for a good cause – The Brain Foundation.
‘The Brain Foundation studies brain and neurological disorders and illnesses and so it covers things like brain cancer and stuff like that but they also look in to things like dementia and that sort of thing so it’s quite broad. I’ve had friends who’ve been affected and I’ve seen how much it can impact a family.
‘Every year the number of zombies doubles so we need as many zombie wranglers as possible. When it started out around 7 years ago we had about 100 zombies and it basically just multiplied every year and so now we’re one of the biggest walks in Australia for it. It’s really cool. Being a zombie wrangler is not a difficult job but we need all the help we can get.
‘Zombie Walks take place all over the world. Some of the earlier ones started in San Francisco but not all of them are fundraisers. I think that we’re the main one in Australia that does fundraising but the rest of them are more for horror buffs and for people who want to just get bloody and messy and scare the general public.’
‘When I was a kid I loved to draw. I loved creating stuff and imagining things but slowly over time it disappeared and I stopped drawing. When I hit my 30s, I decided to start getting up 15 minutes earlier before work each day. The first time I did it was really strange because I was just sitting there with this blank piece of paper and didn’t know what to do. It just grew bigger and bigger and now it’s about 1½-2 hours a day.
‘I used to see these two older men outside this café in Glebe. I drew them and imagined a story that perhaps they’d fallen on hard times but really they secretly controlled all the money in the world. I became friends with one of them and discovered he was a fine arts student back in the 70s or 80s. He’d actually been an artist all that time so it was a cool moment where the story I’d imagined came in to clash with a reality.
‘I always thought that I was normal as a kid – the way I thought – until I started talking to people and then I realised that maybe I’m not so normal – maybe I’ve got a slightly different perspective. I’ve always connected dots A & G rather than A & B. There is something inside me that just tries to connect things that are seemingly unconnected and so I love creating stories about the people I draw.
‘This whole process of rediscovering art has changed me a lot. It’s shown me possibilities and it’s helped me to connect with a whole bunch of people that I wouldn’t have before. It expands the world and it makes me much more empathetic for people. I’m now more patient and humble in how I try and understand them.’
Oscar Finch will be holding his first Honesty Box Gallery Exhibition at the HON Live launch event on Saturday 5th September. He will be also roaming the crowds incognito drawing people and creating stories about them.
‘Creativity means coming up with something from almost nothing. If you want something original then some of that is going to happen with you being an ordinary person working with unusual concepts. But some of that is also going to come from your own individuality – you will look at an ordinary thing but bring your own perspective to that – the way you formulate the story for example because of your background. I think we all need to embrace our inner weirdness. We need to keep it weird.’
Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect.
‘It was very late in life when I finally worked out what I wanted to do. I started at the age of 47. I think sometimes things are meant to happen at ages that you don’t expect things to happen.
‘I don’t wish it had happened earlier. I think my life has panned out just nicely. There were other things I wanted to do. I was convinced I wanted to be a beauty therapist and an actress. I did both of those things and then realised they’re not for me. My passion just naturally changed and I think there is a strong message in that for everyone looking at what they want to do with their life. It’s not too late to change your passion. It was very hard to let go of the acting because I studied for 3 years, did my degree and then wondered how I could possibly stop but I finally gave myself permission to finally let go. This is my new passion and I love what I do.
‘From about 14 I was drawn to vintage clothing. I went through a number of years working in retail, studying acting and always in creative fields. One day I was unhappy with where my life was going. I walked in to an antique shop. I was looking at a shop counter and the guy asked where my shop was. I said that I didn’t have a shop but just loved the counter. He asked me if I did have a shop what would I have and it just came out. I said to him that it would be a vintage clothing shop. I had an epiphany at the moment, walked out and rang my husband and my mum straight away and said to them I know this sounds crazy as I have no stock but I just want to have my own vintage clothing shop. I didn’t buy the counter. Someone else bought the counter and I kick myself to this day that I didn’t but it was the catalyst. It really was like a bolt of lightning. I literally walked on air out of that antique centre because I knew what it was that I finally wanted to do with my life.’
‘I love music. I can’t play so I feel like I need to organise musicians instead! I do all the logistics in booking bands for festivals and gigs. I make sure the bands show up and know what time they’re playing.
‘It’s good to see local festivals and events pop up – the local scene gets encouraged and they look for local bands. It’s really great. The international bands have cornered the market a little bit and people need to see that there are still great bands in Australia and that they need to get out there.’