Abby Lee’s mindful creative journey
Artist Abby Lee Sleep feels a warm sense of nostalgia every time she paints one of her signature creations featuring native Australian flora.
Her often brightly-hued acrylic paintings of proteas, wattles, banksias and blossoming gumnuts are each intertwined with memories of her country upbringing and of loved ones passed.
“Australian flora is my main inspiration – even in my abstracts I still have the gum leaves coming through,” the 23-year-old Geelong creative explains.
“I think that’s come from early memories of growing up in Warracknabeal and always having natives in our garden and whenever there was an anniversary of people who had passed away, we would always have native flowers on the table as a remembrance.
“It’s really sentimental to our family and something that is really nice to paint and reminds me of home.”
Abby says she gravitated toward anything creative ever since starting kindergarten.
“That was my safe place, my happy place,” she remembers fondly.
“I would paint or draw in my room.
“I’m the middle child of three girls so whenever I needed to chillout I would go and paint something or draw.
“It’s kind of always been with me.”
Abby took up art full-time after completing a psychology degree at Deakin University last year.
She enjoyed the course but says a fourth-year job placement confirmed that working as a practicing psychologist was not for her and, instead, art therapy held greater appeal.
It is something she is passionately pursuing in her most recent role as an art coach and mentor.
During the past 12 months she has thrown herself into all aspects of her creative calling, including building upon her popular Pimms and Painting mobile paint and sip events business, selling her artworks, completing commissions, running online art classes, and even starting a podcast.
“I’m doing everything,” she says, with a laugh.
Abby started Pimms and Painting in August 2019 and the relaxed, mobile format immediately struck a chord with customers.
“The first session sold out pretty quickly so I could see people were really interested in it,” she recalls.
“I then did them randomly about every six weeks and once I resigned from my therapy job, I properly launched Pimms and Painting.”
That was in November 2020 when Abby made the most of having extra time by pouring energy into producing artworks and putting more time into social media.
“It all kind of took off from there,” she says.
“What’s different about Pimms and Painting is that I’m mobile so I can come to you or go to the various different venues around Victoria, or even Australia once the borders open up.
“I think customers love that it is a space for them to catch up with their friends without it being awkward at a bar or something like that. It’s really accessible.”
Abby says she has stayed motivated during the pandemic by pivoting and redirecting her energy into things she can do within the restrictions.
That includes starting the Art of Painting podcast.
“The podcast goes hand-in-hand with the coaching. It provides an insight into what is actually behind the scenes and happening for artists.
“I love a good podcast but I felt like there weren’t any Australian ones that suited where I was at. I still consider myself as an emerging artist even though I am kind of established.
“So, I was like ‘let’s do this’.”
She now hopes to also build on the coaching aspect of her business.
“I really like sharing my knowledge and experiences to help other artists, especially when they feel stuck or have a creative block.
“Being creative can be really draining and it’s nice to just let them know they’re not alone in that.”
Abby says she is energised by the women around her who are part of the region’s thriving creative scene.
“I’m inspired massively by the female artists who are in Geelong and the Surf Coast area but I try to have my style as individual as possible,” she says.
“I guess everyone inspires everyone and it is a really supportive community we have here.”
For Abby, time away from her art means valuable time spent with her much-loved sausage dog, Ollie, and cooking has become a new favourite pastime during COVID, with homemade bao buns her most recent triumph.
But perhaps her proudest moment of late is having her artwork – a still life titled Elevated gums in ceramic bowl – selected for display in a NSW gallery.
It is a long-held ambition realised and another step on Abby’s positive creative journey.
“It is my first gallery I get to put my artwork in which is awesome,” she says, smiling.
“It’s really exciting and something I’ve wanted for so long.”
Discover more about Abby Lee and her Pimms and Painting business by following @abbylee_artist or @pimmsandpainting on Instagram.