Artist Beck Feiner's "Aussie Legends Alphabet' is featured as part of our Sydney Children's Hospitals Foundation Art Program Autumn Exhibition. We had a chat with Beck to learn about more about her artistic journey and what inspires the various art that she creates...
Q: What inspired you to create art?
A: "My background in graphic design and I worked in advertising for many years. After my second child, Levi, was born I was always drawing, illustrating, and making art in the background but wanted to do it full time. When my son was about 3 or 4 I was teaching him the alphabet and ‘a is for apple b is for banana’ felt a bit boring so I wanted to come up with my own alphabet and teach him about incredible Australians at the same time. I decided to take a leap of faith and started my Instagram page (which now has 10.9k followers) and decided to bring my followers on my journey of exploring putting an iconic Australian on the letter of the Alphabet - this is where the Aussie Legends idea was really conceived.
It was important to me to make sure every letter of the Alphabet showcased people from all different backgrounds – our first nations people, people from the LGBTQ community, strong females, etc. As I was making this Alphabet and it started getting this momentum going. I posted a new letter every night on my Instagram page and by the end of it turned into a poster. A journalist from SBS found the poster and did a write up about it and then it all kind of just went viral and gave me the opportunity to get a book publishing deal and turn the Aussie Legends Alphabet into an actual book. It was a really interesting journey, and I remember saying to my husband – I’m not going back to advertising, this is it.
Then I began exploring all different types of art, my illustrations are almost like little stories, little pieces of art that shine a spotlight on social issues and what’s happening in Australia and overseas."
Q: How long have you been an artist?
A: "Probably since I was drawing on the walls of my parents house. I always laugh that I used to just draw on everything. My parents banished me. I had to draw underneath the dining room table because I would go and draw all over their photographs. So I’ve been a full time artist for maybe about 10 years but before that as I said I’ve been a graphic designer and an art director in advertising for a long time so that was another 10 years before that so it’s been a long time coming. And it’s funny because I think my advertising has almost helped with my illustrations as there’s always a message behind it. I kind of use my skills and I’m really into typography so that’s from my graphic design background and I love kind of merging type which again helps me talk about my messages that I want to get out there, so I’ve been kind of gathering things along the way all the time."
Q: What motivated you to be part of our Sydney Children's Hospitals Foundation Art Program Autumn Exhibition?
A: "I have two kids and I have landed in this hospital a few times, luckily not anything really terrible, but every time I’ve been at this hospital I have felt so incredibly grateful for the services that have been offered. My son had this infection and we were in the hospital for two weeks and the way the people who worked there changed our whole experience around was incredible.
So I really try and give back, I mean gosh, I was just so appreciative that I had these world class skills and service, this hospital so I just wanted to give back to the hospital.
If I’ve ever had to come with my kids to the hospital, I see parents around me and I see other kids and their resilience and their positivity has always grounded me and I felt like if I could give back – you know those walls that you see – if I can give back and lift the spirts of people that was a way that I can contribute to the hospital.
And I also want to say that when I walked down with a sick child through the hospital and saw that artwork, it has really impacted me. It really does maybe distract you, or it makes the hospital brighter, it makes it a nicer place to be in.
One of the other artists in the exhibition, Camille, is on the other wall and her artwork kind of transports you into another world. I almost went into that landscape a bit. And having all this beautiful art on the hospital walls, it really helps, it’s like a fresh lick off paint in a way."
Q: Why Aussie Legends Alphabet?
A: "I thought it would be great, it’s kid centric, it’s bright, it’s colourful but at the same time I hope that when kids are walking down with their parents or caretakers, they have this really great discussion about who those Aussie Legends are.
There are some lesser known Legends and when I was developing my alphabet someone was like ooh who’s Queenie McKenzie? And I said, she’s this amazing First Nations artist. You maybe don’t know about her. Maybe she’s not the most popular Legend in Australia, but that’s almost why I wanted to put her in there so you can go and research and start learning more. So it’s not about putting really obvious Australians in there. I wanted ones that would make people think and maybe the parents could explore with their children."
Q: How did you choose which Legends you used?
A: "It kind of goes back to what I do, I always want to make sure there’s diversity in my art. So I looked at it as a whole, I didn’t just look at it as letter by letter. I mean obviously I wanted to make people laugh with Kath and Kim, I love Australian, I love kitch. So I had to put like Sharon and Kath and Kim. And you know these pop stars like Kylie Minogue, but at the same time I wanted to do people that are political and try and smash some glass ceilings here. And I think by putting and talking about all those different people we’re helping to change the culture of Australia, I think it’s really important.
When I was creating the alphabet I really had to look at that huge range and I also wanted to make kids understand thatt they could be a Legend no matter what religion they are, gender, where they come from, socioeconomics, I wanted to kind of tell that story too. So I think if my children can see that then they’ll know they can become anything they want to be."