“I am painting my way into being,” says Mary van de Wiel. Three years ago the brand strategist took a trip to Mexico and reconceived her lifelong doodling habit. She upsized it, and turned her drawings into large-scale artworks. Now she is exhibiting her first show at Saint Cloche in Sydney’s Paddington, alongside ceramicist Jan Howlin, called Blackline Boogie. Mary was born Venezuela and lived in Canada, The Netherlands and Sydney - all before finishing school. She graduated from the University of NSW with a Bachelor of Arts in Drama and English and Diploma in Education, and later gained a Communcation Design degree from the School of Visual Art in Sydney. For the past 30 years she has worked in branding and during that time launched Time Inc’s Who Weekly - the first the American company had published a title offshore. Other clients have included Sony, The Museum of Modern Art, Conde Nast and SBS Television. Mary's Zing Your Brand will travel to LA in October to offer training workshops.
Which five words best describe you? Energetic, not risk adverse, square peg, inventive, inexplicably optimistic.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? Well, like most of us, I wear many hats. On the business side - I've felt particularly lucky because I love the work I do in the brand intelligence space. Dubbed a brand psychologist in the USA, I work behind the scenes, so to speak, with innovators, entrepreneurs and change agents, helping them articulate who they are, why they do what they do, why it matters — and why anyone should give a damn.
I’ve been running my own branding and design agency with offices in Sydney and New York. Also: radio show host, speaker, brand consultant, facilitator and founder of The NY Brand Lab - a series of business training workshops that I take on the road from New York and Washington, DC to Mexico City and more recently Australia. In October, we hit the road for LA!
On the other hand, as an incurable doodler all my life, I have stacks of sketchbooks with black ink drawings, marks, notes and doodles. It was only three years ago when I went to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico that I had this desire to dramatically change the scale of the drawings. As in, climb a ladder and paint floor to ceiling. In Sydney working on projects for the last 18 months, I rented a studio eight months ago, and that’s when Black Line Crazy really started to come into being.
Earlier this year, I was introduced to Kitty Wong, gallery owner of Saint Cloche. Kitty was interested in my work, and asked where I’d exhibited? I gasped. I’d never been asked that question before! Needless to say, I’m delighted to be showing with Jan Howlin, ceramist and longtime friend and creative collaborator. We came up with Black Line Boogie, which is our invitation to play. This is my first exhibition.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? I hate having to be patient. But I have to say, learning to be patient – and trusting yourself along the way – is major stuff.
What’s your proudest career achievement? In my business career? Launching my own branding and design agency with offices in Sydney and New York. In my artistic career? Having my first exhibition at Saint Cloche. I call it, painting myself into being.
What’s been your best decision? Going to Mexico in 2012. It was the first time I felt compelled to climb a ladder and paint floor to ceiling. It was really a matter of changing the scale of the work. Dramatically.
Who inspires you? The kind of human who is courageous, willing to have brave conversations and shows real indications of a pumping heart. A twinkle in the eye sure goes a long way.
What are you passionate about? Making dreams come true, moonscapes, creative expression, tango and salty cashews.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Frida Kahlo.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? Just always in pursuit. Keen, willing and poised to take on new adventures, opportunities, the lot.
What are you reading? Just finished re-reading Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Just started Richard McHugh’s Charlie Anderson’s General Theory of Lying.