How Artist Bobby Clark Updated Her Melbourne Home Without a Single Renovation

Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we celebrate innovators, artisans and crafters of all types by taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we head to the warm and cosy Melbourne home of artist Bobby Clark.

How could we illustrate artist Bobby Clark’s success in just one sentence? In 2017, her work was selected by the one and only Solange Knowles to appear in a special exhibit at New York City's famous Guggenheim Museum. Let that sink in.

The Scottish-born, Melbourne-based artist has gained a dedicated following with her distinctive geometric paintings over the past few years. Her unique, bold colours and interesting shapes are both emotive and meticulously precise. But her success hasn’t been handed to her on a golden platter; it has been a result of her tenacious entrepreneurial spirit, and the ability to adapt to the ever-changing creative industry.

This passion to turn the tiniest of things into flourishing projects is directly reflected in Bobby's home. Just over three years ago, Bobby and her partner moved into a "cold" house located in Melbourne's Thornbury, but they've managed to turn it into a magical home – without a single renovation.

Every room you step into in this artist's home is flooded with warmth and joy. It's the perfect space to raise a family, paint and entertain. A plush velvet couch in the living room complements the matching dining chairs, her own statement artworks are hung on walls throughout the space, and the bedroom decor is kept simple with subtle pops of colour. But the most show-stopping element has to be the incredible statement art wall in the dining room.

Although Bobby and her young family are looking to move on once they find the perfect place, it’s here that they've created special memories to treasure forever.

Hi Bobby! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?

Art. I paint original acrylic paintings, produce limited edition prints and soon products. I work as a freelance creative director, interior stylist and photographer.

My friend Annika and I have also started a brand Beige Bebe, making t-shirts and products.

How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?

I’ve always been extremely tactile with a practical mind, preferring to do and make things with my hands - and I’ve always been that way. I’m always getting told off in art galleries for getting too close - my hands always seek to explore!

Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?

I’ve always known the only career I wanted was in art. It started from a very young age, honed by a creative family but predominantly my grandmother, Joan. It’s all I have ever wanted to do.

It started at my gran’s kitchen table, studying and drawing still lives. Then, I continued to take art classes throughout school and college, which was then followed by art school, and most recently I've completed my Masters. I have studied art my whole life and have been a full-time artist since 2018. I still can’t believe I live my dream and I hope it never ends.

Shop Bobby's look with Oatmeal and Sage in our Build Your Own Bundle.

Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?

Cleaning my space is always my starting point. My brain doesn’t work in clutter; I can’t fully focus if my space isn’t ‘reset’ before I begin work. Once my space is clean and tidy, I put on a painting playlist, write a list and look at my references or sketches. Paintings often come to me in visions.

Because I paint on paper, not a lot of prep is needed on the surface. I start by measuring my paper and finding the centre points before drawing shapes and building composition. Using paper as my medium means I need to be extremely focused and disciplined. I can’t have any distractions when I paint. Even if I make one mistake, the painting is ruined.

What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to further your business?

Naturally, I’m an over-sharer so sharing my studio, my process and my life have been crucial for my work. It definitely wasn’t strategic. In fact, it was all a very fortunate natural progression, which partly coincided with the rise of Instagram.

I think my connections with people have also helped. I love meeting new people and being open and approachable has helped within the creative industry. I’ve only recently started to dissect my business and look at my strengths and weaknesses to grow, learn and expand my business.

What’s been the most challenging lesson learned so far in your business?

The biggest challenge is delegating tasks. I’m a one-woman show and managing every aspect of my business on my own isn’t always a good thing. I want to be able to do everything, even if it means sitting up until the wee hours teaching myself on YouTube.

I’ve recently taken on a business coach who has helped make me step outside of my business and look at it from a different perspective. This has made me realise I need to let go of the menial tasks. My time should be spent creating, designing and painting, instead of being my own admin assistant, courier, packer and so forth.

Shop Bobby's look with Oatmeal and Sage in our Build Your Own Bundle.

What’s been the best thing that has happened to you since you started your business?

My work was used by Solange Knowles for her ‘An Ode To’ show at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC back in 2017 as the show artwork and sold as limited edition collaboration prints through her brand Saint Heron. To have my work used by Solange is still something that feels surreal. Seeing my work inside the Guggenheim and having it be part of that incredible show that signified more than music, but a movement, is something that will always feel like a dream. I don't think this achievement will ever be topped.

Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self or someone looking to pursue a similar line of work?

Just do it! Stop dreaming or talking of the things you want to do. Simply do it. Study and never stop learning. For anyone wanting to be an artist, learn about the greats, learn about the movements, and experiment with different mediums and tools.

Also, be inquisitive. Other people don't hold the answers; the answers are within you. Chase your dream and work damn hard to get it. Hard work and dedication is everything.

And last but definitely not least, remember experimenting and making mistakes always leads to something new.

Now, the home stuff. How long have you lived in your home?

We’ve been here just over three years now.

How did you initially know this was the space for you?

Our start in this house was a messy one. We house swapped from a beautiful apartment to this home with the dream of starting a family. However, we instantly regretted it and tried to swap back but it was too late. It was a painful period but we grew to settle here. We’ve been wanting to move for a while and to be closer to the workshop but we won’t move until the right place comes up.

Shop Bobby's look with our Lilac Bedding Set.

Did you do any renovations or make any big changes after moving in?

This house has great bones and it has the potential to be transformed into something magical. We have given it so much love without any renovation needed.

We have a huge outdoor space on a corner plot and always talk about all the things we could do but stop ourselves as we know it's going to be knocked down when we move out. We’ve added as much as we can without being able to put holes in the walls or knock them down.

What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?

The house felt cold when we moved in. The previous couple had a light blue couch and cool coloured textiles so we wanted to really lift the space with warm tones. Our rush couch and dining table made it feel really homely.

Storage is a major problem in this house - there are no cupboards in any of the rooms so function became a priority in the bedrooms. We had an open wardrobe designed by our friend and we've slowly built up art and objects over time.

What are your favourite pieces in the home?

Definitely our art. My favourite pieces are the ones above the couch by Sally Bourke and the huge leaning piece by Steve in the lounge room.

Art really changes a space so we try to add new pieces to change the space up when it starts to feel stagnant. I painted the huge green piece in the bedroom when I was 36 weeks pregnant. I was really restless sitting at home and waiting for our baby to come.

There was a huge canvas we had in a room of an old burgundy work of mine, which I really disliked so I drove to Porter's Paints, found the perfect olive green and painted it in about an hour. We didn’t know the sex of the baby or what its name would be. I didn’t even really know what I was painting. It was a vision I had seen and in my head and I knew it was abstract. Now when you look at it, it’s a ‘J’ - and we had a son, Jimmy. I think I had envisioned him before he arrived. I absolutely love that painting because it feels like him.

Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?

I’m waiting on some Addition Studio pieces to arrive. I got rid of all my glass vases and want something more of a statement for the dining table.

I'm also waiting on a beautiful rug being made in Morocco, which the gorgeous Chantelle from Beni Kesh has helped me find. It’s a camel and oat check that will go in the lounge. I’ve been fortunate enough to watch the artist weave my rug on huge looms. It’s going to be so special.

Which is your favourite room in the house?

The lounge room. We hang out there a lot.

What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?

Gorgeous, soft linen, a cloud-like bed, good reads on the bedside table, a soft rug to step out of bed onto in the morning and... a TV (I love a lazy Sunday movie in bed!)

Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?

My exciting collaboration with An Organised Life has launched. COVID has changed the shape of things many times, but we’ve got here in the end and I’m so proud of what we have produced.

I’m painting a huge mural for a big Melbourne brand, potentially painting the floor of a new rooftop bar (fingers crossed), an art residency later in the year, which will see me finally finish and exhibit by striped works, a few products in the pipeline and lots coming for Beïge Bebe. 

For more from Bobby, follow her on Instagram @bobbyclark____.

Loved this home tour? Step inside Geneva Vanderzeil's Brisbane home, which was once a 150-year-old workers cottage. 

Discover more of Australia's most beautiful homes in our series, The Makers.

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