Two years ago, Sophie Heath was an HSC student at St Joseph’s Catholic High School. Even as a teen, she knew she wanted to make art her career.
On Thursday, she will celebrate the opening of her first solo exhibition in Wollongong.
“It’s pretty exciting but also a bit scary,” she said. “At the start of the year I had a few pieces of my artwork featured in Bad News Gallery, and they all sold, which was crazy to me.
“Because they did so well I thought maybe I should hold my own exhibition to showcase my work.”
Sophie first discovered a talent for art when she was in primary school and during her teenage years painting became a lifeline during dark times.
Now her future as a working artist looks bright.
A combination of commissioned works, gallery sales and social media videos have created an income stream from her painting.
She’s also evolved as an artist, from a focus on realism and portraiture to landscapes and more abstract creations.
Her new style will be a feature of the upcoming exhibition.
“I was really fascinated by the idea of painting things you can’t see,” she said.
“When you combine the realism of what you can see with abstract art you can create something completely new that nobody has ever seen before.
“It gave a whole new meaning and value to my work – nothing like it exists beyond the painting.”
The scenes featured in Ms Heath’s exhibition will be familiar to many Illawarra locals.
The largest piece – and the artist’s favourite – is of a waterfall found in the bush at Macquarie Pass.
“I went on a hike with my friend and it took us about an hour to find this place,” Ms Heath said.
“I took as many photos as I could and when we got home I started to paint straight away.
“It’s one of the biggest pieces I’ve ever done, but I finished it in two or three days.”
Since finishing school Ms Heath has taken every opportunity to hone her craft, exploring styles well outside her norm.
“I spend most of my time painting and posting on my Instagram, creating videos and content of my art,” she said.
“I recently worked on a project where I helped mural artists paint a space in Albion Park, and it was so cool watching their process come together.
“They painted a mural of two stags, and it’s very cool being able to drive past every day and know I helped create it.
“The biggest achievement I’ve had so far would be the exhibition I was featured in at the start of the year.
“My paintings sold out within the first hour – I was really grateful.
“I would love to be able to make a full-time career out of my art, whether through commissions or having an audience of people who watch my art.
“I’m so thankful for the audience I have, that people want to see what I’m doing.”
Her social media audience led to her first opportunity to exhibit her work.
Bad News Gallery saw her Instagram account and invited her to be part of an exhibition.
“I thought it was a scam at first because it seemed too good to be true,” she said.
“I’d never experienced anything like that before, but it was an invaluable opportunity so I said yes.
“I had just finished a collection of four paintings that had elements of this new style, the timing just felt really perfect, and they sold so quickly I felt like I was doing something right.
“Hopefully this next exhibition will introduce more people to my work. I’m so passionate about it, it’s hard to see myself doing anything else.”
To check out Ms Heath’s work – and snap up a piece or two – head to Bad News Gallery at 4/324 Crown St Wollongong from 17 to 24 August.