Despite being a busy bee, a rising and talented illustrator tells us how you can make a career out of art and how art can be an empowering tool to create change. Meet 23-year-old Bonnie Brown, originally from Queenstown, now living in Windy Welly – and soon heading to NYC.


To start off, describe yourself – but through creating an acronym from your name!

I’ll forewarn you that I am terrible at acronyms and each time I got to a new letter my mind blanked on any words in general, so this is awful:

B – bold

O – one-hundred percent (like I give 100% to everything… I told you I was bad at these)

N – nice

N – nifty

I – illustrator

E – empathetic

What are you up to at the moment?

Currently I’m up to my neck in client work – creating various illustrations and designs for businesses both locally and overseas! A lot of it hasn’t been released yet so I can’t say too much more, but I’m super busy which is a great feeling to have as a new creative! I’m also getting low key addicted to true crime podcasts which is making me a tad jumpy when I’m working alone in my studio at night.

Innocent Packaging x Studio Bon – As part of Innocent Packaging’s compostable canvas project, Bonnie created two limited edition designs for their takeaway biodegradable coffee cups. Inspired by plants and made by them too!

Showroom 22 – a celebration of NZ designers and their work created for Showroom 22’s media open day.

Is there a motto you live by?

Everything happens for a reason and also you make your own luck. Which are both complete contradictions of each other, however sometimes I need to know that if a job or projects doesn’t go through that there’s probably a reason why not, but also that success comes from the hustle.

What type of art do you create and how would you describe your art style?

Simply put I’m an illustrator! I’m still in the very early stages of my illustration career and so my style is evolving but at the moment I’d describe it as being bold and feminine.

What do you have in your art kit? What tools do you often work with?

I’m a big believer in that you don’t need the best tools to create the best work. All of my illustrations start from a rough hand sketch, which I then take into Photoshop to add the colour. I’m sure my workflow could be sped up by drawing it all digitally but I can’t justify buying a tablet or iPad Pro yet and I’m loving the hand drawn aspect.

You’ve studied architecture and design. Now you illustrate for all sorts of things. How would you describe your journey to where you are now?

I guess when I was leaving high school I was under the impression I couldn’t make a career out of art, and needed to choose something more stable. Coming from a very low income family I knew what it was like to struggle and wanted to make sure I didn’t struggle in future, so architecture seemed like a safer way to still be creative.

I really enjoyed my time at architecture school and it’s prepared me a lot for the design world also, but after my Bachelor’s degree I needed some real-world experience to see if it was the right route for me, before locking myself into another two years of a Master’s degree. I worked in an architecture firm for about a year and just couldn’t see myself doing it for the next 50. Architecture has a very all-encompassing nature, it’s not unusual to be at work 12 hours a day, and I knew I didn’t have the passion to live that lifestyle.

Around the same time as I was working at the firm I started to put my illustration work on Instagram and get positive feedback to it. I began to have brands and businesses reach out to me about creating work for them, which is when I started to think ‘maybe I can make a career out of this after all’.

Are there any artists you look up to? And if you could choose to meet one of them, who would you choose – and why?

I would love to sit down with Frida Kahlo. Her work was so ahead of her time, and I’d love to know more about her art, her life and struggles.

Do you have a particular project or piece that you’re particularly proud of? Why?

The pieces I created as part of The No Project.

Tell us more about The No Project. What is it about?

The No Project is a self-initiated illustration project consisting of two limited edition illustration prints with all the money from them being donated to Rape Crisis Wellington. As a teenager, I was raped and had a very difficult time dealing with it, even now I struggle to talk openly about it. I wanted to use illustration as a tool to create a dialogue surrounding it to both help myself, and raise money for an organisation that directly helps people who have been raped. In future, I’m hoping to grow the project to introduce other limited edition prints, all with the same intent of 100% of the profits being donated.

One of two limited edition prints which are part of the No Project.

In an alternate universe, if you weren’t illustrating, what do you think you would be doing?

I’d love to work for a magazine in the art department!

What have you got planned for this year?

Ideally, I just want to keep doing what I love, and making enough from it to keep it going! I’ll be looking at refreshing my website and online store in the not too distant future.

I’m also heading to NYC in July which I can not wait for it. Like anyone who’s been addicted to Gossip Girl and Sex and the City I’m already in love with New York and I can’t wait to have it live up to my hopes. I’m also working with a client in NYC so it’ll be a good chance to meet them in person rather than our 6am Skype calls.

What tips or advice would you give to other young and budding artists out there?

That there’s no clear route to being successful as an artist, and don’t let anyone tell you there is! For some people university is the way to go, but working hard to build your name and brand is just as important and you don’t need university for that. We’re also lucky to be able to share our work so easily online nowadays, but it is also so easy for your work to be copied, and replicated, so be protective of your rights as a creative too!


Get your healthy dose of inspiration by checking out Bonnie’s work on her website and Instagram!

Any artists you would love to know more about? Let us know through [email protected]


 MARIE YSABEL LANDINGIN is known by many names, from childhood nicknames to a certain tropical fruit. She has a massive list of things to do, but should probably get some sleep first. An open-minded urban planning student aspiring to somehow change the world for the better.

Check out her other editions of Art Kit here!