Jump onto Australian surface designer and illustrator Brook Gossen’s Instagram and you are in for a feast of colour, colour and more colour. It is a party on a page and an instant mood changer!
Not that long ago, Brook listened to her heart and pursued a life of drawing, once she had had her family that is, and we are very thankful that she did. Read on to get an insight into Brook’s creative career, running a business with her twin sister and teaming up with both Nerida Hansen Fabrics and Future Folk Designs.
Firstly, could you tell me a little bit about yourself? Where did you grow up?
I was born in Perth but moved to Brisbane when I was six years old and now Brisbane is my home. I met my Canadian husband while working in the Philippines where we were expats for a number of years. We now have three kids and my youngest starts high school this year. How did I get this old?
When did you start work as an illustrator/designer?
I started working as an illustrator and designer after my three kids were all in school and I found the time to get creative again.
Could you tell me a bit about your design style? Have you always had this style or has it evolved/changed over time?
My style is simple yet whimsical and fun with lots of colour. It is constantly evolving and I’m adding more and more texture to my work however I’m always drawn to simplicity.
Talk me through your creative process.
I’m constantly inspired by what I see around me and make lots of rough sketches to get ideas down quickly, mostly on my iPad and sometimes just as I’m falling asleep in a sketchbook I keep beside my bed. I’m usually not that prepared in life, but if I don’t sketch it then, sadly it’s gone! Most designs start by using either Procreate or Adobe Fresco on my iPad. In those apps I’ll sketch first, then colour, play with texture, refine and finally export to either Photoshop or Illustrator to create patterns. I love cutting shapes with paper too and use paper cut collages often in my work. That one I often save for weekends and do it with my daughter who loves getting crafty.
Have you always been involved in this industry? What did you do in another life?
I studied fine arts briefly at university, and moved overseas before I finished. I worked in the hotel industry while living overseas, and although I didn’t enjoy it, it’s where I met my husband, so no regrets! I did miss being creative though, and after my children were born I started drawing again and I felt a strong pull to get back into creating. I was terrible though and thought I’d lost my mojo completely. I didn’t think I could ever actually be an artist or designer, but I just kept plugging away. I constantly tried new things, while accepting that not everything needed to be a masterpiece and after a lot of time and hard work, here I am!
When and how did you meet Nerida Hansen?
I met Nerida through my bedding company more than ever that I run with my sister. I contacted her to print some cushion covers for us. A few months later, maybe even a year, I contacted her asking for some advice on my portfolio, and she had no idea that I was an illustrator as well. She liked what she saw and offered some wonderful feedback on areas I could fill in my portfolio. A short time later she contacted me asking to join her stable of designers that she was representing at a trade show in the US. I had three weeks to get a lot of work ready, that other designers had been working on for three months.
Thankfully my family and especially my husband were incredibly supportive and allowed me to work day and night so that I could submit my work and be a part of Nerida’s designers at Surtex. Not long after that, Nerida printed a couple of my designs for her fabric store. And the rest is history. She has been an incredible support, and I cannot thank her enough for getting me to where I am today. Thanks Nez!
Was it difficult to launch your own business? What challenges did you face?
In order to start my own business, I had to overcome challenges I was putting in front of myself for no good reason. I really thought I had missed my chance to have a career in art and design when I quit my fine arts degree and moved overseas. I held myself back for so long and didn’t give myself permission to try and be an artist again until after I had three kids and had no time at all. I had been waiting for the right moment for everything to fall into place, for the timing to be right. Once I realised that was never going to happen. and that it was all up to me and no one else, I just got to it and created as much as I could.
Sometimes this meant I had very little work/life balance which was challenging with my beautiful family as I was working most weekends and while on holidays. One day it all clicked I realised that I’m in control of my schedule and I don’t have to say yes to everything. It seems so obvious but when you’re building your business you really don’t want to miss any opportunity and it can be really hard to turn some down in order to keep your life in balance and your mental health intact. Being in business is a constant learning process – I admit freely that I’m learning as I go and I don’t have to know everything, which is quite a relief and takes a load off my shoulders.
Your Instagram page is bursting with colour, how important is social media to you?
I am incredibly grateful for social media, without it I wouldn’t be where I am today! Not because of likes and follows, but because I use it as a tool to hold myself accountable. I wanted to be creative again and learn and grow as an artist and it was a way of making myself just put in the work and do it, with no more excuses. I’ve now been sharing patterns and illustrations almost every day for the last five years. I have made wonderful friends and worked with wonderful clients and collaborators as a result, and I love the creative community I have found. I try not to get caught up in the metrics and have no idea about algorithms. I just want to create and share my work and hope that it brightens someone’s day.
Talk me through your typical day.
Well with three kids, my early mornings are spent pretty much helping them get out the door to school. I’m lucky that they make their own lunches now and get themselves ready these days but it all takes a little coaxing along the way. Before I even get out of bed though, I’ve had a quick Instagram scroll and replied to any comments or DMs. Once the kids are off, I’m up into my studio. I usually work on more than ever in the morning, packing up orders, emails, admin and design work, and then with whatever time I have in the afternoon, I work on personal client work and collaborations, and finalising any designs that are ready to be imported to my desktop. All of my actual drawing and designing happens after the kids are in bed. I don’t really watch much TV. I pop on some music, draw away and often go to bed way too late before it all starts over again!
Who inspires you and why?
My family inspires me, especially my kids, whom I want to show that if you follow your dreams you can make it there with a lot of hard work. I’m inspired by nature – the clouds in the sky, a pretty flower I spot during a walk (and usually take a ton of photos of) and my cat. Raw gemstones and leaves. The female body. Women are beautiful creatures and I often draw them. We’re soft and lovely, yet so strong and powerful. Other artists constantly inspire me, their use of colour, shapes and texture. Phew! There’s just so much inspiration in the world.
What would be your dream project?
Definitely designing a range of fabrics to suit a clothing company. Seeing my designs on clothing seriously makes me pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming but for a clothing company to put their trust in me to create a range of designs to suit their clothing would be amazing.
What is in the pipeline for you?
I have a few collaborations coming up very soon but I can’t share them just yet! I released my own scarves and wall hangings earlier this year. I’m also selling art prints now so I will keep on illustrating and building my store with special pieces.
What advice would you offer to those that are starting out as designers/illustrators?
Just keep working at it. Building your portfolio and getting clients takes a lot of time, hard work and perseverance, but don’t give up. You got this.
Like the sound of Brook’s work, us too, shop her playful and merrymaking decals here – they’ll put a smile on your face and jazz up any room!
Words by Jacqui Taylor