In this episode, I am talking with Shantele Ianna a nature artist and illustrator who loves painting Australian plants and animals. She started her business by creating an Australian Animal Alphabet print for her son. Her business has grown phenomenally to be able to sell her prints around Australia and the world. During this episode, we cover how she turned her passion for art into her work and how she manages life and business with a small family living on a farm. It’s a beautiful episode.
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On today’s episode, I am talking with Shantele Ianna. Shantelle is a nature artist and illustrator and loves painting Australian plants and animals. She started her business off creating an Australian Animal Alphabet print for her son. Her business grew from here selling prints around Australia and to the world. Her hope is that her art encourages a sense of wonder and engages little minds, celebrating and learning about Australia and it’s unique natural world.
We talk all about creativity and how she turned her passion for art into her work and how she manages life and business with a small family living on a farm. It’s a beautiful episode. It’s one that gave me goosebumps through the whole duration of it. So let’s dive in.
Shantele, thank you so much for joining me on the show today.
Hi Lizzie. I’m excited to be here.
I am so excited for you to share your story because I have been following you for quite some time and you’ve really come leaps and bounds in your business and I would love for you to share, how you got to be where you are today?
Yeah, sure. My name is Shantelle and I live on a farm with my husband and two little kids. I love animals and I love drawing and I’m a self-taught illustrator and I sell, prints, posters, cards, and gifts of our unique Australian animals and plants. They’re educational and fun. I didn’t start out with this business. I guess I always loved drawing and painting as a kid, but I kind of stopped after high school and threw myself into getting a job, went to university and did a degree in environmental science and fisheries biology, which I loved. I think, looking back my favorite part of it was probably when they bought all the specimens out and put them in a lab and I had to draw them. Yes, I think I, I did a lot of really awesome things with that degree and did some research work identifying bugs in relation to water quality and did some cool stuff with, barriers to fish migration and got a job at EPA.
I think I always found that something was missing and then I started traveling and was lucky enough to travel around the world and go backpacking. With that I discovered travel sketching and I took a little sketchbook and a little watercolor paint set and just started drawing what I could see. I guess it, I just found that when you do that, it’s so much better than taking a photo because you can remember the site. You can remember the sounds of when you were drawing that thing. It really cemented so many beautiful places into my mind. I’m like, I still remember sitting in Mexico and just drawing these beautiful buildings and people running around. I can remember the smell when I looked back at my sketchbooks and I was lucky enough to, my name is Italian. Went back to the little village where my great grandparents were from.
I remember just sitting there and drawing the buildings and watching the people. And it was just amazing. I can still remember those experiences so well, I think because I drew my way through them.
Being, I guess a fellow learner artist. I don’t know how else to say it. Like practicing artist, I’ve always just dabbled in it for fun, but travel sketching. I didn’t even know that was a term,, but I’ve always traveled with a little pencil case, the same pencils, a little watercolor kit and sitting in those places, as you mentioned, sketching while you’re sitting there for a period of time, you actually get to soak up, like what’s happening around you in the moment instead of just, a quick, photo, you get to observe behavior as well. Oh my gosh. I love that uou’ve shared that because that’s triggered a memory in me because I was flicking through a book from Japan, a recent trip and what beautiful memories.
How did you leave working as a biologist to selling your online art?
Bit of a long story? But I think I did the typical, I got really bogged down when I was working at EPA just overworked and just took on more and more. And so I decided to go backpacking. So we quit our job. I went backpacking around the world and yeah, took my sketchbook and did lots of sketching and then ended up coming back to the North coast and settling here and got a farm and, got into farm life. I think, I don’t know, I just, it was the catalyst, I guess.
The passion was definitely when I had my son, he was born premature and was flown to Sydney, which is about a thousand kilometers away from here shortly after his birth, which is a pretty rough start to becoming a mom. Nothing can really prepare you for seeing your baby in a plastic box and covered in tubes and not being able to hold him.
I think to get through that, I realized that drawing is like my meditation and the one thing that helps me get through things and lose track of time. I grabbed, after a few days when the kind of the overwhelm started to lift I grabbed a pen and just some computer paper off the nurses and just started drawing my way through it.
Just the hours of expressing milk. I guess the moment of time and those random sketches turned into a really special journal. I think they just fed my passion,for me to start drawing again and create children’s art. Shortly after that, I created my Australian animal alphabet, becuse he’s growing and for him to try and celebrate and educate him on our beautiful animals. A few friends loved that print and I decided to put it up Etsy and I started my shop and I was just blown away by the response. I’m just so humbled and so grateful that little print is now hanging on walls all around the world. It’s amazing. Just since then through sharing drawings on Instagram, I , keep drawing what I love. I’ve just grown a new collection and added new prints and lots of other animals.
Around the world. Seriously. Yeah,
Yeah. In Norway and the UK and yeah. It’s it’s amazing.
Well, that’s cool. Like who would have thought an Australian print that mind you, I guess if you’re in Australia and living abroad.
Yeah. A lot of expats yeah. Have purchased it to remark as a reminder of home. Yeah.
Just for everyone listening. Her Animal Alphabet is all Australian animals,
Maybe fish as well.
Like reptiles, all the different animals.
X was pretty hard, but with X, Y, and Z. Yeah. It’s an Australian animal each letter and then it’s got the animal and then all the pictures representing letters. Yeah.
I didn’t even know that your prints were around the world. There you go. This is your business running, I guess, your Etsy store for what, how many years.
Now it’s coming up to my two year anniversary. So yeah. I just realized that the other day that it’s nearly two years, I done a few things before that I was drawing a few buildings around town, but didn’t really take it seriously until I put that ABC print up and thought, Oh, this is probably something I could create a little business out of. Yeah.
So what’s been your biggest learning experience. Your biggest learning experience since you started?
Oh, definitely to stay in my own lane. Only compare myself to myself and how far I’ve come, it’s so easy to compare yourself to others, especially with like Instagram and I’m a bit addicted to Instagram, just being honored all the time and seeing these perfect lives. Yeah, I think, it’s true what they say comparison is the thief of joy and just trying to, realize my why that I want to have this business, but I also want to be home with my kids while they’re a little so trying to bounce that and just compare myself from how far I’ve come than looking at, what other people are doing. There’s some wise words to get in that comparison trap, but I, yeah, I try and remind myself of that. Definitely. Yeah. Well as an artist, I think one of the hardest things, is being critiqued.
Yeah. Yeah. Self critiquing as well, but also having little kids, like my kids are two and three quite close together in age. It’s just that juggle of, what season are you in? Like you comparing yourself to someone that might have all the time in the world to do something resignedly have little snippets of time here and there. Yeah, I know it’s, and as I’ve grown this business, it’s reminding myself that eventually my baby will sleep through the night and I’ll have more energy during the day to day stuff. Eventually my toddlers by more than five minutes, I I’ll have time to do all these ideas I have that I just really want to do and make happen.
How do you manage that time then? Because obviously that’s really important for you because you’ve got the two little kids you’re living on a farm and trying to still be creative. Like can you maybe share how you manage that most of the time?
It’s total chaos, but, I do it and I try and make time because I need this creative outlet for me. I think it’s easy to get swallowed up into just being a mom and doing everything for demanding little toddlers. I know that it’s my creative outlet and then I’m a better mom when I can do something creative and start maintenance just for me. But I definitely can’t do it. I have used it with my kids and have these little business and have a thriving veggie garden, which is my other passion. Most of the time have you come to my house, it’ll be a total mess, but, that’s my balance. I can’t do it all and I don’t try to, but I do try and ask for help where I can, I have my mom, she works full time, but she can help me on a days off.
I definitely asked for help with that. And my husband’s amazing. One tip I’ve been doing lately or the last 12 months is if I cook a meal, I try and make it last two nights minimum because I just don’t have time to be cooking and dealing with that witching hour every afternoon. I love this. I just have to remind myself that I’m doing this also, to be able to stay at home with my kids. I can’t do it all and be staying up all hours to do everything. I just do what I can and try and have some balance.
Well, your balance sounds beautiful. I’ve got very similar values, like I want to know where my food comes from. It’s crucial. If that means the whole weekend, sometimes down there in the soil. So be it. At least I know where all my veggies come from.
Yeah. I think that was my hobby. I needed that other creative outlet.
Gardening is my creative outlet and hobby now and I love it. And the kids love it too. Yes, God, I love Bush kids get in there, see how many wives he can take out. And you know, what’s really beautiful. Like prioritizing your time to actually be present with your kids now, like, the amount of time that I be told, in the last six years, I’m like, you’ll regret being busy in this period of time, be present for them and have enjoyed this time because you only get it once.
Yeah. So true. I grew up so fast, minus six and four now. ? Right.
Yeah. My youngest, the four year old, I still have him for two whole days still just me and him, it’s beautiful, but yeah, they do grow up fast, but I wouldn’t change a five day work week for the three days that I have now between school hours, like, so asking for help. That’s a really big one. I think for a lot of women and a lot of moms has it always come easy?
I think my parents were very giving and will always be there no matter. We are so lucky and so blessed to have them and my husband’s parents live close by and they’re an amazing support too. I want my kids to know my grandma, their grandparents, and have a really good relationship with them. I think, sometimes it’s hard. My husband runs his own business too, so it’s like asking him for help as well when I know he’s stressed, but, yeah, I think I’ve got a good balance of asking for help when I need it.
Lizzie: Do you have any other tips for those who are, navigating the raising kids and business at all?
Just asking for help and letting things go that you can’t do it all. So you’ve got to let something go. Even if like for me, I can’t get to cleaning and I hate cleaning. Can you rearrange you finances somehow to get a cleaner in or get that extra help just to, try and manage those things that we all have to do day to day that you maybe don’t want to do when you want to be or doing something more.
Yeah. Well it’s a thing I think, for us as well, in our household when it’s like the cleaning comes second, it’s actually like a once a week really. If we’re going to be honest, it’s not really a priority. It’s about the time that we spend together. Not making sure that every corner is polished
Maybe one more tip is, I guess, being intentional, if you only have a short amount of time, if you can spend as half an hour, a day plugging away at something on your business and moving forward, you’re eventually going to get to your goal. A big one for me is writing down my goals and, working towards them. The best thing to do is to write them down so you can see them and then break it down into smaller steps. You might have, each goal might be broken down into 10 more little steps and you just pick one, the way you going. Eventually you’ll get the image because you have little kids, but you will get them. I guess, I think priorities each day too. Like if I could just set three priorities each day and try and do those three things, then I’ll be so much further ahead.
That’s what I do. I have my poster note. I can show you my three priorities for today. She is actually just cleaned my inbox. I have my post note, like, what am I three things that I’m going to do today? Let’s get this done. I love that. So final question for each Gentile.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Have support it’s really hard to navigate everything with a business, and know what you should do at alltimes. The best thing for me has been, having a support group of just this for other business moms, even the local area, we literally just have a, private chat on Instagram and we can message each other and ask each other questions. We ask each other when it’s not going well and celebrate when things are going well, but you just have, empowered conversations with other women in business that know what it’s like. We’re all on the same path. Some are a bit further ahead and someone just starting out. So that’s just been invaluable. I’d recommend that if you are just starting out, just do it even just ask your friends or reach out to people. Even an accountability buddy will make a huge difference just to be able to have someone say, these are the three things I want to do this week.
Checking in the next week and see if we can get them done.
The main theme from our conversation today, I swear, has been around community and support.
Many people are wanting that and it, as you said, like even got a small handful of people there that are there to do that for you and with you. Yeah. And how valuable that is. It’s so valuable. Like the things, they’re just such an amazing support and we’ll meet up, once a week now once a fortnight and just have a chat, but we’ve also got that way to chat through Instagram, even on messenger or there’s Facebook groups, just try and find someone that you can talk to because it’s isolating and it’s hard. Often your family members and your friends don’t might not have their own business and they don’t understand what you’re going through. And yeah. So it’s so valuable. It will be able to have someone you can talk to that relates and knows what you’re going through. Oh best piece of advice ever.
The great thing as well, like having someone like your group locally, like they get also the way of living here. Yeah. For those that live in the city or those that live out in the desert, like it’s completely the different way of living. Yeah. Having those likeminded people in business, but also lifestyle wise, just, yeah, I love it so much.
We’re so lucky to be living in this area. Like we’re on a farm and I’m just so inspired by my surroundings. We have cooker bars here. We have a, kidners like wallabies out the back door. It’s just, it’s just amazing. We just feel so blessed even during Corona to be able to have this area, have a veggie garden out in the back and just be able to go outside and go on nature, walks with the kids. I just drove up the driveway this morning and I saw a big lizard there and there’s problems outside with their babies.
Like it’s just, it’s so amazing in this area. We have so much to offer life. Yeah.
Shantelle, where is the best place to find you? I have a feeling you’re going to say Instagram.
I share my behind the scenes and about my art and then there’s the link to my shop on there. I’m just sharing on Instagram and try and get on stories and share a bit more about what we do on the farm and the veggie garden and behind the scenes. Yeah, that’s the best place to find me. Alrighty. We’ll put the link to your Instagram, but also over to her Etsy shop because her paintings are fabulous. Whenever I see them in my Instagram feed, I’m like she is really amazingly talented. Thank you so much for being on the show with me today and sharing your experience and just the way that you live.
Thank you. Thanks for having me. We feel so blessed to live here and create this life that we’ve created. It’s amazing.