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Meet Isabella Nunnink

A Gold Coast’s Big City Lights* Festival featured artist.

Isabella Nunnink (image supplied)
Isabella Nunnink (image supplied)

Isabella Nunnink is a lifelong Gold Coast local with an impressive creative journey that’s as dynamic as it is inspiring. From drawing fairy houses in her back garden to earning a Grade 7 AMEB classical singing certificate, Isabella’s passion for the arts has been a constant throughout her life. After high school, she shifted gears from classical singing to visual arts, and today she’s a TAFE Queensland graphic design student whose work, ‘Dylan’s World,’ is a standout at this year’s Big City Lights* Festival. Her artwork, a tribute to a dear friend, is being projected onto a building, adding a splash of colour and emotion to the Gold Coast’s vibrant art scene. We chatted with the multi-talented Isabella to find out what drives her.

This weekend is your last opportunity to catch Big City Lights* in 2024. Find out more here.

Big City Lights Festival, Southport (image supplied)
Big City Lights Festival, Southport (image supplied)

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I was born in the Benowa Hospital on the Gold Coast so I’ve been a local my whole life and feel so grateful I get to call this place my home.

What do you love the most about the Gold Coast?
The thing I love most about the Gold Coast is how central everything is, I can drive to the beach or the bush within an hour of each other. I also love the up and coming arts and music scene, seeing it blossom as I’ve slowly become a part of it has been amazing and the potential opportunities are endless.

Isabella Nunnink (image supplied)
Isabella Nunnink (image supplied)

Tell us a bit about yourself
Growing up I was always passionate about being creative, you would find me either drawing pictures, writing stories, making fairy houses in the back garden or singing my heart out. I started singing lessons at the age of 7 and continued into my late teen years training in Classical singing to come out with my Grade 7 AMEB classical certificate. Singing will always be my first love, but on the side I was honing my skills in painting.

The trouble with being a creative is that I pursue too many endeavors at once and am a little bit indecisive, haha. Throughout High School I entered and exhibited in art competitions including the Doyle Art awards and the Creative Generation Excellence Awards, but once I graduated I chose to go down a different path and study music production and my Bachelor of Contemporary Music at Southern Cross University. When COVID hit, I lost the drive to complete my musical studies and decided to turn my focus back on art. I went and completed my Cert III in Visual arts but still felt lost with which direction I wanted to take, after another year of contemplation I decided to focus my attention on Graphic Design so I completed my Cert III in Design Fundamentals and am currently half way through my Diploma of Graphic Design.

Music still stayed in the back of my mind though so throughout the last year I picked up DJing as well which has always been a dream of mine, and as of this weekend I will be playing my first Bush doof festival as a Drum and Bass DJ under the name Grizzabella.

Big City Lights Festival, Southport (image supplied)
Big City Lights Festival, Southport (image supplied)

What’s been your journey to becoming an artist? 
My journey to becoming an artist started when I was little, I guess I am of the belief that we are all artists in our own right. It’s what we choose to do with our creativity that counts. Throughout high school at Hillcrest Christian College is when I really started to hone in on my skills, studying fine art and completing a short intensive course that taught me how to paint oil portraiture.

After graduating I started a business called Little Miss Trippy selling psychedelic artwork as well as handmade jewellery and herbal blends. When this came to an end I kept practicing my painting skills every few months before starting the Visual Arts Certificate. After this I went on to do the Design Fundamentals Cert and now the Diploma of Graphic Design, which leads me to this point in my artistic career.

Isabella Nunnink (image supplied)
Isabella Nunnink (image supplied)

How would you describe your work?
I would describe my work as an exploration of my human experience. I love using psychedelic patterns in my art, but originally I worked on expressing my emotions and the human condition through self portraits and portraits of other people, mostly wanting to portray pain. My artistic journey is deeply influenced by the vivid and intricate realms of psychedelic and visionary art, the bold lines and forms of tattoo art, and the precision and depth of traditional realism.

Friends and family visiting, spending time, toasting, and laying flowers at Isabella's artwork, Dylan's World (image supplied)
Friends and family visiting, spending time, toasting, and laying flowers at Isabella's artwork, Dylan's World (image supplied)

Your artwork ‘Dylan’s World,’ is one of the highlights of this year’s Big City Lights* festival. Tell us a bit about the artwork.
‘Dylan’s World’ holds deep personal significance to me and his loved ones, I painted this tribute of my close friend who tragically passed away last year as a result of a violent crime. I wanted to portray his beautiful, colourful and charismatic personality to remind us all of the light he was in all of our lives. I painted it using black oil paint for the portrait and acrylic guache for the colourful background.

How did your artwork come to be included in Big City Lights*?
My artwork came to be in Big City Lights* through TAFE Queensland at the Coomera Campus, My Graphic Design teacher brought it to our attention that the festival was looking for students to submit their art for the chance to be selected in the festival. I decided to submit ‘Dylan’s World’ as I wanted to share him with the world and also knew he would have loved to see himself exhibited at an arts festival.

Big City Lights Festival, Southport (image supplied)
Big City Lights Festival, Southport (image supplied)

What are your Gold Coast favourites…
Café/coffee spot:
Millers Espresso, Mudgeeraba
Cooly Breeze, Coolangatta
Bar or place for a drink:
Mo’s Desert Clubhouse, Burleigh
Burleigh Heads

How do you choose to spend your days off?
I choose to spend my days off in the gym, practicing my DJ sets and spending time with friends, as well as cooking yummy meals and seeing where the day takes me.

Meet Tania Blanchard

Ever look at a piece of art and just get lost in its beauty and find yourself smiling through a whirlwind of thoughts? Because same. Often for us, when the art is bigger and brighter it often is better – let’s be honest. And one local artist that gives us serious love heart eyes is Tania Blanchard. You may recognise her impasto dots style art from The Block, or prestigious magazines like Queensland Homes or Home Beautiful. Read on to find out about her creative process and her local loves.

Tania Blanchard, Remco Photography
Tania Blanchard, Remco Photography

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I’ve been on the Gold Coast in Burleigh for almost 18 years. A whole lifetime — in fact, my first son was only 9 months old when we moved here from Sydney. There have been a lot of milestones here.

Burleigh has definitely changed in those 18 years. It’s pretty cliche but my husband at the time got his dream job here and was mad about surfing so we just up and moved and I haven’t left since.

I have seen Burleigh change over the years from what seemed like a very quiet, low-key street to now a super cool place that everyone wants to live in. Amazing restaurants, great clothing stores and an atmosphere that is exciting and very welcoming.

Experiencing the change has been phenomenal. One thing that hasn’t changed in the laid-back feel that Queensland will always offer — you can still head straight off the beach and walk around bare feet — it’s great!

Tania Blanchard, Remco Photography
Tania Blanchard, Remco Photography

What do you love the most about the Gold Coast?
Apart from the obvious things like the amazing beaches, surf breaks, laid-back lifestyle and fabulous weather, there’s a really cool art scene here. I used to own an art gallery in Burleigh where I was in the thick of the local art community. I met some amazing and talented local artists and we are still friends today.

There’s a real stereotype about what Gold Coasters are, but once you go deeper than the surface the people are fantastic. So it’s the down-to-earth and gorgeous friendships that I have made over the years that make me love the Gold Coast. Most of these wonderful friendships were made when my kids were young so we have been friends for years. We support one another, and go on family holidays together. I feel very grateful for these genuine friendships that will last a lifetime.

We know better than to listen to what other people have to say because narrowmindedness doesn’t exist within my group of friends’ community. It’s like anywhere, people judge a book by its cover, but you need to read the book to fully understand the characters and the story.

Tania Blanchard working in her studio, Remco Photography
Tania Blanchard working in her studio, Remco Photography

Tell us a bit about yourself.
Personally, none of my days are planned out, I just fly by the seat of my pants mostly. It’s different every day and it kind of revolves around my three kids. They are home from school around 3:30 pm and I am always still trying to paint in my studio as I work quite late until it’s dinner time. I would love to say I put my feet up and read the paper and relax sometimes but there’s a lot that goes into running a busy household and business.

Professionally, I’m a one-woman show. I could work on my business 24 hours and still not get everything done because there is always something on the go. I love to start my day with a chai tea (or two) and answer a few emails. Then I do like to go into my studio and paint while the kids are at school. I go into my little world here. It’s my space and I love it. I often listen to podcasts or audiobooks while I paint. But then I often play nothing and just transcend into silence. I do like being absorbed in my thoughts as I’m so busy crazy in the outside world that sometimes having silence is just bliss…just me and my palate knife surrounded by colourful canvasses.  And sometimes play music (really loud) and I have been known to dance and sing. I can be a bit daggy but I don’t care…no one is watching (hopefully)!

Tania with Gravitation Nebula Series artwork (image supplied)
Tania with Gravitation Nebula Series artwork (image supplied)

What’s been your journey to becoming an artist? 
I often joke that I have been around the sun a few times… and it means that I have had a few different careers, but it has always been associated with art. I’ve been very connected to art. Even as a young girl, I would spend hours drawing so it was no surprise that I went on to pursue a visual art degree. I had great relationships with my teachers and mentors and that has shaped who I am as an artist today. I started having art exhibitions in the pre-internet days and back then I felt like it was really hard for artists to make a living as I certainly wasn’t making any money as an artist.

I went on to do graphic design studies and was a graphic designer for 15 years. I sang in a band plus worked as a DJ while I was doing this job, there were plenty of creative outlets during this time. My life has always been about creativity, writing songs, playing music, designing and learning about art, but I wasn’t sure where it was all going to head…

Moving from Sydney to the Gold Coast and starting a family meant becoming a full-time Mum so art took a backseat for a while. I had this longing to get back to my roots as an artist and started to see other people sharing their art on IG and it made me just think — I need to go on and do it. About eight years ago it took off and I haven’t looked back since.

Tania Blancard artwork, interiors Kira & Kira, photograph by Daniel Green
Tania Blancard artwork, interiors Kira & Kira, photograph by Daniel Green

How would you describe your work?
My work is made up of highly textural impasto dots or markings made with varying sizes of pallet knives. My pieces often start with layers of dark colours at the bottom and the last layers are usually lighter therefore there’s a sense of depth to each painting. Because the final layers are usually made with a smaller palate knife therefore my paintings from a distance can have a ‘dot’ look about them. When people ask what I’m up to, I have this joke that I say ‘Oh, just dropping dots’ — meaning I’m going to go and paint with my pallet knife.

I’ve always been drawn to bright colours and also have a love for clashing colours and warm colours against cool colours. I find this adds another dimension to my work. I intend that the way I arrange the dots will draw people into the picture. My desire is for my work to make people feel something — colour theory and psychology behind the emotional state when viewing different colours are super interesting to me.

My work is three-dimensional — paintings so textural they cast shadows — like it’s almost a combination of sculpture and painting, but on a canvas. They always look different depending on what time of the day it is and the way they are lit so they have a distinct versatility about them. I’ve even had feedback from my collectors about how much the painting changes and that they see something new every time they look at it.

Close up of Field of Blossoms artwork by Tania Blanchard (image supplied)
Close up of Field of Blossoms artwork by Tania Blanchard (image supplied)

What has been the biggest opportunity and/or challenge so far for you?
It was my friend Simone founder of the gorgeous Kira & Kira interiors store that first spotted my artwork via Instagram over eight years ago. She loved what I was doing and said that she’d love to sell my art in her store.  I was so excited at this prospect and even more excited when my first artwork was sold only a couple of weeks later. The next artwork was sold only a couple of minutes after I delivered it to K&K and this was the start of something a bit crazy and where it all took off. Artworks would sell almost immediately after I delivered them and I almost couldn’t keep up with the demand. My artwork takes so long to create. So I do have Kira and Kira to thank for my first opportunity of getting my artwork out into the world. We remain the greatest of friends and continue to support one another still to this day.

My second opportunity was back in 2017 when my artwork was featured in Ronnie and Georgia’s award-winning room on The Block. This was huge for me. I think I got over one thousand followers in a day (and more as the show went on) plus my art was featured in the background when all the homes went up for auction. The sale of my prints from that episode went off so I got lots of exposure from a different kind of audience.

Tania with Shelley Craft (image supplied)
Tania with Shelley Craft (image supplied)

I also believe that the best opportunities are often created by you. When I owned an art gallery and held my solo exhibitions and supported other artists it was an incredible opportunity to be a part of the local art community. Through hosting events at the gallery I was able to meet all sorts of people from art lovers to art directors and curators and even rockstars like Amy Shark who came along to my solo exhibition and now owns one of my artworks which hangs in her entranceway here on the Gold Coast…it was a magical time in my life.

Running my gallery wasn’t without its challenges. Everything was self-funded, from the exhibition marketing to the drinks served — I worked hard and paid for it all myself while creating art and supporting others to create their works too.

Just the everyday challenges of running a business on your own there’s a lot of juggling as I have three teens at home, life is very busy but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I find it hard to switch off sometimes but it’s not a chore at all, I love that I can be an artist and do what I love every day — it’s so rewarding to be able to push myself towards my goals.

Tania with Amy Shark, Remco Photography
Tania with Amy Shark, Remco Photography

What’s on the cards for the rest of 2023?
There are plenty of new opportunities for me this year. With my art, I am always wanting to extend and push myself into new creative endeavours. I’d love to combine my art with sculpture and I’m currently working on a piece that from a distance looks completely different on the outside to what it is on the inside…a parody that often I am met with people judging people before they get to know someone.

This year I am working on my solo show to be held around the middle of the year. I’m not sure of the location just yet but it will be somewhere that is unusual and where you would find a ‘normal’ art exhibition. I like the idea of showing work and juxtaposing my art against an obscure location. It will be the complete experience — the location, the invitation, the viewing itself… I’m planning for it to be a huge interactive event.

What is the best piece of business advice that you have ever been given?
It might not necessarily be business advice but it’s important to know who you are and trust your intuition. Whether with artistic expression, collaborations or business decisions, you have to back yourself 100%. Follow your gut. Ultimately you are the one who knows what works and what doesn’t. Take a breath and listen to yourself, you will make the right decision. I’ve had to learn how to trust the process, stay in my lane and just push myself past the fear of something not working.

Tania Blanchard in her studio, Remco Photography
Tania Blanchard in her studio, Remco Photography

What are your Gold Coast favourites…
Café/coffee spot: I love my chai. I don’t drink coffee so chai is my obsession and I am always on the hunt for a great one. Paddock in Burleigh does it well.
Restaurant: OOOOh This is a hard one as there are so many good restaurants in Burleigh now. Can I say three? I would have to Jimmy Wah’s. It’s been around for years but the food is always amazing as well as the service. And Restaurant Labart and also Light Years. These restaurants always serve exceptional food and service and have a great vibe so you feel like you’re getting the whole experience… I rarely go out these days so I like to know that I am going to have the best experience going to any of these places.
Bar or place for a drink: You really can’t beat the views and atmosphere of the Burleigh Pavillion. I know a lot of my male friends go to this next place but I’ve often been known to break the stereotype and meet up with my gal pals for a quick Friday afternoon bevy at The Crabpot. It’s very down-to-earth, friendly and has a local Burleigh vibe and I feel often like a spring chicken here which is nice for a change.
Beach: Nothing beats south Burleigh. All my three kids love to surf, especially my two older boys so you will often find them surfing Burleigh and how lucky are they to be living so close to one of the world’s best surf breaks. I have gone out with them but I just end up sitting on my surfboard watching them at least I’m out in the water.

How do you choose to spend your days off?
I’m lucky if I get a day off to spend doing entirely what I want to do. On those rare occasions, I just go to the beach, maybe for a run or go to pilates. I love to take Millie, my loyal pooch who is always by my side for walks. She also loves the beach and comes swimming out with me. Even if the waves are enormous she will always be right behind me trying to keep up.


Chats with Gold Coast artist Dan Mason

The Gold is absolutely brimming with local creatives, some brand new and some having been a part of establishing our local cultural scene.

One such longstanding artist is Dan Mason, a painter who will this week paint a live portrait at his pop-up show The Journeyman.

We sat down for a chat with Dan about his unique ability to create incredible art with knives and what to expect from this weekend’s show.

How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I went to Miami High School in the late ‘80’s, surfing everyday before and after class. My working/ocean time ritual is pretty much still the same to this day.

What do you love most about living here?
Our clean slice of the Pacific Ocean

Tell us about how you came to be a full-time artist?
While at Uni in the mid 90’s, I worked as an old-school Photographic Retouch Artist (with brushes), designed, built and painted furniture in my garage and always yearned to work for myself honouring the gift of creative consciousness. I took the plunge ‘full-time’ at the start of ’03 after returning home from an overseas trip, where I became scarily ill. It was then that I decided that life’s too short to not do what you love – or at least give it a red-hot go.

What’s unique about your work?
I’d loosely suggest that I’ve spent between 200k-300k hours, with an emphasis on perpetual experimentation and painting in my studio. Remember, they’re only mistakes if you don’t learn from them. My painterly approach has metamorphosised into a delicate attack, with palette knives in hand & thick impasto oil movements.

Tell us about The Journeyman…
Firstly I’m painting a new portrait live in the gallery both days. Hopefully the cleaning bill after I leave isn’t too big! This two-day show is allowing me to connect with collectors who have acquired my artwork from Red Hill Gallery in Brisbane, over the past fifteen years, as well as some new faces. I guess I’m most known for my abstracted sensibilities and there’ll be most of the thick abstract oil paintings that I’ve created from the past twelve months on show AT 2005 PRICES! I’ve been developing my love of portraiture in recent times and will have a few 100x150cm pieces ready to go to good homes too. I’ve also created many very affordable smaller framed works for those who only have small walls to fill. They’re half their normal price for the weekend – that’s two-for-one.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to make their passion for art into a full-time career?
Be good at what you do and work harder than everybody else. Build relationships. Be very humble.

What’s in the works for the rest of 2019 for you?

I’m obsessed with developing my portraiture and painting people who contribute generously to our society. More of this is what I’m aiming for.

Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Cafe for breaky: Neighbourhood Espresso, Currumbin Waters
Coffee spot: Dune Café at Palm Beach Parklands
Restaurant for dinner: Balboa Italian in Palm Beach
How does your weekend usually look: Hanging with my wife and two young sons at the park/beach. I love working in my backyard landscaping and gardening on Sundays too – it’s my outdoor ‘man-cave’. If I’m lucky, I get to watch one game of AFL on the box each weekend.

14 reasons locals love Southport

Mr PP's Deli & Rooftop Bar (Image: © 2017 Inside Gold Coast)
Mr PP's Deli & Rooftop Bar (Image: © 2017 Inside Gold Coast)

It may be home to the Gold Coast’s bustling business district but Southport can also boast a huge array of incredible eateries, culture and general good times.

We’ve rounded up 15 things locals love about the place and we reckon you might enjoy them too.

In no particular order, enjoy.

Southport Sharks
There is many a good time to be had at Southport Sharks including dining at one of the delicious dish-packed restaurants, drinking at Aviary Rooftop Bar overlooking the city, joining in on one of their classes at the Health + Fitness Centre or getting involved in one of their many good time events. The possibilities are endless. It’s the perfect spot for a family event or take the crew for a Sunday afternoon session. Happy days no matter what.
Where: Olsen Avenue and Musgrave Avenue, Southport

Southport Yacht Club
Waterfront dining is the name of the game at Southport Yacht Club with two venues to choose from and stunning scenes from whichever you choose. You’re also welcome to just sit back and kick up your heels with a cold beverage or two while gazing lovingly at one of the many beautiful yachts in the marina. It’s one of the Coast’s best locations and you’re guaranteed to have a good time.
Where: 1 MacArthur Parade, Main Beach

Zero Latency
Zero Latency is a free-roam, virtual reality experience like no other. With up to eight players per game, you’ll have the BEST time fighting zombies, exploring mystical places and challenging your friends on space stations. All you need to do is put on the VR headset, strap into the backpack and pickup the controller. Get 10% off here. It really is so good.
Where: 34 Smith Street, Southport

Panezski Distillery
The Coast’s first vodka distillery opened in Southport a few short months ago and what a treat. The family-owned business are whipping up three types of vodka, two types of gin and even a couple of beers on the premises and you can pop in to grab a bottle to go, or you can sit down and enjoy a cocktail and a charcuterie board and spend a bit of time. Very cool. 
Where: Unit 7/55 Bailey Crescent, Southport

Vinnies Dive
Who doesn’t love a good dive bar. Particularly one that doubles as a live music venue and has a huge range of your favourite beers on offer (and some you may not have heard of). Head in there to discover some new music from both local and interstate bands and if you’re in the mood for a party, which we know you are, you can hire the space out for your next one.
Where: 44A Nerang Street, Southport 

Boudoir Lounge interior (Image: © 2020 Inside Gold Coast)

Mr PP’s Deli & Rooftop Bar 
On the ground floor of the building you’ll find the deli section of the establishment, with an array of delicious meats and cheeses that will be brought together in platter form for your feasting pleasure. Upstairs, the rooftop bar boasts tasty cocktails, even more delicious eats and views across the city. It’s a real good time.
Where: 43 Nerang Street, Southport

Randy Wallhole
To put it bluntly, you haven’t lived until you’ve tasted a Randy Wallhole bagel. There are eight flavours to choose from which means you have multiple per day if you so choose. Go for the Pulled Bas first up, it’s got Smokey BBQ pulled beef, peri mayo and apple slaw. Wash it down with some of the best coffee on the Coast and be on your merry way.
Where: 4/21 Nind Street, Southport 

Boudoir Lounge
A newbie amongst the Southport bunch, Boudoir Lounge is the very best spot for a tasty brunch with the girls or simply a few cocktails after work. Found on Como Crescent, it quickly became the go to spot for those looking for some delicious eats, in a sweet setting and with unique sips of course. Inside there’s also a hair and beauty bar so you can get fabulous before you head out on the town. Perfect.
Where: 410/1 Como Crescent, Southport

Broadwater Parklands
Whether you’re four or 40, theres tons of fun to be had at Broadwater Parklands. For starters, you can sit and stare out at the yachts you’ll never set foot on. Then, there’s the bouncy pillow (maybe don’t go on there without a child), a kiddies train, a water playground and weekly events from theatre shows to foodie markets. See, fun.
Where: Marine Parade, Southport

D Point Ten
Oh donuts, how we love you. D Point Ten can be found on Stevens Street and, in keeping with the general donut vibe, is a little hole in the wall space pumping out the freshest of donuts we may have ever excitedly shoved into our greedy mouths. In all the best flavours no less. Go the Ferrero Rocher for sure.
Where: 6/1 Stevens Street, Southport

Cardamon Pod
The delightful folk at Cardamon Pod are serving up delightful dishes with a focus on clean eating but of the prettiest variety. They offer vegan and gluten free options for breakfast and lunch with a side of organic coffee and vegan desserts. All very delicious and it’s very hard to stop at just one thing or not to post on your Instagram.
Where: Brickworks Centre, 3/3 Brolga Avenue, Southport

Panezski Artisan Distillery (Image: © 2020 Inside Gold Coast)

Gold Coast Aquatic Centre
Southport’s centre of swimming is something for all of us to be proud of. It’s as pretty as a collection of swimming pools can be and, as it was home to all the Commonwealth Games water activities, it’s world class. The architecture is sleek and there’s a training room featuring pits filled with foam for the divers to practice in.
Where: Marine Parade, Southport 

Escape Hunt
Imagine being wrongly accused of murder, chained to a wall and having to rely on your friends’ detective skills to free you. Who you gonna call? Welcome to Escape Hunt, Southport’s brain bending game guaranteed to test your problem solving skills like they’ve never been tested before. There’s a few scenarios you might be faced with, all of which involve solving a mystery with a set of intricate clues. It’s the most fun you can have inside a locked room. Make sure to take your smart friends. Grab 10% off here.
Where: 2/162 Scarborough Street, Southport

Brickworks Centre
Where to start. There are SO many excellent places to peruse at the Brickworks starting with Ferry Rd Market where you can nab yourself everything from beautiful flowers to the freshest breads, seafood and fruit and veggies galore. God it’s good. Within the Centre, there’s also stunning homewares, fashion and design stores and health and beauty services. Oh, there’s also always some really cool events.
Where: Ferry Road, Southport 

Words by Kirra Smith

Gold Coast Aquatic Centre
Gold Coast Aquatic Centre (Image supplied by Destination Gold Coast)
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