AWNY Startup Stories: Artist Fiona Maclean

Fiona Maclean has an impressive list of accomplishments as an artist, illustrator, and makeup artist for film/TV.  She shares the experiences that led to her becoming a visual artist—and, in the process, venturing from New Zealand to Australia and now New York City.

What brought you from Australia to New York?

I’m originally from New Zealand, but lived in Australia for many years and became an Aussie citizen 7 years ago. Bondi Beach was my home for many years. I met my partner in Sydney and we moved to NYC in 2005 when I won a place at Parsons School of Art doing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting. My studies were cut short when my partner was diagnosed with advanced cancer and we moved back to Australia. He passed away, and I took over running his online marketing and advertising business for a number of years, putting my artistic career on hold. I closed the business a couple of years ago so as to reinvent and pursue my artistic career again.

It wasn’t until last year that I decided I wanted to return to the US. I secured the O1 visa for my artistic abilities and talents and am in the process of relocating to NYC in early 2018.

Tell us about these businesses and what inspired you to begin.

I had always wanted to get into the creative fields and had a real passion for fashion illustration, costume illustration, and makeup, as well as my first love of painting, portraits, and the human form.

I studied art and graphic art/design briefly in New Zealand and then moved to Sydney to complete a makeup artist course for Film/TV/Special Effects. At the same time as starting out as a freelance makeup artist, I was also pursuing my illustration career, working mainly regular freelance jobs in editorial, mostly fashion and beauty illustrations for Sydney magazines such as Elle, Cosmopolitan, Cleo, and Dolly, as well as work for corporate clients like Air New Zealand. 

I love fashion and wanted to use my illustrations as a way to get into the industry. While doing that, I was working as a makeup artist on feature films and in TV, such as Moulin Rouge, Mission Impossible and the Matrix trilogy.


What have been the hardest lessons in starting a business?

The sometimes inconsistency and the fact that the only one I can rely on is me to do the work, the networking, the ‘go sees’, etc.

Where have you been most successful in marketing your business?

Through social media mostly, particularly Instagram and Facebook. They are great platforms for visuals and expose a range of people to artists who may have limited marketing budgets.  I have been commissioned to paint portraits and paintings through people following me on Instagram and Facebook.

For the past two years, I have donated my art to the Breast Cancer Awareness Lunch fundraiser held by Riley Street Garage in Sydney. It’s a great way to get my art seen and contribute to a wonderful cause.

What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a business?

You need to be disciplined and persevere. You also need some sort of ‘job’ or freelance-type job to fall back on if need be so you don’t end up putting so much pressure on starting out in a new career or business and in getting things up and running.

Other than yourself, what piece of Australia have you put into your business?

I bring to my artwork, my paintings and illustrations the kind of youth culture and freshness that is sometimes associated with Australia. I’ve painted quite a few paintings with Bondi Beach as the backdrop or the cafe culture that Australia is known for.

Tell us about your workspace.

I’m currently floating between countries so I don’t have a permanent studio, which has been a bit frustrating. Whilst living in Australia, I’ve had a home studio, and when visiting NYC, an artist friend gave me use of her studio in Brooklyn, which was such a luxury.

Fiona Profile pic 2

Credit: Keri Megelus

What are some of your biggest accolades in your art, illustration and makeup career to date?

I was chosen as an artist to watch among a strong emerging talent of artists in the ‘One to Watch’ series released by Saatchi. Winning a place at the prestigious Parsons School of Art (The New School). Being featured in fashion illustration books, such as Imagemakers: Cutting Edge Fashion Illustration. And working as a makeup artist on big feature films.

What is next for your business?

I’m hoping for an opportunity to work on upcoming feature films doing the costume illustrations, as well as getting makeup work on feature films/TV/commercials.

I’m also hoping to exhibit in both Australia and New York. I have a couple of commercial-type pieces that I want to start working on, which will be combining my painting with photography and mixed media.

My main focus this coming year is developing and cultivating my talents and skill set, so when one is a bit ‘slow’ I can gain work from one of the other skills I have as a freelancer.

Where can people view your artwork?

I have online portfolios of my artwork, illustrations and makeup work which can be found at the links below. I also sell through online gallery Saatchi I am available for commissions of paintings, illustration and freelance work doing Makeup, Illustration and Art. (Fine art, illustration & film/TV makeup)  (Illustration)


Facebook Artist Page




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What to Do When You Feel Homesick

It’s bound to happen. One minute, you’re loving New York to death and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. The next, a Facebook post of a faraway friend’s birthday dinner or a Crowded House song on a party playlist sends you into a spiral—suddenly all you want is sun, sand and a Bunnings’ sausage sizzle.

As an expat, a bout of homesickness now and then is to be expected. We’re a long way from home, and missing Australian friends, family and culture is totally normal.

Here are some things you can do in New York to get through it:

* Grab a coffee at an Aussie coffee shop. The coffee you get from the bagel shop down the street is just… fine. But it’s worth it to treat yourself to a properly made latte from an Aussie who knows their way around an espresso machine. Some recommendations for a Melbourne-style caffeine hit: Little Collins (Midtown East), Sweatshop (Williamsburg), Two Hands (Little Italy/TriBeCa), and Bluestone Lane cafes (all over the place).

Sunday morning swans 💙☕️✨

A post shared by Bluestone Lane (@bluestonelanecoffee) on

* Listen to an Aussie podcast. Podcast fever has hit Down Under, and there are some stellar offerings that will keep you in the loop on what’s going on back home. Chats 10, Looks 3 from ABC journos Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales is fantastic. And, of course, you can’t go past Hamish & Andy.

* Find a beach. For those who grew up or lived on the coast, there’s something about being near the waves. While American beaches will always fall short of our sparkling white sand and aquamarine vistas, sometimes just a hit of fresh salty air and the sound of the ocean can help a lot.

Some inspo for your weekend adventures 🌊 from @_carlybrownphotography_

A post shared by The Surf Lodge (@thesurflodge) on

* Have a roast dinner. When was the last time you had a good old Sunday roast? You could make it yourself… or you could gather some friends and go out. There are some great British pubs and restaurants that cater to Commonwealth tastes (and you might just score a Yorkshire pudding). Try The Churchill, Tea & Sympathy, or The Shakespeare in The William Hotel.

* Go to an AWNY or American Australian Association event. Know what’s better than being alone while you miss Australia? Being around other Australians! Having a good community around you goes a long way in helping to make a new city a home. It’s also great to be able to chat to people who understand your accent and your humour (with a u) and won’t snigger when you say the word “thongs”.

And finally – be thankful that we live in the age of FaceTime/Viber/WhatsApp and can call our loved ones back in Australia for free whenever we want!

Winter in New York… Are You Ready?!

By Nakia Gordon 

There is something magical about winter in New York City, especially when it snows. Of course, the genetically blessed people skating around the ice rink in Central Park as the snow falls softly on their faces is perfect in the movies, but the reality of living in a cold place is very different—and unfamiliar to most Aussies.

In the winter, it’s easy to spot the Aussies who have just arrived in New York—they’re the ones who didn’t understand how cold it was going to be and who thought their regular winter coat and a baseball cap would be fine. New York winter temperatures tend to fall well below zero degrees Celsius, but it is the wind that will cut through you like a knife. New Yorkers are famously fashion-forward, but once the big chill starts, they abandon their style cred and become a whole lot more practical: big puffer coats, gloves, hats and even ear muffs….

Luckily, you are now living in the shopping capital of the world and there are plenty of stores that stock what you need to keep you warm. This is what you’ll need before the winter hits:

  • Invest in a warm coat. The overcoat you have in Australia will not cut it here. You need something with ‘down’ or ‘fill’. A general rule of thumb, if you try it on in the store and you are NOT hot with the jacket on inside, then it is not warm enough for winter outside! Most coats feature duck or goose down filling, often times mixed in with feathers. Pay attention to the fill /down percentage and go for the higher fill/down number for maximum warmth. You can buy coats in all department stores like Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Saks, Century 21, etc. Or you can go to a specialized shop like Northface or online at Make sure it is waterproof and a hood is a bonus! Most hoods detach. Remember, you want (and need) to be warm before you worry about how good you look!!!
  • Snow boots are essential. There are lots of choices, but be sure to get a waterproof shoe with a thick rubber sole and insulation for keeping your toes warm. Well-regarded boots included Sorel, NorthFace, Ugg (not the slipper style, the proper snow boot). Again, all the big department stores sell many different brands.
  • Layers, layers, layers. As soon as you get inside a building, shop, or subway, you will need to take off your big, expensive coat because everywhere is well heated. Wearing lighter layers under your coat will help.
  • You will also need beanies, gloves and scarves. All are easy to buy here as every clothing store sells them, and plenty of street vendors sell them as well.
  • For little bubs in strollers you need to invest in a footmuff: a big sleeping bag that the kids can sleep or sit in to keep them warm in the stroller. Most stroller brands sell their own footmuffs to perfectly fit the stroller. If not, there are plenty of generic ones that fit all strollers. You will find them online at Amazon,, and at all baby stores; e.g Buy Buy Baby, Babies R Us, Giggle, etc.

Now you have your essential winter clothes sorted, you can go out and enjoy all that New York has to offer during the winter months… and stay warm!

Kia Gordon arrived in New York seven and a half years ago with her husband from Sydney, via London. She is a stay-at-home mum of Charlie and Chloe, enjoys a glass of bubbles on a NY rooftop, and her fave destination (and an easy trip from NYC) is Turks & Caicos. 

How to Survive the Subway With Kids


By Helen McWilliam

I had lived in New York for 18 months before I ventured onto the subway with my two children. I had no trouble catching it by myself, but for some reason I was terrified of travelling on it with both my children. Once I began taking them on the subway, I realised how much more it opens up the city to me on weekdays. To be honest, it is occasionally a very average experience, but it is worth it to get away from my regular four blocks, which contain the park, school, and grocery store. My children love the adventure, too. So here’s my 5-point plan for surviving the subway with children.

#1 – Hand sanitiser

Make sure you have litres of the stuff. One touch of the slimy poles and you’ll regret not having any. It can also buy you time until you can wash the children’s hands properly in a sink post-subway. Despite my best efforts, my children tend to touch every part of the subway car: poles, seat and even sometimes the floor. Touching a handrail on the New York Subway system is like shaking hands with 10,000 people. Children are germy enough without adding more into the mix! I also strip the children once we get home and wash (burn) their clothes.

#2 – Plan your journey

If it’s your first time on the subway, allow yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. As I am rarely without a stroller, I like to plan my journey based on where the elevators are. I use the ‘Subway: NYC’ app, which indicates the stations that have disabled access. Even if there is no elevator at your destination, you can at least prepare yourself for having to bump the stroller up or down the stairs. Or prepare to smile sweetly at passersby until someone offers to help.


#3 – Be prepared for angry people

People catching the subway are going to jobs they don’t like, appointments with people they don’t like, doing the school run, running late etc. During the week, travel on the subway is rarely a fun occasion. My rule of thumb is to keep out of the way, smile widely and apologise as much as possible. Fellow travellers are generally not angry with you, just at the world in general, so don’t take it personally!

#4 – Take no prisoners

Stand up for yourself. You need to get on that train and there’s always room. It is a lot more difficult when you have a stroller, but if six people can mash in just as the doors are closing, there was room for your stroller.

#5 – Bribery works

What I would consider the most important thing to take on your journey are bribes. Find something that will keep your children quiet or entertained for the journey. My two are generally happy on the way there but tired and cranky on the journey home. What works for me are apples – they take ages to eat, and lollipops – totally worth the sugar high if it keeps them quiet. In desperate circumstances, my smart phone helps! Timing the return journey with my younger child’s naps also helps so I only have the elder one to worry about who is more easily entertained. I’ve tried toys, however they largely get dropped, lost, or forgotten about early on. It is just more to wash (burn) when we get home.

Finally, I have no advice on how to avoid the horrible smells in the elevators. I’ve no idea how people find the time to use it as a bathroom but just hold your breath and advise your children to do the same.

Happy travelling!

Helen was born in South Africa, grew up in Brisbane, but calls Sydney home.  She is a social worker who is currently a stay-at-home mum to her two boys in the ‘burbs’ of Manhattan, the Upper West Side.

The Best New Aussie Restaurants in NYC

There’s a thriving Australian community in New York—and nowhere is it more apparent than the city’s dining scene. Want a good coffee? Find an Aussie café like Blue Stone Lane and you’re golden. Brunch? Antipodeans conquered it with avocado toast and flat whites—now on every breakfast menu. And while we’ll be forever loyal to stalwarts like Ruby’s and Flinders Lane, which did a bang-up job introducing New Yorkers to our culinary prowess (Outback Steakhouse is not Australian, people!), there’s a new bunch of Aussie-owned hotspots receiving rave reviews.

Here are some great places to check out:

This very good-looking newcomer originally opened as a café, but now offers a full dinner menu. Owned by two Aussies who met while working at iconic NYC café, Two Hands, there are plenty of healthy options, and the requisite avocado toast. Fun fact: a very well-known Condé Nast personality lives nearby, so you might get a celebrity spotting on the side.

LOWER EAST SIDE – 107 Eldridge St
It’s been variously described as looking like a 1970s living room, a grandma’s basement, and “a ‘Cheers’-type place”—so you know it’s gonna be great. The Flower Shop, owned by two Aussie expats and their American business partner, has a restaurant upstairs with a bar/lounge/pub hybrid downstairs. (And Tony Hawk—yes, that Tony Hawk—is an investor).

CHINATOWN – 5 Doyers St
Another Chinese restaurant in Chinatown? Yes, but this one is special. Opened in November 2016 and housed in a two-story former opera house, the restaurant focuses on contemporary Asian cuisine, with an Australian influence (it’s co-owned by expat restaurateur Eddy Buckingham, and the head chef used to work at Sydney eatery Ms. G’s).

NOHO – 643 Broadway
You’ll recognize the kind of fresh and healthy fare we’re used to back home. And you’ll feel even more at home with the cheeky Vegemites-as-décor. The light-filled cafe has a fantastic casual menu, with an Aussie-inspired burger or two, and is open til 9pm every night. Look out for the “Made in USA With Aus Parts” sign.