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




Love this AWNY Startup Story? Want more?

Register for our monthly newsletter and be kept in the loop for our upcoming Startup Stories event where you can hear more stories like this first hand and meet some of Aussie women entrepreneurs.

Blog – 

Facebook – 

Twitter – 

Instagram –

Are you an Australian female who owns a business in New York?

If you do and you want to tell us all about it, email us at

AWNY Art Nights at The Dwelling Place

Each year, AWNY chooses a New York charity to support. For the past two years our chosen charity has been The Dwelling Place of NY – a privately funded transitional residence for homeless women run by the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany.

Located in Midtown, the Dwelling Place has provided shelter, sustenance and support to thousands of women since 1977.

At any given time, 15 women call The Dwelling Place home. Each woman gets personalized care, support and guidance to help her build a sustainable, self-supported life. There is no time limit on how long women can stay at The Dwelling Place, meaning women have a place to call their own until they are ready to move on.

This year, AWNY decided to extend our support beyond financial contributions and began to volunteer at The Dwelling Place. On Wednesday evenings, a dinner is held for Dwelling Place residents, former residents now in permanent housing, elderly neighbours living on fixed income and women living on the streets. Once a month after this dinner, the AWNY team has been holding an “art night”.


AWNY volunteer, Tanya McCaw, chats to a resident during art night.

Led by our resident artist Jacinta Stewart, the AWNY team brings art materials, ranging from watercolours to adult colouring books. The idea is that art provides an opportunity for self expression, creativity and even meditation.

Doing art can contribute to psychological well-being, yet for many women on the streets and in shelters, they do not have the opportunity or resources to create or enjoy this type of activity.

The team has been overwhelmed by the level of interest the women of the The Dwelling Place have shown in the art nights, with over 20 women participating each time. The talent in the room has also blown us away, although for those who are not artists, Jacinta is on hand to provide helpful hints (some members of the AWNY team need this the most).

But most of all, we have loved getting to know these fascinating, warm women who have opened up to us with their stories and with whom we have shared many laughs.

Join us for the Fall Gala

If you would like to support The Dwelling Place, their annual Fall Gala will be held on 19 October 2017. You can find information on how to buy tickets here.

We would love it if you could join the AWNY team for what promises to be a great night in support of an amazing cause.


One resident’s masterpiece.

Faces of AWNY: Courtney Bae


Courtney Bae is an Australian artist, who has been living and painting in New York for over eight years. We spoke with her about what brought her to the Big Apple, her transition into being an artist, and of course, what she loves about New York City.


What brought you to New York City?

I moved to NYC from Sydney to study fashion at Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). After working at 3.1 Phillip Lim and Prada Group as a visual merchandiser, I became an artist. I paint figurative works with oil on linen, and I also draw illustrations.

Where do you live? Why did you choose that area?

I lived in SoHo for most of my time here in NY but I have spent the past year in Bushwick and I absolutely love my neighborhood! Or maybe I should spell that “neighbourhood”? I moved here to Bushwick to live with my wonderful boyfriend and now we have a cozy home and an extremely adorable cat.

What do you like/dislike about living in NY?

I love the opportunities here, you can do anything you want as long as you figure out how to manage pressure and stress so that it doesn’t overcome you but rather, so that you can really own your world. There are activities and ideas that you just don’t get back home. At the same time I have to admit that I adore Sydney because of the way it is everything NY is not. To me Sydney is somewhat isolated and untainted, which is really such a beautiful thing.

Courtney Bae painting in the studio.

Courtney Bae painting in the studio.

Tell us one of your ‘only in New York’ moments?

Where do I start? Moments like after I get into a cab huffing and puffing because the person after me tried to upstream me and steal my cab! Or moments like when they bag my coffee?

Any advice for people moving to NY?

Be brave and do it! But be sure to get home to oz regularly and to call your family as much as you can! That will keep you strong and grounded. In NY you’ve got to look after yourself mentally, physically and spiritually.

As a professional working in NYC what are the differences to working in Australia?

NY working hours are longer and harder but you do great things and you walk away rewarded. In Australia, I think it’s more typical that you get to enjoy a healthy and balanced lifestyle but maybe you’re not always recreating the wheel everyday at your work desk.

Continue reading

Krysia Woods Private Art Viewing and Talk “Turn on Your Creative Brain”

by Sarah Binney

Artist & Speaker, Krysia Woods

Artist & Speaker, Krysia Woods

Last Thursday night, AWNY members and art aficionados alike gathered in the industrial setting of Chelsea’s Denise Bibro Fine Art gallery to celebrate Krysia Wood’s exhibition “Fresh” and get inspired with a private talk from the artist herself.

The night kicked off with casual chit chat gathered around Krysia’s iridescent canvases, juxtaposed with the cement walls of the gallery. Krysia’s paintings marry memories of the Australian Eastern coastline with current perspectives on America’s North East coastline, encouraging us Aussie expats into a meditative and reflective state.

The paintings themselves are extraordinary, with an interesting take on light, vegetation and nature, created with pearlescent acrylic paint. The most striking aspect of the artwork was the creative use of shapes, which challenged expectations of traditional seascapes and invited closer observation of the work in front of us.

There was a deeper appreciation for the paintings upon meeting the woman behind the art. We were fortunate enough to hear Krysia deliver a speech about turning on the creative brain (to be further detailed in her upcoming book, released late this year) and learn exactly what makes her work so intriguing.KW Landscape1

In her talk, Krysia encouraged everyone to embrace their mistakes, which was crucial for her when creating her exquisite canvases.

“If I organized my colours and did a perfect paint by numbers and showed you how absolutely perfect my canvas was, I can guarantee it would leave you cold. Layers of mistakes form the underpainting,” she said.

She explained her work is made up of layer upon layer of different colors, images and most of all – mistakes. She said this is what makes the difference and gives her work depth and interest, and encouraged everyone to apply these principles to their own lives. She says mistakes can be miracles.

It’s no wonder she was the first Australian artist to be contracted by the Wentworth Gallery, America’s largest gallery group. Continue reading