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Advice to my 22 Year Old Self: Seek a mentor

19 Oct 2018
It’s fun asking people in their 30s to write some advice to their 22 year old self.

The idea for the Advice to my 22 Year Old Self column came from a discussion with Simon Denny about his practice. When TBI asked him last year what he needed at this stage career he looked intent and said “It’s the 22 year old me that had the greatest needs.”

Here’s what Kylie Rusk has offered, her themes are poignant.   


Even in my mid thirties, there is still so much more to learn and experience. It’s a long journey. Take your time and have faith that all the learnings taken from the work you do, experiences you are subject to and mistakes made will continuously evolve who you are as an artist and help to constantly hone your craft. It is all highly influential to who you become.  

For example, I have had exhibitions which at the time felt unsuccessful and left me feeling a little disenfranchised with where I was going and what I was doing. Looking back though, something was always learnt. Be it the style, size, look and feel of the work I created, or the details of the exhibition itself, I have always learnt something which has consistently put me in a better position for my next attempt.

Staying on the creative path

If you chose to continue studies after completing your first degree, research an industry or discipline that continues to promote creativity as this is what drives you and keeps you motivated.

After completing my Bachelor of Fine Arts, I went on to study Town Planning.  Looking back, this was a strange choice, but I was interested in combining my interests in art and geography as a planner. In hindsight I should have continued studying something that would have enabled me to gain employment in a role which allowed my creative juices to flow. Now, I have made this an imperative and am currently studying interior design.

Kylie Rusk

Momentum, momentum, momentum

When you feel like you are getting on a bit of a roll and having some successes, be it through creative expression, artistic direction or successful exhibitions…. Enjoy it… and focus on keeping momentum. New directions or exciting opportunities will present themselves; be sure to capitalise on these. Conversely, understand that momentum can come in waves and don’t be disenfranchised when things feel like they are in a bit of a funk. There is no rush, remember it’s a passion and passions can be so enjoyable, but also highly frustrating at times!

I had a roll on with exhibitions and galleries having my work on show, but decided to put a halt on making art and focus on further studies. Upon entering back into the art scene after taking time out it was harder to get re-established. That taught me the importance of maintaining momentum.  

Find work experience in creative fields  

Look for any opportunities you can to be exposed in a creative field. Donate your time if you have to. You may not realise it at the time, but the contacts and experience you will gather will be priceless.

I think working in a gallery would have been great exposure to the art world and making contacts. Even now, this is something that I wouldn’t mind still doing.

Seek a mentor

Approach some artists or curators whom you respect and seek advice with the intention to build report and foster a relationship that will lead to a mentor. Those that have ‘been there, done that’ can often help to keep you motivated, provide strong guidance and open up a vast network of like-minded and influential people that will help in continuously growing yourself as an artist and an individual. Don’t be afraid to ask, the worst that can happen is to be told ‘no’ and the disappointment from that lasts a fraction of time in the scheme of things.

This is a work in progress for me. I would love to have the privilege of seeking advice from established and respected artists such as Stanley Palmer! To understand various techniques and also the trials and tribulations that someone has gone through in their long journey to being an established artist would be priceless.   

Head along to Kylie’s upcoming solo exhibition:
The Grey Place, 37 Scanlan Street, Grey Lynn.  
Opening 5pm – 7pm 30 October 2018.
Watch out on our Instagram for a takeover by Kylie.

Kylie’s Bio

Inspired by the stirring natural beauty of Aotearoa’s magnificent landscapes, Kylie Rusk’s paintings and lithographs are an expansive and emotionally expressive illustration of her strong connection with the land. Feeling personally connected to her work is a vital aspect of her creative process, so she always visits and photographs a scene and then carefully transforms it into an original painting or lithograph.

An exploration of colour, form and texture, Rusk endeavours to produce paintings that encompass the majestic beauty of the land, together with the fragility and isolation of New Zealand’s more remote areas., Kylie's Instagram