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The birth of PaintStories

I was having lunch with my friend Sally when I asked her what she thought I should call my timelapse painting movies. Sally said “So, they are like stories in paint. Or paint stories.” Well that seemed immediately perfect. So I asked if she would mind me using that term (PaintStories) to describe my time lapse movies from now on. She said yes. That was Wednesday 7 December 2016. The birth of the idea. Thank you Sally.

What is a PaintStory?

The concept is evolving, but in it’s most basic form a PaintStory is a little video of me filming myself painting and telling a story of significance to the people in my community.

Here are two examples.

Alone or as part of a series—PaintStories are a purposeful way for artists to take part in the new economy. A PaintStory can illuminate issues of communal concern. And the level of engagement they inspire is amazing.

In the Hope: From Robe to Riches PaintStory I have created a number of episodes (including the two above), interviews with artists and videos of the actual paintings in the exhibition. I combine these with posts, instagram imagery and videos of me explaining how things work in the background. All of this content lives in the Hope: From Robe to Riches domain and tells the story of that project.

Hope: From Robe to Riches Art Exhibition

A painting exhibition of The Great Walk by Victorian Artists. To be held in the September school holidays.

Launch: Sunday at 11:30am on Sunday 24 September 2017.

The Great Hall, Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre, 31-33 Lambert Street, Ararat, Victoria, 3377

For bookings please ring: 03 5353 1078 or email:

Bought to you by the Gum San Chinese Heritage Centre, The Ararat Regional Art Gallery and Stellar Ideas.

The story

The paintings, drawings, illustrations and videos in this exhibition tell the story of the journey of Mei Ling–a 19 year old Chinese woman who traveled from Southern China to the goldfields of Victoria in Australia in 1857.

Visit YouTube to see paintings in progress and interviews with the artists: Hope: From Robe to Riches on YouTube.  (

Each piece in the exhibition depicts a scene of significance for Mei Ling and the 14,000 others who walked 440 kilometers across an unforgiving, alien Australian landscape to find a better life.

Visit our YouTube channel to view videos of the story and of the artists at: Youtube/Joanne Sullivan

The Artists

David Chen: Internationally respected, award-winning artist. David’s work has been exhibited in China, France, The National Gallery of Victoria and The United Nations Conference. Based in Melbourne David is an art educator and academic who offers master classes in painting and drawing. Through minimal yet eloquent use of stroke, colour and greytone, David creates a mystical quality whereby viewers feel they are glimpsing the hidden worlds of dreams and memories.

Clive Sinclair: Member of the Melbourne Twenty Artist Society, Clive is a world renowned landscape artist. He specializes in atmospheric, impressionistic, open-air painting.

Gwendoline Krumins: Signatory member and teacher at the Victorian Artists Society since 1976. Gwen owns her own art school and travels the world working from life whenever possible. Painting since a very young age, Gwen now has a large student base and social media following.

Hugh Foster: Hugh is building a professional career as a painter. Hugh has a great eye for light and colour and spends much of his time in the Victorian rural region capturing and bringing to life everyday images.

Norma Sullivan: Norma has exhibited her work in art shows around Victoria. Norma is a prolific and passionate painter who captures scenes and translates them into vibrant stories on canvas. A career anthropologist, Norma is interested in people and the tales behind the painting.

Joanne Sullivan: Joanne specializes in digital “Paint Stories”. Joanne is an artist and designer who creates time lapse video of paintings in progress, then overlays these with audio, music and other visual materials to create mini-multimedia offerings for the social-mobile platform. Each one tells a story.

The un-strangers following other people’s stories.

Hope: From Robe to Riches. The beginning of the journey.

I am the child of an anthropologist. I didn’t know it at the time, but I grew up with an anthropological view of the world.

Anthropologists are people who are interested in other people’s stories.

From my childish perspective, my mum (the anthropologist) needed to be out in the world, hearing stories. I remember that whenever we arrived somewhere (and boy did we go to a lot of places) the first thing Mum would do was leave. Literally, throw her bag in the corner of the room and head out. To find people. I’d tag along, even though I really just wanted to be alone, to draw or play my guitar.

The first person we would encounter would begin the story. The story of this outing. Anyone who was open to talking. But not random talking. It might start with “oh, that’s an interesting accent, where are you from?” People seem to love telling their stories. And Mum certainly loved hearing them. I must admit that more often than not, I did too.

Before long Mum would know enough about that person to ask if they knew…so and so… Amazingly, they often did know that person, or someone close to that person. People seem to love working out who they know in common.

Once that link was established Mum would have another friend for life. Their name and details would be filed in her memory for future reference.

Then they would get back to the story. The art of conversation. It was never a diatribe or a monologue. (If it got to be like that, we would slip away politely and find someone else.) Usually it would be about important stuff. People try not to bore you. They try to tell you things you might be interested in. They assume you will be interested in the things they are passionately interested in. And they are usually right—at least if they are talking to an anthropologist.

Being a bit introverted, I was always surprised at how easily people would reveal very personal things.They didn’t see us as strangers. There is a simple dynamic to sharing a story that builds a rapport, very quickly—and you become an un-stranger.

When it comes to stories, anthropologists tend to go with the flow. Each person leads you through their tale and onto the next person. Important stories have followings. The purpose of anthropology is to follow the leads and uncover these stories. And to help to tell them.

In my case, it helps to see the story. I am a visual person. Mum is the same. We are both artists. More than words and names, I tend to remember people’s faces and the places we met. And the bunch of images that flit across my mind (like a movie) during the conversations.

For me a story becomes real and engaging if I can connect it with an image.  For example, one day I visited the Gum San Chinese Heritage Museum in Ararat. We were driving back from a family holiday in the Grampians when I saw this spectacular building on the road leading into Ararat town.

“Wow — let’s go and see what’s in there.” The ladies at the reception were really welcoming. They showed my sons, husband and I through the exhibition. (Mum wasn’t there this time). They told us of the journey of 16,000 Chinese miners who walked from Robe to the Goldfields in 1857 and discovered Ararat along the way.

That was interesting but it wasn’t until I sat down in their little cinema and watched a video of a boy saying goodbye to his sister on the shores of a lake—to make this journey—that it really started to mean something to me.

I began to imagine what it would be like if my sons had to go away like that.

That memory has been with me ever since. 10 years later Mum and I set out to paint this journey. And that is how the Hope: From Robe to Riches story and exhibition eventuated.

There are many parts to this story. These will be told here, post by post. Painting by painting.

It all comes down to content, comparatively speaking

I have been noticing how much YAMMER and PANIC there is in online communication lately. Everybody is spamming and broadcasting to everybody, trying to find work, trying to make a living, trying to participate.


My sister Fiona tells the story of the medieval marketplace. Imagine you are there, say Venice. As you approach the market you can hear the great hum of human activity. It gets louder until, as you approach the gate, you can hear hundreds, possibly thousands, of voices crying out. Peddlers with their barrows line the road, the walls, and crowd the entrance. The noise is deafening. Everyone is shouting. At you! Everybody wants to sell you something. It’s utterly overwhelming. But you knew it would be. You came anyway.

You push past the screaming traders at the gates. You came for 3 perfect apples. You can see apples in some of the barrows here at the gates, but you walk on. You feel sure the best apples are somewhere in the interior. You’d like to check, before you buy.

Being completely new to this market you decide to sit down at the cafe in the centre and just get your bearings. You relax, recover from the jostling at the entrance, and just watch the world go by.

You are looking out for people going by with excellent apples in their possession. Or a trustworthy-looking local. Or even the guy running the cafe might help.

A few clues from people like these and you discover the best apple traders. There are only two. You compare their wares, their prices and how much you like either one—and the you buy your apples. They really are the best in town.

This is the way markets work. Have always worked. Online markets are just the same. The web is a massive online market. These days everyone is clammering to be at the gate (the top of Google search) and shouting over everyone else (their brilliant 60 second pitch, photo, animation, video, slogan, widespread social media campaign that blasts out 20 times a day).

And they are surprised when they don’t have a queue lining up at their store.

ULTIMATELY, it all comes down to content. And how valuable it is, comparatively speaking.

Finding Your Global Niche Audience

How to find your target audience in the global ideas economy. People who will pay for your important ideas and who you will love to work with.

As you set out to stake your claim in the global ideas economy you will have to find an audience for your important ideas.

Your ideas are important to you because of your rich experience in life. This is also what makes them unique and valuable to others.  As a first principle, you should strive to develop a confident, authentic voice. Using clear English and address one key idea at a time. Tell people what you actually think!

 Who will be interested in my ideas?

Expertise is a continuum. In any area of human knowledge, skill or experience there will always be people greater and lesser than you.  The key is to target those who are just behind you on the continuum for your important idea. These are the people who will understand your idea with minimal explanation. They will value your idea because they have traversed the same path as you (metaphorically speaking) and are just behind you in their capabilities.


Tip: The more recent this experience, the more relevant it will be to your target audience.  So you do not have to cast your mind too far back to find ideas of value and people for whom they will be valuable.

Who would I love to work with?

Within your target audience think of the ones you would love to work with. The ones that you admire; are doing worthwhile things; have a good energy; are making a difference. Talk to them.

You do not have to set out to persuade. If you find yourself trying to convince your audience of the value of your idea, then you are probably focusing on people who are not already sold on your idea. Stop writing. Put someone you would love to work with in the frame. Start writing again.

Who will invest in my offering?

People value and will pay for content that helps them to optimize their quality of life. The more unpleasant, unhealthy, or embarrassing the situation (predicament) people find themselves in, the greater the urge to use available resources such as content offerings to restore quality of life. So it is a good idea to think of predicaments where the people in your target audience will REALLY NEED your offering.

How to find your paying customers and clients

Purchase the following exercise to identify your target audience then crunch down to those you know, who will pay for your ideas.

[purchase_link id=”203″ text=”Add to Cart” style=”button” color=”blue”]

A Conceptual Framework for Competitive Mobile Content Provision

 How can content providers understand then tailor content for delivery to users of mobile devices in ever-changing life contexts? The following abstract describes my PhD study and dissertation.

Visit The University of Melbourne Digital Repository to access the dissertation.


Content provision via mobile technology platforms (such as smart mobile phones and tablet computers) raises interesting practical and research challenges for the field of Information Systems (IS). Much of the IS literature about mobile content provision is concerned with the ‘user experience’, with a particular focus on technology. In contrast, there is limited academic work looking at the ‘content’ component of the mobile experience.

Quite often in information system development the content is seen as separate to the system and does not receive as much consideration. This study is specifically interested in how providers (such as individuals, consultants, small business, newspapers, media companies and universities) can understand and then tailor content for delivery to users of mobile devices in ever-changing life contexts.

This study proposes that it is the content that users come to the mobile platform to consume and which gives the experience much of its value and meaning. It is therefore through the development of appealing content offerings that content providers stand their best chance of establishing a competitive advantage on the mobile platform.

In the mobile sphere content providers are observed focusing their efforts upon the development of micro information systems (in the form of mobile content offerings) which contain everything required by, and of value to the mobile technology user in the moment of use. These offerings are modular in nature (self-sufficient, but able to be associated with other systems) and geared towards helping users to optimize their quality of life.

This study puts forward a theoretical framework for research into mobile content provision which describes and supports this modular, content-driven approach. This framework is both descriptive (detailing what providers are actually doing in relation to mobile content provision) and prescriptive, because the observations are taken further and a set of concepts, constructs and principles defined, to inform future IS research and to aid strategic decision-making about competitive content offering development and provision on the mobile platform.

In particular, current IS theoretical frameworks and models, based on utility and user satisfaction, are no longer adequate ways for providers, researchers or developers to conceive the needs and expectations of mobile information system users. Instead, qualitative evidence shows that providers expect people to value and with mobile content offerings that help them to resolve everyday predicaments and contribute to their quality of life.

This study therefore proposes the Continuous Quality of Life Optimization Principle as a better way to understand the complex, deeply personal, mobile content experience — and the predicament and bondability constructs as more effective ways to understand and then tailor content for delivery to users of mobile devices in ever-changing life contexts.

Visit The University of Melbourne Digital Repository to access the dissertation.