Jenna’s creative life- from dancer to makeup artist

Jenna O’Connor (nee Drelincourt) is a woman of many creative talents. As I discover in my interview, creativity is who she is as a person.

Jenna’s dance career began when she was just 4 years old at what she describes as a ‘tin pot’ dance school that really wasn’t very good. She was at that school until high school, where her dance career really started to come into focus. “I had a teacher at this dance studio that took me under her wing. She choreographed my audition piece for a Performing Arts High School.” Jenna says that this created a realisation that the tin pot school she was at, really wasn’t going to get her anywhere as a dancer.

The Hunter School of Performing Arts which Jenna attended is well known for their knowledge and could get people careers, something that Jenna had striven for. But attending such a school also had some consequences. “The teachers kind of did my head in a little bit and I ended up kind of messed up from ballet,” Jenna tells me as she takes a sip of water.

Jenna’s dancing led her to Japan, where she landed herself a job. She was one of the youngest people to get a job but she wasn’t old enough to sign a contract. Luckily her Japanese host family were very accommodating. “They helped me out. They signed contracts if they needed to and acted on my parent’s behalf.” Then, just as her career in Japan was in full speed, Jenna received some bad news from back home in Australia- her father had been in an accident. “I stopped dancing for a while because of this, which made me hate life.” Dancing was all Jenna had ever known, and now it seemed like it had been taken away from her.

After her father had begun to recover, Jenna met somebody who would steer her into the right direction for her dance career, leading her to study at Queensland University of Technology. “I didn’t think that was a possibility. What? A dancer’s degree? Really? But I did a Performance Degree, a Bachelor of Fine Arts.”

Whilst studying for the degree, Jenna tells me of one of her most memorable choreographic piece. “I had to choreograph a 10-minute piece for an assignment. I had to have a storyline and it had to come with a synopsis and be based on a certain thing.” The subject she chose was emotion, more specifically the process of bereavement. A couple of months prior, Jenna had has her pop pass away so took that as inspiration. She focused on the five stages of grief. Her dancers were based on the New South Wales Central Coast, so every weekend Jenna found herself flying to and from Queensland. “The dancers really embraced the choreography and you could see that they really got something out of it. So that’s probably the most rewarding piece I’ve created as a choreographer.”

Jenna at a University photoshoot

After graduating from university, Jenna saved some money before moving to Germany and dancing around Europe. “I enjoyed seeing the world and getting paid for it,” Jenna tells me with a smile. “I got to see really small villages around Germany. Being able to dance in places like that made it even more of a dream come true. It wasn’t something that I was used to culturally.”

During her time in Germany, Jenna did a performance in the streets of Stuttgart, dressed in plastic. “I was modelling art but in a quirky way. The outfit was super-duper quirky and it was weird, but fun. Different so I liked it.”

Jenna returned home what she thought would be briefly for a wedding. But she never returned, meeting her now husband Alex. Instead she opened her own dance studio Newcastle Dance Collective which she now reflects on. “It was nice to have the control for myself while I could. Not letting somebody else control my daily life was amazing. But self-motivation was a struggle especially on the days when I was tired.” But the most rewarding part for Jenna was of course the students. “It was so nice seeing the kids come in at one level and leave at another. Seeing their personal growth and the fact that dance had given them that growth was probably the most rewarding part.” Unfortunately, due to illness and other personal reasons, the studio has since closed. But that now gives Jenna time to focus on her other creative endeavours in life- makeup and hair.

“I need my creative element now that my dance career is finished and I get through my makeup.” Jenna is a consultant for cosmetic and skin care company Mary Kay, something which she is very passionate about.

She tells me that there is so much to love about working for the company. “I get to meet new people, which is always a great thing and network with them.” But the best thing for Jenna is her clients. “I get to help women feel great about themselves. Yes it gives me my creative outlet with makeup, but when you get to help someone their skin and I help them feel good about themselves, then that’s the best part.

But Jenna doesn’t just sell Mary Kay, she also uses their products to create makeup looks for women for special occasions such as weddings and even film clips. Her favourite makeup looks she created was for a film clip that she choreographed as well called ‘Sideways’ for the band Bad Pony. “It was a bit out there, but I definitely got to showcase the Mary Kay products in an out there way. It was not just every day looks. So, I tested everyone’s ideals about Mary Kay being everyday makeup by coming up with something quirky which was good. They all looked amazing.”

bad pony.jpg
Makeup for the Bad Pony film clip

Jenna, like all makeup artists, has tips for creating the best look for you. “Make sure you prepare the skin, because it’s like a blank canvas. Taking care of your skin is a good way to start.” Primer is also a big must have when wearing makeup. She also says that experimenting and practicing is a good tool. “If you don’t push your boundaries, you will never learn new things. Experimenting and practicing what you experiment with is probably the best tip.”

Jenna has found that since leaving the dance industry, she feels lost but makeup is helping to fill that void. “I definitely get excited when I have to do somebody’s makeup. I definitely enjoy the outcome at the end of the day.” Jenna likes that she is now able to put more focus into Mary Kay and helping people out. “I get to help people and I have that choice as well which is the best thing about it.”

Jenna ICON makeup shoot.jpg
A makeup look Jenna created for ICON

Having just recently completed a hair styling course, Jenna hopes that she can now offer a package deal of both hair and makeup for those special occasions like weddings and formals. “This opens up my business a bit more, I think.”

Jenna O’Connor has had a lot happen in her 34 years of life but one thing is for sure, everything she has done, she has done with purpose and consequence. Wherever life takes her next, Jenna will follow her unicorn-filled, creative and talented life.

Interview with Artist Rebecca Tapscott

“I am a maker of things; working predominately within the realms of contemporary painting.” These are the words of Australian Artist Rebecca Tapscott during our interview. But she is so much more than just a contemporary painter, as I soon find out. “I do like to mix it up a bit with Cyanotypes, welded sculptures and ceramics,” she tells me.

Rebecca realised her talent for art when she was just 9 years old, having won her first art prize with a drawing of her pet Guinea Pig, Speedy. “It inspired me to keep recording the world around me.” Rebecca’s artistic ability was something that ran in the family. Her ancestor on her mum’s side, Frederick Garling Jr was the first formally trained artist in Australia. Her Aunt from her dad’s side has also been a painter for many years.

Rebecca continued painting during school where her ability grew, before proceeding to Art School at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. “I went to Charles Sturt in part because my family couldn’t afford to send me to Sydney and because they offered Silversmithing which I was fascinated by.” Silversmithing is where objects are crafted from silver.

As an artist, Rebecca describes herself as a “dysfunctional worker who can get caught up with art until the early hours of the morning.” She jokes that this can make her a grumpy mother. Whilst having a room dedicated for her art, she admits that her art spreads from the studio. “I tend to spread my work place from my studio to all ends of the house, which encourages my children to explore their creativity.”

Rebecca Tapscott.jpg
Copyright: Rebecca Tapscott

Being a mother is the most important job for Rebecca which is how one of her exhibitions ‘Motherworld’ came into focus. Beginning 6 years ago, ‘Motherworld’ was created as a means for a collection of mothers to re-explore the art world after children. “It occurs every second year and each year we explore how our work or arts practice has developed and evolved in tandem with children.” For Rebecca, the focus of the exhibition this year was her own childhood memories and how they had influenced what she wants to happen in her kids’ world.

I ask her how she prepares for such an exhibition and what work goes into it. “It is not just about making an artwork, it also has to look good on the wall. Some galleries have specific hanging types and others don’t.” She also tells me that promotion is also one of the main factors. If the promotion is in the hands of the artist they generally call newspapers and radio stations and use social media as a way of advertising the exhibition. Then there is the mental preparation which, for Rebecca, is the hardest part. “When you make art and exhibit it, you are presenting a piece of your soul for others to critique.”

Glancing through Rebecca’s artwork, there is a clear inspiration from natural environments but the meanings delve much deeper. The 2015 artwork ‘A murder of Crows’ depicts a landscape with crows, but there is a deeper meaning behind it as Rebecca tells me. “It actually had 48 crows that represented the 48 women who had been killed in domestic violence that year up until the exhibition date.” In 2016, Rebecca exhibited at The Northern Rivers Community Gallery in Ballina whereby all the artwork shown depicted a deeper undercurrent prevailing in the life of the birds that were shown.

Rebecca Tapscott crows.jpg
Rebecca Tapscott: A Murder of Crows 2015

Currently Rebecca is about to exhibit work at the Belconnen Arts Centre in Canberra that depicts life cycles. “I make Cyanotype prints of dead things then paint the living counterpart in a contour drawing over the top. This represents my brush with death, having recently survived breast cancer.” Later in our interview, I learn that Rebecca has used her fight with breast cancer to tweak her artistry. “Before I use to do numerous sketches and rework artworks. Now I am bold and every line has meaning and method. My linework is continuous and my colours are raw. One line, one life and colour to be joyful that I still have life.”

Rebecca tapscott cyanotype.jpg
Copyright Rebecca Tapscott

Like most artists, there are things that inspire Rebecca to do what she does. She finds inspiration in the works of Matisse, Kandinsky and Frida Kahlo but also from the art of her family and friends as well as life experiences itself.

Aside from being an artist and a mother, Rebecca is also a teacher in Kyogle in Northern New South Wales. “I love engaging students with art and how it encompasses everything in the world, from English to Maths.” She has recently finished her Masters in Mathematics but still predominately teaches art. “I try to get students to focus laterally in their worlds and see how they can explore the mathematical in the artistic and vice versa.” She uses Mathematics as a means for conceptually visualising the world from another level of understanding. “This assists my art and teaching practice as I incorporate programs that encompass art and Maths.”

She says one of the best things about being a teacher is getting her students to create murals because she loves public art. “I feel it allows students to engage with their communities. At Kyogle under my instigation, the local students started painting power poles throughout town”. This is an endeavour that she hopes will continue over the next few years.

Rebecca Taspcott power pole.jpg
Copyright Rebecca Tapscott

As my interview with Rebecca Tapscott draws to a close, I am beginning to see the person she describes herself as: someone who thinks deeply, laughs with meaning and shares kindness. You could say that it is present there in her colourful and wonderful works of art.

To view more of Rebecca Tapscott’s art, visit her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/rebeccatapscottartist