Meet Yollie, a self-taught artist from Down Under

I had the pleasure of interviewing Yolanda Boag, known as Yollie. She lives in Australia. She is a very gifted artist. We talked about, her background, her art and her projects. You can read it all here. Welcome to her Fairy Castle.  


Yollie, could you tell us a little bit about your background?

 I was born in Adelaide, South Australia 39 years ago, 2 hours after the tragic news was announced that Elvis Presley has died.   Not being biased here at all, I'm married to Stewart who's my best friend and soul mate and have a wonderful and brilliantly gifted teenage daughter, who's  known simply as 'Miss P' to protect her privacy online. 

I am the first  'Australian' in my family, my parents and grandparents were born in Italy and migrated to Australia in the 50's.   My childhood was rich in the beauty of Italian culture and traditions while still embracing and enjoying the typical relaxed Aussie way of life.   My favourite place is in the water, so luckily for me, we have always lived close to the ocean, my earliest memories are of happy times spent with Nonno Luciano, my Grandfather on his boat and swimming at Henley Beach.

My father, Remo is a hairdresser and has run his own business' for as long as I can remember. As a child, I spent most of my time between school, my grandparents home or the family salons filled with brilliant and talented artists.  I feel these experiences played a part in my creative development. My grandmother, Nonna Rosa, taught me to knit, sew, embroider and crochet.  Knitting is her forte. She is remarkably skilled, so much so that although she cannot read knitting patterns, she can reproduce intricate and new stitches on sight. 'Window shopping' while observing new season knits, brings on a whole new meaning to my grandmother.  Although I don't share her skill in needle crafts, I am able to reproduce what I see using paints.


Today I live with my husband, daughter and our menagerie of feather, fur and finned family members. I have a Facebook page where I share all their antics,  The Residents of FairyCastle Farm, if you'd like to meet them please visit:



Could you describe the type of art that you do?

This is an interesting question.  As I am self-taught, never had any formal training and only recently discovered my ability, I had to google this question to find out what my artistic style is labelled.   After my search, it seems my style is traditional art, leading to realism. 


'Prince Parker' medium: charcoal on paper (this was my first piece)


3. When did you become interested in art? 

Quite by accident.  I was in my mid 30's when Miss P. came to me after reading her school bulletin, wanting to join a Circus skills programme (independent to her school).  I dialled the number to find out more, however, there had been a misprint, instead, I was greeted by the receptionist of our local community centre.  She knew nothing about the advertisement but told me they ran an art programme for older children (10-25 year olds).

She asked if Miss P.  would be interested in joining? I took down the information, however, she was below the minimum starting age, the receptionist said that if my daughter wanted to join she could possibly make an exception.    Miss P. was disappointed, she really wanted to 'join the circus' but she thought it over and decided to give art a try if they would have her.

I called back and made the arrangements, I offered to stay, due to her age, they thought this was a good idea and were very happy for me to join them.  When we arrived for the first class, the staff were very welcoming and made us feel at home. To my surprise, the facilitator had also set me a place!   At first, I was reluctant to try, this experience was for my daughter, I couldn't draw for my life.  So I politely declined their kind offer.

Right from that very first class I was taken aback observing what the other children were capable of. I remember being quite amazed at their abilities.  As the weeks went on, I regularly stayed. I enjoyed watching but I still wasn't tempted to make use of the materials, which despite my polite refusal were always left for me to experiment with. Thoughts from my youth ran through my mind, remembering my art teacher directing me away from continuing to study art as a subject, declaring as a way of consolation 'art wasn't for everybody'.  Yet here I was, seeing how enjoyable the children, including Miss P. found the activity, how easy the facilitator made creating their masterpieces sound and looking at how wonderful their final creations were! I was starting to sense an itch, to try it for myself.  Now it was my nerves that got the better of me.

The next weeks medium was charcoal. As always the facilitator set me a place, this time, however, she came straight out and asked me to draw something.  My only instructions were to close my eyes and let the charcoal dance over the paper. 

I couldn't understand why my heart was racing? I felt really uncomfortable, I didn't want to touch the charcoal, let alone pick it up.   I guess it was embarrassment or perhaps what happens to some people as they age? Had I become that person?  The person that did not want to step outside of their comfort zone?  Not taking no for an answer, the facilitator was determined, hesitantly I complied.

I remember vividly that the moment I pressed that cold piece of squeaky charcoal to the rough paper was the scariest. My palm was sweaty and my hand shook, then there was the deafening sound of my blood pumping through my ears.  For better or worse, I'd done it!  I slowly opened my eyes and saw my squiggly, un-even, trembling, black mess scratched onto the surface of the pristine white paper before me, it was at this moment that the greatest sense of relief passed over me.  Nothing bad had happened to me, no one laughed or ridiculed my mess, why would they? They're all delightful and caring people in the group.  The floor didn't suddenly open and swallow me whole, that doesn't happen even at times when I wish it would! What did happen you wonder? Well, I simply saw what I created, abstract marks on a page. That was it.

This is how I can best describe why I fell in love with art. I didn't feel it was scary anymore. After all, it's just marks on a page. The facilitator was pleased, she didn't think she could convince me to try after I'd refused so many times.  On my way out she handed me a few sheets of paper and a stick of charcoal asking me to keep drawing and bring them to the next class.  In the privacy of my kitchen, after everyone had gone to bed, I drew Prince Parker, the most wonderful bunny to have ever lived, (again no bias whatsoever on my part here) and I have to say after seeing his form emerge from my marks on a page, I was hooked!

Art has made a huge impact in my life.  I have found a way to express myself that words can't begin to describe.  I'm like a child stumbling onto an undiscovered magical world where I can close my eyes and the possibilities are endless. The first medium I connected with was oil pastels, I felt like I was painting with lipsticks. Slowly growing in confidence I've begun experimenting with acrylics, soft pastels and oil.  I'm currently playing with the concept of watercolour and mixed media. I feel I am at the beginning of my journey, there is so much more for me to discover. 

'Seahorse':  medium: pencil on paper

Do you have a personal favourite among your works? 

My personal favourite is 'Sweetie's Eye'. Which I produced using Oil Pastels on paper.

This piece was a turning point for me.  I remember showing Nonna Rosa a photo of this piece and feeling a bit deflated when she didn't have any reaction.  Normally she is very encouraging and helpfully critical of my art, but this time she just smiled and swiped to the next picture.  I stopped her and scrolled back to Sweetie's eye, asking her what she thought? She replied simply that it was a nice photo, but then she looked up at me as she realised it wasn't a photo of an eye, it was a photo of my painting.  She was speechless and I saw all I needed to hear in her eyes. 


'Sweetie's Eye' medium: oil pastels on paper


Do you run a shop?

I work privately from home, my online store is the best place to view my work and purchase prints, greeting cards or to contact me people can reach me online via 

 www.facebook.com/artbyyollie 
and 
www.artbyyollie.weebly.com 



Could you tell us about the big ears passion project?

In 2016 my daughter created a 2017 Vegan Calendar to help raise funds for her favourite charity, Big Ears Animal Sanctuary.  The calendar features many of the Big Ears Animals along with their rescue story.  The sanctuary owners, Brett and Jacqui Steele follow a cruelty-free life and for this reason, Miss P. included a vegan recipe per month, to spread awareness. She feels that with some help we can all do our bit to make the world a better place. The calendar didn't start out as a fundraiser, it was initially just an assignment for the school passion project.  After seeing how well she'd done and the professional standard of her calendar, I asked her if she would like some help to make it a real fundraiser. She thought this would be wonderful and she got straight to work, asking for permission from the sanctuary and writing a letter asking businesses for money to advertise in her calendar which would fund printing.  Miss P. also created a set of bookmarks, featuring some of the residents at the sanctuary. She produced these completely on her own at home and the funds they raised also contributed to printing the calendars.  To her amazement, many generous people came forward and soon she had enough money to print 200 units.   With help from family and friends from all over the world, and especially our dear friend (through Facebook) Joelle, who helped with networking, she sold out.  A second order was printed and also sold.  The project was a huge success, raising in excess of $AU 5,000. This amount equates to the costs incurred to purchase enough vaccine to administer to their 300 rabbits during one of their bi-annual rabbit vaccination days.   To learn more about Big Ears and the wonderful work they do please visit, 
www.bigearsanimalsanctuary.com 
'Willow' medium: acrylic on Canvas (this is an example of my daughter's art produced at the community centre)

What are you working on specifically right now?

At the moment I'm working on a very exciting project.  I'm collaborating with the exceptionally talented Michelle Zeman, author of The Chronicles of a Wererabbit series and Michelle Bosse who adopted the late Mumford. Mumford was a rabbit that sadly suffered an unknown spinal injury before being rescued in America.   Together we are creating a children's picture book based on the real life of Mumford. I'm in the final stages of completing the illustrations.  The book is called, Mumford: 'Never Give Up'. 

Michelle Zeman and I have worked together previously when I had the pleasure of drawing Snow and Charlene, two characters from her books.  I'm very excited to be working with her again now.

For more information and release announcements of the Mumford book, please visit my website, Facebook page or Michelle's website:    www.myzeman.com 

Poster for Mumford : 'Never Give up'


Big thanks to Yollie for sharing her universe with us.

All links to Yollie's work and contact info are repeated here:

http://www.facebook.com/FairyCastleFarm.residents 

 www.facebook.com/artbyyollie 

www.artbyyollie.weebly.com 

www.bigearsanimalsanctuary.com 

www.myzeman.com 


Interview by Bente J.
All photos are provided by Yolanda Boag 

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