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Meet Cindy Scheule, the Artist Giving Colour to Balmain

Cindy Scheule is Balmain’s resident watercolour artist, preserving iconic Balmain landmarks on paper. When she’s not creating art, she loves spending her time near or in the water.

Cindy Scheule painting

Interviewing, Cindy Scheule, Artist

Cindy chats with us about following your passions and believing in yourself.

Hey Cindy, Thanks so much for talking with us. How did you get to where you are now?

I have actually been an accountant all my career. Just before the COVID-19 pandemic, I was pregnant with my third child, and that’s when I decided to stop working for a while. I started to do watercolour as a hobby and it carried on during lockdown.

During our lockdown neighbourhood walks, I once saw a house with a big bear sitting on the balcony. I just loved it! It was a whole atmosphere. I painted it after we went home. When I finished, I realised I had not much use for the painting, but thought the owner may appreciate it. Just like that, I put it in an envelope and left it on their balcony. I was very shy to meet the owner or to mention my name, so I just anonymously left it there. [A couple of weeks later I passed the house and there was a little envelope on the balcony, and it said, “To the painter”. I opened it, and it was a handwritten card saying, “Thank you for this gift, it has been so uplifting. I'm going through some personal difficulties, but your painting has made me feel that I have a sweet home”.] So that was really nice.

Weeks later, a post in the Balmain Facebook said, “I went to my friend’s house and saw this painting that was a present. Does anyone know who painted this? I want that person to paint my house too.” And it started from there - that was the first moment someone had called me ‘talented’. I collected a few addresses, and have been painting ever since!

Do you have a memorable encounter with a commissioner that you remember?

I have met more lovely people than I can count. One memory that stands out, a lady picked up a house painting from me for her parents in Kangaroo Valley. Their house in the valley is magical, surrounded by trees. When she picked up the painting, she cried, saying, “Oh my God! I can feel the love in the house portrayed.” And I thought, “Wow, you can feel the love?” I put a lot of love in there. I was looking at every flower and every plant and every vine. And she said, “I can feel it, Cindy.” That gave me goosebumps, we both cried, and she hugged me, saying, “You know, keep going.” This was a magical moment for me.

Some people may just think it's just an artwork, but of course, the house owner feels differently. And as the artist, I’m turning blank paper into a painting. With all the thought process, planning, time and love put into it, it’s not just a piece of paper, it has a soul. It has a spirit in it.

You’ve been doing this for quite a few years now, how have you grown as an artist and person?

When I first started, one of my friends in the art world encouraged me and said, “Cindy, you can have an exhibition one day.” And I thought, “Exhibition? Me?”. Now I have more than enough portraits for an exhibition, almost 200 of them.

During the last 3 years, I have had 4 shows with a group of artists and this will be my third year releasing the Calendar, which includes a painting collection of Balmain’s pubs, landscapes, and houses. I’ve also learnt to switch my mindset from being ‘just’ a hobby artist, to being a business owner. With marketing and doing social media and emails – just talking to people and connecting with them – every day I'm learning so much as a business owner.

Cindy Scheule's calendar of her paintings
Cindy Scheule Calendar of Balmain Paintings

As a person, I think it's been bringing me to a whole different level. Before, when I worked as an employee, I just did what I had to do. At the moment, because I’m a mother of 3, I really feel the need to be a better person. My purpose is to be calm, kind, and positive. Without that, how can I look after my kids and have a good connection with them? How can I be productive with my business? I feel I have improved myself a lot, both spiritually and mentally.

How would you describe Balmain?

I love Balmain. I have lived here for 8 or 9 years now. It's a suburb with a lot of history. It used to be a working-class area with docks, a lot of sandstone and heritage-listed houses, and pubs. I feel I’ve gotten a lot of my inspiration from this area. It’s also surrounded by water, and walking around the bay clears my mind like nothing else/

My kids go to school here so we got to know a lot of people, and it’s a great community. People are very supportive of each other. It feels like a village because it's on a peninsula. It's kind of like a dead end. It's not as young as Newtown or Surry Hills but it’s sophisticated, and it's a great place for a family.

My favourite spot is just down the road from me, Balmain Wharf. It has some nice parks that you can walk around. It’s also a public library, and there’s something special about it. People leave books there and we used to go there to exchange books. Next to it is a big playground and a dog park. So you have dogs, kids, and families, and during the lockdown, we used to do picnics here. You have a great view from there where you can see the Harbour Bridge and during New Year’s Eve, we watch the fireworks at the park.

What advice would you give to emerging artists?

My number one piece of advice would be - keep painting. Actually no, I would say, number one is to believe in yourself. I still have so much to learn and so much more I want to achieve. There are some artists out there I really look up to, but just through my journey, I know to start with you will have a lot of doubt. You don't believe you are good enough because you’re not professionally or academically trained, or you don't believe people will like your work, but really, what you need to do is just keep doing it. Keep painting, keep doing it for yourself. Just like anything, if you keep doing it, you get better.

I love how you share the lessons you learn as you go on Instagram. Why did you decide to be so honest about your journey?

Firstly, it is still something I'm learning. Before I painted, I did not have an Instagram, I wasn’t someone who posted on social media. But because of my work, I need to let people know what I’m doing, otherwise how can they know me? I was once told that I needed to be honest and share my feelings in the past. But the problem was I wasn’t confident enough and I was scared of saying something and having people judge me. Or I thought, why would people even care about my feelings?

But now, even if I feel I don't really value what I think, it may be valuable to someone else. One of my recent posts is about my identity in art. My mentor told me, “Cindy, I hope you find your identity in art,” and it was an awakening for me. I would think about what he said and I thought this is a significant point of view and I should let people know about it. So I am learning to raise my voice and share more about what I think. I want to develop myself not just in art but also as a person. It's not separate. I can't be a bad person but a good artist. It’s combined.

Finally, what do you wish to accomplish?

This is my first time telling the world about my dream. So in the next 5 years, I want to have my own gallery! I don't know how or where. It could be, maybe part of the house. It could be a commercial space. It could be a combination of a gallery and coffee place. I'm going to make it happen. I’m starting small, getting there step by step - watch this space!

My journey of becoming an artist is very inspiring. People have never thought, even my parents, that I would become an artist one day so this was not planned. I was someone who didn't really have a big purpose, and I did not really know what I wanted to do. I just had a career that I thought ‘would do’ for the rest of my life. But finally, in my forties, I accidentally found my purpose and I found my talent. Since then, I have just been so inspired while doing that. [If there’s something everyone can learn - if you really have a passion and are lucky enough to find something you love to do, just do it. You’re going to have so much power and motivation to make it big and make it happen. You will be so happy.]

What is your painting process like?

I paint in my studio, which is in my bedroom. The process takes anywhere from 10 to 30 hours. My work has a lot of detail – attention to detail is one of my character traits, one carried over from my accounting career. Planning the details can really take some time.

Cindy Scheule, the artist paints Yalumba

The difficult part of painting always changes. As my skill set improves, my thought process changes, too. I remember in the early days, for every house I painted, I would do a sketch. I would do a little draft for every one of them and there was a lot of testing for the composition, for example. Painting animals and people was my weaker point to start with and I would always leave them to the last. But then I thought, why would I do the tricky part in the end, potentially ruining the painting and having to start again?

Then I started with the most difficult part first and painted the easier things later. Every house is different, so I really enjoy the stories, the painting process and the thought behind it. When I look at some business or other things that I paint, I feel I know every break. I feel every deficit, every default of the house. I know every plant in the house.

What's your favourite artwork that you've done so far in your painting career?

Answer: So this year I did a different body of work which isn’t house paintings. I painted 3 rock pools. So one in Cronulla. One in Bondi, the icebergs. And one in Bronte. It was a challenge for me to try watercolour painting on canvas. It’s a very different process compared to painting on paper. The subject matter is also very personal because I love water, but I’m not a good swimmer.

Through the painting, I actually challenged myself to swim in the ocean and in rock pools, even in winter. I was so happy afterwards. I decided that I didn’t want to just paint them, I wanted to feel them, be in them. So I stepped out of my comfort zone to swim in cold water. You feel it, you touch it, you smell it and you immerse your senses in it. Yeah, it was kind of fun.

It was both a technical and personal challenge to do these three paintings, and it’s a little bit of fun outside of my commissioned work.

Cindy Scheule's Balmain Calendar

Cindy’s 2024 calendar, featuring her artwork of Balmain and Rozelle’s local landmarks and houses, is available for purchase now. You can grab your copy here.


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