15 Jun

With grateful thanks

Words by
Dianne Dempsey
Pictures by
Photographs by Leon Schoots

Bree Galvin, now a true local, shows appreciation of her new home town through her graphic design business, which grew out of lockdown.

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Bree Galvin couldn’t think of a better place to sit out the long weeks of the coronavirus lockdown than in Bendigo. “I was home-schooling my boys and felt so secure and safe. I know most of the people who live here love it as much as I do. Our architecture, the gardens, the history, that intangible feeling of warmth and generosity.”
It was during lockdown that illustrator Bree also launched her graphic design business – This Is Me, Bree – selling prints, family portraits and homewares such as tea towels. It is in her artwork that Bree’s huge affection for Bendigo is clearly evident. Her current print series, Illustrating Bendigo, features typical Bendigo cityscapes that are peopled by family groups from the 1950s.

“It’s the Bendigo of the 1950s that I want to summon up,” she says. “It’s a comfort thing. I hope to engender a feeling of warmth and nostalgia; and take people back to a safe time when life seemed to be so much simpler and solid. The Bendigo buildings and landmarks are timeless, they’re the backbone of the work. But the people in the foreground are growing up around the buildings. In one image, I have two lovers picnicking on the lawn in front of the Conservatory. In another print, three actors are stepping out, walking down the steps of The Capital theatre.”

Bree says many of her customers discover her illustrations online; mainly through Instagram. “I’ve met so many great people this way,” she says. “I often do family portraits which will be an illustration of the family home and the family members.”

Once Bree’s client has decided on an idea, the illustration is digitally printed on beautifully textured, archival paper. Bree can also organise the prints to be framed and uses local businesses when sourcing her materials, including the tea towels.    

Originally from Seymour, on leaving school Bree went to Melbourne to study, work and play. She was doing an arts degree when the recession hit and, under advice, she opted for a cautious route through life via a job at Telstra. After returning to the country via Castlemaine and then to Bendigo, Bree made the gutsy decision to take herself off to La Trobe University to study graphic design.

“It took me 20 years and a divorce to make that decision to go to uni – to do what I wanted to do. I had spent so much of my life looking after others and I had this overwhelming feeling that I had to do something for myself.

“When I graduated, I was keen to get a job as a graphic designer but I was always older than the other applicants. And I was dismissed out of hand for not being young and funky. I thought my maturity and experience would have been an asset, but no, I was always overlooked for positions despite the prizes I won at uni and the high marks. So I decided to make a go of it as a freelancer. I was thrown back on my own resources. The rejection galvanised me, motivated me to develop my own style.

“It was November of last year that I started on the Illustrating Bendigo series. At about this time, I received enormous support from the Bendigo Community Bank, which gave me advice and introductions and enabled me to set up pop-up shops in their bank space. And I currently have a work residency with the Emporium Creative Hub. I have a free desk for three months. I walk around in this beautiful, warm, modern building and pinch myself.          

“I’m on the cusp of really moving the business along. Now it’s very important that I stay focused and on brand. I can see myself employing my son in the near future in the packaging and distribution side of the business.

“We moved to Bendigo 11 years ago and my world has opened up since then on a personal and a professional level. My children and I have a secure future ahead of us. I think this is why the Illustrating Bendigo series gives me such joy; this celebration of Bendigo is like a thank you to Bendigo.”    
You can find Bree’s work on Instagram, @thisisme.bree