Red Brush Art, a Journey of Hobby to Business

Meet Lyn Russell as she tells us about her business and her husband, Glenn's artistic talent.
Red Brush Art Tanjong Beach
Tanjong Beach -Oil in Canvas - 1.5 m x 1.2 m

Could this be a match made in heaven? So many business owners I’ve talked to have bemoaned the fact that they had started their enterprise because of a passion. They absolutely loved what they were doing.  Unfortunately, the day-to-day running of the business became such a big part of their endeavors that at times, it seemed to overshadow the initial passion that they had. This seems to be especially true when going from hobby to business, as in the case of Red Brush Art.

With Red Brush Art, it seems a perfect compromise has been found. Glenn, the artist, paints for love and as a hobby, fitting this in around a full time, high level corporate position. Lyn is actually the business. Although she too has a creative streak and an eye for the arts, Lyn is actually the one who manages, runs and owns Red Brush Art.

Red Brush Art Lyn and Glenn Russell

Find out more about how this duo got started and where it all began in our interview with Lyn.

Tell us a little about Red Brush Art

Red Brush Art creates original art work in a variety of media and styles, many capturing the essence of Singapore. Our vibrant designs are available in a range of quality products. At Red Brush Art we believe art, like life, is a journey and we want people to join us on our journey.

Red Brush Art is a husband and wife team. Glenn creates the beautiful original artwork and I handle the product creation and the business side of things. Glenn and I both grew up in Western Sydney in Australia. We lived in the Blue Mountains after we were married, but our Australian home is now Twin Waters on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

Glenn and I met on a blind date! It was a very whirlwind romance. Six months after meeting we were engaged and six months later in 1987, we were married in Springwood in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales. In March 2017 we celebrated our 30th Wedding Anniversary. When I met Glenn in 1986, he was creating beautiful copper artwork. He would also do all of my drawings for my worksheets and art program for my classes. He definitely was a good catch!

I’ve had many jobs through the years, starting as a part-timer when I was a teenager. I was a supervisor in retail and a shop assistant at a hardware store. These helped me pay my way through Uni. After graduating high school, I was a student nurse, which was where I realised my passion for young children. I left nursing to pursue my career as a teacher.

Red Brush Art Elephant

Elephant – Acrylic on Canvas – 100 cm x 70 cm

For Glenn, art has always been a hobby. He sketched and drew a lot as a teenager. During Glenn’s school holidays he worked at Pfizer, West Ryde, making vitamin and mineral supplements for animal feeds. Glenn’s father also worked here, so it was great for them to be able to work together.

Glenn began a Computer Science Degree but after his first year, he decided it wasn’t to his liking so he changed to Applied Chemistry, graduating with the University Medal and First Class Honours. Glenn then went on to work at Pfizer in a variety of roles.

We decided to start a family in 1990 and after our children were born I chose to stay home and be a full time mum, which I felt, and still feel very honoured to be able to have done.

After the birth of our first two children in 1990 and 1991, Glenn undertook a Folk Art Painting Course. He was a natural! Glenn put his talent to good use to decorate handmade wooden items such as door stops, children’s woodturned stools, woodturned clocks and plaques that my father, Jack created. These items were sold at a monthly stall at a local market in the Blue Mountains. He also loved creating paintings and picture story books for our children Cameron, Lauren and Ryan. They were and still are a major part of his inspiration.

From there Glenn went on to develop his skills and techniques and continues to experiment to this day. He loves learning new skills and then using these skills to create new and unique designs using a variety of media and themes. Glenn is still constantly attending workshops or doing online courses to expand his skills.

Red Brush Art Dragonfly

Dragonfly on Lotus – Oil on Canvas – 75 cm x 75 cm

Glenn has always been able to balance his corporate life with his art. In 1994, the opportunity arose to move to Singapore for Glenn’s work. He had joined Colorcon Asia Pacific and the role required him to be based here. Our third child was born in Singapore, and we stayed in Singapore for six years before the company sent us back to Australia.

Back in Australia, I returned to teaching but felt that I needed a career change. After going on numerous photography workshops and completing a Diploma in Photography, I set up my own photography business. We focussed on children’s portraits and landscapes. I was very proud to have gained a Silver Award from AIPP for a photograph I took in Shanghai.

In 2010 Glenn’s company sent us back to Singapore (which we were both over the moon about!). My plan was to take a short break from working, to help our youngest son settle into school before deciding if I would teach or do photography. However, soon after settling back in Singapore, I came down with an illness that affected my central nervous system. This made my work decision easy.

I was no longer able to hold a camera steady or support it’s weight. I was also not able to commit to the hours and dedication necessary for teaching young kids. Work was very much out of the question. It has been and still is a struggle balancing pain and the difficulty to move at times. Having something to distract me and give me a reason to get out of bed to do something I love is what keeps me going.

Red Brush Art Zebra

Zebra – Pen Sketch – 29.7 cm x 42 cm

For Glenn, being able to continue along with his hobby has been wonderful. He creates his work while waiting for airplanes during business travel or during weekends and holidays. Then I take over and work the business side of things. I guess I had a creative eye when doing photography and planning activities for my kids at home or at school. Art has always played a role in my life as a mum, a teacher and a photographer.

How did it all begin for Red Brush Art?

I guess the idea of Red Brush Art was planted a few years ago when Glenn decided to place a few of his ‘Secret Life of Elephants’ original paintings in the first Kate Porter Yoga Art Festival. His work was very well received and it gave Glenn the encouragement to paint more. It quickly became his de-stressor and relaxation technique, along with playing his guitar, which he is also very good at.

When our home became over run by artwork, I decided it was time to free our home up and sell some of his artwork, to create space for the continual flow of art. I also wanted to showcase Glenn’s amazing talent and share our passion and love of art with others.

It was difficult coming up with a business name.  We wanted a name that could tie in with where we come from (Australia) and where we are now living (Singapore).  Red is a colour of significance to both places.  Australia and Singapore both have red on their flags.  Australia has the ‘Red Centre’ and the red colour of the Australian Outback is something Australians love.  Red is very significant in Chinese cultures and Singapore is also known as the ‘Little Red Dot’.  So red seemed very appropriate.  Once we came up with the ‘Red’ as the common tie, the rest was much easier.  Being an art business the ‘Brush Art’ seemed to flow. Red Brush Art was born.

Red Brush Art Clownfish

Clownfish – Oil on Canvas – 75 cm x 75 cm

How do you turn the artwork into the products they become?

Luckily the skills I learnt as a photographer and during my graphic design course has helped with the design process for turning Glenn’s amazing artwork into products.

We don’t use all of Glenn’s original artwork for products. Most of Glenn’s original paintings and sketches remain as originals that can be proudly displayed in any home, office or hotel.

A small selection of Glenn’s original artwork we use to create beautiful products that can be used as gifts for adults and children. Some of these items at present have a unique Singapore theme, making them perfect for corporate gifts or for friends and family that are leaving Singapore. They are also perfect for taking back home as gifts when we go for holidays. There are also many items that follow themes other than Singapore, including underwater scenes, animals and flowers.

The hardest part of creating our gift and print range has been sourcing suppliers. It is an ongoing struggle and definitely a learning curve!

Red Brush Art Harmony

Harmony – Pen and Pencil Sketch – 77 cm x 112 cm

Who do you feel your artwork and products would most appeal to?

We have a wide range of artwork and products that suit a vast age range.

We have our children’s products such as eBooks and the prints from our children’s books, “Dinosaurus Alphabetus’ and ‘The Secret Life of Elephants’. Glenn did the paintings and accompanying verse. A lot of our paintings and sketches also have a wide variety of themes that would look great in any child’s bedroom or playroom.

For any special date or occasion, we have artwork to suit personalised name and birth samplers as well as wedding and save the date stationery.

Our Chinese Zodiac pouches and coasters are very popular as is our entire range of other coasters that are suitable for children and adults. There is also a wide range of original paintings and sketches that would fit perfectly in any home or office. Some would be perfect for hotel lobbies or rooms.

Also, don’t forget that Glenn is always happy to do commissions. If you have something in mind, Glenn can create it. He can produce your personalised artwork to match your colour theme, subject matter and the area you would like to place your artwork.

Red Brush Art Hornbill Part 2

Return of the Hornbill Part 2 – Pen and Pencil Sketch – 70 cm x 100 cm

I love your range of tea towels and coasters. I’m going to stock up for friends and family before heading to Australia for the holidays. What other gift items do you have that would be good for me?

I’m sure your family and friends will love their tea towel and coaster gifts. Our Chinese Zodiac cotton canvas pouches would be perfect for ladies and little girls. The pouches are also great when travelling to place all the cords and chargers that our digital age seems to bring, making them perfect for men as well.

From our six Singapore Scenes collection, we have prints in three sizes, a set of postcards, colouring pages, all of which would be perfect to show your family and friends some of Singapores best known sights. They are especially great for friends and family that have been to Singapore to visit.

Our range of original sketches are light to pack and would also be a perfect personal gift. They come in a wide range of themes, including Asian related subjects, flowers and animals just to name a few. Everybody seems to love our coaster range too which is continually expanding.

Do you have a favourite piece of work?

There are so many favourites for me. I think Glenn has such an amazing talent, in so many areas. The Lotus and Dragonfly painting; the Lotus pen sketch and the Galah pen sketch. But my favourite pieces must be the Return to Singapore and Singapore Harmony pen sketches that took over two hundred hours for Glenn to complete the series. They are absolutely amazing close up and the detail must be seen to be believed.

Red Brush Art Reefs of Singapore

Reefs of Singapore – Acrylic on Canvas – 1.22 m x 1.52 m

Glenn’s favourite piece is a 1.22m x 1.52m acrylic on canvas painting of the Reefs of Singapore. It depicts Glenn’s love of the environment and Singapore in particular. This painting was meant to create awareness and bring attention to the beauty of the remaining coral reefs around Singapore. The shape of the undersea area is in the shape of Singapore. Holes in the underwater rocky areas at the bottom left depict several of the Southern Islands, Sentosa and Pulau Ubin are also represented in the appropriate locations.   All of the sea creatures, flora and organisms depicted in this painting, are all currently still found on the coral reefs around Singapore, based on recent published surveys.

Coral reefs are fragile environments and those found around Singapore are particularly vulnerable.   Great vigilance and care is needed to protect them and allow them to flourish. If not, they will be lost forever. The first step to achieving this is by creating awareness.   This painting aims to achieve that.

What’s coming up next for Red Brush Art? Are there any new products that you’re looking at that we should be excited about?

We have some very exciting and busy months ahead.

Glenn and I are both very passionate about our environment and the beautiful world we live in. We’re about to launch the first stage of our ‘Care for our Earth’ range which will showcase some amazing animals, plants and environments. We feel it is extremely important to preserve the natural beauty and animals on our earth, and hope by releasing our range we can show people the earths beauty and remind them that we should be protecting our earth. Our aim is to use recycled packaging for this range to further point out the importance of caring for our earth.

Red Brush Art Pets

Red Brush Art Pet Portraits

We are also very passionate about showing compassion and love to stray and abandoned pets. Three years ago we fostered, then adopted a very special stray that was found abandoned as part of a litter of seven, one week old puppies in a shipyard in Tuas. Before this, I have to admit, I didn’t realise the extent of the stray dog population, not only here in Singapore, but worldwide. We now offer Pet Portrait Commissions. 10% of all donations generated in Singapore will be donated to BFF, a small shelter here in Singapore. Most of their dogs have been rescued off the streets. However, rescue is only the beginning of their journey, so much more has to be done for them. BFF tries to make these dogs lives as comfortable as possible.

In Australia, 10% of Pet Portrait Commissions generated, will be donated to Sunshine Coast Animal Refuge, on the Sunshine Coast, in Queensland.

We are also about to start selling some of our product and print range on Redmart’s Marketplace. This is extremely exciting and we can’t wait to commence.

We have also begun customising iPhone and Samsung cases, tote bags and cushions. You can choose any of Glenn’s original paintings and sketches, and we can create them on your choice of phone case, tote bag or cushion

Also look out for our new gift card range, a new print range from original sketches and paintings created by Glenn and three more eBooks featuring original paintings and verse created by Glenn. You can see everything we’ve been up to on Instagram and Facebook.

Red Brush Art Hornbill Part 2

Return of the Hornbill Part 1 – Pen and Pencil Sketch – 70 cm x 100 cm

Is there any advice you’d give someone wanting to start their own business?

Starting a business is always hard. You begin with a passion and an undying belief in what you do, and what you have to offer. Then the hard part begins to get that message out to the world. It is not an easy journey, but it is definitely a rewarding one, as you learn many lessons along the way, not only about your business, but also about yourself.

Never never never give up. There will always be setbacks and rejections, but don’t give up. If you believe in what you are doing, what you have to offer and how you can solve people’s problems, then keep pushing, keep trying and you will get there.

My top tips would be:

  • Upgrade your skills and educate yourself. If you do not have a business background then there are many skills you may need to learn. Don’t be afraid to do some workshops or online training to help you gain skills in areas you are lacking.
  • Accept advice from those who have tried, failed and succeeded before. Learn from not only others successes, but also from their mistakes. Be observant; always look out for opportunities around you. They are there; you must first notice them and then have the courage to act.
  • Customer service is the most important area in any business. We all like to feel special, and making your clients special should be the centre of everything you do. In Singapore we aim to hand deliver all of our orders and follow up after they have received their order. We aim to make our clients feel special – because they are. Without them we wouldn’t have a business, so we aim to show our customers how important they are to us.
Red Brush Art Chinatown

Chinatown – Pen Sketch – 56 cm x 76 cm

  • Whatever product you are selling, make sure you give your clients tips on how they can best use, or display your product. Show them how special your work is and what you can do to help them solve their problems.
  • Realise that just because you have a website, doesn’t mean people will find it. Be prepared to spend some money to learn the best ways to market and advertise, and then spend some more to actually advertise.
  • Get out there and build your exposure. The more you are seen, the more people will get to know not only you, but also your services and products.
  • Network and collaborate. We can’t do it all on our own. It’s always exciting to see others succeed, and even more exciting if you can share in their journey to success.
  • Give back to the community. There is nothing more rewarding than being able to give back to something you truly believe in. Find your cause and support it.

As a very wise and inspirational women once told me (Michelle McFarlane – Founder of Business Women Network) – Be comfortable being uncomfortable. Get out of your comfort zone; try things you’ve never tried before, were scared to try, or never dreamed you’d try. Push your boundaries and limits. If you aren’t pushing yourself then you are way too comfortable. (remember you should be comfortable being uncomfortable)

Most importantly love what you do, have fun and be prepared to put a lot of long hours in to accomplish your goals. It will all be worth it in the end.

For more information, visit www.redbrushart.com

Visit their online shop to view products and buy or email lyn@redbrushart.com with enquiries.

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All images provided by Red Brush Art.

Angela Manners loves finding an interesting story and talking to people about what they are passionate about. She is Australian but was born in Bangkok, grew up in Southeast Asia and then studied in America. Angela is passionate about coffee, food and everything that surrounds them.
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