What happens when you dare to dream

and have the audacity to ask ….

 a story in Home Beautiful is the result


I often catch myself scrolling mindlessly, rarely remembering what I saw. But occasionally, I’ll stop – its usually to look at art or beautifully styled interiors and admire something that sparks a dream. I’ve dreamt of hosting book clubs and workshops here at Simpson Cottage, or even to host an artist in residence program.

The dream of hosting artists in residence refused began to nag I had visions of them sitting on the veranda soaking up sunshine and listening to the Simpson Cottage symphony while they created. I imagined them leaving relaxed and refreshed with their creative cup overflowing.

But inviting artists here seemed far too audacious for such an ignoramus. Apart from knowing what I like, I know very little about art, but the dream continued to nag. A life-coach friend told me to “suck it up; if you don’t ask, your dreams are guaranteed not to come true”.

After purchasing a painting by Sydney based artist Jennifer Rosnell at the Affordable Art Fair, I was about to walk away, but in a moment of madness, I asked if Jen was around. She wasn’t, so I left the painting with the gallery to be packed up for transport and wandered off to look at more art… secretly relieved I could safely remain anonymous.

But Jen ambushed me!

I went back to collect my new painting and a stranger approached me, introduced herself as Jennifer Rosnell and thanked me for purchasing her painting. I’m certain I blushed and babbled, no doubt I showed my arty ignorance, but she showed no sign of noticing and we chatted like old friends. Meeting the artist and making such a warm connection; I fell further in love with my new treasure. 

And the dream nagged some more, so a few weeks later certain she’d say no, I “sucked it up”, called Jen and invited her to do a residency.

Jen agreed…I did it! I had my first Artist in Residence…But it doesn’t end there!

Simpson Cottage has been an amazing conduit for making connections and creating a village of supportive women, and I asked my photographer and writer friend Jess Bellef -whom i met through Simpson Cottage- to capture Jen in action.

That resulted in Jen being featured in the February 2024 edition of Home Beautiful magazine; a feature titled ‘Local Talent – 20 Australian artists to buy from now’ being the conduit and connecting these two talented women made me so happy and I consider it a pinch me moment.


But enough from me….I asked Jen a few questions I think she can tell her story far better than me….

What makes you tick?
I live for family, friends, food, and my sweet studio dog Ziggy (Springer Spaniel combined with Poodle – Sproodle). I have always had a genuine passion for art from an early age. I really like a ‘patina,’ an imperfection of aged items that have lived a life and can tell a story.

Vintage treasures like old armchairs and all the lovely details at Simpson Cottage really fill my soul with joy – I just loved your collection.

Tell me about your childhood, where did you grow up?
I am the eldest of three and grew up on the Northern Beaches. We lived in Balmain for a year while I was in primary school. I think that was my first introduction to historic cottages. I loved the character-filled streets of lovely old cottages. I now live in a cottage in Collaroy that was built by a grazier as a holiday house in the 1940s which we have been renovating over many years, a labour of love. Did you always have a creative spark? Were your parents or are your kids creative?
I have always had a creative spark starting way back in primary school. I put all my effort into cover page drawings in exercise books. I entered an art competition in a catholic primary school and drew a portrait of Jesus in pencil on special cardboard from the newsagents which I was pretty excited about. I was disqualified by the teachers because they thought my parents did the drawing. The funny thing was my parents can’t draw at all! I was painfully shy and didn’t speak up for myself and by the time I told my parents the competition was over. Pet hates
When a person is condescending and talks down to someone. I strongly believe everyone should be treated equally. Favourite way to while away time
Cooking a big family breakfast, buying fresh fruit and veg from the local outdoor markets, visiting art galleries, long walks, vintage treasure hunting. Going for a ride on a ferry. Hanging out with my encouraging husband and two boys Ethan and Luke and cute dog Ziggy. Catching up with my lovely friends to eat food! Side dishes (full-time artist or is it a side hustle?)
I am a freelance graphic designer and teach drawing fundamentals for beginners and intermediates at the local Community College (Northern Beaches and Mosman Community College). I am an emerging artist and live and breathe art everyday and aspire to be a full time artist. Any influences?
So many! Nora Heysen, the first woman to win the Archibald Prize. I did an essay about Nora being in the shadow of her father, Hans Heyson, for University and my lecturer thought I should have the paper published. I met with Nora at her Hunters Hill house and painted her portrait for the Archibald. It didn’t make the finals, but it was a brilliant experience to meet such a trail blazer and icon of Australian art and such a special memory I will always treasure. Then there’s Brett Whiteley, Wendy Sharpe, Nicholas Harding, Clarice Beckett and the list goes on. John Bokor, Craig Waddell, Paul Ryan, Dan Butterworth, Margaret Woodward,  Lucy Culliton, Alberto Giacometti, and Lucien Freud. Where do you begin? Do you see ‘it’ first? Does it end up how you saw it?
Do you have to make yourself start something to get going or do you have a moment that just bubbles up inside and off you go?
I sometimes visualise the image and start off in a frenzy of sketching very loose ideas and words in a sketchbook in any medium-pencil, biro, ink… looking at composition and ideas like little thumbnails. I am not locked in to my starting point and happy to feel a sense of expression and not knowing where the painting or drawing will end up. Sometimes I name the painting before I paint it based on an idea. Some paintings will be painted over and never see the light of day. What was the first artwork you sold?
I did have an offer to buy a portrait drawing in high school but I liked it too much to part with it. The first artwork I sold was many years ago. It was an oil painting of a sunbather on Instagram… the cost to send the painting interstate was more than the cost of the painting. I was very flattered that the lady wanted to purchase my art and hang it on her wall. What are you working on now?
As a ferry fan, I want to record and capture the ferries. I’m learning new stories about the ferries of Sydney Harbour and the people who work on them, this is a long term project. I am also working on a series of oil paintings with sunbathers and portraits. What’s on the horizon for your art?
A series of figurative works, I am part of a group exhibition at Michael Reid Northern Beaches in Newport this month, it is part of the Pittwater Council’s Creative Open 2024. The exhibition will be online from the 10th July and in Gallery from the 25th July. I also have an open studio with the Pittwater Artist Trail in July and November this year. Why do you do what you do?
It’s not really a choice, more like a necessity. I have a strong need to express myself through drawing and painting and tell the stories of others through my art. I want to continue learning and developing my drawing and painting techniques and exploring materials. I have always loved life drawing and tried to fit in sessions throughout the years since I was 18 years old. Achievements…
My oil painting portrait of Ken Done which was voted peoples choice in the Mosman Art Prize. Ken was also a finalist in the same exhibition which made it even more special to enjoy opening night with him. My first portrait in the Portia Geach of Nurse Jacqui gave me a sense of belief and that I had potential to develop and keep on learning. Highlighting the story of Gus Worland and his youth suicide and mental fitness charity work with Gotcha4life by painting his portrait. Having my first artist residency and being the first selected by Tara with Simpson Cottage was a dream I felt very grateful! Being photographed by the super talented Jessica Bellef and being published in Home beautiful was also a pinch me moment!

Sweet or salty?

I like sweet….Can’t resist a freshly baked warm scone or cookie 🙂

Catch Jen’s up coming exhibition at Michael Reid Northern Beaches Gallery from the 25th to 11th August and read more about Jen’s Awards & Exhibitions https://www.jenniferrosnell.art/

Images by Jessica Bellef

Words by Tara Larnach