MY SUNBURY: Bonnie Hanlan

17-07-18 Bonnie Hanlon owns an art supplies story in Sunbury. Photo by Damjan Janevski.

By Esther Lauaki

What is your connection to Sunbury?

Most of my family has lived in Sunbury for over 30 years, so it’s an area I spent a lot of my childhood in. My mum moved here a few years ago and my husband and I bought our home here in Sunbury around the same time. I opened my business, The Alchemist Artists’ Supply Store, in Sunbury in April this year.


How long have you lived in the area?

I’ve been living in Sunbury for a little over two and a half years … I grew up in Lancefield, I spent most of my 20s living in Melbourne, but it’s nice to be back in the area.


What are you passionate about?

I am most passionate about artist materials. I love learning about artist materials and sharing this knowledge with other artists and makers. I spend most of my spare time watching documentaries on things like how pencils are made, the history of the colour blue and reading scientific papers by industrial chemists to understand what the chemical difference is between colours.


How did your passion for art come about?

This passion for the science of artists materials started when I was working at St Luke Artist Colourmen in Melbourne.

What really hooked me was the moment I learned that if you want to paint a violin … the atomic weight of a certain pigment will alter the sound!

I am particularly interested in pigment, colour theory and the history of artists’ materials. I am also very slowly working on a recipe book for artists – all about raw materials and paint and pastel making.

What is your arts background?

I have a bachelor’s degree in fine arts with honours from RMIT. I am a practising artist and have had numerous solo and group exhibitions over the past 10 years. I have around 20 works in the Epworth HealthCare art collection and two years ago I was a recipient of a Hume Arts award.


What other hats do you wear in the community?

I do meet regularly with a group of local artists and Hume council workers to discuss the arts in Hume and how we can grow the arts scene, particularly in Sunbury. We brainstorm ideas for fostering greater engagement with the arts and promoting the arts practices of those living in our community. I am also a sponsor of the Sunbury StreetLife Festival, which I am really excited about being involved with – it’s such a great initiative.


What would people be surprised to know about you?

People are often surprised to know that I am The Alchemist. I don’t have any staff – I have a huge workshop out the back fitted out with industrial-scale equipment and I do all of the framing on my own on site.


What is the best thing about living in Sunbury?

It really comes down to being close to my family. My mum visits me at the shop nearly every day and we have dinner together every week. I get to see my aunts and cousins regularly and a lot of my friends from school are still in the area. Sunbury has the community feeling of a small town, but all of the services and amenities you need – and it’s not far to head in to the city or out to the Macedon Ranges. My husband and I both love how friendly it is here. Getting to know our neighbours and all of the shopkeepers we see regularly has been wonderful, because you just don’t get that in Melbourne.


If you could change anything about the area, what would it be?

I’m not a town planner so I don’t know how to fix the parking and traffic problems, but one opportunity for Sunbury I feel is glaringly obvious is the potential of our laneways! There are so many awesome little businesses in there and I think if the arcades and laneways got a facelift they could be such an asset to Sunbury. I’d love to see those spaces become more inviting – repave them, add better lighting, a touch of paint and some plants, a few more eateries and maybe a bar or two. You just have to look at what has happened on O’Shanassy Street since the fairy lights went in – you have great businesses all you need to add is a little ambience and it all comes to life.