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'Break yourself open': the creative life of painter, ceramicist and poet Gemma Troy

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Creativity is life for Gemma Troy, a Maroochydore artist who paints abstract art, writes poetry and makes ceramic fairies.

A self-taught artist who studied a psychology degree in Canberra but never pursued it as a career, she draws on an adventurous childhood for inspiration.

“I grew up on the south coast of New South Wales and my dad was a crazy gold fossicker,” she says.

“We used to spend most of our weekends and summer holidays camping and being out in the bush. He would dredge or pan for gold.

“I’ve got four brothers and we’d be out in creeks and fern tree gullies. We’d find caves containing quartz crystals and old gold mines. It was a fun childhood and I was always creative.”

Her mother made ice-cream and taught Ms Troy and all four brothers how to knit.

“I think I get my creativity from her,” Ms Troy says. “My dad was an adventurer but a bit crazy. He never hit it big with his gold fossicking but he still does it to this day.

“My paintings are abstract landscapes at the end of the day — a conversation back to when I was a child out in the bush. We would spend six weeks camping, so maybe they are taking me back to my childhood.”

Ms Troy follows whatever creative urge takes her fancy, unafraid to pick up a new medium and give it a go.

Gemma’s creates abstract paintings and ceramics.

Around five years ago, she began posting poetry to an Instagram page, which quickly gained a large following and attracted the attention of an international publisher.

“I got an awesome book deal with a big publisher in America, Andrews McMeel,” she says.

“At that time, I had 120,000 followers and when you have that exposure, it opens doors.”

Ms Troy’s Instagram following is now at 235,000 and she has had three poetry books published, but the poetry bug that she was “obsessed with” at the time has taken a back seat to a new fascination with splashing acrylic paint on canvas.

“I need constant new things to try,” she says.

On her Instagram page she has posted about suffering ‘imposter syndrome’ with her poetry.

“I still struggle with sharing it to this day,” she says.

“You have to be willing to completely break yourself open for it to mean anything, otherwise you’re just writing your thoughts and your thoughts are pretty boring. It’s a hard thing to do; to be that vulnerable and to share it with hundreds of thousands of people on social media.”

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But receiving messages from followers around the world makes it all worthwhile for this sensitive soul.

“I’ve had amazing messages, heart-breaking messages,” she says.

“One lady said her friend had committed suicide but her last post was one of my poems she put on Facebook about being strong.

“To some extent, I don’t think I realise how much my poetry does affect people. Then I’ll get a message like that and realise it’s bigger than me. Maybe it’s meant to be out there so I have to get over myself.”

Ms Troy lives with her husband Jock and 15-year-old son Owen on an acre on the Maroochy River. She fills their home with fairies, vintage fairy books and dead moths and butterflies, which she collects.

Last year, Jock built a gorgeous little gallery on their property, which opened in October.

“Everyone who comes to visit the gallery loves it,” Ms Troy says.

Gemma’s gallery on her property is open Saturdays.

“We’ve been together since I was 19 and I turned 40 last year so I’ve been with him longer than without him. This is my full-time gig and my husband pays the bills. I couldn’t do this if I didn’t have him. He’s always been very supportive of all my crazy ideas.”

Ms Troy’s gallery, which opens only on Saturdays, is filled with photography, paintings, ceramics and signed copies of her poetry books. It all comes straight from her heart.

“I love what comes from inside you,” she says. “That’s what makes it original and unique. No one can teach you that; it’s already there.

“I hope I can inspire other people to go out and be creative. A lot of people spend a lot of time watching TV or on their phones. That’s outside of yourself. To be creative, you have to go within, to those scary places, and bring them into the light.”

For more, visit gemmatroy.com. Open Studios Sunshine Coast is on from March 18 to 27 and features over 70 artists. Visit openstudiossunshinecoast.com.au for more information.

Other artists to look out for:

  • Jules McCrae, Rosemount: Metalwork and sculpture
  • Denise Lamby, Mooloolaba: Drawing, installation and textiles
  • Molly Galpin, Nambour: Painting, textiles and mosaic
  • Heidi Lesleighter, Dulong: Textile jewellery artist
  • Nicky Carey, Reesville: Printmaking, painting, drawing.
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