Western Downs artist’s inspiring journey back home
WHEN coronavirus hit Chinchilla, Kellie Reardon was one of the first in town to lose her job in administration.
Ms Reardon said she was working for a multinational company that didn't hesitate to take the opportunity to downsize.
Although Ms Reardon has a knack for turning adversity into opportunity, so it was a case of one door closing and another one opening as she finally found time for art which she hadn't dabbled in since high school.
Now Ms Reardon's lounge room resembles an art studio with canvases in various stages of development lining the walls and a drop sheet covering the carpet.
"My mother reminded me that art was all I wanted to do at high school, I was always sketching, drawing or painting," she said.
"There was artistic talent in the family on my mother's side (and) my grandmother loved to paint landscapes and horses."
Ms Reardon said her detailed works of Highland cattle are proving very popular with her first creations already sold, and commissions for more now on order - a testament to her animal studies being beautifully detailed, capturing the essence of the amiable bovine.
"I love painting Highland cattle with their shaggy heads, I can lose myself while painting, I'm doing something I love, and can let myself relax completely," she said.
"When I produce a piece of work, I'm happy with; that's a good feeling!
"I didn't realise at first how successful my art was but selling one of my first paintings is quite an achievement.
"I was just doing it for myself, but now I have commissions I feel more pressure to produce."
MS REARDON started her learning in life at St Joey's and Chinchilla State Primary School and later at Chinchilla State High School, before moving on to study the science of human movement at university.
Then becoming a personal trainer, Ms Reardon said it was an exciting job that saw her working with elite and professional athletes from every field.
But Ms Reardon had a thirst for adventure and a love for challenges, so she traded the job she'd been trained in for the Army Reserves.
The rigorous training exercises included survival operations in the bush and military exercises at Shoalwater Bay, which was among Australia's finest recruits.
It was an exciting time for Ms Reardon, and she thrived on pushing herself physically and mentally - testing her endurance.
Passing basic training Ms Reardon could have made herself a career in the Army, but said she is always looking to extend herself and learn new sets of skills.
For the next five years Ms Reardon worked in Chinchilla at Schlumbergers, it was during the early years of the gas industry when many new companies came to town.
Schlumberger employed several Canadians whose talk of life in Canada instantly piqued Ms Reardon interest in travel.
"One of their main topics of conversation was how cold it was in Canada, but also how beautiful," she said.
"There was oil and gas exploration there too, and I was confident I could get work given my experience."
ONE of Ms Reardon many talents was organisation, and fly-in-fly out schedules was her domain - luckily once in Canada she found these to be skills in demand.
Canada was all Ms Reardon had imagined and more; towering snow-covered mountains and vast lakes reflecting the sky and surrounding forests of green, in an Alpine landscape.
"I worked in Northern Alberta, doing administration for a mining company, (it) was mining unlike anything I'd ever seen before," she said.
"High up near the Arctic Circle north of Fort McMurray is the Syncrude oil sands plant, the third largest reserve of oil in the world.
"The oil seeps out of the ground and the river that runs through there carries a permanent slick of oil.
"I was unprepared for that barren landscape, - nothing but pine can survive in such a toxic environment, (and) equally I was not prepared for the extreme cold.
"After leaving Australia in 40 degree heat at the height of summer I entered an environment where temperatures plummet to minus 40 - this was a country that could kill you if you didn't take very careful steps to protect yourself."
Those steps, Ms Reardon came to learn included dressing in thermals and never underestimating the cold.
"I learned that a single tea light candle can provide enough warmth to keep you alive for one hour," she said.
"I kept a carton of them in my car! I realised that running out of fuel could leave you stranded and that in itself is life-threatening.
"I had to learn how to drive through snow and over sheets of black ice, while coping with being on the wrong side of the road!" she says with a laugh.
For Ms Reardon, these challenges were exhilarating, and she couldn't wait to show this beautiful country to her family.
By now, Ms Reardon had lived in several different cities as she explored the wonders of Canada, including Calgary, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan Valley.
Family is where the heart is
CHRISTMAS in Canada for the Reardon family was an exciting event, with Ms Reardon parents, aunty and uncle staying in a picturesque log cabin in Revelstoke, complete with fireplace and views of snow topped mountains.
Ms Reardon said they experienced the delight of watching perfectly formed flakes of snow drift past the windows.
Returning from Canada, Ms Reardon embarked on her most exciting and courageous venture yet - becoming a mother would be her greatest journey of discovery and the only challenge to truly satisfy her.
It utilised her resilience, her determination to succeed and the independence gained from years of work and travel.
Ms Reardon found support in family and friends and was welcomed back with loving, open arms - enjoying the security of family involvement in her son's life ever since.
Ms Reardon's mother described baby Remi as the perfect Canadian souvenir, and raising him as a single parent has given Ms Reardon yet another opportunity in which to thrive.
While Ms Reardon hopes to be back in full time work once circumstances allow, for now she is content painting and art lovers are happily waiting in line for her next creation.