An artist’s transition from balance sheets to brushstrokes


Walking away from two decades in finance to unleash her creative side has been a leap of faith for Sydney’s Yvonne Gallagher. 

Starting each day musing over a colour palette is a stark change to the usual morning routine for Yvonne Gallagher. 

The Sydney artist spent two decades forging an enviable career in finance, working in management roles and diligently climbing the corporate ladder. 

While her work in finance was rewarding, she had a long-standing passion for art that never wavered. Still, between work and raising two sons, Yvonne says she didn’t have much time to dedicate to creative pursuits. “My sons are in high school now, so I don’t have to worry about the kids’ routine, allowing me to take a step back from taking care of others and prioritising what is important to me.” 

“When you’ve forged a career in one particular industry for a long time, it can be difficult to see possibilities beyond what you know. But I got to the stage where I was not relishing Monday mornings, longing for more than the corporate routine,” Yvonne says. 

She knew it was time to follow her passion, finally, and give more time to art. “Transitioning to art wasn’t just a career shift; it was about rediscovering that spark of creativity and fulfillment that might have dimmed amidst the rigidity of numbers and spreadsheets. It’s about embracing a world where self-expression knows no bounds. It’s a realm where each morning is greeted with excitement as each day presents an opportunity to create something beautiful and meaningful to me.” 

Different Strokes

The process of renovating her home on Sydney’s Northern Beaches prompted her to pick up a paintbrush again as she initially started painting large canvasses to decorate the empty walls. “I rediscovered my love for painting and felt a surge of confidence when friends and family praised my artwork and even expressed interest in purchasing it. Their support became my motivation to continue pursuing my passion,” she says. 

Since then, Yvonne has dedicated countless hours to researching and honing her skills. “As someone who never coloured outside of the lines as a child, I’ve really pushed the boundaries of my creative expression with impressionism and working with  abstract techniques.” 

Her artistic prowess reflects a well-travelled life and a creative spirit that has finally been liberated after years of being confined in the halls of academia as a university lecturer in Malaysia and then walking into the fast-paced world of hedge funds in Bermuda. 

Years later, she was headhunted to work as a vice president in the finance hub of Dublin, Ireland, before migrating with her family to live and work in Sydney. Amid the cosmopolitan life, she has rediscovered solace and inspiration in the art world after picking up the brush again more regularly five years ago. “Living in different parts of the world exposed me to diverse cultures, artistic influences and different mindsets.” 

A Radical Change

A return to art was perhaps inevitable for Yvonne. Art was always her best subject at school, and it was often selected to be displayed on the walls of the school corridors back home in Kuala Lumpur. But after receiving top marks in her accountancy subjects, her father told her she was studying accountancy, and that was that. 

Yvonne embraced the path set before her at the time, enrolling in accountancy with little fuss and pursuing a career that she admits gave her corporate experience that has grounded her. Reflecting on her journey, she acknowledges the influence of familial expectations, remarking, “When Asian parents tell you to jump, the only question you’re allowed to ask is how high.” 

“I don’t ever regret studying finance because it took me to Bermuda, and it took me on the journey of meeting my husband and achieving my accountancy qualification, which got me to where I am today,”  Yvonne says. 

A career in finance also fostered her professional confidence to a point where she feels comfortable stepping into the light and sharing her journey in a creative field that she admits has always fulfilled her. “It’s well and truly time for me to step out of finance and explore this other passion that I’ve always had. I reached a point where my happiness and mental well-being needed to take a front seat.” 

While there are many successful self-taught artists out there, Yvonne has opted for professional training and is currently completing an Art Diploma with the Julian Ashton Art School. 

Shining light on career change

The complexity of a professional transition and following one’s passion has been a challenge not often discussed in the corporate world. Yvonne admits that not rushing out the front door in the morning to a corporate environment in the constantly bumpy terrain of finance has taken some time to get used to. 

“Transitioning from a well-established career to the art world can be exciting but daunting. There are a lot of uncertainties. One of the biggest challenges I faced was grappling with self-doubt and imposter syndrome, which are common hurdles for people venturing into new creative endeavours. 

“However, I recognised that these feelings were a natural part of the process and chose to confront them head-on. I embarked on a journey of self-reflection, introspection and personal growth. 

“The transition has been a gradual process, but as I delved deeper into the art world, I discovered a sense of fulfilment, joy and purpose that I never experienced in finance.” 

The career change has also taught her new skills when she puts down the brush, such as harnessing technology to take her art to the world, organising events and handling the marketing for her newly established brand  as an artist. 

She has also leaned on the skills she mastered in finance. She applies her negotiation skills to liaise with art galleries in Bermuda, Kuala Lumpur and Dublin, leveraging her established connections.  

Her original artworks are sold mostly via her website, Vonne Gallery, for between $3,000 and $6,000, and she frequently receives requests for commission pieces. 

Exploring Inner Depths

Her artworks capture the essence of her journey – a symphony of passion and complexity as a kaleidoscope of colours dance across each canvas. “The self-expression as an artist is so amazing, and it is such a world away from finance,” she says. 

In many of her pieces, palette knives are favoured to layer and blend shapes and colours, building up each image stroke by stroke until it takes its final form. “I tend  
to use colours that evoke tranquillity  
and positivity.” 

On a recent trip to Europe, she had the privilege of admiring masterpieces by renowned artists such as Titian and Goya at the Prado Museum in Milan, as well as immersing herself in the captivating works of Van Gogh at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and exploring the legacy of Rembrandt at his former residence. 

“I incorporate ocean-theme colour schemes and pink hues as they take me back to my early adulthood in Bermuda, feeling my toes in the soft, pink Bermudian sand overlooking the ocean, awed by the tapestry of cerulean and turquoise of the ocean. I feel joy just looking at the vast openness of the ocean. Whenever life feels overwhelming, a simple stroll along the beach and the rhythm of the waves makes me feel better,” she says. 

Yvonne also paints portraits and is currently working on a series of paintings of people who have had a big influence on her life, which will be exhibited at an art gallery in her birthplace of Kuala Lumpur later this year. “As an artist, I am also drawn to capturing the essence of inspiring personalities through portraiture. Each stroke of my brush is infused with a deep admiration and reverence for the subject, reflecting their unique story, character, and impact on the world,” she says. 

Through a series of evocative portraits, the exhibition will delve into her origin story, unravelling her journey to weave a rich tapestry of self-discovery and reinvention. 

Yvonne urges others to follow their passion, saying she has never looked back. “I hope my experience can inspire a new generation of artists and innovators to embrace their creativity and make their mark on the world,” she says. 

Original artworks and limited edition prints are available here: 

Details of Yvonne’s Kuala Lumpur exhibition can be found here.