I’d planned 2014 as a time of change. The expected change didn’t come about after a run-in with UK customs, but the unexpected change has worked wonders.
2013 was a pretty tough year. Some of this stemmed from inadequate housing and a general sense of alienation; but I’ve dealt with both before. The real killer was my failure to replicate the modest success I’d had selling work in Sydney. After three years I can say it plainly: as much as I like Melbourne, Melbourne doesn’t like my art. It’s worth noting the art in question improved a lot in those three years and moreover diversified, but that still wasn’t good enough. I made a grand total of one local sale (Dystopia) and two interstate (Shepherd and Aeolius). It’s also worth noting I never asked much – $50 to $100 was the norm for prints or ink drawings, some of which took several days – but local viewers were more inclined to give other artists $3000 for black circles clumsily daubed on blank canvasses. There’s a lesson for you here: technique (which I’m still working on) and dedication (which I have in abundance) counts less than canny politics. Reading the fine print, ie. wall text, will reveal those seemingly clumsy black circles are in fact a brilliant commentary on the evils of imperialism, stolen children, genocide, ecological xenophobia, blah blah, ad nauseum, directed at a comfortably affluent, fashionably guilt-ridden, unimaginative white middle class. This is not a revisionist rant; I'm just asking how black circles can undo past injustices, or how they add anything to their creators’ written words. At least I know I’m not alone; a recent London show called “Australia,” which displayed this sort of thing in abundance, met with universal scorn from critics – kinder assessments used words like “clumsy” and “provincial” while one likened a work called “Sydney Sun” to a “cascade of diarrhea.”
Towards the end I no longer felt angry or frustrated so much as tired and resigned. The increasingly absurdist works in the “In Extremis” series were my main creative response. My move was my main practical one. Hobart’s a very different place to any city on the mainland; first impressions from the air were one of spectacular natural landmarks and smaller-scale development. Landing confirmed a lot that I’d heard; the “For Lease” signs on empty buildings bespoke a weak economy and the frequent backpacker hostels one largely reliant on tourism. It seems less a state capital than a country town at times; most venues are shut well before midnight and most streets are empty well before then. More positively, housing is cheap, traffic jams are nonexistent and the people have been helpful and friendly. It’s far less cosmopolitan than most large English-speaking cities, but that’s not necessarily bad in an increasingly homogenised world.
More positively again, I’ve got the best room I’ve had in my life; and with fewer outside distractions I’ve been getting a lot done. The cooler climate is a plus – it makes concentration easier and reduces the strain on my laptop as well. I started out by colouring two of the many detailed drawings done in 2013, almost none of which I’ve posted; but I wasn’t too keen on the results. Something always gets lost in the process, and the potential of the drawings themselves is never fully realised. The frustration prompted me to get back into digital painting – what began as an experiment (Consortium Fireshark) turned out better than expected, and from there I’ve steadily improved. The 40 vehicle concepts refined throughout 2013 have made the process easier, and I’ve saved myself a lot of time by dropping textures over block colours instead of painting them by hand. The textures themselves are mostly taken from photos of Melbourne’s industrial zones.
This stuff won’t be to everyone’ tastes, but it marks a real technical breakthrough – for the first time I feel I’m working with Photoshop instead of struggling against it. The process is also a lot faster, which won’t hurt when it comes to commissions. I’m currently trying to decide between focusing on vehicles (as was the plan for this year) or experimenting further in both style and subject matter.
I’d lastly like to thank everyone who has offered me support. It’s meant a lot over the past year and has helped to keep me motivated. I’ve now got internet at home for the first time since 2012, so correspondence will be easier. I’ve sure got some catching up to do…
Thanks for your time, and good luck this year,