So what does a typical day look like in the life of Trait?
Oh man. It can get pretty full on. During the week I wake up early usually about 530 and head of to work. I’ve been doing conservation land management work for about 14 yrs. Everyday is different, I could be chainsawing lantana or dropping trees up in the escarpment, hi vol spraying blackberry, protecting endangered species in remote areas or putting in up to 1000 plants a day. And that’s just an example. It can be hard work, boring as hell or occasionally an amazing experience. It is great being out in natural areas everyday but it can be hard with all the itchy and bitey things.
Then after work I usually play with my daughter, help out with dinner, bath time, story time and put my daughter to bed. Then about 730 I have a bit of time to get some painting done, if I’m not too exhausted. Weekends are chilling with the family and getting a skate in wherever I can.
Oh man that is busy haha Speaking of itchy bitey things you had a wild expeirince at work recently, what happened?
Yeah man it was one of the worst experiences I’ve had. I had a leech on my eye. It was a real wet day and we were working in a wetland in the rain. For some reason that site has a lot of tiny leeches that like eye balls. Fortunately we were near a medical center. But they didn’t really know how to deal with it. They had a couple of goes trying to get it and then the doctor put some drops in that numbed the eye and that must have paralysed the leech and they were able to get it out.
It wasn’t a really painful experience but it was kinda traumatic. I’ve had some full on experiences in this work like ticks on my balls, spider bites on my neck, close calls with snakes once I accidentally picked one up, meat ants, wasps and everything else but that bloody leech freaked me out. I got a couple of leeches yesterday though and I didn’t lose it so I think I’ll be okay. Haha
That story is so intense! I would of found it hard to go back to work, let a lone get more leeches on me at work haha When did the artistic spark first happen for you?
Yeah I do freak out a bit if anythings near my eye.
I’ve always loved drawing and creating. My mum is an artist, she did her bachelor’s of creative arts when I was real young. Some of my early memories are of her drawing and working on really big carvings and sculptures. She is an amazing ceramic artist. And she has always encouraged me and my sister to create. I remember my parent’s gave up on stopping me from drawing on the walls of my bedroom and just made me paint my room once a year.
That is such amazing parenting on your folks behalf, kudos to them! So from the bedroom where did you take your art next? Also apart from you Mum who else has influenced your artworks?
Yeah my parents were pretty supportive. I was just always drawing as a kid, mucked around with graffiti as a teen and did art in high school. But it was pretty mundane. I moved up to Sydney when I was 19 and then I discovered street art and stencils. That’s when I got really into it.
I have a lot if creative people in my family like my aunt and my sister. I think most of my influences come from graffiti and skateboarding. The aesthetics and composition is pretty similar between graf and skateboard art. Once I studied fine art in my mid twenties I then started to discover more traditional art. But ever since I was a kid I’ve always like Salvador Dali my mum had a few of his posters around the house. I think that’s why I kinda dabble in the surreal.
How about the motivation behind what you do? I see a lot of nature in your work and also some political undertones sometimes. Just wondering if there is a message in it or is purely self expression?
Yeah my work has always been politically motivated. I was a lot more obvious when I was younger but my message has become more subtle over the last few years. My parents are very politically conscious and we always discussed politics over the dinner table. They raised us to question everything and always question the source. I have always admired renegades like Mandela, Charles Perkins and Malcolm X ever since I was a kid. In fact my mum bought me Nelson Mandela’s ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ the picture book when I was about 11. So that kind of left wing resistance has always been a big part of my art. And I guess environmental conservation has always been a part of my life again from my parents. And after 14 years of working in the bush it’s just what I know. As they say work with what you know.
We know each other through skateboarding and you have said it influences your creative side. It has always had misfits, musicians, artists, film makers in it. What do you think it is that attracts people like that (and yourself) to it?
I’m not sure generally but I can say personally it seems like the skate culture is open to everyone. Like a lot of my best friends I meet at Kiama skate park. We all come from different backgrounds and a lot of us never would have met if it wasn’t for skateboarding. It’s such an open and creative activity naturally. There are so many different styles and variations that it just leads people to be more creative. If you look at say surfing it’s kinda limited to what you can do. Where it seems like skateboarding has no real boundaries. I think that’s why so many creative people are involved in skateboarding. I think maybe skateboarding creates creative people rather than it attracts them. It just makes you look at the world differently but it also teaches you how to fail. I think that’s the most important lesson really. You have to fail over and over just to learn a kickflip. So I guess skateboarders are more patient when it comes to learning new skills
It most definitely gives you those life lessons that things take work and dedication to get good at. We recently worked on some stuff to mix your art and skateboarding. How did that come about and what did you think of the process?
We’ll I’ve had an idea for a while of actually skating on one of my murals. I like painting walls and I like wall rides so it was kinda a no brainer. I just wanted to come up with some imagery that would work well with the act of skateboarding. Rather than just be a random image I wanted the imagery to almost interact with the skateboard. I’ve been painting hands for a while and I must thought about hands balancing a skateboarder. I was sitting on the idea for a while than you suggested you wanted to shoot a photo of me in front of one of my murals so I suggested the idea to you. That really got the ball rolling otherwise I’m not sure it would have been anything more than just an idea. It work out perfectly though because you were able to work out the composition way better than I could. And then bringing a skateboarder like Kieren into the project just made it a super interesting collaboration. It’s a unique art project with a mural a photographer and a skateboarder all working together on one image. To be honest I’m kinda surprised I’ve never seen it done before.
Yeah i was surprised that I haven’t seen something similar either. It was so good to work on as I was always surprised on what you would do next. Lets wrap this sucka up, any last words or advise for aspiring artists out there?
I can’t really give advice as a successful artist but from my own experience I’ve learnt you need to fail over and over. Learn from your mistakes but don’t be afraid to mess it all up. And if course you need to enjoy the process, I think it can be easy to get hung up on the finished product. If your only really interested in gaining followers on instagram rather than pushing your artistic boundaries it can get pretty hollow.
Trait has a new exhibition, “The Waiting Room” opening tomorrow night (Thursday, 19th April) at Moving Mountains Gallery in Wollongong.